April 7th, 2007

#346: Robot laws

Here is an article about new laws in Japan, governing how robots must behave.

"Three laws, the robotics experts say, are nowhere near sufficient to ensure human safety in a world where cleaning, carrying and even cooking could one day be performed by machines. So the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has drafted a hugely complex set of proposals for keeping robots in check."

This is because it is a government agency. In Asimov's world, the Three Laws of Robotics were an engineering concern.

Asimov's robots didn't need a definition of "risk" or "harm" to understand that they could not just sit idly by and watch as a 16 ton weight fell on a person. Even if the robot's positronic brain assigned a high order of probability to its being damaged by saving the person's life, the robot would still act to prevent the human from being injured. "Self preservation" was the third law; protecting humans from harm was the first, and took top priority.

The Three Laws of Robotics were so intrinsic to the positronic brain that, it was said in I, Robot, it was impossible to manufacture a robot without them. I would suspect that some of that was hyperbole, but not entirely unfounded; I'd bet that it would be impossible to do so using the infrastructure that U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Inc had in place, and that it was not economically feasible to re-design all the hardware and procedures which manufactured the positronic brains.

Besides, building a robot without the Three Laws was undesirable, for a variety of reasons.

Most of Asimov's stories in I, Robot--it is an anthology of short stories, for those of you who have never read it--most of them center on what happens when the Three Laws of Robotics generate some kind of conflict. In "Liar", for example, somehow a telepathic robot is created; it lies to people in order to spare them emotional harm. The robot gets confused when it is told that it must tell the truth, but after all "obey all orders" is only the second law.

These kinds of articles never talk about the "zeroeth law", which states that a robot "...may never hurt the race of mankind, or, through inaction, allow mankind to come to harm." It's not hard-coded but certain highly sophisticated robots are capable of making the logical leap. (I am probably misquoting the hell out of the 0th law. Sorry. I have only read it once, and I don't remember which book, nor do I even think I have that book any more.)

If they try to encode Japan's "laws of robotics" in the hardware of real-world robots, I expect them to behave like RoboCop in RoboCop II when they fill his brain with all kinds of silly and extraneous directives.

#347: Fansub report (again)

I was wrong, the other day, when I said I had watched two episodes of Ichigo 100%. At that point it was three, and now it's four.

They've finally introduced all of the cute girls in the title sequence. Aya Toujo, the megane'kko-cum-ultra-hottie; Tsukasa Nishino, the prettiest girl in school; Yui Minamoto, the main character's childhood friend; and Satsuki Kitaoji, who is IMHO the ultimate hotness in this series.

I was right about the series being blivetized, too--it's a 157-chapter manga series, split into 19 tankoban (trade paperbacks). There are a total of 24 episodes, but each episode is about 12 minutes, and there ain't no way you can fit 157 chapters of manga into 5.2 hours (and it's actually less since opening and closing themes take 3 minutes out of each pair of episodes...).

Anyway the truly curious who don't care about spoilers can take a gander at the Wikipedia entry about the series.

I'm really enjoying it. I wonder if the manga is available...?

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Piano is nearing its end. I saw episode 9 yesterday. It's still good, but it's good to see a little conflict in the series. It's pretty much the typical "Oh I'm not sure I can do this" stuff, but this isn't the kind of series you watch if you want high drama. It's a peaceful, enjoyable story.

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Ichigo Mashimaru is still really entertaining. It's hard not to like any of the characters--even Miu, the one who is annoying and selfish and usually ends up face-down on the floor, unconscious, at least once per episode, after someone clobbers her.

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Girls Bravo second season continues to impress me. The most recent episode I saw had a "first ever" moment in it, in fact: a woman getting a nosebleed.

The nosebleed gag is universally a male thing--young man sees hot woman naked, or has some particularly dirty thoughts, and gets a nosebleed--but it was very well applied in this situation to a female character.

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Amaenaideyo!, after two episodes, is clearly a keeper. I like that, in the second episode, a spiritual problem was solved without the characters resorting to the main character's special power. (When he sees a woman naked, he suddenly becomes super-monk and can exorcize ghosts and demons easily.) And I still think Haruka is super-hot.

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I'm working on downloading a fansub of Comic Party now. Once I can have a gander at it, I'll see if it's as horrendous as Steven Den Beste says it is.

More later!