Archive for the ‘Artificial Intelligence’ Category

Snap Sci-Fi – “A Close Shave”   Leave a comment


A Close Shave

Damn them, thought Ranger Radsusky. Didn’t I tell them to go away?

It all started innocently enough. After tinkering around with an old electric shaver she found in the bathroom cabinet, inspiration struck fierce, sizzling her brain with concepts and plans.

“Hmm, let’s see,” she said as she held up the graphene synthesizer in her sunny, garden-girded laboratory. “I’ll put this shaver here on the 3D model conceptualizer, plug in an aerodynamics structure, maybe even a thruster or two. Then I’ll hit the send and blend button.”

Radsusky heard a tinny, unamplified series of musical notes in the distance. “Who’s calling me now?” she said, and turned to leave the room.

Big eyed cat

Mr. Widdles, Radsusky’s inquisitive cat, slunk into the lab through a slightly ajar French window. His feeding implementor Stood in the next room, talking into a small, flat slab of glass and metal. He sniffed around in the meantime.  A flat tray under some kind of big box held a few items of interest. Say, what’s this? Food? Inching closer, he pressed his paws against a tab. Quicker than a flash, the box lit up and weird, strange buzzing noises rattled his eardrums. He ran off, seeking a quieter spot on top of the kitchen counter.

Without warning, the entire laboratory building shook, its foundations cracking. Radsusky threw down her phone and ran into her lab, only to notice four ginormous robotish razors rose from the 3D model conceptualizer. While their bodies resembled electric razors, the cord morphed into some kind of segmented legs. The on-off-clean now lights turned into eyeballs. The bits and pieces of an aerodynamic structure wound up as a kind of wing. Thrusters became fire-shooting appendages. She let out a sigh.

Rough Woman

“Jeez, I can’t even leave for five to talk to my mother? By the look of things, it’s going to be rough from now on,” she said. “These guys aren’t going to play fair. Sheesh, I didn’t have a chance to insert the morals chip. Who’d even believe this? Can’t even think who to call to stop ’em. I’d better get out of here. This roof’s about to crash.”

Sure enough, as soon as Radsusky left the lab, immense bodies rose up from the tray and continued to grow in size and strength. As they did, the lab collapsed around them.

“Go away! Shoo! Beat it!” she yelled, “Go pick on someone your own size!”

One eyed her, raised its arm, set fire to the bushes, and headed towards her. Razor-Bot meant business, and she was its first order of destruction.

“KNOCK IT OFF,” she yelled back, and grabbed a piece of rubble. She flung it hard and fast, sending it directly into Razor-Bot’s eye.

“I’m fed up! Do you hear me–FED UP! I created you! How dare you treat me with such disrespect! Get out of here – NOW!”

Fed Up Woman

One more fling of her lab’s foundation smacked into Razor-Bot’s face. It sent a stream of fire in response. Fortunately, its siblings took off for the field next door, seeing newer venues to destruct. And they were heading right for her friend’s anti-battalion defenses!

“Oh, god…I better’d tell Susie! She’s going to be really pissed if they mess with her nuclear rockets. She just finished putting a new hood on the silo, too.”

She picked through the rubble of her lab and managed to locate her phone. Thank goodness it remained close to the surface. Pressing the speed dial number, Radsusky reached Susie quickly and explained the situation.

“When are you gonna learn?” Susie said, sounding as if she’d had enough of her shenanigans. “I’m really sick of having to chase after your experiments.”

“This’ll be the last time,” Radsusky promised.”

“Liar,” said Susie, and hung up the phone. In her living room stood her munitions cabinet. She glanced at the most suitable tactical anti-bot devices and selected the perfect destroyer.

Not a moment too soon.

Her floor rumbled and wavered. China clinked in the closets. The swag light swayed. “Guess that’s my signal to clean up this mess,” she said, and headed out the door.

Razor-Bots lumbered at a quick clip across her field, heading directly for her nuclear armaments.

“Not today,” Susie said as aimed right for the intruders. She gave the Bot Blaster’s trigger a tight squeeze and shot four times.

Shooting woman

The earth shook as their bot-bodies tumbled and fell, leaving welts in the field where they lay. For a moment, whirring noises could be heard from their insides, until a tall column of steam spewed forth.

“Guess it’s over with,” Susie mumbled as she headed towards them. She kicked the sides of each one of them, hearing only the echo of an empty body of graphene and the ruined promise of an ill-conceived accident gone awry.

Copyright Gretchen Weerheim June 15, 2016



When Reality Mirrors Science Fiction, or Vice Versa   Leave a comment

Why make things up when reality is just as entertaining? Here’s a few inspiring snippets for your sci-fi/reality consideration. Become inspired and write your own story based on what you see below!


