Wednesday, April 13, 2011

HLL for Boy Scouts and Education

Unique in Character

The Boy Scouts now offer a merit badge for robotics. Having prototyped HLL in a robotics project, of course my mind turned to how HLL might be useful in this setting.

HLL is still a bit raw, but already useful to more advanced developers. In the hobby league, I've posted my experience setting up a LEGO Brick to run Java so that LEGO robots can interact easily as HLL components (although there are other ways to do it). HLL can be used to set up scenarios and do any special “thinking” that's needed when running them. Due to the limited memory and processing capability of a Brick, it's most likely that the on-board Java component would do little besides accepting commands and initiating their execution.

Of course, if this is the big trick of integration, it can as easily work with anything – up to and including the most sophisticated robots for any purpose. In larger systems, even the robot's HLL processing and all its specialized components could be on-board, with another HLL installation (anywhere) for the human controllers. Other robots and other operators could all be tied together via HLL for the ultimate cooperative work, or even gaming experience.

Back to Boy Scouts and Education: I have a plan – have had from the start. Sometimes my plans are slow to evolve because I don't always get tons of money to implement them every time I write one. If you've been following this blog and / or the project, you might have noticed that it's been going a bit slowly lately. But in my view, the plan supports use of HLL from the start of the educational process through the most complicated commercial possibilities. And that does seem interesting.

In my envisioned plan, there is a version 1.x in which HLL's sophisticated technology lies beneath easy to use configuration tools. Supported by its open architectural design and open source offering, the underlying technology will still be accessible to advanced developers. Ultimately however, HLL should support rapid prototyping and scenario (mission) development by non-programmers. I would hope that in later versions, the tools and application support components, would be so powerful that all application developers would typically build their applications using only the configuration tools. But even in version 1.x, there should be many interesting possibilities for the beginner. And let's not underestimate beginners. If the tools are right, the greatest successes will come from the best ideas. How would I know who will have them?

So, let's just imagine the maximum potential for HLL. Someone uses it in the process of getting a Boy Scout merit badge. Continuing interest sparks a number of additional hobby projects during high school, each with greater sophistication and usefulness. (If we're imagining, we might as well imagine first place in a national science fair competition as well as a Siemans Westinghouse Technology Award.) During his college years, he writes a series of unique HLL application components and demonstrates their use in a for-credit undergraduate project.

He either goes on to graduate school where he writes a thesis that takes the architecture another great step, or uses his unique application components to create a new line of useful commercial robots – or both.

In any case, even if this is all – at present – just in my imagination, it does underline an important element in the unique character of HLL. I know of no robotics software tool with as much range and potential as I've described. Now, if I could just get the project moving again.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I, robot-manager

Management thinkers need to ponder more about homo-robo relations

Below is a teaser from the article in The Economist.

ROBOTS have been the stuff of science fiction for so long that it is surprisingly hard to see them as the stuff of management fact. A Czech playwright, Karel Capek, gave them their name in 1920 (from the Slavonic word for “work”). An American writer, Isaac Asimov, confronted them with their most memorable dilemmas. Hollywood turned them into superheroes and supervillains. When some film critics drew up lists of Hollywood’s 50 greatest good guys and 50 greatest baddies, the only character to appear on both lists was a robot, the Terminator.

It is time for management thinkers to catch up with science-fiction writers. Robots have been doing menial jobs on production lines since the 1960s. The world already has more than 1m industrial robots. There is now an acceleration in the rates at which they are becoming both cleverer and cheaper: an explosive combination. Robots are learning to interact with the world around them. Their ability to see things is getting ever closer to that of humans, as is their capacity to ingest information and act on it. Tomorrow’s robots will increasingly take on delicate, complex tasks. And instead of being imprisoned in cages to stop them colliding with people and machines, they will be free to wander.

Read the complete article in The Economist.

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Human enhancement technologies are nothing new: It’s what humans do

Below is a "teaser" from an article by Kristi Scott posted on the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) website: Human enhancement technologies are nothing new: It’s what humans do

Phillip Brey wrote an article titled “Human Enhancement and Personal Identity” that was published as a chapter in the book New Waves in Philosophy of Technology. This is my critique of Brey’s ideas.

In his article, Brey seeks to make an argument that medicine should expand their foci from just health and therapy to include research on human enhancement effects and implementation of those enhancements. He makes his case that there should be extensive trials in medical research and policy. While I agree with him to some extent, I think that throughout the piece he has overlooked, or did not include here, human enhancement technologies (HETs) throughout history and the way they have been handled for better or worse.

Therefore, while I agree that we need to explore the social implications, I think that to strengthen Brey’s argument there should be more inclusion and acknowledgement of the past to build up the logical reasons to shift the medical foci of the present or future. Consider questions such as, have we extensively done what he is calling for with other human enhancement technologies?

For example, with the introduction of birth control, which gave us control over our reproductive capabilities, did we analyze all the possible social effects that came with this? Did we hold off on our ability to enhance our reproductive systems based on similar types of research? Why or why not? How did this effect implementation of these technologies? How could it have been done better?

This is of particular interest when he asks the same of HETs and holds them to this standard because of the change in the methodological approach to enhancements, as I will discuss. He says that, “Human enhancement should then be carefully regulated based on the outcomes of such assessments.” There is an element of control here that he thinks medicine should have in the area of human enhancements that has/is not currently done with such rigor.

Continued. Read the entire article: Human enhancement technologies are nothing new: It’s what humans do

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