Autonomous Weapons: an Open Letter from AI & Robotics Researchers

A Who’s Who group of over 1,000 scientists and technologists, including such notables as Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Steve Wozniak, has issued an open letter warning of the dangers of Artificial Intelligence and autonomous weapons. Published at Future of Life Institute, here’s the text in full:

Autonomous weapons select and engage targets without human intervention. They might include, for example, armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria, but do not include cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is — practically if not legally — feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.

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Credit: ZullyC3P (CC)

 

Many arguments have been made for and against autonomous weapons, for example that replacing human soldiers by machines is good by reducing casualties for the owner but bad by thereby lowering the threshold for going to battle.

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Stop CISA: Join EFF in a Week of Action Opposing Broad “Cybersecurity” Surveillance Legislation

How do you kill a zombie bill like CISA? Grassroots action. That’s why EFF and over a dozen other groups are asking you to join us in a Week of Action to Stop CISA.  The Senate is likely to vote on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) in the coming weeks, and only you can help us stop it.

We keep hearing that CISA and the other “cybersecurity” bills moving through Congress are “must-pass” legislation. But just like the original version of CISA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), we think grassroots activism can stop this legislation in its tracks.

CISA is fundamentally flawed because of its broad immunity clauses for companies, vague definitions, and aggressive spying powers. Combined, they make the bill a surveillance bill in disguise. The bill may even make things worse for Internet users in several ways.

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You Will Die, Heroin is Better For You Than Alcohol, and Other True Things About Sex and Poop

YWD_cover_1012_300You may think Robert Arthur is weird. But he isn’t. You are. You’re the one with the problem. Trust me on this.

In You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos, published by the consistently awesome Feral House, Arthur writes about our culture’s ridiculous phobias and beliefs that often cause tedium, suffering, and death. Our government and the media use these taboos to lie and mislead by pushing panic for votes and views. By doing so, they thwart our pursuit of happiness. Arthur’s book is not simply a novel exploration of sex and drugs, but also of individuality, liberty, and what things around us mean.

I talked to Robert about excrement, sex, drugs, and death.

This book has been kicking around in different forms for years now. How did you start this process, and how did it find its way to Feral House?

I began writing You Will Die when I was living in an abandoned schoolhouse in south central Pennsylvania after law school in 2001.… Read the rest

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Which Of The 11 American Nations Do You Live In?

No doubt there will be some argument about Colin Woodard’s classification of the eleven nations that America is truly comprised of, but he makes some fairly astute points about the divisions and diversity of the United States (and some of Canada), summarized by the Washington Post:

Red states and blue states? Flyover country and the coasts? How simplistic. Colin Woodard, a reporter at the Portland Press Herald and author of several books, says North America can be broken neatly into 11 separate nation-states, where dominant cultures explain our voting behaviors and attitudes toward everything from social issues to the role of government.

“The borders of my eleven American nations are reflected in many different types of maps — including maps showing the distribution of linguistic dialects, the spread of cultural artifacts, the prevalence of different religious denominations, and the county-by-county breakdown of voting in virtually every hotly contested presidential race in our history,” Woodard writes in the Fall 2013 issue of Tufts University’s alumni magazine.

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All Roads Lead to Zen…

pots

At end of shift yesterday, while I was cashing-out my day over at the bullet-proof glass at Citizen’s Cab, a night driver named Harry – relaxing in a musty old car seat up on the rustic porch/driver’s lounge, was waiting for his cab to come in. From the porch, Harry all unsolicited bellows over to me,

“Hay! Sack! Ya kno wha tha secrit ta makin’ monee is now?”

I bite, “No, Harry. What’s the secret?”

“Ya gotta tink pos-Y-tive!”

Ah, a bit of old school San Francisco…

Well, I have been practicing watching my breath of late, on account of Maya – my upaguru Zen meditation teacher ride from recent blog fame. But instead of really meditating as I lie there in bed, watching my breath winds up super relaxing me and I just end up falling asleep real fast. But, that’s ok. Consequently, I’ve come to stop abusing night-time cough syrup to get down at night, again.… Read the rest

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Finding Atlantis – Again?

