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Sep 19 2010   3:12PM GMT

Technological breakthrough: Robot deceit

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

“The check is in the mail.
Although artificial intelligence has always evoked fears of robots becoming altogether too intelligent and getting the upper hand, we’ve always at least expected our tin friends to do it in an open, well, robotic kind of a way. You know, they lumber in like mechanical zombies and proclaim in a tinny monotone: “We. Have. Come. To. Destroy. You.”

Fair enough, you think, all the cards are on the table and you know what you’re dealing with.  Prepare to think again. One day, there could be a knock on the door and, in response to your query as to who’s there, you hear: “Candygram.” And THEN, instead of the delicious candy you expect to enjoy, you get robot Armageddon.

Be afraid: Robots have learned to lie

Not only that, they’ve got the ability to pick gullible targets to maximize the effectiveness of their deceit. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a program that allows a robot to discern whether another robot is gullible and then take advantage of its naivety through lies and deception. (See the story here.)

This isn’t the first time that robots have lied — just the first time they were programmed to do so. In 2007, robots that were programmed to learn from experience evolved the ability to lie. Which is all the scarier, isn’t it? Just imagine the nefarious plots they may have been hatching since then…

Sure — NOW they vacuum and scrub the floor — but what happens when they wise up? The following could be required information when the robots take over. How much do you know about our artificially intelligent friends?

1. The word “robot” was coined in 1920. Is the term:
a. an abbreviation of “row” and “boat,” for an early version that did just that?
b. derived from a Czech word meaning “forced labor?”
c. named for the creator of the first robot, Robert Botsworth?
Answer (Scroll to the end of the definition.)

2. One of the earliest known working robots was da Vinci’s self-propelled car, circa 1478. Was it run by steam pressure or springs?

3. What’s the term for a robot that is designed to resemble a human?

4. Which of the following is NOT one of Issac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics:
a. Robots must not meet in secret.
b. Robots must never harm human beings.
c. Robots must protect themselves without violating the other rules.

5. If the shape-shifting chembot is developed, it could travel over considerable distances carrying an embedded payload, change shape and size as required, and then reconstitute to its original form. What organization recently put out an RFP for its design?

6. Used with satellites, space probes, and mobile robots, this term describes is the wireless transmission and reception of measured quantities for the purpose of remotely monitoring environmental conditions or equipment parameters. What is it?

7. Which sense does the field of haptics replicate for the user?
a. vision
b. hearing
c. taste
d. touch
c. smell

8. Based on a Greek word meaning “steersman” or “governor,” this is the science or study of control or regulation mechanisms in human and machine systems. What is it?

9. DARPA’s early cyborg insect experiment using wasps was ill-fated. Why?
Answer (Scroll to the end of the definition.)

10. If self-replicating robots ever take over, the resulting situation is sometimes referred to as a gray goo scenario. In this context, what are self-replicating humans sometimes called?
Answer (Scroll to the list at the end of the definition.)

How many could you guess correctly? Let us know!

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