Robotic age poses ethical dilemma

Roboethics ImageThe BBC has a story about roboethics, Robotic age poses ethical dilemma, triggered by a South Korean initiative to develop a Robot Ethics Charter as part of a focus on robotics as a growth area.

In the past, robots were considered just a useful tool in the manufacturing industry. But it is gradually embedded in human life by cleaning homes, protecting them from thieves and providing education. Nowadays robots are also used to rescue people at accident spots such as fires.

This year, various robots are to be introduced: a robot that teaches English and sings songs to children, a robot that guides people at the post office and a robot designed to save people at disaster areas. (Korea.net, Robots, cars, batteries hold key to future growth)

Poking around I found this Painter Robot from Yahoh. (Sounds like Yahoo to me.) The BBC story also mentions the Roboethics.org – Official Roboethics website which has issued a Roboethics Roadmap.

Roboethics is the ethics applied to Robotics, guiding the design, construction and use of the robots.
In this site you may find: birth and history of Roboethics; all the information concerning the development of the concept of a human-centered Roboethics; the events which have marked the update of the original proposal; the international projects on Roboethics; the EURON Roboethics Roadmap; the activity of the IEEE-RAS Technical Committee on Roboethics.

Thanks to Daryl for this link.

Neil Gaiman: American Gods

What happens to the gods of immigrants when they come to America? Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is a tour through displaced mythology pitting the old world gods (and demons) like Loki and Odin against the new gods of television and the computer. Told by a wandering Shadow, perhaps a native spirit, who slowly learns about the underground network of forgotten entities stranded in the new world.
Gaiman is better known for working on comics some of which are being adapted into movies (Terry Gillian is working on one), but he has written some fine dark fantasy like Neverwhere which, like Philip Pullman‘s work, is both social commentary and metaphysical. American Gods is hard to classify; it is barely fantasy, more magical realism woven out of a tour of mythology. I think he is heading towards a view that American’s are animists – endowing their new technologies with volatile wills. Think of how we talk about computers as if they were imps with a mind of their own.

CS Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia

The Guardian has a thoughtful article about CS Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia, titled His dark materials after Philip Pullman’s trilogy. Why Alison Lurie titled the article about Lewis after Pullman’s trilogy is a bit of a mystery; yes, Pullman is quoted on the controversies around Lewis’s sexism, racism and “muscular” Christian propaganda, but is Lurie suggesting Pullman (another Oxford fantasy writer) has special authority? Or it is just a good title for a story on the a series we loved as kids and now find distasteful for their incoherence and racism. See also Pullman attacks Narnia film plans on Pullman’s critique and The Narnia Skirmishes on the controversy around the release of the Disney version.
Continue reading CS Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia

Harrison: Light

Light by the British author M. John Harrison is a dark and sometimes violent meditation on how we encounter the incomprehensible. Three strands follow the protagonists weaving the novel.The three twisted characters, including one who brutally murders women to escape his fate, never meet but are responding in different ways to a massive trench of alien artefacts that cannot be understood, just pirated. One of the best of that strain of dark Brit sci-fi/fantasy that includes Ian M. Banks and China Mieville.

There is a decent interview with Harrison at, m. john harrison interview – for zone-sf.com.

Gibson: Mona Lisa Overdrive

Mona Lisa Overdrive is the last in the sprawl trinity that made William Gibson famous. It follows Neuromancer and Count Zero. Like his other novels it plays with reality and virtual reality or “cyberspace” (the word Gibson coined.) The title character is vintage Gibson, a smart street girl who is picked up and altered to look like a star so that her body can be used in a kidnapping. In the end Mona Lisa replaces the star when she goes virtual (into the aleph, a biochip holding the/a world) and then takes off to meet another distant alien AI she might marry(?). It is a very old form of swapped reality, the peasant and king trading places. There are other ways Gibson plays with the varieties of altered reality. One character, the young daughter of a Japanese ganster, has a digital ghost only she can see who comforts and advises her. Another character builds robotic sculpture to exorcise his penal ghosts. Gibson is reminding of all the virtualities, including that enigmatic painted smile by Leonardo.
Continue reading Gibson: Mona Lisa Overdrive

Victor Pelevin: Omon Ra

“I wonder if anyone who sees a photograph of the moon-walker in the newspapers will imagine that inside this steel saucepan, which exists for the sole purpose of crawling seventy kilometres across the moon and then halting for eternity, there is a human being gazing out through two glass lenses? But what does it matter?” (p. 69)

Omon Ra by Russian author, Victor Pelevin is a dark science fiction novel about a young Russian who wants to be a cosmonaut and discovers that the Russian space program is a sham and that supposedly automated moon exploration robots actually have young men like him in them (who never come back.) And there’s more. I’m not sure if it is science fiction or surreal anti-science fiction.

I found the full text of a different translation into English at Lib.ru, see Victor Pelevin. Omon Ra. There is a menu which lets you get a text file version.
Continue reading Victor Pelevin: Omon Ra