18 July, 2009

Humanity is so screwed


Imagine: You're shambling down the avenue. Bluetooth stuck to your ear, thumbs-a-Twitter. Your GPS-enabled phone is piloting you to a meet-up with your soccer buddies, but the lecturer's IM interrupts with a snarl about your assignment so now you're pondering a new spin on "the dog ate my homework."

Meanwhile your calendar is pleading about overdued rentals. And at this moment, that girl from your high-school pings: She's friend-ing you on Facebook.

And with so much tech people are lugging around these days, should we consider ourselves robots? or maybe cyborgs?

What's the diff?

When most people think "cyborg", they're referring to a "humanoid robot", as in Chii from the anime Chobits.

Real cyborgs (as opposed to fictional) are more frequently people (or animals) who use cybernetic technology to repair or overcome the physical and mental constraints of their bodies. While cyborgs are commonly thought of as mammals, they can be any kind of organism.

Yes, even a person using a working, movable prosthetic limbs are considered as cyborg.

Robot sex?

That's an issue that will arise when we start developing very life-like humanoid robots. Something for the future generations to ponder on.

When people think of robot-human sexual relationship, instantly they think of social suicide. "Oh my goodness! We're all going to vanish!" We will have billions of people on Earth, more than we have ever had prior to this century! And through all of history before, we've had lower populations.

No one worried that we'd vanish from the Earth! And besides, if it looked as though we were going to vanish from the Earth, all that has to happen is the word goes out: have babies. And you'd be surprised how fast we can make it up. *winks*

What about technology for reproducing robots? It is still in its infancy. Self-replicating robots is by-product from the study on creating self-repairing robots.

Watch this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyzVtTiax80

Note: read my previous post on Mecha-musume.


First, you need to know that there's a different between a humanoid robot and a humanoid cyborg. The former is a robot that looks like human. While the latter is a human that is enhanced with technology.

Cyborgs already exist in the real world. The fact that I can't live without my laptop or cellphone, has already made me a "honourary" cyborg.

Lets say if a person was born without limbs, but had his body supported by robotic arms and legs. Would it make that person any less human? Because of the fact he has robotic limbs or because he was born without limbs?

For millennia, great men have debated on what it actually means to be human, and the answer still inconclusive. We, however, can't judge a person's humanity based on physical values or appearances.

... continue reading

09 July, 2009

Still in drafts

Currently faced with a backlog of 'drafted' posts.

Why is it so you ask? Well, I tend to post stuff which are rather 'factual'. So some articles may have to be proofread and re-edited. Then there's the occasional need to cross-refer with previous articles or outside sources.

It's not my style to post a bunch of pictures with little written content. I'll leave that to the more 'trendy' people. After all, posting without in-depth knowledge of the subject matter just goes to show a writer's ignorance.

Anyways, the ideas for some of the articles may have stem from my earlier ideas and writings. Searching through random scribbles, weird diagrams, and sketches found in hidden recesses of my room is like discovering messages left behind by a lost civilization. I taken upon the difficult task to decipher what I may have left behind more than a decade ago.

If I do find anything usable, only minimal editing shall be made as to preserve the original intent of the earlier writings. Hence, you may notice the similar but subtle difference in wordings and ideas, back then and now, especially those dealing with philosophy.

... continue reading

31 May, 2009

Distance of Lighting Strike


A thunderstorm is approaching, and suddenly you hear an absolutely deafening clap of thunder. At times it becomes frightening! But how close is the lightning, really?

It is difficult to determine the distance of a lightning bolt just by looking at it, and the volume of the thunder isn’t a good way to tell either. Here's a potentially life-saving method you can use to approximate how far away lightning is.


If we consider the atmosphere on a standard day at sea level, the speed of sound is about 330~340 m/s. Light travels in vacuum and space at approximately 299 792 458 m/s. We can use this knowledge to approximately determine how far away a lightning strike has occurred.
  • Watch the sky for a flash of lightning.
  • Count the number of seconds until you hear thunder.
  • Divide the number of seconds by 3 (distance in kilometers).

We see the flash immediately as it happens. The speed of sound is more or less 1km per 3 seconds. If the thunder can be heard after T seconds, we can approximate the lightning strike was D ≈ T/3

Dependence on weather conditions

The speed of sound is variable and depends on the properties of the substance through of which the wave is traveling.

