Posts Tagged ‘Hawaii’

Decoy Voice Asks: Why Are the Chinese Making a Robot that Eats People?

July 12, 2022

And now for something a bit lighter, if by ‘lighter’ you mean people designing and building the type of machines that really could bring about the robot revolt. Decoy Voice is, I think, a Chinese-American YouTuber. In the video below, he comments on the way the Chinese seem to have revived their old EATER robot programme. This was an attempt to build a robot that could go on powering itself through consuming biomass. It was cancelled a few years ago, presumably because it worried too many people by designing machines that would eat plants and presumably animals instead of running on electricity. But now the Chinese have released footage of some kind of robot vehicle with a scoop at the front, appearing to scoop up a bewildered looking chap lying just in front of it. This looks like they’ve revived the EATER programme, and this poor fellow was intended to show how it could also consume biomass. Or, as they are more usually known, people.

Decoy Voice compares this with Boston Dynamics Spot robot dog, seen in multiple videos doing everything from press-ups to dancing. Except that it was designed for military use and can carry a proper military gun turret, as well as the robotic arm it can also be equipped with. The Chinese have used it to police the Covid lockdown. The Hawaiian cops were using to keep an eye on vagrants and the rozzers in New York also used them to patrol certain districts. Except one of these American forces had to stop using them as they made the residents nervous.

Along the way, Decoy Voice comments on how his channel seems to be followed by any number of Chinese bots. He’s suddenly acquired a following of young and beautiful Chinese ladies, all with their own personal trainers, glamorous lifestyle and internet monickers ending in the numbers 12345. Oh yes, and despite clearly being young, attractive and rich, they only have five internet followers each. Decoy Voice jokes that this would be more credible if he was also stunningly handsome, and demonstrates how he would have to use various photoshop-style picture techniques to make himself look like a Hollywood hunk.

It’s a great video, but there’s a very serious point to this. Scientists are worried about the development of sentient AI operated war machines. Kevin Warwick, the head of cybernetics at Reading University, was so worried because he was genuinely afraid that the machines really would take over. By 2050, he predicted in his book, March of the Machines, most of humanity will have been killed off. Only a tiny remnant would remain as the neutered slaves of the robots, or as scattered free people living in terrain to hostile for machines. Both Ukraine and Russia are using military robots, those are, they say, under human control and will be only be used to transport military equipment to human troops. The British army has launched a recruiting video with the slogan that only human squaddies can do things that robots can’t. Well, part of his is that robots don’t have the moral judgement of humans. Warwick gives the example in his book how a robot fire extinguisher in his department could be turned into such a war machine. All you have to do is change the fire extinguisher the robot carries for a gun, teach its computer network to target people with blue eyes and blond hair, and set it loose. It would then carry on shooting people with that complexion and eye colour until it ran out of bullets, not distinguishing between soldier and civilian, those who have surrendered and active combatants.

There’s a very old science fiction story I remember reading when I was 13. It was called ‘Flying Dutchman’ and it was about a robot bomber plane, that is automatically reloaded and refuelled to carry on its mission. But no humans are mentioned in the story, either as operators, soldiers, civilians or victims. None at all. I think the story’s implied message is that all the humans have been killed, but the machines don’t realise it. They just keep following their programmes and carry on fighting a war that has effectively ended long ago with the death of the human race.

I like robots. I’m fascinated by them. But I also recognise that there are dangers and moral and social problems connected with them. And that some of the people manufacturing the military robots should have read and watched a few good Science Fiction stories. Dr Who’s ‘The War Machines’ and ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ would have been a good start. or The Terminator, and Karel Capek’s Rossum’s Universal Robots.

Or the grandmother of them all, Mary Shelley and Frankenstein.

Have Astronomers Found Traces of Life on Venus?

September 19, 2020

The big story on Tuesday was that astronomers had discovered traces of a gas, phosphine, in the atmosphere of Venus. The gas is produced by living organisms, and so it’s discovery naturally leads to the possibility that the second planet from the Sun may be the abode of life.

The I’s edition for 15th September 2020 reported the discovery in an article by David Woods entitled, ‘Forget Mars, a startling discovery may mean there’s life on Venus’. This ran

Alien life could be thriving in the clouds above Venus: a team of astronomers detected a rare gas in its atmosphere, according to a study involving British researchers.

