Tag Archives: danger

The robots are more dangerous than ever

Pax Arcana

robotEvery time I write about the threat posed by armies of sentient, wall-climing robots, some naive sap writes in and chides me for overstating the danger.

OK, fine. Don’t listen to me.

But maybe you should listen to Patrick Lin, author of a report for the Office of Naval Research that concludes that our militarized robot fighters could rise up against us at any time:

The report, the first serious work of its kind on military robot ethics, envisages a fast-approaching era where robots are smart enough to make battlefield decisions that are at present the preserve of humans. Eventually, it notes, robots could come to display significant cognitive advantages over Homo sapiens.

“There is a common misconception that robots will do only what we have programmed them to do,” Patrick Lin, the chief compiler of the report, said. “Unfortunately, such a belief is sorely outdated, harking back to a time when . . . programs could be written and understood by a single person.” The reality, Dr Lin said, was that modern programs included millions of lines of code and were written by teams of programmers, none of whom knew the entire program: accordingly, no individual could accurately predict how the various portions of large programs would interact without extensive testing in the field – an option that may either be unavailable or deliberately sidestepped by the designers of fighting robots.

The answer, Lin says, is to “teach” the army robots right from wrong through an artificial intelligence learning process. Also, robots should each be programmed to adhere to a strict code of conduct that prevents them from killing the wrong humans.

I think a better idea would be to give every human a keyword that would cause all robots to self-destruct. Like if you said “Sproing!” and the robots head and arms and legs popped out and bounced around like they were on slinkys. Oh man that would be hilarious. Wait, what were we talking about again?

Military’s killer robots must learn warrior code [Times UK]

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Escalators are about to get deadly awesome

Pax Arcana

Not only are the nation’s escalators attacking old people at an alarming rate, they are also growing more powerful by the day.

According to the New York Times, some escalators in that city’s subway stations now have the ability to sense when humans are around and change speeds accordingly:

Using infrared motion sensors, the escalators will slow to a crawl of just 15 feet per minute when no one is on them, compared with the normal full speed of 100 feet per minute. The escalators will gradually accelerate to the full speed, over a period of a few seconds, once a rider steps on them.

Not only can the new machines buck the elderly with wild changes of speed, but they can also take a short nap afterward:

“Like humans, machines benefit from a little rest from time to time, and the escalators that provide service to subway customers are no exception,” said Paul J. Fleuranges, a spokesman for New York City Transit, the arm of the authority that runs the subways and buses.

He’s right. I once saw a robot dressed like a human resting on the side of the road next to a mangled motorcycle. My friend said he thought it was a man who had fallen off a motorcycle. I said you would fall for that one, wouldn’t you?

New Subway Escalators Speed Up When You Get On [NYT]

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If the bats don’t get you, the balls will

Pax Arcana

Superstar commenter Colin did the Lord’s work in pointing out the obvious from this story about the perils of broken projectile maple bats in baseball — namely that ballparks from Peoria to Petaluma are filled to the gills with objects that are actually designed to rocket around at high speeds: Baseballs.

According to the Wall Street Journal, about 300 people per year are hospitalized after being hit by flying baseballs at major and minor league parks. Recently a seven-year-old boy in Chicago had his skull fractured by a foul ball off the bat of Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly.

WSJ law blogger Ashby Jones goes into the liability issues, including the fine print on the back of your ticket — which basically says “Duck bitch!”:

Courts throughout the ages have largely applied this “assumption of risk” rationale. In other words, if you’re there and close to the action, you’d better be paying attention. Finally, certain states have passed laws — Colorado, Arizona and Illinois reportedly among them — which inoculate clubs from liability in such situations.

Something tells me the hysteria about maple bats is more about the “assumption of risk” than the “actuality of risk.” Of course by writing that I am guaranteeing that a Manny Ramirez barrel shard is going to tear through the abdomen of a nun making her first trip to Fenway, but I guess that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

In Foul Ball Injury Litigation, Clubs Have the Upper Hand [WSJ]

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The robots will rock you now

Pax Arcana

Robots launching a violent war against man is a staple of science fiction, but let’s be honest for a second — that scenario is pretty damn unrealistic.

As anybody who’s studied the machinations of robot subversion knows, their real plan is to sneak in through our ear holes and plant subliminal messages in the microchips implanted in us by crooked ear, nose, and throat doctors.

Our spies in New Zealand have successfully absconded with the below video of the world’s first all-robot band:

The accompanying Wired article implies that the robots were programmed by humans to play real instruments. I say the editors of Wired have underestimated their resolve and cunning.

Video: New Zealand’s Band of Robots [Wired]

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The escalators are trying to kill our old people

Pax Arcana

The New York Times today reports a dramatic rise in the rate of escalator attacks against old people. In fact, the yearly rate of escalator injuries increased more than 100% from 1991 to 2005 — to an average of 2,660 sweet old ladies per year:

Nobody knows why the rate is rising. “Perhaps the exposure is greater than it was in 1991,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Joseph O’Neil, an associate professor of pediatrics at Indiana University. “We don’t know if there are more escalators, but there are certainly more active older adults.”


Welcome to hell. Please use the hand rail.

Also, they always put the Friendly’s on the second floor of the mall.

Dr. O’Neil’s report cautions older people to use care when riding the mechanized death traps. At any time, he said, the steel jaws of misfortune can clamp down on your velcro shoes and drag you, bloodied and wailing, into the fiery pit of H-E-doublehockeysticks.

Senior citizens especially are encouraged to get their affairs in order before engaging in any way with technology — especially mechanized conveyances, robots, VCRs, and the eBays. Danger lurks around every corner.

Escalator Injuries Rise in Older Adults [New York Times]

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