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Posts Tagged ‘Robot

The Annals of Judgment, Vol 69: Books, Covers, and All That…

source

Further to the recent post on weird books, hot news from the Guardian, via Flavorwire:

From Bacon: A Love Story to An Intellectual History of Cannibalism; from Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich to The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin, Bookseller magazine has announced the longest ever longlist for its annual Diagram prize for the oddest book title of the year.

A strong leaning towards the scatological characterises many of the 49 longlisted books, with Peek-a-poo: What’s in Your Diaper?, Father Christmas Needs a Wee, Is the Rectum a Grave? and The Origin of Faeces all vying for a place on the shortlist.

The prize was created in 1978 “during a particularly dull day at the Frankfurt Book Fair.”   Past Winners have included:  American Bottom Archaeology, Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality, How to Avoid Large Ships, and Living with Crazy Buttocks.  Last year’s winner– The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais— was controversial in that it was written by a computer.

The shortlist will be announced, , and voting will commence, on February 19– one can check in on contest founder Horace Bent’s Blog (on the Bookseller site)… or if that’s just not up-to-the-minute enough, one can follow the amusing Mr. Bent on Twitter.

As we head for the library, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that BBC Television produced and aired the world’s first ever science fiction television program, an adaptation of a section of Czech playwright  Karel Capek’s  R.U.R., in which Capek had coined the term “robot” (as in “Rossum’s Universal Robots”).

Scene from the BBC production

Consoling… or Alarming… or…

source: H+

Q: Do you envision robots ever disobeying military orders on the battlefield to “do the right thing?” If so, under what circumstances?

A: Asimov originated the use of ethical restraint in robots many years ago and presented all the quandaries that it can generate. In our prototype ethical governor (and in the design itself) we do provide the robot with the right to refuse an order it deems unethical. It must provide some explanation as to why it has refused such an order. With some reluctance, we have engineered a human override capability into the system, but one which forces the operator to explicitly assume responsibility for any ethical infractions that might result as a consequence of such an override.

… Ronald C. Arkin, director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory at Georgia Tech, who is working on programming ethical behavior into military robots, interviewed in H+.  (Those unfamiliar with “Asimov’s Three Laws,” to which Dr. Arkin alludes, can click here.)

As we reach for our rayguns, we might recall that humans could be a menace even before the advent of robotics:  it was on this date in 1892 that the family of Lizzie Borden (distant relatives of famous dairyman Gail Borden, of “Elsie” fame) was found murdered (by axe) in Fall River, Massachusetts.  Though the spinster Lizzie was acquitted of the killings, no other suspect was ever identified, and she entered the public memory as a patricide.

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.
– jumprope rhyme, Anonymous

Lizzy

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