Venus, the second planet from the Sun, has a surface temperature of 500o C, and 96 per cent of its atmosphere is composed of carbon dioxide. But the discovery of phosphine, around 31 miles (50Km) from the planet’s surface, has indicated that life could prosper in a less hostile environment.

On Earth phosphine – a molecule of one phosphorus atom and three hydrogen atoms – is associated with life. It is found in places that have little oxygen, such as swamps, or with microbes living in the guts of animals.

A group of British, American and Japanese scientists – led by Jane Greaves from Cardiff University – first identified Venus’s phosphine using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. The presence of the gas was confirmed at an astronomical observatory of 45 telescopes in Chile. The discovery was published yesterday in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Professor Greaves said: “This was an experiment made out of pure curiosity. I thought we’d just be able to rule out extreme scenarios, like the clouds being stuffed full of organisms. When we got the first hints of phosphine in Venus’s spectrum, it was a shock.” Dr Emily Drabek-Maunder, a Royal Greenwich Observatory astronomer, who was part of the research team, added: “This was an incredibly difficult observation to make. We still have a long way to go before we can confirm how this gas is being produced but it is definitely an exciting time for science.”

The team is now awaiting more telescope time to establish whether the phosphine is in a particular part of the clouds, and to look for other gases associated with life. While the clouds above Venus have temperatures of around 30oC, they are made from 90 per cent sulphuric acid – a major issue for the survival of microbes.

Professor Emma Bunce, president of the Royal Astronomical Society, has called for a new mission to Venus to investigate the findings.

This reminds me somewhat of the excitement in the 1990s when scientists announced that they may have discovered microfossils of Martian bacteria in a meteorite from the Red Planet found in Antarctica. The above article was accompanied by another piece by Woods, ‘Nothing found since claims awed Clinton’, which described how former president Clinton had made an official announcement about the possibility of life on Mars when the putative microfossils were found. The article states that confirmation that these are indeed fossils is lacking. It also notes that 4,000 exoplanets have also now been found, and that some of them may have life, but this has also not been confirmed. Astronomers have also been searching the skies for radio messages from alien civilisations, but these haven’t been found either.

Dr Colin Pillinger, the head of the ill-fated Beagle Project, a British probe to the Red Planet, also argued that there was life there as traces of methane had been found. This looked like it had been produced by biological processes. In a talk he gave at the Cheltenham Festival of Science one year, he said that if a Martian farted, they’d find it.

A few years ago I also submitted a piece to the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society suggesting that there might be life in Venus’ clouds. It was based on the presence of organic chemicals there, rather similar, I felt, to those on Saturn’s moon, Titan, which at one time was also considered a possible home of alien life. I got a letter stating that the Journal was going to run it, but in the end they didn’t. I think it may have been because another, professional astronomer published an article about it just prior to the proposed publication of my piece. I think I threw out the Journal’s letter years ago while clearing out the house, and so I don’t have any proof of my claim. Which is obviously disappointing, and you’ll have to take what I say on trust.

The possibility that there’s life on Venus is interesting, and undoubtedly important in its implications for the existence of life elsewhere in the cosmos if true. But I think that, like the Martian microfossils, there isn’t going to be any confirmation for a very long time.

American Politico Tulsi Gabbard Wants the US to Stop Arming Terrorists

December 18, 2016

This is another very interesting piece from The Jimmy Dore Show. In this video, Dore discusses the demand by Democrat politician Tulsi Gabbard, that the US stop providing arms and military support to the terrorists who oppose it. Dore reminds his audience that the terrorists responsible for 9/11 were all Saudis, and that the Saudis are funding Islamist terrorists, like ISIS, in Syria to overthrow President Assad. The Americans are also in Syria trying to overthrow Assad, and we are supporting the Saudis. ‘So,’ he asks rhetorically, ‘are fighting with ISIS now?’

