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[DPRG] DARPA Grand Challenge

Subject: [DPRG] DARPA Grand Challenge
From: David P. Anderson davida at smu.edu
Date: Thu Dec 19 10:06:53 CST 2013

Hi Steve,

I find the assertion (and that's all it is) that only a robot in 
humanoid form can operate effectively in a human environment to be 
unsupported by any facts.   And I see lots of facts to dispute it.

But ain't it great to see so much activity and, dare I say, passion, on 
this robots list?!   Who knows, might even inspire someone to, I don't 
know, I'm going out on a limb here but, to you know, build a robot.  
Wouldn't that be something!!!

I'm building one right now.  Anybody else?


On 12/19/2013 02:17 AM, steve at txtulip.com wrote:
> Roddenberry ... Plbbt!!! Face it, he was in it for the money, not the 
> science. I remember a schematic of a communicator with transistors and 
> the idea that it was simple because the real complicated stuff was on 
> the ship. Right... I have issues with that.
>    Back to the real world. I have no illusions that the DARPA robots 
> are autonomous any further than the aerial drones we use fire their 
> own missiles. There are things the drones do autonomously but 
> complicated decisions are done by humans. The same would be true with 
> DARPA robots. There is no Mr. Data in the foreseeable future. Mr. Data 
> technology has yet to be developed because the tech we have now is 
> inadequate for something that complicated. Whatever Mr.  Data is made 
> of... It's not TTL.
>    My points still remains, it makes sense to make a humanoid robot 
> because we build so much based on the human design, so a robot going 
> into a devastated area that can use things designed for humans has a 
> higher chance for success.
> Steve
> Sent from AOL Mobile Mail
> -----Original Message-----
> From: David P. Anderson <davida at smu.edu>
> To: dprglist <dprglist at dprg.org>
> Sent: Thu, Dec 19, 2013 12:36 AM
> Subject: Re: [DPRG] DARPA Grand Challenge
> Hi David,
> Great to hear your thoughts, as always.  Your invocation of Mr.
> Roddenberry and the Sci-Fi predictions of 50 year ago are, I think,
> extremely germane to this discussion.  However, I have a slightly
> different take.  I'd like us to look at how SCi-Fi of that day depicted
> computers, versus how they actually have turned out.  I think that's
> applicable to the current robot situation.
> Back then nobody really knew anything about computers, and so the SCi-Fi
> writers had to sort of make it up.   One thing they all had in common,
> as they made it up, was the concept of a computer as a sentient being,
> with desires and motivations, ambitions, opinions, and desires.  Really
> just a human in a box.  (For some reason they all spoke in a monotone,
> but otherwise their behaviour was indistinguishable from that of a
> human.  Sometimes a nice human. Sometimes mean.)
> Because we really didn't know anything about them, we anthropomorphized
> them.  That is, we made them just like us. Humans have always done that
> with things we don't understand.   So in ancient times, the tornado
> happened because the wind became "angry" and "expressed it's
> displeasure."    That's the same thing that happened with the depiction
> of computers in the SciFi of the 50s and 60s.  WE made them just like
> us.   Of course the reality turned out to be quite different.
> Fast forward 50 years to the present, when we all have computers on our
> desks and in our cars and our smart phones.  Now that we actually have
> computers, and don't have to just imagine them, it turns out that people
> don't think of their computers as living beings, as creatures with their
> own wills and desires.  They think of them as ATM terminals and word
> processors and game consoles and music systems and drafting and 3D CAD
> systems, and on and on.  As "tools."  But not as "beings."  The
> futurists of 50 years ago got a lot right, but they got that one dead wrong.
> Now we appear to be in the same place today with robots that we were 50
> years ago with computers.  People don't really know anything about
> robots, except what they've seen in the movies, which is all made up.
> And so a humanoid robot, and even a fanciful creation like Star Trek's
> Data, seems reasonable, with the lack of any real data (pun intended) to
> know any better.
> If past is any prologue to future, as your post suggests, then whatever
> our current image of the future of robotics may be, Mr Data included,
> it's likely to be dead wrong.  I'm actually quite optimistic about the
> future of autonomous robots.  We live in exciting times, where the
> ability of individuals to make significant contributions is like in the
> early days of flight.
> David, I'm not sure I'm as bold in my certainty as you and Rud appear to
> be.   But my intuition is that history will prove the modern-day
> Alchemists were chasing a dead-end.
> Next topic, why wheels are superior to legs for robots. Especially for
> robots in difficult and challenging terrain.
> cheers!
> dpa
> On 12/18/2013 07:54 PM, David Wilson wrote:
> >> This goes back to my original premise, that a human(oid) form is not useful
> without a sophisticated human brain to operate it.  I've seen or heard nothing
> to alter that conclusion.   Except wishful thinking.  You know, a Positronic
> brain that suddenly become "intelligent" (whatever that means) by itself, the
> scientists don't understand how it works and don't have to ( a handy plot device
> when the author doesn't know either).  You know that famous cartoon: "...and
> then a miracle happens."
> >>
> >> I pretty sure the we (you and I) had this conversation about 20 years ago
> (remember, back when AI and useful autonomous robots were always just 10 years
> away? :)  That fact that we are having it again now, 2 decades later, speaks
> volumes.  If I'm right about all this then, God willing, we'll be having the
> same conversation 20 years from now.
> >
> > We are fast approaching the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek Communicator and
> the speaking computers that seemed so impossibly out of reach back in the 60s.
> >
> > I suggest that even Roddenberry demonstrated a lack of imagination and insight
> into what our personal communicators would become. He created significant gadget
> lust for 23rd-century functionality that looks pathetic and unmarketable by
> today's standards. We might even claim that the iPhone arrived 194 years too
> early for his universe and the first smart phone / PDA gadgets are even older.
> >
> > Listen to some of us gray-beards and you might think the group would rather
> lug around 'easy to design' discrete devices. A simple camera. Hand cranked film
> movie camera. HP RPN calculator. Analog cell phone. Micro cassette voice
> recorder. Walkman. Mapsco. A real newspaper. I'm happy to live in a time when
> the difficult to achieve solution (smartphone with a real OS) is so widely
> available.
> >
> > Mr Data will appear, eventually. His production date seems to be in the early
> 2300s. I suspect that our desire to achieve that goal is so strong that
> Roddenberry will again be off by a huge margin, on both the arrival date and on
> the actual functionality that is achieved.
> >
> > David Wilson
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
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