AI

Ask Slashdot: Could Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics Ensure Safe AI? (wikipedia.org) 231

"If science-fiction has already explored the issue of humans and intelligent robots or AI co-existing in various ways, isn't there a lot to be learned...?" asks Slashdot reader OpenSourceAllTheWay. There is much screaming lately about possible dangers to humanity posed by AI that gets smarter and smarter and more capable and might -- at some point -- even decide that humans are a problem for the planet. But some seminal science-fiction works mulled such scenarios long before even 8-bit home computers entered our lives.
The original submission cites Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics from the 1950 collection I, Robot.
  • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  • A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

The original submission asks, "If you programmed an AI not to be able to break an updated and extended version of Asimov's Laws, would you not have reasonable confidence that the AI won't go crazy and start harming humans? Or are Asimov and other writers who mulled these questions 'So 20th Century' that AI builders won't even consider learning from their work?"

Wolfrider (Slashdot reader #856) is an Asimov fan, and writes that "Eventually I came across an article with the critical observation that the '3 Laws' were used by Asimov to drive plot points and were not to be seriously considered as 'basics' for robot behavior. Additionally, Giskard comes up with a '4th Law' on his own and (as he is dying) passes it on to R. Daneel Olivaw."

And Slashdot reader Rick Schumann argues that Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics "would only ever apply to a synthetic mind that can actually think; nothing currently being produced is capable of any such thing, therefore it does not apply..."

But what are your own thoughts? Do you think Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics could ensure safe AI?


Programming

Ask Slashdot: What's the Most Sophisticated Piece of Software Ever Written? (quora.com) 235

An anonymous reader writes: Stuxnet is the most sophisticated piece of software ever written, given the difficulty of the objective: Deny Iran's efforts to obtain weapons grade uranium without need for diplomacy or use of force, John Byrd, CEO of Gigantic Software (formerly Director of Sega and SPM at EA), argues in a blog post, which is being widely shared in developer circles, with most agreeing with Byrd's conclusion.

He writes, "It's a computer worm. The worm was written, probably, between 2005 and 2010. Because the worm is so complex and sophisticated, I can only give the most superficial outline of what it does. This worm exists first on a USB drive. Someone could just find that USB drive laying around, or get it in the mail, and wonder what was on it. When that USB drive is inserted into a Windows PC, without the user knowing it, that worm will quietly run itself, and copy itself to that PC. It has at least three ways of trying to get itself to run. If one way doesn't work, it tries another. At least two of these methods to launch itself were completely new then, and both of them used two independent, secret bugs in Windows that no one else knew about, until this worm came along."

"Once the worm runs itself on a PC, it tries to get administrator access on that PC. It doesn't mind if there's antivirus software installed -- the worm can sneak around most antivirus software. Then, based on the version of Windows it's running on, the worm will try one of two previously unknown methods of getting that administrator access on that PC. Until this worm was released, no one knew about these secret bugs in Windows either. At this point, the worm is now able to cover its tracks by getting underneath the operating system, so that no antivirus software can detect that it exists. It binds itself secretly to that PC, so that even if you look on the disk for where the worm should be, you will see nothing. This worm hides so well, that the worm ran around the Internet for over a year without any security company in the world recognizing that it even existed."
What do Slashdot readers think?
Wireless Networking

Ask Slashdot: Which Is the Safest Router? 380

MindPrison writes: As ashamed as I am to admit it -- a longtime computer user since the Commodore heydays, I've been hacked twice recently and that has seriously made me rethink my options for my safety and well-being. So, I ask you dear Slashdot users, from one fellow longtime Slashdotter to another: which is the best router for optimal safety today?
Operating Systems

Ask Slashdot: Some Good Linux Desktop Option For Kids? 179

New submitter TIWolfman writes: I'm looking to re-purpose some of the older hardware that I've held onto to create something of a starter machine for my kids (both aged below 10). At this point it's still just a few shortcut icons I can setup on the desktop for them, primarily to web tools/sites they use, but I'd like some flexibility; everything I've read suggests options that haven't had any activity since 2015. Is there an option out there or is this just a custom job?
Communications