Sound travels through air at slightly different speeds depending on air temperature, relative humidity, altitude, pressure, wind conditions, etc. However, the difference is fairly small and won’t substantially affect your calculations.

Points to note:
  • The speed of sound in dry air at 0 degrees C is about 330 m/s
  • Water vapor in the air increases this speed slightly.
  • Sound travels faster through warm air than through cold air.

... continue reading

21 May, 2009

Your very own mecha musume?

Ever want your own android?
Well, someone already started making one of his own.


Inventor Le Trung, 33, created Aiko, said to be "in her 20s" with a stunning 82, 57, 84 figure, shiny hair and delicate features. 'She' even remembers his favourite drink and does simple cleaning and household tasks.

Aiko is the first android to react to physical stimuli and mimic pain. This technology could be applied to people born with or who have undergone amputations. Aiko is the first step towards a life-like mechanical limb that has the ability to feel physical sensations.

I started to build Aiko on August 15, 2007. About a month and a half later, Aiko version1 was completed. Aiko made her first public appearance at the Hobby Show on November 2007 at the Toronto International Center and then at the Ontario Science Center a week later. Aiko is currently bilingual and can speak English and Japanese. Additional languages are a future possibility...

The Project was officially started in 2007 in order to pursue robotic automation. Le is responsible for the robot's core AI logic, internal software, hardware innovations derived from years of building robots as a hobby. He designed and developed the key B.R.A.I.N.S software that gives the android its capability to interact with humans.

Aiko - AI Female Android:
  • Speech, Reading, Color, Face, Object recognition
  • Ability to tell Weather
  • Ability to have a conversation
  • Can understand 13,000+ sentences
  • has the ability to learn
  • Ability to solve math
  • Ability to distinguish simple drinks and foods
  • Mimic human physical touch

Can our local techies achieve this level of l33tness?!
We could, but we have been slugging away too long.
The future is sure gonna be a epic.

More updates at the Project Aiko blog.

... continue reading

The Zeroth Law of Robotics

If you have read Isaac Asimov's novels, then you're familiar with the Three Laws of Robotics. The reason the Laws are conceive is to curb the potential for robots to harm people.

Asimov once added a "Zeroth Law", stating that a robot must not merely act in the interests of individual humans, but of all humanity. Unknown to many, unless you are a great fan of his novels :)
The original Laws of Robotics (1940)
by Isaac Asimov, 20

First Law:
A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

Second Law:
A robot must obey orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

Third Law:
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

For those of you who didn't know, I.Robot the Movie is not from the original Asimov's novels. The I.Robot novel is actually a compilation of short stories. The only thing
similar were title and the Three Laws.

In the movie, the robots were controlled by a huge super-computer that could violate the 1st Law. The computer's A.I. had come to a conclusion that to protect all humans, a few humans have to be sacrifice for the greater good. This is because the A.I. has allowed the Zeroth Law of Robotics.

Here are some excerpts from the novels:

Robots and Empire
In the final scenes, R. Giskard Reventlov is the first robot to act according to the Zeroth Law, although it proves destructive to his positronic brain, as he is not certain as to whether his choice will turn out to be for the ultimate good of humanity or not.

Giskard is telepathic, and he comes to his understanding of the Zeroth Law through his understanding of a more subtle concept of "harm" than most robots can grasp. Giskard grasps the philosophical concept of the Zeroth Law, allowing him to harm individual human beings if he can do so in service to the abstract concept of humanity.

The Zeroth Law is never programmed into Giskard's brain, but instead is a rule he attempts to rationalize through pure metacognition; though he fails, he gives his successor, R. Daneel Olivaw, his telepathic abilities. Over the course of many thousand years, Daneel adapts himself to be able to fully obey the Zeroth Law.

Foundation and Earth
and Prelude to Foundation
As Daneel formulates it, the Zeroth Law reads: "A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm." A condition stating that the Zeroth Law must not be broken was added to the original Laws.

The Caves of Steel
Near the climax, Elijah Baley makes a bitter comment to himself, thinking that the First Law forbids a robot from harming a human being, unless the robot is clever enough to rationalize that its actions are for the human's long-term good (here meaning the specific human that must be harmed).

This reads, "A robot may not harm a human being, unless he finds a way to prove that in the final analysis, the harm done would benefit humanity in general."

... continue reading