The answer is obviously ‘Yes’. And Congresswoman Gabbard wants to stop it. She’s the representative for a constituency in Hawaii, and has proposed the ‘Stop Arming Terrorist Act’ to halt arms sales by America to its enemies. In her speech to Congress, Gabbard states that it is illegal for US citizens to aid their country’s enemies. But this is precisely what the American state itself is doing. The legislation she proposes to stop this would prevent the US government from using taxpayers’ money to provide funding, weapons, training and intelligence services to Islamist organisations such as the Levant Front, Fursan al-Ha, Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and countries that are providing support, whether direct or indirect, to these terrorists.

She states that this would prevent the US from funding terrorists in the same way that Congress passed the Boland Amendment in the 1980s to prevent America from funding the CIA-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua under Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Dore states that this was why Oliver North was sent to jail, because he was caught violating that amendment. The US government was also allowing the Contra rebels to export cocaine to the US as part of their war against the Sandinistas. Dore makes the point that Gabbard’s proposed legislation means the US cannot provide funds to Saudi Arabia, as that country funds Islamist terrorism. This, Dore states, is why it won’t pass.

The decision on which groups and individuals are to be considered terrorists would be made by the Director of National Intelligence, who would determine which people and organisations are linked or co-operating with al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, or ISIS. He or she would also be responsible for deciding which countries were providing assistance to those terrorist groups. The list would have to be updated every six months in consultation with the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The Director of National Intelligence would also be required to brief congress on their decisions.

Dore also reminds his viewers that the reason why America is backing Saudi Arabia, an oppressive theocracy, rather than supporting democracy in the Middle East is because of the oil industry. Mossadeq, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, wanted to export democracy. But he nationalised the oil industry, and so was overthrown by the Americans. Because democracy in the Middle East was too close to Communism. Hence the preference for anti-democratic theocracies like Saudi Arabia. They also won’t tell you the truth about why America’s in Syria. They’re not there to spread democracy, but for the fossil fuel.

Dore thinks that the legislation will not get through, as Paul Ryan – presumably the Speaker of the House, will not bring it to a vote. As for spreading democracy, they don’t even have it in America. Dore’s team notes that Hillary Clinton got 2 1/2 million votes more than Donald Trump, but did not win the election. Dore follows this up with the statistic that in 40 per cent of American elections, the presidency went to the loser. He and his team end by joking that they wish somebody would invade them – like Canada – and spread democracy.

Dore and his team are absolutely right. Saudi Arabia is backed by the US and its allies following a pact made in the 1920s, in which Saudi Arabia would allow American and the rest to exploit their oil reserves, in return for which they would defend the country militarily. Which means that America is giving aid and succour to the country, whose government collaborated with the 9/11 terrorists, of whom 17 of the 19 involved in the plot were Saudis.

I think Dore’s right, and doubt very much that this bill will pass. But even if it’s many years too late, at least somebody in America in authority has woken up to the fact that America is funding its enemies, people responsible for appalling atrocities like the Contras in Nicaragua. There’s not even a remote chance of that happening in Britain. Since its foundation in the 1980s, Robin Ramsey’s Lobster has been arguing that British intelligence is far out of control. It smeared Harold Wilson as a Communist, and ran assassination squads in Northern Ireland. The Blair government were remarkably uninterested in the problem of reining it in, or even in reading the files the agencies compiled on them personally when they were student radicals. Indeed, they wanted to carry on Major’s expansion of the surveillance state, just as May is doing now.

In fact this legislation would be just as unwelcome over this side of the pond, as Cameron and May have been giving material aid to the same terrorist groups, for exactly the same reason, and our government and corrupt corporate media, including the BBC, has also been falsely claiming that they’re freedom fighters. And the Tories have been just as keen to sell the Saudis weapons, with David Cameron waxing lyrical the other year at all the ‘wonderful kit’ being produced at a weapons factory up North.

Secular Talk on Donald Trump’s Attempt to Sue the Onion

May 18, 2016

This is yet more evidence how psychological incompetent Donald Trump is to serve his country as its head of state. And it’s hilarious!

