GOUSA…and a few friends…blocked a treaty on Killer Robots

Country officials and campaigners have expressed disappointment after United Nations talks on autonomous weapons systems – known as “killer robots” – stopped short of launching negotiations into an international treaty to govern their use following opposition from manufacturing states.

Unlike existing semi-autonomous weapons such as drones, fully-autonomous weapons have no human-operated “kill switch” and instead leave decisions over life and death to sensors, software and machine processes…

But on Friday, the Sixth Review Conference on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) failed to schedule further talks around the development and use of the Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems, or LAWS.

Countries already investing heavily in the development of LAWS attended the five-day meeting in Geneva, blocking a majority from agreeing on steps to establish legally-binding rules on machine-operated weapons.

Sources following the talks told Reuters news agency that Russia, India and the United States were among the countries that pushed back against a new LAWS treaty….

Uncle Sugar has been playing this dog-in-the-manger act over and over for decades. We did it with nuclear weapons and here we go, again. Other – equally untrustworthy – nations will match or surpass “our” killer robots with their own killer robots. Then, we sign off and say “OK” hoping at a minimum to keep some of the smaller power brokers from creating their own lot of murderous toys.

Autonomous, emission-free containership


Victora Klesty/REUTERS

Norwegian fertilizer producer Yara has debuted its long-awaited Yara Birkeland, the world’s first electric and autonomous container ship for emission-free shipping. The ship departed for its maiden voyage Friday in the Oslo fjord…

“We are proud to be able to showcase the world’s first fully electric and self-propelled container ship. It will cut 1,000 tonnes of CO2 and replace 40,000 trips by diesel-powered trucks a year, says Svein Tore Holsether, CEO of Yara…

The ship was constructed by VARD and it will begin manned commercial operations from 2022, kicking off a two-year testing period of the technology that will make the ship self-propelled and finally certified as an autonomous, all-electric container ship.

A seafaring nation like Norway prides itself in showing the way to the newest and best practices for commerce afloat. Looks like a pretty good start to me.

Rise of the Slaughterbots

Killer drones — or “slaughterbots” — are already conducting airstrikes without any humans involved in the decision making, according to a recent UN report. Again, not the piloting, the decision making. Computers are deciding who to drone strike.

And that should have us really worried, a group of researchers argue in a guest post for IEEE Spectrum. “In so many words, the red line of autonomous targeting of humans has now been crossed,” the team writes.

The use of lethal autonomous weapon systems, according to them, should immediately be ceased. Nations around the world should sign a treaty to make sure these killer robots will never be used again.

At a minimum, this offers legitimate opportunity for sanctions, arrest and indictment.

Autonomous tractor/trailer goes coast-to-coast in <3 days


Click to enlarge

” Plus.ai said one of its vehicles had hauled a refrigerator trailer full of butter 2,800 miles from California to Pennsylvania in less than three days.

It relied on sensors, cameras, radar and Lidar (light detection and ranging) technology and computer vision software underpinned by artificial intelligence.

But a driver and engineer rode along. [Of course!]

” “This cross-country freight run… shows the safety, efficiency and maturity of our autonomous trucks, which are already delivering freight for other partners several days a week,” said co-founder Shawn Kerrigan.

“Continued advances in our autonomous trucks will make it possible for these quick cross-country runs to be the norm in the future.”

Of course.

Drones Drop Poison Bombs to Fight An Island’s Invasion by Rats

❝ Release just one pregnant rat on an island and soon enough the invasive predators will have decimated that pristine environment like an atom bomb. Sure, rats on their own are pretty neat, but we’ve got a nasty habit of transporting them where they don’t belong, at which point they transform into menaces.

Such is the plight of the Galapagos Island of Seymour Norte, a speck of 455 acres off the coast of Ecuador. In 2007, conservationists succeeded in ridding the island of invasive rats, but a decade later, the fiends had returned, likely by swimming from the neighboring island of Baltra.

