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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Automated prospecting? Robots in the dirt!

Have you ever built a robot? Maybe with Legos, or just built it on your own? Or even just wanted to build one? Building something that can then move on its own, or even to just have something that can do so is the dream of many, not matter what their age.

Big Bang Theory Season 4 Episode 1 Intro

I, myself, am working on a robot right now for my Senior Design project. The ultimate goal of this project is to compete in the NASA Lunabotics competition. Hopefully, we will be able to have a robot that can mine lunar soil without any human intervention, and then we win!

Robots can be used to do a lot of different things, but it is the programming that runs the robots that allow them to do as they do. A certain branch of computer science, expert systems, is used when a program is needed to make decisions about a problem using reasoning, rather than to follow a procedure

In a report published in Science Magazine, researchers reported the creation of a program that has successfully located previously undiscovered mineral deposits using artificial intelligence. The researchers were able to build upon the known geology of an area in Washington State, taking a large amount of data and using a program to predict where mineral deposits existed. They were able to not only verify the existence of known deposits of porphyry molybdenum, a mineral that contains the element molybdenum, which is used to make alloys of steel, among other things.  As a whole, this research represents an advancement in expert systems and the mining industry and depends on years of work by expert mining engineers and geologists.

However, I feel that there other implications of this type of research, besides the ability to find overlooked mineral deposits. Does this research mean that prospecting itself could eventually be automated? And furthermore, does this mean that given enough data generated by experts in a field, the field itself could be computerized, rendering the experts obsolete? Or will these experts be needed more in the future to provide data for the computers?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Honey I Shrunk....Some Robots?

In this post I will be examining a research article published in Science Magazine entitled “A Logic-Gated Nanorobot for Targeted Transport of Molecular Payloads.” Basically this article talks about the use and production of extremely small robots (Nanorobots) that can be used to help fix minuscule items like defective DNA and human cells that are infected by viruses. Authors, and scientists, Shawn M. Douglas, Ido Bachelet and George M. Church have been experimenting with the shapes and operating functions of nanobots to allow them to fix problems that are small in size but very large in importance.  

Diagram of Nanobot Designed and Tested

The testing done examined a "design (of) a robotic DNA device capable of selectively interfacing with cells to deliver signaling molecules to cell surfaces." The robots, shown above, have hinges to open and close in order to release whatever is inside the nanobot capsule to the defects in the human body. The researchers call the objects inside the capsules payloads. The nanobots are made with specific items that let them perform their functions when they come in contact with a certain substance such as a protein or DNA strands. Essentially, the nanobots enter the human body, find the problem they are designed for, and then fix or remove that problem.

Example of a Nanobot in a Blood Vessel

As seen in the video a nanobot could remove dangerous substances from a persons blood stream without rigorous work performed by a doctor. The use of nanobots is a clear example of how machines, especially in medicine, can help mankind in a way that hasn't been possible before now. Some problems in the human body can be fixed a lot easier by a robot, around 1,000,000 times smaller than the thickness of a US dime, than by using trial and error via the use of numerous medicines and old medical techniques. Someday a blood infection, genetic disorder or virus could be cured by millions of robots rather than by medicine and numerous tests.   

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Danger Will Robinson!

In the original Lost in Space, the robot would scream “Danger Will Robinson!” when trouble abounded close to Will, the young boy of the crew. But what if the robot was yelling at a different kind of futuristic danger? A future where manufacturing world would need no human manufacturers? Introducing from Rethink Robotics, a robot manufacturing that has created a human like substitute, Baxter.

 This new robot threat is just like Terminator, only instead of eliminating the human race it is eliminating jobs. Baxter is made to increase productivity and make America more competitive with manufacturing giants like China. The price of this robot will only be 22,000$ American dollars. This cost will far undermine the American worker (your average American worker will make around that much a year). Baxter is made with 75 percent American parts and is very easy to program. This is said to “unleash a revolution in manufacturing with a friendly faced factory robot” from IEEE Spectrum article. What? This robot can not only multitask but expresses emotions. These emotions are programed to add feedback.      

 How will this affect the hardworking? When will they create a robot that can do everything a human can do minus the added cost? Danger Will Robinson, your job is not safe!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

AI and the Workplace. Who are your co-workers?

The future of employment is a crossroads, and although we do not yet work with A.I. artificial intelligence directly in the workplace, how long until this becomes a problem?

