July 9, 2014

Technological progress from the modern computer to robots that have ethics

Well, it probably comes as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed I, Robot. This was my introduction into the genius mind of Isaac Asimov and I'm not going to stop here. I didn't realize until about midway through this book when I started looking at other books by him that this is the first in The Robot Series. The other three novels follow the detective exploits of a human and humanoid robot team so you know that's going on the TRL. As I said in the last entry, this book covers various scenarios in which robots acted outside of their prescribed programming. I liked that the stories were separate yet they had recurring characters and an overarching narrative theme. This kept things moving along and makes the reader invested (only if the author makes the characters likable or interesting which Asimov definitely did). By the end, you get the gist of what he is trying to say and most likely what the remainder of the series will explore: machines making decisions for humanity as a whole. For most, this fills them with a sense of horror that their lives are no longer their own to control. However, for one character in I, Robot this was almost comforting as robots had 'perfect logic and reason' and since one of the fundamental laws of robotics is to keep humans safe they will always make decisions in our favor. I highly recommend that you read this one to get the entire picture because I know I'm not doing it near enough justice.

Further in the vein of technological advances, my next read is Turing: Pioneer of the Information Age by B. Jack Copeland. I became aware of the name Alan Turing when I saw the trailer for The Imitation Game which is all about how he and his team at Bletchley Park cracked the Enigma code during WWII. It's a shame but I don't think many people are aware of this man despite his many accomplishments. Computers are based off of his invention the Universal Turing Machine. He was a leader in the field of mathematics, artificial intelligence, and biology. However, his genius was overshadowed for several years because he was convicted of homosexuality, chemically castrated (his choice instead of imprisonment), and then committed suicide by cyanide poisoning. More recently, there has been talk regarding the reversal of charges against him -- years too late. I have a feeling this one's gonna be a tearjerker, guys, so get those tissues ready!

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