❝ Realizing the impending doom of Seymour Norte’s endemic species—rats eat both the eggs and hatchlings of birds, as well as reptiles like iguanas—conservationists again declared war, this time unleashing a new weapon: drones. Flying autonomously along predetermined routes, the drones have been dropping rodenticide bombs with extreme precision, down to half a meter accuracy. On Seymour Norte, officials and conservationists are once again banishing the rats, but the war against invasive species for the purity of the world’s islands has only just begun…

An island is an exceptional place, each one host to an ecosystem like no other on Earth. One common theme among islands, though, is that they’re often devoid of mammals (save for bats), which unlike birds and insects struggle to make the journey from the mainland. So when a mammal like a rat does arrive, it sends the ecosystem into chaos.

And that’s the case on Seymour Norte. RTFA for the gory details.

Robot ATV carries firefighters’ gear

❝ In the fall of 2018, the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting, along with wildland firefighters from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control worked with Honda in testing their Autonomous Work Vehicle in wildland firefighting support scenarios.

Located at the site of the Lake Christine fire, a destructive wildfire that took place the summer of 2018 in Eagle County, Colorado- CoE, DFPC and Honda tested the work vehicles using realistic scenarios that occur during a wildfire. The team focused on utilizing the vehicle to support wildland operations with the goal of enhancing safety and effectiveness. Three missions were tested including initial attack support for dismounted firefighters, support of active fireline development, and autonomous deployment of a communications repeater to a remote site. This evaluation was performed at the Lake Christine fire site after the fire was fully contained and controlled. The initial results of the tests were promising and the CoE looks forward to working with Honda to further this mission.

Yeah, the language is a little stilted, press release-English. The concept is smart and realistic, useful. Certainly, folks here in the Rockies concerned with wildfires would be pleased to see critters like this in use.

Autonomous robots can be bigots. Short-term payoffs work on machines, too.

❝ Showing prejudice towards others does not require a high level of cognitive ability and could easily be exhibited by artificially intelligent machines, new research has suggested.

Computer science and psychology experts from Cardiff University and MIT have shown that groups of autonomous machines could demonstrate prejudice by simply identifying, copying and learning this behaviour from one another…

❝ Though some types of computer algorithms have already exhibited prejudice, such as racism and sexism, based on learning from public records and other data generated by humans, this new work demonstrates the possibility of AI evolving prejudicial groups on their own…

❝ The findings involve individuals updating their prejudice levels by preferentially copying those that gain a higher short term payoff, meaning that these decisions do not necessarily require advanced cognitive abilities.

Your new self-driving car might not take you to the polls if it thinks you won’t vote for Trump or one of his lackeys.

Tesla Ready To Test Autonomous Semi-Trucks Real Soon Now

❝ Tesla is indicating it’s serious about introducing an electric semi by seeking permission to test self-driving versions in California and Nevada…

❝ California doesn’t yet have rules in place governing the testing of autonomous heavy trucks over 10,000 pounds, while light-duty vehicles have been tested there for a few years. California DMV is working with California Highway Patrol on writing rules governing semi-trucks that need to be tested as autonomous vehicles before they’re legally allowed free access to roads.

Nevada has all vehicle types and weights covered, but Tesla hasn’t taken any formal action on it yet. The automaker will need to get a self-driving vehicle testing license in the state, but hasn’t done so yet according to a Nevada spokesperson…

❝ Since October, Tesla has been adding fully autonomous functions to all Model S and Model X units being built, and announced that the new technology would later be applied to the Model 3. The company will have to wait until government officials approve operation of fully autonomous vehicles before those automated functions can be activated.

I’m ready and waiting. At least for a new pickup. 🙂

Dropped from Air Force jets, an autonomous 100-drone swarm plans and executes its mission

U.S. military officials have announced that they’ve carried out their largest ever test of a drone swarm released from fighter jets in flight. In the trials, three F/A-18 Super Hornets released 103 Perdix drones, which then communicated with each other and went about performing a series of formation flying exercises that mimic a surveillance mission.

But the swarm doesn’t know how, exactly, it will perform the task before it’s released. As William Roper of the Department of Defense explained…

Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronized individuals, they are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature. Because every Perdix communicates and collaborates with every other Perdix, the swarm has no leader and can gracefully adapt to drones entering or exiting the team.

They’re not required to behave like human sheeple. Should we worry?