Week 5 – David Wieser

Although there wasn’t a lot of lecture due to the midterm, the biotechnology stuff posted on Monday was intriguing. The idea of artificial smell and artificial taste is intriguing. As far as artificial taste, we’re almost there. Candy is a perfect example. It is synthesized from extremely unnatural products to create something that we, as human beings, find delicious. Humans evolved to eat things that are good for them and as a result, things that are good for us generally taste good. This is why we don’t eat dirt or toxic chemicals. Candy, however, is not good for us in any way and chemical engineers have produced chemicals that make something detrimental to our health taste excellent. Perhaps what was meant was a device that tastes different depending on how you program it. This would be quite interesting and likely very difficult, as relatively natural substances are required to produce taste, such as fat and sugar. The same goes for smell, but perhaps even less research has gone into the area. Even though electronic smells are not common in everyday life, there is the idea of an electric nose. NASA, in fact, is developing one so that their astronauts are not killed by ammonia. The idea of programmable food is quite interesting. If we were able to program the taste of highly-beneficial substances with all the amino acids and vitamins we needed, we could have the perfect food. Certainly, it would be expensive to produce, but if it became widespread, costs to produce would fall. If this happened sooner rather than later, it could be an effective counter to the unfortunate obesity epidemic.As much as I enjoyed watching everyone’s presentations (for nearly four hours, but eh), I believe people have far too great an expectancy of robots. Robots today can do very little. One of the most advanced human-imitation robots is Honda’s ASIMO, and even it can do little more than walk, run, dance, sit. A few people mentioned leaving robots to develop their own form of energy gathering, but this is wholly unfeasible. For one, the robots would have to be ridiculously complex. They would not only need PERFECT vision recognition, but they would have to have a ridiculous amount of motor coordination that may or may not even be possible. If human technology was advanced enough to develop robots of this amazingly high caliber, it is extremely unlikely that they would be able to come up with anything that society as a whole has not come up with. There are billions of people in the world. The collective intelligence of the entire world would surely dwarf anything a few robots in a biosphere would be able to come up with. Certainly, the idea is interesting, but not very useful.

A number of people also mentioned robots that create art. This is ridiculous as well. Robots do not have any kind of biological affinity towards anything. Sure, I guess we could program them to with sight recognition, but this would have to be even more advanced than the energy gathering robots mentioned above. I don’t doubt that robots could make some sort of painting or something, but it is not the robot’s genius or intelligence creating it. The person/group who created the robot would be responsible for any artistic aspects. It would be their ideas and intelligence that goes into creating the algorithms that the robots use. The most feasible one was the photo-taking robot. I very much liked that the author used support with the face-detection feature on many modern cameras. This is true. I can imagine that sort of robot would be awesomely useful in a theme park taking pictures of people and then trying to sell them to the subjects. However, they could never create art. Certainly, they could take a whole fat load of pictures and by luck, one of them might be called art by human definition, but this is merely luck of the draw. The robots weren’t thinking, “Oh, this will make a good picture!” Robots can’t think. Computers can’t think. They follow directions to the letter.

Artificial intelligence is severely, severely limited in this day and age. Like I said, computers are stupid, they merely follow directions. They can’t come up with ideas and use any ingenuity unless we program the ideas in beforehand. This is why they cannot create art and why they cannot come up with ideas humans will not have had first. You may argue, “But look at video games! The computers you’re fighting are smart!” No. They follow a series of scripted events. Many of them follow specific paths pre-programmed into the games. Some games are much better-scripted than others, giving the impression of intelligence, but you will notice over time that they will follow the same general patterns over and over.

I’m not saying robots are useless. They are, in fact, quite useful. However, their purpose is to perform menial tasks automatically. Assembling a car, for example, is exactly the same every time. The robots used in car assembly do not have to think; they merely have to follow directions. This way, manpower is not wasted.

Another presentation I liked was the one where you can watch a movie from different camera angles at the same time. This would add a very interesting effect, considering how much power the camera angle has. It likely wouldn’t be hard to do, either, as you just have to have two cameras recording at once. Yes, it would be much harder to direct and get both cameras right, but still, it would be cool.


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