Joscelyn Godwin is a kind of national treasure, a one man trove of esoterica. Here he brings his alarmingly broad intellect to a perennial myth, Atlantis, writing for Watkins Magazine:

Did you hear, they’ve found Atlantis on the Spanish coast, outside the Pillars of Hercules, just as Plato said!”

I’m afraid I didn’t show much excitement when several people broke this news to me earlier this year. “Thank you. That makes thirty-one places, by my count, where they’ve found Plato’s Atlantis,” I replied.

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Athanasius Kircher’s Atlantis

 
Of course it’s always exciting when ancient sites are discovered and the vista of the prehistoric past expands. I like to hear about Gobekli Tepe, the Balkan and Chinese pyramids, Kennewick Man, the Hobbits of Flores, and so on. The New Archaeology pioneered by John Anthony West, Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval and Robert Schoch is a tonic for the imagination. So is the Atlantis myth in its broader meaning, which is that cultures have risen and fallen long before our own.

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It’s Not Climate Change – It’s Everything Change

Booker Prize winning novelist Margaret Atwood turns her hand to writing about climate everything change, at Medium:

Oil! Our secret god, our secret sharer, our magic wand, fulfiller of our every desire, our co-conspirator, the sine qua non in all we do! Can’t live with it, can’t — right at this moment — live without it. But it’s on everyone’s mind.

Back in 2009, as fracking and the mining of the oil/tar sands in Alberta ramped up — when people were talking about Peak Oil and the dangers of the supply giving out — I wrote a piece for the German newspaper Die Zeit. In English it was called “The Future Without Oil.” It went like this:

The future without oil! For optimists, a pleasant picture: let’s call it Picture One. Shall we imagine it?

There we are, driving around in our cars fueled by hydrogen, or methane, or solar, or something else we have yet to dream up.

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Synthesizing Jet Fuel from Sea Water

060318-N-7526R-154 South China Sea (March 19, 2006) Ð Amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) Sailors look on as a refueling probe crosses over the South China Sea, during a replenishment at sea (RAS) with the Military Sealift Command (MSC) underway replenishment oiler USNS Walter S. Diehl (T-AO 193). Blue Ridge, the 7th Fleet command ship, is currently underway for a regularly scheduled deployment throughout the 7th Fleet area of responsibility.

Everybody already knows that jet fuel can’t melt steel beams.

However, perhaps you didn’t know that a team at the Naval Research Laboratories in Florida has successfully developed a technology that synthesizes jet fuel from only sea water and electricity.

With all of their ships and planes, the navy has a huge need of both diesel and jet fuel. Unfortunately, many of the regions that contain large sources of petroleum, have…how shall I say…political interests highly contrary to those of the United States. So sending an oiler supply vessel to shore to find a petroleum source could be a very hazardous strategic move in a conflict and might leave our ships dead in the water or forced to return home. This strategic achilles heel for the navy is bad, but the fuel is also increasingly expensive (cost of fuel for the navy rose from $0.63/gal in 2000 to $3.75/gal in 2013, and effectively costs over $7.00/gal to deliver to the vessels) not to mention environmentally disastrous.… Read the rest

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Curiosity Roving Through the Claims of NASA

“However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” — Stanley Kubrick

Q: Do you trust the President of the United States?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the CIA?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the FBI?
A: No.

Q:What about the Congress?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the Federal Reserve?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the IRS?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the NSA?
A: No.

Q: How about the TSA?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the Supreme Court?
A: No.

Q: Ok, then. If you don’t trust any of these other government institutions, why then would you believe anything that comes from the mouth of NASA?

Above is an excerpt from a conversation I had the other day with a close friend about the stunning images of the recent fly-by of Pluto, taken from NASA’s satellite “New Horizons.” The persistent “No” I received from her was the patented response I expected, considering the general distrust people have in our politicians, world leaders, and governmental institutions these days.… Read the rest

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