So we've all had calls from telemarketers, right? It always seems that they call just when you think you are safe. It has gotten to such an annoyance had my girlfriend's house that her dad has completed turned off the sound of the ringer on their phone so that the phone goes straight to voice mail if no one hears the caller id announce the number. But it seems that every message that is left is made by a synthesized voice produced electronically.

This appears to be the trend in telemarketing (isn't the Watson computer crazy?). It cannot be denied that using a synthesized voice can greatly reduce costs for telemarketing, especially when people just ignore the calls anyway. Speech technology is also progressing at a significant rate, and the differences between current and past technology is evident as shown in this Wikipedia article just below Stephen Hawking's picture.

But what is the cost of this type of advancement in the telemarketing industry? Fewer human employees means fewer expenses and more revenue, but it results in the loss of jobs for people. If this trend continues, A.I. technology can expand into other industries and even begin making financial decisions or even decisions on law (Watson again- the technology has a wide range of applications).

As A.I. is advanced, what will its role be in the workplace, and what industries will it be more adaptable to? Should this technology be further researched, and are there dangers to how our society is structures with the creation of more machines? Specifically, I ask you to think about the future and who your co-workers will be. Who knows, you may soon be a supervisor of ten promising young automated machine controllers!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

From Model T to C-3PO

The year is 1913 and the Ford Motor Company is about to revolutionize the way manufacturing works. Piece by piece and worker by worker the Model T was produced in a way that had never been done before. Each individual on the workroom floor was responsible for assembling a piece of the Model T as it was pulled by them on a rope and trolley system. The simple addition of an assembly line eventually would lower the price of the Model T to a level where the average American consumer could finally purchase a vehicle, Henry Ford’s dream.

The functionality and ability of an assembly line to cut production time and cost of goods hasn’t changed very much in the last 100 years. The technology behind it, however, has. The manufacturing process has started to move in a direction where an assembly line no longer needs to be run by a human being, who needs to be paid and rested after a work day. Instead the assembly lines are beginning to be run by robots. These robots can run 24/7, 365 days of the year, don’t need to get paid, and can perform the required work at a much faster pace than even the best trained human could.

This is a good thing, right? An increase in production time and a decrease in salaries results in a cheaper good for people to buy and a potential for financial growth within the company using the assembly. The downside to it all is the loss of human jobs. Many people depend on manufacturing assembly line jobs to earn a living and care for their families. If these jobs are taken away, will that hurt a society’s economy, standard of living or lifestyle. What do you think? Is it more important to maximized efficiency in production or ensure the wellbeing of the human race? Is there a healthy balance? 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Help! Thieves Stole My Job!

Welcome to the first Man versus Machine Post.  Ever since the dawn of time, man has been fascinated by machines. From the creation of the wheel to F-22 Raptor, men have been creating machines to do our bidding. Machines can be made to kill or made to help the starving people in third world countries. But when does a machine become a tool to supplant the devoted and hard working? To further our understanding, let us see what a machine is defined as. According to a machine is 

“An apparatus consisting of interrelated parts with separate functions, used in the performance of some kind of work: a sewing machine.”1

Although a very short (and if not limited) definition, it shows the small part that machines can take over jobs. Picture the sewing machine given in the example. That invention alone can displace at least 10 grandmothers per machine! If grandmas can’t compete then grand kids may receive pocket change at Christmas. But this issue has been known for some time. The onset of the machine has come more as a blessing and the results have been better standard of living. If a grandma purchased a sewing machine her grand kids could have a whole wardrobe for Christmas. But when do machines become a problem? 

According to a NPR report, technology can take over higher skill jobs-and it is happening now. Machines have been known to take over redundant jobs like sewing or general manufacturing, but now it is taking over higher end jobs. Check out the report : How Technology is Eliminating Higher-Skill Jobs.2 The GDP of America has now reached (or surpassed) the pre-recession days, but the unemployment rate is at 8.1 percent for August.3 The major reason cited: the machine. To quote the NPR report

 "we're losing higher-skill, better-paying jobs to machines — like bank tellers, airline check-in agents, accountants and whole floors of actuaries in insurance companies."

When I had to reinstate my car insurance after moving to a new state I went on the web plugged in my credit card and information then magic. Without talking to a single human the insurance cards were printed from my computer. All done by a machine, incredible. This may lead to a more efficient way of conducting business-but at what true cost? Will this create a larger poor and smaller rich population? I believe this to be an anti-robin hood; steal jobs from the poor to give more money to the rich. 

Thanks for reading our post on an important subject that is sure to only increase. 
Feel free to post below or email! 
Here is my email -Zach