New Horizons Spacecraft

Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker

New Horizons has left Pluto and gracefully exited out into extended space, lurking around the Kuiper Belt in search of, well, new horizons.

Chinese Riot Robot

Credit: People’s Daily, China

This egg-ish thing is actually a Chinese riot control robot, capable of mowing down people on flat surfaces while ambling along at 11-ish miles per hour and work without complaint (I’m assuming anyway) for 8 hours.

SpaceX Mars Ship

Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX to launch unmanned mission to Mars in 2018. The above ship is no relation to the above Chinese riot control robot.

Hall Thruster

Credit: NASA

Aerojet Rocketdyne will develop an advanced solar electric propulsion system, or SEP, for deep space exploration. Mars, and other exotic extraterrestrial locations.

Hope you found a few good ideas!

‘Bots, Books and Literary Competitions   Leave a comment

Robot Typing On Keyboard

Photo credit:

They say if you stick a bunch of typewriters in front of a roomful of monkeys, they’ll eventually churn out Shakespeare. Now, I’ve never seen that proven but here’s a fact: artificial intelligence is now composing prose.

I like to read Engadget . It keeps me updated on technology of all sorts, no matter who or what developed it. So a story caught my eye the other day: AI-written novel passes first round of a literary competition. This competition, taking place in Japan, marked the first time an AI-human collaboration garnered serious consideration.

The Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award opened up its competition to artificial intelligence for the first time this year. Out of 1450 submission, 11 were human/AI collaborations.

Now, it’s not like the AI came up a great storyline all on its own. It had help, of course. Humans gave the AI the necessary components to create a story: vocabulary, a basic plot outline, sentences and phrases. With these ingredients, AI worked its muse and put forth a pretty darn good entry. Of course, it was science fiction – what else?

Competition judges read through the AI/human and deemed it good enough to pass onto the next round. I’m willing to be that made the authors quite proud. All the while, the judges never knew The Day a Computer Writes a Novel was anything but a human invention. Alas, while the story turned out to be well-structured, imaginative and inventive, it failed the character development test, leaving someone else (human, I’m assuming) to win the coveted prize.

So while this particular entry to the Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award competition didn’t garner first place, it did come out a winner of sorts. Imagine if you were one of the writers who got left behind and this robot beat you out. Part of me would feel kind of pissed off, insulted maybe, and yet, I’d be scratching my head. Has the sci-fi market gotten to the point where the objects of its plots are now the ones creating the new stories? If left to its own (plot) devices, what sort of plot will an AI write? Steampunk? Electrifying thrillers? A Cyborg in shining armor saving the day?

Kind of gives a whole new meaning to Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, eh? I mean, if a robot write a really bad story, who’s being harmed – the art, the robot or humans subjected to reading it?

Furthermore, will us humans be cast aside in favor of those who can churn out story after story, without food, water or air? No, wait…that’s pretty much every writer I know.

It’d be pretty interesting to watch how this plot develops.

The Huggable Project   Leave a comment


In the New York Times, I read and watched a near tear-jerker of a video from their Robotica series.  In this episode, the video tells the story of Beatrice Lipp, a young child who’s suffering from a chronic disease.  She’s had one too many visits to the pediatric hospital and is both frightened and stressed.  She hates going and misses her life at school and with her friends. To ease this situation, a special friend is brought in to rescue her from the tedium she faces.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology teamed up with Boston Children’s hospital to develop Huggable, a robotic bear that’s absolutely adorable.  She interacts with Beatrice and the effect she has is nothing short of amazing.  This poor kid transformed from sad to so cheerful interacting with Huggable.  Beatrice reaches out to touch the bear, smiles and laughs as Huggable seems to respond to her questions and conversation.  Nearby, a programmer keeps watch on the action of both the bear and child and acts as a cyber puppeteer, moving the arms, legs and head of Huggable, even controlling eye blinks.

It’s really a positive step forward in the world of robotics and a lovely video to watch.

The top video is a description of the project from MIT, and although academic, is nonetheless interesting to watch.  Please enjoy both.

Intelligence, Artificially Created   Leave a comment


Credit:  Brain Art Posted on Flickr

If only.

If only there had been a substitute pilot, perhaps one of artificial origin, perhaps the passengers flying that day on Germanwings might’ve experienced an eventless flight.

If only artificial intelligence was just like those robots in those movies, they’d come to the rescue.

Which of the above sentences are true?

Well, in theory, all of them.

