iRobot Roomba – who is whose robot?

The iRoomba goes off it’s merry way precisely at 11AM.  I hear it in my office.  I feel a little guilty.  You see, I need to go clean its little brushes and dump its previous days garbage collection.  (I could just ignore it.  It’ll continue on its merry way until it coughs up a cat toy or wrap a wire into its guts.  If that happens it will call out in desperation.  Help!  I’m stuck on something.  You’ll need to come and fix the problem.  Beep,  beep!)

It will then go to sleep.   Now I could just continue on my merry path programming this, looking up that.  (Or I could go help the iRoomba in its minute of need.)

But:  don’t get me wrong!  I like my little robot.  It is a valued member of the family.  It does a great job picking up dog and cat hairs.  We co-operate.  It crawls under the bed and I remove the hairs and dirt it picks up.

Review of The Future of the Mind by Michio Kaku

five stars *****
Congratulations to Michio Kaku for giving us a beautiful description of our newly forming ideas about what the mind is and will be, and, more than that, a view of a world a bit larger than our previous vision. This book, written by a physics guy, gives a good perspective on material and mind.
Notice that the title is not The Future of the Brain, but of the mind.

What is the mind other than a bunch of patterns upon patterns? Can we separate the patterns out and reproduce them elsewhere, for example, on a computer? So, the “mind” is not confined to the brain. It’s all about information. There are some who see the whole world as information. Can we upload “you” into a computer of some sort, perhaps a quantum computer? Ray Kurzweil also has spoken about this possibility throughout his books. They both lean towards optimism. Intelligence spreading across the universe.

If you can upload yourself into a computer, what then? Kaku discusses the possibility that “you” might get bored being de-sensitized and might need to inhabit a body once in a while. Or, I guess you could inhabit the body of a robot.

Kaku covers a wide range of topics dealing with the mind. For example, our ability to control computers merely by our thoughts. (telepathy) I remember seeing a lady on Sixty Minutes controlling a robotic arm by her thoughts. He also talks about Telekinesis, mind controlling matter.


When Computers Are Smarter Than Humans

We all know that computers are already smarter than humans in certain areas: chess, Jeopardy. According to Ray Kurzweil, “The Singularity is Near.” He predicts that computers will equal human intelligence around 2020 and the singularity will occur around 2045. This is the point in time when there will be no distinction between human and machine. I believe him. He makes a good case. I also think that it is good that he puts an optimistic slant on his future vision. In a sense we create our own worlds. I chose to believe in love and hope. I chose to be optimistic.

I just got back from a good presentation on Microinteractions by Dan Saffer in downtown Portland. It made me think about the scene when Star Trek goes back into the 20th century. Scotty tries to talk to the computer and the computer does not communicate back. Someone hands Scotty a mouse and Scotty says, “Oh yes, of course.” He then uses the mouse as a microphone and says, “Computer …”

No reply.

Now, I may ask Siri, “Siri, who discovered Penicillin?” She takes me to a web page. Alexander Fleming, of course.


Microinteractions will involve more and more natural language processing. Computers will eventually become much much smarter than humans. However, I’m not quite sure how all of this will unfold. It seems that people are becoming more and more dependent on computers. That phone, tablet, or desktop are all computers that people are staring at. People are walking around in a trance staring at their small computers. They are attached. They fall onto oncoming train tracks, walk into fountain pools while entranced with their small computers.

You put your hand under the faucet and expect the computer to give you a little water…


“I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”