Robots and Children

“The children also came to prefer hugging QRIO more than they preferred hugging a teddy bear or an inanimate robot doll, and they touched QRIO carefully, in the same way that they touched other children, rather than bashing it as they did the doll.”

Robot Dearest? by B. Lester, Science Now Daily News, 5th November 2007


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November 6, 2007

History Fragments: Google Knows

Written by on October 21, 2007 | History Fragments


We are writing to inform you that your electronic CV has been rejected for the position of Senior Developer. An automated scan of your details using Google revealed several things about your personality that indicate you are not a suitable candidate for this company. Regardless, your qualifications appear to not meet the level we require, and your medical history also indicates that you have various health problems that could adversely impact your performance.


Secretary for XXXXXXX


Why not, asks Mayer, “take the things you care about – your watch, your phone – stick little tags on them and watch for their receiving signals”? This is not a joke. “It would have been really useful to me yesterday when I lost my cellphone while it was out of power. It took me half an hour to find it had fallen behind a dresser.” And why not go one step further and tag your partner or your children, so that you can find out where they are whenever you want? Googleytes point out that we already do this with newborn babies and pets.

Google’s overall goal is to have a record of every e-mail we have ever written, every contact whose details we have recorded, every file we have created, every picture we have taken and saved, every appointment we have made, every website we have visited, every search query we have typed into its home page, every ad we have clicked on, and everything we have bought online. It wants to know and record where we have been and, thanks to our search history of airlines, car-hire firms and MapQuest, where we are going in the future and when.

This would not just make Google the largest, most powerful super-computer ever; it would make it the most powerful institution in history. Small wonder that the London-based human-rights group Privacy International has condemned its plans as “hostile to privacy”, and EU ministers called Google’s vision “Orwellian”. Even John Battelle, one of the net’s leading evangelists, who co-founded the technology bible Wired magazine, and wrote The Search, the definitive study of Google’s rise, now says: “I’ve found myself more and more wary of Google, out of some primal, lizard-brain fear of giving too much control of my data to one source.”

Google. Who’s looking at you? by John Arlidge, TimesOnline, 21st October 2007

Urban Warfare

Written by on October 18, 2007 | News Fragments

UAN Command Press Release, 2022: “After the targeted and precision attack, and the area had been secured, the UAN’s automated ground force assessed that 15 drug gangsters, six women and nine children were killed. Two suspected criminals, one woman and three children were wounded, and one suspected criminal was detained.”

“We think urban is the future,” says James Lasswell, a retired colonel who now heads the Office of Science and Technology at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. “Everything worth fighting for is in the urban environment.” And Wayne Michael Hall, a retired Army brigadier general and the senior intelligence advisor in Schattle’s operation, has a similar assessment, “We will be fighting in urban terrain for the next hundred years.”

During James Lasswell’s presentation, he was quite specific about the non-Fallujah-like need to be “very discriminate” in applying firepower in an urban environment. As an example of the ability of technology to aid in such efforts, he displayed a photo of the aftermath of an Israeli strike on a three-story Lebanese building. The third floor of the structure had been obliterated, while the roof above and the floors below appeared relatively unscathed. In an aside, Lasswell mentioned that, while the effort had been a discriminating one, the floor taken out “turned out to be the wrong floor.” A rumble of knowing chuckles swept the room.

Slum Fights: The Pentagon Plans for a New Hundred Years’ War, by Nick Turse, 11th October, 2007

Making Music

Written by on August 10, 2007 | History Fragments

The iBox sat in the corner, waiting for a flick of the wrist. It came, from a short, fat blonde that looked even bigger in her too-tight skirt.

“What would you like to hear, please?” it asked.

“Umm.” She giggled, looking at the sky for some sort of divine inspiration. “Something girly, a bit of pop. Something from the 90’s, like the Spice Girls?”

“You have been charged one pound. Your song shall play in two minutes time. Thank you, and have a fun evening!”

It played the song, exactly four minutes long. It sounded just as she asked for.

This piece of software analyses the underlying mathematical patterns in music and tells worried record company execs what they may or may not need to change in order to get the song into the charts.It is a heartbreaking notion, but one already being adopted by many labels. So now that we have decided that a computer is better able to listen to a song than a human being, how long before we conclude that computers rather than people should write the songs themselves? And would it really matter providing it fitted McCready’s algorithm and charted high?

From, Could Platinum Blue save the music industry, by Ben Marshall, Guardian Arts Blog, Music.

History Fragments: Don’t Ever Believe What You See

Written by on July 16, 2007 | History Fragments

Whether adding people or objects to a photo, or filling holes in an edited photo, the systems automatically find images that match the context of the original photo so they blend realistically. Unlike traditional photo editing, these results can be achieved rapidly by users with minimal skills.

“We are able to leverage the huge amounts of visual information available on the Internet to find images that make the best fit,” said Alexei A. Efros, assistant professor of computer science and robotics. “It’s not applicable for all photo editing, such as when an image of a specific object or person is added to a photo. But it’s good enough in many cases,” he added. “Why Photoshop if you can ‘photoswap’ instead””

Carnegie Mellon researchers use Web images to add realism to edited photos, 10th July 2007, Eurekanet (via Technovelgy)