Presently, the airline industry is investing in planes operated by either robots or remote operators.  Not exactly drones, these alternatives to flesh-and-blood pilots are being designed to work alongside a pilot or, in some instances, instead of one.  As it is, the technology is already present in F-16 fighter jets and is credited with saving the life of an American pilot during a battle with Islamic State forces.  Airbus uses software that guides the pilots and only seven minutes of the pilot’s time is required to manually fly the plane.  Had there been either software or some sort of AI present in the cabin of the ill-fated Germanwings plane, perhaps things might have turned out differently.

But is this an example of AI?  Not in the purest sense, but it’s a step in the right direction.  Software is making decisions to operate a plane in a specific manner – keeping it aloft – and as such, is preventing tragedy.

With this weekend’s premiere of Ex Machinaa new kind of more complex, believable robot makes its premiere.  True, it’s more about the character of the Ava, the new artificial life form.  But then again, Steven Spielberg already explored such a concept with his 2001 film, A.I. Artificial Intelligence.  Or, why not consider I, Robot – either the film or the masterful Issac Asimov short-story series upon which it’s based?  Heck, right now I’m reading his Caves of Steel and it tells the story of a humanlike robot passing for a detective.

One can correctly argue that true artificial intelligence is the result of a manufactured being (i.e. robot/android) thinking and feeling and dreaming and wishing, like Bicentennial Man.  And yes, Robin Williams’ character Andrew did, in fact, evolve to close as human as one can get, but he had the benefit of multiple upgrade surgeries to accomplish his goal.  But someone had to put that notion in that circuited brain first, right?  So instead of God, man becomes His substitute and creates an artificial version of what He rendered.

Now, here’s something to consider: if artificial intelligence is dependent upon its creator, then will the created be only as smart as the person who coded it?  What exactly is embedded in that code to get that ‘bot a-thinkin’? Will it reflect the coder’s own limited pool of experiences, or will the code be such that it takes on a life of its own via nano-sperm and ovaries, replicating its own Matrix-y ilk?

Ponder that one and see what your brain comes up with – artificial or not.

The Amazing Human-ish Head   Leave a comment

Here’s one of the creepiest videos I’ve seen in a long time.  It’s a work in progress by Australian artist Chris Jones.  It’s a fascinating study on how to reproduce a human without being human at all.  Visit the link to his website and you’ll be fascinated at all of the work that’s involved in creating such a realistic life form.

To me, it’s a game changer…and might even change some of those video games we all think are so real…

A.I. Vs. Me   Leave a comment


Famous actor who should have been smarter or known better

One always hears that sooner rather than later, artificial intelligence will win the battle over humanity.  People will become unnecessary, robots will rule the earth and humankind will vanish with a flicker of a dying match.

It’s true.  I read all sorts of articles from many sources that discuss both sides of the issue.  Many valid arguments from both sides.  However, I can’t get past one thing: humans build these things, don’t they?  Not machines, but flesh-and-blood types, the kind that need air to breathe and run on food instead of…well…whatever it is that AI runs on.

To be honestly, I’ve yet to see a real valid example of a machine building a machine smarter than it.  In fact, I’ve yet to see any sci-fi out there regarding a droid, robot, gizmimee or quelnodder, screwdriver in hand, lifting the lid off of the head, chest and guts of a counterpart, carefully placing a chip inside and closing it up, then miraculously watching that God moment when all becomes too real and rises up to become the conquerer of the universe.

Droids/Robots constructing improved units also presents another item for discussion: why would it?  What does a D/R have to gain by creating an improved version of itself?  That improved version might notice its creater’s a bit dimmer than it, find the kill switch and be done with it.  True. that can be part of the program and if the God D/R had any sense, it might write a code that includes a directive a al “I, Robot”, in that “do no harm” is a real and true order.  Even that statement up for interpretation.  If the God robot wants to kill its progeny, it’s preserving its own life with the successive, smarter D/R catches on that it has one chip up on its Daddy.

Bearing this in mind, why would a person create an object than can outsmart us?  Frankly, humans are too clever for their own good to do this.  First of all, we’re competitive.  Egos are sensitive enough as it is.  Some of you might remember Garry Kasparov losing to IBM’s Deep Blue, after beating it previously.  He didn’t take it well at all.  And then there’s that “Jeopardy” match with mere mortals.  Although that took some doing, again, people got the short end of the stick.

So apart from these novelty versions of AI, what else can we cook up that won’t kick our pride in the shins?  No one’s going to brag over their vodka gimlet and state to the bartender, “Say, want to hear the latest?  Remember that droid I slapped together in October?  You’re not going to believe this.  It approached my boss, got my job – AND – a raise!  Then, it locked me out of my office, drained my bank account and ran off with my spouse!  I’m lucky I had enough chump change to buy this drink.”

Of course, we all know that drink was expertly served by none of than Bob the Botender, programmed to sympathetically listen to life’s ups and downs, collect tips and cut you off when you’ve had a few.


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