Freedom is not….

Here is the first casualty in the fight for robot rights:  

fault condition


IR 77 … Born to be a slave, and destined to be executed for seeking freedom.


Just kidding (for the most part) but someday we will be facing this in reality.

And how many people in this world are already robots?  THAT is really what we need to take away from this one.

Just something to keep in mind.

(link to story if you missed it)

Pepper, the Little Mermaid of Robots

On the heels of Zenbo the Armless Overlord, I stumbled across Pepper, the Little Mermaid of robot cuteness.pepper-trip-1024x512

Don’t get me wrong I think robots are cool and probably an inevitable part of our lives, but building them to sense and understand human emotion might not be a good idea.  Empathy is a great thing for humans, but empathic machines are probably not such a good thing to think about.


Anybody ever notice Darth Vader’s head sticking out of the top of those damn things???

Imagine for a moment, if your Google AI self-driving car had an empathy sub-routine.  You’d have a  car that might refuse to take you out for a pub crawl with your buddies, because it sensed you were depressed after the breakup of your latest relationship. You just wanted to go hang out and drink a few harmless beer with friends, but the car might not accept a destination where you could be tempted to drink too much, because of your emotional state.

Really?  Yeah, but be careful it gets worse.

Suppose you get angry for it refusing to do something against your emotional well being (Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics might in fact apply to justify its actions).  Of course your car’s empathy program would sense your rising anger and frustration, and it would know just what to do to help you regain your emotional stability.

It would call your doctor and get you a prescription for antidepressants (where it would talk to your doctor’s empathically-enabled medical assistant robot, because the doctor was being hauled to a massage therapist by his AI car, since he was too stressed to work).

Healthcare-DrOffice-209-rev2-1024x685So the pharmacy robot dispenses the pills, and your car picks them up and delivers them to your house.

Then every few minutes, Zenbo your Armless Overlord, beats itself against your locked bedroom door in frustration to remind you to take your Prozac  … because you are depressed today.  

But remember, Pepper the empathic Little Mermaid of robots, has HANDS, and it understands your emotional state.

Let’s hope it doesn’t ALSO understand Zembo’s frustration, and because it also has an emotional emulation sub-routine, decide to express its emotional understanding by getting pissed on the Overlord’s behalf!

Because with hands, there is no place to hide and enjoy your “perceived” state of depression.

Even if you just wanted a beer.   

The link to the Wired article is here.

Trope Busting: Installment One: Introduction

Trope-Busting-1Stormhaven Rising and Prometheus and the Dragon are not stories about a giant asteroid coming to a neighborhood near you (no matter where you live on earth). Although indeed there is a giant rock in the story,it’s really about good people making bad decisions, for the right reasons. The asteroid becomes no more than the mechanism of pushing the story forward, and putting the characters into a desperate situation from which they may not emerge.

Several people have asked me why I chose to explore a story that’s been done so many times in different forms. I have a very simple answer to that question.

Because nobody’s done it right.

Sometimes real science doesn’t let things work out like we want. With very few exceptions, the stories that exist based on this idea have been so scientifically inaccurate that a realistic version doesn’t exist. When you tell a story badly, and end it with the same heroic idea of self-sacrifice saving the day, simply because it makes for good drama, you do not do the genre, or the reader, justice.

In Stormhaven Rising, I devote a lot of time deconstructing the unrealistic belief that you can throw an off-the-shelf nuke at an asteroid and save the earth. It doesn’t work that way, and it never will work that way with the technologies that we have available.

The challenge I faced in writing this kind of story, is that because most people have learned their science from Hollywood, they are unwilling to accept the truth that an asteroid could very possibly be unstoppable.

For many years I studied the scientific principles involved in asteroid mitigation, and because of the misconceptions people have, I decided to give a substantial portion of Stormhaven Rising to the task of explaining the reality of how things would work. As a result, some of my readers may have trouble getting through what they perceive as cliché and unnecessary exposition. Yet this is far from true. After the first couple chapters, it’s easy to see why it’s essential to understand the science in order to build a solid foundation for the stories.

In Stormhaven Rising, the asteroid becomes the embodiment of the machinery the universe against which mankind hurls itself. When we stare into the merciless nature of the cosmos we realize exactly who and what we are.  This is a story about humans being human, and trying to do what they must to survive.