In this piece from Secular Talk, the show’s host, Kyle Kulinski, talks about an article in Legal News discussing how The Donald tried to sue the Onion for libel three years ago in 2013. The Onion’s a satirical website. In 2013 it ran a piece under Donald Trump’s names, entitled, ‘When You’re Low, Just Think: In 15-20 Years I’ll Be Dead’, and then went on to discuss how unpopular the Coiffured Clown is. Trump and his frail ego went berserk, and his attorney sent of a letter to the Onion demanding that they pull the article and apologise, or else. In fact, as Kyle Kulinski says here, the letter probably wasn’t written by an attorney or spokesman, but by Trump himself. He’s known for spending his time combing the press and news for anything on him, and then getting irate when they say something he doesn’t like.

Secular Talk also had a piece about him a few days ago, in which they discussed another piece of Trump’s weird personal history. Apparently in the 1980s or thereabouts he used to ring newspapers up pretending to be his own publicist, a John Miller, and start praising himself to the rafters. One of the American newspapers, I think it may have been the Washington Post, did a piece about this, including a clip from one of these phone calls. Trump denied it was him, stating on a TV interview that it didn’t sound like him. Kulinski, however, made the point that it does sound like The Donald, and at various points in his long spiel about how wonderful he was, Trump would occasionally forget to talk in the third person, and say ‘I’ instead. He’d correct himself afterwards and carry on as before. Nevertheless, that slip confirmed that it was him all along.

He also got annoyed with someone else and threatened to sue them when they dared to mock his risible ‘Birther’ views. Trump, like many extreme Right-wing Republicans, doesn’t believe that Obama should be president, ’cause he doesn’t believe that he was actually born in America. Obama, however, pointed out that he was born in Hawaii. This produced the response from the Republicans that he should confirm this by showing his birth certificate. Trump was one of them. One of the media wags decided to spoof this by claiming that The Donald was not fully human, and his father was really an orang-utan. They put up a picture of Trump next to one of the apes to show that Trump’s hair colour was closer to the orang-utans’ than to everyone else’s. Trump, however, took the jibe way too seriously, and instead of seeing it as a rather daft joke, viewed it instead as a terrible slur on his ancestry. He therefore started waving his birth certificate around to show he had a human father, and started threatening the joker with a libel action.

He really, really doesn’t have any sense of perspective when it comes to these jibes and insults. I don’t know, but I think probably almost everybody in the West realises that humans and apes can’t breed, despite what the Nazis tried to say to the contrary about Blacks during the Third Reich. And it’s an old joke anyway. In the early 19th century there was a novel about a mysterious red-headed stranger, who arrives from the East Indies, called Mr Ouran Haut-Ton. Mr Haut-Ton thrives in business, becomes a successful MP, and eventual gains a peerage and joins the House of Lords. The whole joke is that the distinguished gentleman is an orang-utan. Try saying Ouran Haut-Ton as it would be pronounced in French. That should give you a clue. This shows you how long people in Britain have been joking that their leaders in business and politics are really just strategically shaved apes.

Moreover, satirists in Britain have been taking the mick out of politicians and celebrities by writing spoof articles under their names for a very long time. Craig Brown has been doing it for about twenty years or so in the pages of Private Eye. He did once get sued by one of the Tories. I’ve a feeling it might have been Alan Clarke, and that did end up going to court. But such spoof have been a staple of satire for so long that no-one takes them seriously as really being by the people they send up.

Trump’s manifest lack of any sense of humour or perspective about this is funny, but there’s a very serious side to this. Kulinski makes the point that Trump says he wants to ‘beef up’ the libel laws so that he can sue people who publish material he doesn’t like, and get more money. This is censorship. Kulinski compares Trump to Erdogan, the wannabe-sultan of Turkey. Erdogan had a doctor charged, because he dared to retweet a picture showing the Turkish president alongside Gollum from the Lord of the Rings. He also had another man arrested after his wife wrote a snitch letter, saying he turned the TV off whenever Erdogan came on. And he demanded that Angela Merkel prosecute a pair of German satirists after they took the mick out of his litigiousness on a late night programme on German TV. He was disappointed, as Merkel stood up for free speech, and turned him down.

Free speech lives in Germany, but may not last much longer in America if Trump gets into power, as he’ll spend his time trying to censor people from saying anything critical about him whatsoever. If he gets into the White House, all you’re going to hear from the press for the next four years will be the sound of ‘Duce! Duce!’ and phone calls to their lawyers to protect them when The Donald sends his squadristi round to have a quiet word after they’ve written something he doesn’t like.