Thursday, 31 December 2015

Out with the old.

2015 comes to a rather soggy end. It's wet and windy around here at the moment, although it started quite nicely. Blue sky at 9.30 this morning. The weatherman has promised us that it will clear by midnight, so that we can all see the fireworks being set off all around the area. How very thoughtful of the weather! 

Of course, the fireworks may be cancelled. Lots of big cities are being very cautious and doing all kinds of security checks around their big firework displays. In some places they have cancelled fireworks because of the large numbers of refugees they have taken in and they fear that fireworks might traumatise them further. I don't think we have that problem here. 

Back to the weather. On the REALLY soggy front, here is something that I have been told was said by our Environment Secretary: "Our flood defences worked really well right up to the point at which they failed." It's on a par with something I once heard a teacher say about his class's poor exam results: "I taught them but they didn't learn." You couldn't make it up! 

Over in Japan, a technology wizard called Hiroshi Ishiguro is leading a team at Osaka University working on artificial intelligence. This is all pretty advanced stuff. Nome of your clunky robots with metallic skin. No, his are humanoid robots. Which are growing more and more lifelike with each new one he creates. His third attempt, the lovely Erica might not yet be able to move independently but she has facial expressions and looks very convincing. 

The Japanese seem to be taking all of this very seriously. During the summer, a hotel staffed almost entirely by robots - including receptionists, concierges and cloakroom staff - opened at a theme park near Nagasaki, they did have proper human staff on hand to help if there should be any difficulty. Here's a link to a bit more information on that.  It's all well and good doing this sort of thing but I just hope that the people coordinating it all have seem the films, the ones where things go horribly wrong with the control of the robots and they start to feel superior and aim to take over the world! 

Mr Ishiguro apparently is not really phased by this possibility. He says that the robots need to resemble humans both in their physical appearance and in their conversation. This will make it easier for us to overcome our phobias, exploited to dramatic effect by countless sci-fi movies. He says, "They will have to be able to guess a human’s intentions and desires, then refer to an internal system in order to partly or wholly match those intentions and desires in their response." Then he wonders if that could alter the dynamics of the robot-human relationship. It is a rhetorical question: “It means,” he says, “that one day, humans and robots will be able to love each other.” 

Fortunately the technology needs a few more years work before we. Need to worry about the robots taking over the world.


  1. Anthea,

    In case you have concerns about the "unprecedented" temperature spike at the North Pole, here are 3 links to records.

    There was something similar in 1964.

    Just look at the ice cover.

    "Lies, damned lies, and statistics" is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. The 3 graphs are not statistical as such. Rather, they set out the numbers for you to draw your own conclusions. As for robots, read Asimov.

    Best wishes,