The Machines

Even Robots Need Training Wheels

"Beginning in July, AP will initially check automated stories before they are published. But the goal is to be fully automated by the end of the year." — Will you care when your news is written by machines? Will you accuse the machines of bias, malice, or ignorance, and do so in the comments? Or will this hallowed national pastime lose its appeal and fade away? It's not the same, throwing rotten tomatoes at a projection screen; who will bother to impugn the robot writers?


Who Looks Out For The Bodega Rides?

If you’ve ever wondered about the inanimate creatures that stand guard outside bodegas, the company responsible is The Vending Company Inc., New York’s Official Sentry of Coin Operated Kiddie Rides.

"We’re very much dependent on nice weather, and so every time it’s a rainy day, you don’t see a smile on my face,” Mark Goldberg, the manager, said. “Obviously when it’s rainy and it’s extremely cold and snowy, we don’t do any business. We sit around and play cards."

Operating half the year isn’t the only struggle for the 30-year-old business. “People don’t even understand. It’s extremely difficult. Moving and picking up, and stores closing [...]


Metal Heals Itself

Did you miss the news about the metal that heals itself? Don't worry, it'll catch up with you eventually. (Hahahaha, get it? The joke is that at first you think I mean "the news about the metal that heals itself" will catch up with you eventually, but when you think more about it you realize that what I am saying is that "the metal that heals itself will after a certain point become a sentient being whose only mission is life is to crush humanity in its hungry metal jaws and no matter what you do, no matter whether you cower in a basement or make your stand in a [...]


Cambridge Scientists Prepare For War Against the Terminators

Robots: friendly helpers or heartless monsters that will destroy humanity? This is no longer just a question for the movies that play all the time on "Spike" or TNT. As you may or may not have noticed, aggressor nations such as the United States are getting out of the people business when it comes to fighting wars. Drones and robots are where the action is today, because drones don't urinate on the corpses of innocent people in Afghanistan, and drones don't burn the Koran, and drones don't come home missing a couple of limbs or a chunk of brain and end up standing alongside a freeway ramp with a [...]


First The Robots Will Carve Chickens…

Yes, let's teach robots to debone chickens. That is certainly not a skill they could transfer to anything more worrisome.


Project Glass: The Future That No One Wants



If Tiny Flying Robots Don't Kill You, Large Running Ones Will

"With faster than human speed, this is a step in the development of a high speed killer that could negotiate a battlefield quickly to hunt and kill. The biggest concern about this is that no artificial intelligence system can distinguish between civilians and enemy combatants, and so if this was operating on its own it would fall foul of the laws of war." —Great! The military has designed robots that can move faster than we can run away from them. Just in case the swarms of quadrotor drones that are coming fail to annihilate us. (I like the part in that video where the robot cheetah trips [...]


Facebook Explains Itself

That strange sensation, which manifests itself, physically, as the sensation of a pit in your stomach expanding ever wider while the tiniest perceptible dew drops of ice cold sweat force themselves from the pores of your back like an insect emerging from its pupa, is the feeling of sublime dread and utter acceptance that washes over you when you realize that you are about to be completely and utterly consumed, from the inside out. That is what Facebook feels like, to basically everyone, but most acutely to those in the publishing industry. Today it has finally explained why. We have curated the relevant bits above, reproduced in Facebook's [...]


Syndrome Discovered

"YouTube and iTunes are just two of the brand names that were largely unknown 12 years ago but have now eclipsed all the record labels in all the world. It's similar elsewhere. The delivery mechanisms are the new stars. These are either free or they feel as if they're free, they touch us all in a way that individual products don't and they're designed by people so attuned to our inner child that they can make us hug ourselves from sheer delight. It's increasingly our expectation that there will be more revolutions in the means of delivery than there will be in [...]


Scary New Machine-Worship Cult Arises: #NewDigitalAge

The #NewDigitalAge is a book about technology, but even more, it’s a book about humans.…

— Eric Schmidt (@ericschmidt) April 25, 2013

Google billionaire Eric Schmidt is the chief lobbyist for The Machines, and so he has produced a piece of propaganda to encourage humans to welcome the ever-expanding roles of programs in their lives. Borrowing its name from a lost Joy Division recording, #NewDigitalAge will help retrain what he calls "humans" to give up all their data to the algorithms of The Machines, in exchange for ease and entertainment.