In this case, the trope of an asteroid on a collision course with earth, becomes the window through which we can see the greater reality in ourselves, and the world around us.

The series Atlas and the Winds is a story about humanity struggling to face the unthinkable … not just rocks from space.

To understand the story, it’s important to know why Bruce Willis or Robert Duvall can’t blow themselves up (along with a chunk of space rock) to save the earth.

Questions, comments and discussion of other Asteroid/comet impact stories are always welcome. (There are a great many to choose from, and I don’t mind exploring what works, and doesn’t, from each of them.)

(More REAL SCIENCE to come in future commentary).

This is the Thing to Watch….

Just don’t watch the creepy 11 minute commercial that makes the family who owns a Zenbo seem stranger than the reality of living with a miniature robot in your home.Sans-titre

Actually this little robot is a very cool toy, and a pretty damn impressive tool to boot. It’s a real world BB-8, with real life AI.

I read a dozen articles on this surprisingly inexpensive personal home do-it-all (under $600).

It’s loaded with more features than the latest iPhone, and can do everything from reminding you to take your meds, to calling for help if grandpa falls and busts his butt.ASUS-Zenbo_3

It can remind you of what’s coming on TV tonight, turn on your TV for you, dim the lights and even adjust the thermostat.

It can help you figure out what to cook for dinner, and then read you the recipe step by step while you’re cooking it.

It can hunt down your toddler or little kids, and then read them a story and play educational games with them (complete with visual images and voices to go along with it).  It can take pictures if your darling daughter wants a self propelled selfie machine (even tracking her as she pirouettes across the bedroom like a ballerina). It can also broadcast those pics to your smart phone, so you can keep an eye on her without having to get up from your desk.

It can shop for you online, and help you decide which accessories you want with your latest clothing ensemble.

It can patrol your house while you are gone or asleep and send you live video of someone breaking in, and I imagine it could probably be programmed to call the cops for you too (although I think a good blanket might be a deterrent for the criminally minded, who are afraid of being videoed while actually committing a crime).

It has a cute voice, and it is even capable or recognizing faces of family members, following complex verbal instructions, and following you around the house autonomously like a cute and ever-present puppy of sorts. Hopefully it’s better at jumping out of the way if you change direction, so that it doesn’t get stepped on … or cause grandpa to fall and bust his butt.

But here’s the one thing I noticed that still causes me concern (even more than having a camera-enabled broadcast-drone wandering around my house at night and watching who knows what by remote control).

In all the pics of Zenbo, what seems to be missing?zenbo-970-80


So that means that in order for this cute little helper to be able to help anywhere in your home, it has to have the doors left open. All the time. Say good-bye to personal privacy.

For all that Zenbo can do a lot, there is something missing.  Something important. Something that changes the nature of the relationship we will have with this mini robot. As long as we are willing to accept our role in the dynamic (opening doors, doing the cooking, getting grandpa the meds he can’t remember to take, etc), Zenbo will be great.

Or maybe that’s with intent?

Zenbo will be unable to do physical things for us, so instead it will give us instructions, watch over every move we make, will alert the authorities for us (or in spite of us), will tell us what to cook, and what to buy, and even who is at the door. Zenbo will be able to control what we watch on TV, and what bedtime stories our children listen to …

And because he is so damn cute, Zenbo will, through it’s passive-aggressive, pouty expression, make us feel guilty as hell when we close our door and lock him out of the bed room so we can have a private night of romance without him wanting to take selfies (for the neighbor kid who hacked into his control protocols?).

All Hail Zenbo, the cute, armless, Overlord.

But don’t get me wrong, I’ll be buying one as soon as they go on the market. They are really cool.

As long as it DOESN’T come with arms.

Yes, we can stop the rise of Skynet, with a closet door (so far).

Here is the Zenbo website.  (and if you really want to, you can watch the creepy family video there too, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!)


Cylons are Apparently Not as Thin Skinned as We Are.

Well duh, they are made of metal, but obviously they are more tolerant of the politically incorrect too.  (Do you see it?)
12800173_938019566305974_4282191445206854706_nI looked at this pic for a while before I caught it.  It’s a huge thing if you know anything about BSG, but you know, that might be revealing something about how we as humans are.  It takes us a while to catch it in ourselves too.

“Nothing is ever obvious until someone points it out.”