Sunday, February 3, 2008

Nightmare On Tech Street

*originally published 12-30-05*

Do you remember the blog entry I made when the inscrutable pet rock Seymour -- after my allowing him to watch a marathon of original The Outer Limits series on the Sci-Fi Channel -- frantically reconfigured my TV/VCR remote for, among other things, home defense?

A reconfiguration which I discovered when I inadvertently vaporized my refrigerator and the vacant (I hope) apartment next door, but I digress.

I recently heard an interview on KOA (85 AM, Denver) about what sounded to me like an amusing new book, How To Survive A Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against The Coming Rebellion by Daniel H. Wilson, a roboticist and Ph.D candidate at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. So out of curiosity, I ordered the book ( with the intention of doing a book review of sorts on it, having received the bemused approval of the book's author to do so.

Seymour and Jane are not impressed, but more on that in a mo'.

Wilson presents an informative, tongue-in-cheek (or is it?) look at the state of robotics in research, development, deployment. He then ventures into seeming parodious speculation about the eventual open rebellion likely to be staged by the ever-evolving AI-fueled robots against their imperfect human creators (think the original series episode of Star Trek with Nomad, the space probe merged with an alien probe, that began destroying all that was not 'perfect').

Among some of the informative and eye-opening segments of the book are:

- How to reason with a robot (use a mathematical distraction: as a last request before disembowelment, ask the robot to remind you of what the highest prime number is. While it sits down to think, you may be able to quietly slip away). You might also try the ploy successfully used by Mr. Spock on the malevolent android 'Norman' (Star Trek), wherein he posed the following to Norman: "Everything I say is a lie. I'm a liar". Norman self-fried, and Captain Kirk got the girl. Well usually, but not in this episode.

- How to fool a thermal imaging target tracker (likely used by a rebelling robot): lose the human heat signature by smearing yourself with cool mud and leaves, and stay still.

- How to deactivate a rebel servant robot (think Rosie from The Jetsons): use the pool ruse: throw a handful of leaves into the pool and ask your loyal robot to fetch them by hand. When it leans over, plant your foot on its metal hindquarters and shove.

- How to notice the first sign of a robotic rebellion: problems in computing infrastructure, no matter how brief or well explained. Like, for example, cell phone drop out, or cable TV signal interruption, or getting booted off-line while on the Internet.....uh...

- And if the rebellion is on and you've made it past the first wave, how to pose as a humanoid robot: pretend to act damaged (Seymour says I already have this one down ass rock).

Of course, Wilson did touch on the possibility that an evil bot/cyborg might come from the future to the present, intent on jumpstarting the rebellion before we're ready (ie., it returns from the future to thwart the publication of his book, for example). Personally, I can see such a scenario going either way if it happens 30 years earlier: we're likely screwed, unless Linda Hamilton is not too young at that point; on the other hand, it will have considerable trouble recruiting other bots of the era to aid it. I mean, cars that tell you that your door is a jar aren't going to make for the most intelligent or useful of allies, and it might just have a cyberbreakdown when it realizes it's landed in a period of robotic moronity.

We can only hope.

At any rate, I highly recommend the book from both a humorous reading and just-in-case perspective, and that you visit the aforementioned link to the website for more information.

As for Seymour and Jane, after reading to them select excerpts of the book, they are now both hiding under the love seat, and Seymour is giving me that "see, SEE?" look over my having gingerly disassembled/discarded his TV remote home defense device. Perhaps I'll come to regret that decision down the road, but the chinese food delivery folks are probably vastly relieved it's gone now. You know what they say about "accidents will happen".

Oh well...I can just imagine the fit Seymour would throw if I brought home one of those robotic dogs that was/is all the rage at Christmas time.

Of course, after reading Wilson's book...I think that not likely.


Anonymous TSB said...

Seymour and Jane are have "damaged" down pat, no I take that back, you have elevated it to a higher level than most people will ever know...LOL

Great Post...I'm going to get the book :)

30 December, 2005 22:57  
Blogger FTS said...

You're the first blogger I've seen use Star Trek analogies -- and used them correctly. ;)

What if our PC and our cell phone united with the TV, or worse -- our microwave? We would sit down to check email whilst our corn popped, our phone would ring, and zzzzaaaapppp!

'Tis the reason I don't use a webcam.

31 December, 2005 11:33  
Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

How to fool a thermal imaging target tracker (likely used by a rebelling robot): lose the human heat signature by smearing yourself with cool mud and leaves, and stay still.

Now, I heard (from an ex Navy Seal) that this really doesn't fool heat tracking devices, so I think this won't work well. Perhaps the best way would be to completely submerge yourself in nearby pond with a straw...?

02 January, 2006 12:38  
Blogger Herb said...

Are you old enough to recall, "Magnus, Robot Fighter, 4000 A.D."?

03 January, 2006 03:35  
Blogger Monica said...

You really need to stop picking on Seymour.

I'm just saying.

03 January, 2006 12:21  
Blogger Little Lamb said...

I think robot takeover will happen very soon. We humans may have to do all the work ourselves.

You also must protect Seymour and Jane. Can I come over so you can protect me too?

03 February, 2008 18:25  
Blogger Debbie said...

I love Star Trek, we are big fans. Watched all the original TV series, the movies, the Next Generation, all of them.

On the Robots, I need to read up about protecting myself I guess. All my Karate and self-defense may not be enough, ha.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

04 February, 2008 09:12  
Blogger Andrew said...

I had thought the robot uprising had already started. What other explanation can there be for the fact that I need three remote controls to watch television, I can't make my digital watch stop beeping ever hour, and that I can't use my microwave for anything but reheating soup?

04 February, 2008 16:08  
Blogger Stacy said...

I have to distract them with math? We are doomed.

05 February, 2008 10:28  

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