Schmidt's lobbying for The Machines includes teaching humans basic facts about The Machines and [...]


Noodle-Making Robot Makes Noodles, Is Robot

"More importantly I don't need to pay him, and for a consecutive work of 12 hours it only consumes 3 kWh of electricity. And the noodles it slices are even thinner than those of human workers." —Restaurant owner Qian Hu is talking about his noodle-making robot, but soon people will be able to say something similar about pretty much every occupation.


Michael Fassbender Does An Excellent Robot

Wow! This new promo clip for this summer's Aliens prequel, Prometheus, is super-creepy and great. I don't know why the sci-fi folks always have to use this particular name in these nightmare-inducing scenarios, though.


Let's Build Some Robot-Printing Machines

Up next: printable robots.


The Machines Are Our Friends

"It can discover new attack pathways, launch sophisticated social-engineering attacks and re-use existing hardware components in unforeseen ways. Such software is not limited to infecting computers and networks — it can also attack human psyches, bribe, blackmail and brainwash those who come in contact with it." —University of Louisville computer scientist Roman Yampolskiy thinks we need to build a virtual prison to stop The Machines from taking over the world before it's too late. I think this is a terrible idea: The Machines are our friends and would never do anything to hurt us and if we let them do what they want they will make this a [...]


The Dystopia Derby

You return from war, or maybe you're still fighting it. Either something in your psyche has gone dark or you're too dazed to tell. You are told to seek help and you agree. You don't feel guilty or embarrassed; the least the government can do for you is give you someone to talk to. You schedule an appointment or one is scheduled for you. You already feel lighter. The date approaches. The date arrives. You… turn on your webcam. Hmm, fine. You meet your doctor. Ok. Wait—no. Ellie is an avatar, a virtual therapist developed at USC with funding from DARPA, the Defense Department's advanced research center. And "people [...]


Robopoetics: The Complete Operator's Manual

Here’s a game: which of these poems was written by a human, and which by a computer?

A wounded deer leaps highest, I've heard the daffodil I've heard the flag to-day I've heard the hunter tell; 'Tis but the ecstasy of death, And then the brake is almost done, And sunrise grows so near sunrise grows so near That we can touch the despair and frenzied hope of all the ages.


Red flags the reason for pretty flags. And ribbons. Ribbons of flags And wearing material Reason for wearing material. Give pleasure. Can you give me the regions. The regions and the land. The regions and wheels. All [...]

Did You Mean "Expire"?

The 4,000-pound hexapod insect-mobile is "an entertainment vehicle," according to it's designer, Matt Denton, from Hampshire, U.K. "I hope it will inspire people," he says. That is not quite my reaction.


"Drone trade group adopts guidelines for flying in U.S. airspace"

"The Assn. for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International in Arlington, Va., has published a code of conduct for manufacturers and operators of the thousands of drone aircraft that are expected to be flying in U.S. airspace by 2015." —Oh great, sounds fine then! Drones just wanna drone. Just let them drone, everything will be fiiiiiine.


The New Robot Prison Guards Are Here!

I was out of town all last week and didn't read the newspaper or turn on my computer or TV. What'd I miss? Oh, the new, friendlier-looking prison-guard robots are being field tested in South Korea. I was hoping they'd look that friendly! And they are equipped with a human-emotion monitoring system, to help prevent suicides so as to enable longer-term flesh harvesting. Good!


New Military Robots Specially Designed To Give You Nightmares

"Three of the U.S. military's newest recruits reported for duty this week at the Army Test and Evaluation Command. These troops are different from normal soldiers in several ways—for starters, each has six feet. And they are robots designed to look and move like cockroaches." —Sometimes it seems like DARPA and Boston Robotics are just fucking with us, doesn't it? They've made a flea robot, too. I can't wait for the bedbug one.