Daniel Suarez on why the kill decision should not belong to a robot

Daniel Suarez talk is one I think everyone should watch. The more I consider his words the more I’m convinced that he is right in calling for international ban on the development and deployment of autonomous killer robots. He makes many good points during the talk but here are the ones that really made me stop and think:

because as we migrate lethal decision-making from humans to software, we risk not only taking the humanity out of war, but also changing our social landscape entirely, far from the battlefield. That’s because the way humans resolve conflict shapes our social landscape … Now if responsibility and transparency are two of the cornerstones of representative government, autonomous robotic weapons could undermine both … And this is why we need an international treaty on robotic weapons, and in particular a global ban on the development and deployment of killer robots. Now we already have international treaties on nuclear and biological weapons, and, while imperfect, these have largely worked. But robotic weapons might be every bit as dangerous, because they will almost certainly be used, and they would also be corrosive to our democratic institutions.

Once upon a school

TED Talks are often described as being inspirational, and they are. Nothing epitomises this quality more than this talk by Dave Eggers, in which he challenges the entire TED community to personally, creatively engage with local public schools. He talks about his 826 Valencia tutoring center which has been the inspiration for many similar initiatives around the world – a volunteer driven wildly creative writing labs. Dave is an energetic and passionate speaker, full of humour and an infectious enthusiasm and it’s hard not to be totally overwhelmed as you listen to him.

He has set up a web site called Once Upon a School where he asks people share their volunteering and teaching stories. To appreciate just how well received Dave’s initiatives have been, and how much they are helping pupils around the world …. Time Magazine once wrote this about Dave:

“Many writers, having written a first best-seller, might see it as a nice way to start a career. He started a movement instead.”

The Web’s secret stories

Here’s another wonderful ted talk, this time by Jonathan Harris

Jonathan wants to make sense of the infinite world on the Web — so he builds dazzling graphic interfaces that help us visualize the data floating around out there. He presents “We Feel Fine,” which uses a technique called passive observation by scouring blogs to collect the planet’s emoti(c)ons. It’s an amazing social tool. Jonathan also presents and the “Yahoo! Time Capsule,” which preserves images, quotes and thoughts snapped up in 2006. And he premieres “Universe,” which presents current events as constellations of words — a tag cloud of our collective consciousness

The visualisations they have implemented across these applications are absolutely amazing . I’m very very impressed.

Two wonderfully enlightening TED Talks

Over lunch today I found time to watch a couple of amazing TED talks

The first is by Moshe Safdie, an architect who’s work should be an inspiration to us all.

I spent a number of years working for an architect, in fact as a young teenager I had my heart set on becoming an architect, however by the time it came round to choosing a degree I had discovered a new passion. Nevertheless I’ve always been fascinated by buildings and both the science and the art involved in their construction. Moshe Safdie’s work has long been hailed as both innovative and inspirational, as you listen to him describe four of the projects he’s worked on you’ll get a sense of why!

The second talk is by Howard Rheingold, he talks about about the coming world of collaboration, participatory media and collective action — and how Wikipedia is really an outgrowth of our natural human instinct to work as a group.

It’s a fascinating talk that is filled with remarkable sociological, economic and cultural observations about how as a species we have evolved and are continuing to evolve.

Daniel Dennett: Ants, terrorism and the awesome power of meme

Found this wonderful TedTalk on You Tube by Dan Dennett, it summarises some of the ideas that he discusses at length in his new book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. I’ve always enjoyed reading his books. Dennett is a committed atheist, but this does not make him an enemy of the religious. His arguments and analysis are fair and the book’s purpose valuable and unlike Dawkins, Dennett takes a measured and rigorous approach: he seeks to explain religion rather than attack it. I’ve been reading his new book for a couple of days now and am thoroughly enjoying it. The Ted Talk below is very short but nevertheless Dennett manages to make some convincing arguments about the nature of ideas.