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Robotics - Opportunity Knocks?

Population demographics are creating a world full, (yes, China is in the same boat), of oldun’s with few young bright things.

This is of course the nadir of human endeavour.  We oldun’s will be left in poverty, while the young un’s attempt to prevent the slide into chaos assisted by global warming and water wars.

Interestingly, this sorry state occurs just after the ‘modern’ human race has achieved, for the first time, some degree of real personal freedom.  We have waited long enough. Not since the Nomads have so many people in the world been free of subjugation and often a lot worse.  Looking back just 150 years or less, the world was still mired in slavery, serfdom and monstrous regimes that gave most people little or no chance of bettering themselves or their families.

Perhaps now though, with the genie out of the box, (well actually several) – personal freedom, technologies that allow instant communication and information throughout world, automatic mass manufacturing of many products, science that helps us move forward every day in all areas – perhaps we should consider that this demographic change is just what we need to make another leap ahead?

We are (probably) on the start of the ‘Robotic Revolution'.  This will hopefully remove people from many meaningless jobs and tasks.  (Foxconn, one of the worlds largest employers with 1.2m people has a plan to replace half of them within three years with robotics). The oldun’s while being a bit less physically able, many still have good abilities to help advise and nurture younger people.  So together, we should be well placed to leverage these new technologies and create a world where we don’t need many people working to create the energy, food, healthcare, transportation systems and techie-products that we need for an advanced society. 

And here is the win win – as the number of working age people is falling – then this will actually help the transition to a world where manufacturing and services become increasingly automated.

The working population will work less hours for increasing output – just what the doctor ordered.  Politics, of course, (and a large slice of current dogma), will need to change to allow a world where the power and money is not concentrated within just a small number of hands, or the transition to a much more efficient society with increasing wealth will be a very bumpy ride indeed.  IG

Robotics

It is a misconception that to automate many tasks requires lots of 'intelligence'. Currently, robotics is moving ahead very fast in a number of important areas:

To undertake many taks such as factory automation, information retrieval and processing, organisational and communication does not require high level intelligence as we would define it.

Furthermore, we naturally accept that many simple animals (eg ants, bees) do a great job of organising many seemingly complex tasks using fairly simple 'brains'. We shall soon have robots that will have similar or better processing power than such animals. Our understanding of how they do this is improving, potentially leading to 'clever' robots in the foreseeable future.

How quickly these will make an impact is impossible to say with any certainty. But, likley they will follow usual lines of economic developement - when suddenly there will be a marked price/volume change and a 'killer' application that pushes the robot, (in whatever form), to become a major player.

As we know, when this sort of change occurs, (Railways, fax vs email, personal computers etc.), we see enormous advances and applications, (many unforeseen), that sweep all in their path and drive the technology to new levels as funding pours into the opportunities.

CST expects that this change will occur within 15 to 20 years, maybe sooner. This is within one generation - what are we doing to plan for it?

http://www.artificialbrains.com/darpa-synapse-program

 

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The Human Brain Project

If successful in securing EU funding in January 2013 then the brain simulations will be run on JuQUEEN.

This machine is now around 100x more powerful than the supercomputer currently used by the Blue Brain Project.

JuQUEEN should be powerful enough to simulate all 100 million neurons of a mouse brain. http://www.artificialbrains.com/news/

Modern supercomputers will soon be powerful enough to support multilevel computer models of the human brain. Terascale computers have already allowed EPFL's Blue Brain Project to make the leap from simulations of single neurons to cellular level simulations of neuronal microcircuits.

Petascale computers, now available, are potentially powerful enough for cellular-level simulations of the whole rodent brain, or for molecular level simulations of single neurons.

Exascale computers, predicted for the end of the decade, could allow cellular level simulations of the complete human brain with dynamic switching to molecular-level simulation of parts of the brain when required.

DARPA SyNAPSE Program

The ultimate aim is to build an electronic microprocessor system that matches a mammalian (cat) brain in function, size, and power consumption. It should recreate 10 billion neurons, 100 trillion synapses, consume one kilowatt (same as a small electric heater), and occupy less than two liters of space by 2017.

http://www.artificialbrains.com/darpa-synapse-program

Digital brain in the works at Qualcomm

February 15, 2012 Paul Jacobs, the CEO of Qualcomm, reveals an interesting update:

"The team started out building a retina. They found it responded to optical illusions the same way a human does. They added another layer of cells and it started to find features. They added another layer, it started to find corners and oriented lines. Another layer, it started to find patterns. Today it tracks objects. It's not programmed, it's taught."

http://www.kpbs.org/news/2012/jan/31/digital-brain-works-qualcomm/