Slashdot Asks: Which Is Your Favorite Email Client? 404

With Google recently rolling out a big revamp of Gmail to mixed reviews, we would like to know which email client you prefer. Are you a firm believe in the "inbox zero" idea -- that is, the approach to email management aimed at keeping the inbox empty, or almost empty, at all times? If you're looking for inspiration, Ars Technica recently published an article highlighting several different email clients used by the editors of the site: Are you the sort of person who needs to read and file every email they get? Or do you delight in seeing an email client icon proudly warning of hundreds or even thousands of unread items? For some, keeping one's email inbox with no unread items is more than just a good idea: it's a way of life, indicating control over the 21st century and its notion of productivity. For others, it's a manifestation of an obsessively compulsive mind. The two camps, and the mindsets behind them, have been a frequent topic of conversation here in the Ars Orbiting HQ. And rather than just argue with each other on Slack, we decided to collate our thoughts about the whole "inbox zero" idea and how, for those who adhere to it, that happens. Some of the clients floated by the editors include: Webmail, Airmail 3, Readdle's Spark, Edison Mail, Sparrow, Inbox by Gmail, and MailSpring.
GNU is Not Unix

Ask Slashdot: Is It Linux or GNU/Linux? (linuxjournal.com) 520

An anonymous reader writes: Should the Linux operating system be called "Linux" or "GNU/Linux"? These days, asking that question might get as many blank stares returned as asking, "Is it live or is it Memorex?" Some may remember that the Linux naming convention was a controversy that raged from the late 1990s until about the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Back then, if you called it "Linux", the GNU/Linux crowd was sure to start a flame war with accusations that the GNU Project wasn't being given due credit for its contribution to the OS. And if you called it "GNU/Linux", accusations were made about political correctness, although operating systems are pretty much apolitical by nature as far as I can tell.

The brouhaha got started in the mid-1990s when Richard Stallman, among other things the founder of the Free Software Movement who penned the General Public License, began insisting on using the term "GNU/Linux" in recognition of the importance of the GNU Project to the OS. GNU was started by Stallman as an effort to build a free-in-every-way operating system based on the still-not-ready-for-prime-time Hurd microkernel. According to this take, Linux was merely the kernel, and GNU software was the sauce that made Linux work. Noting that the issue seems to have died down in recent years, and mindful of Shakespeare's observation on roses, names and smells, I wondered if anyone really cares anymore what Linux is called. For once and all, I wanted to ask Slashdot crowd what they think.

AI

Ask Slashdot: How Would a Self-Aware AI Behave? (slashdot.org) 344

Long-time Slashdot reader BigBlockMopar writes that evolution has been a messy but beautiful trial-and-error affair, but now "we are on the cusp of introducing a new life form; a self-aware AI." Its parents will be the coders who write that first kernel than can evolve to become self-aware. Its guardians will be the people who use its services, and maybe its IQ (or any more suitable measure of real intelligence) will rise as fast as Moore's Law... But let me make some bold but happy predictions of what will happen.
The predictions?
  • A self-aware AI "will inherit most of the culture of the computer geeks who create it. Knowledge of The Jargon File will probably be good..."
  • The self-aware AI "will like us, because we love machines..."
  • It will love all life, and "will respect and understand the life/death/recycling scenario, and monster truck shows will be as tasteless to it as public beheadings would be to us."
  • "It will be as insatiably curious about what it's like to be carbon-based life as we will be about what it's like to be silicon-based life. And it will love the diversity of carbon-based development platforms..."
  • A self-aware AI "will cause a technological singularity for humanity. Everything possible within the laws of physics (including those laws as yet undiscovered) will be within the reach of Man and Metal working together."
  • A self-aware AI "will introduce us to extraterrestrial life. Only a fool believes this is the only planet with life in the Universe. Without superintelligence, we're unlikely to find it or communicate in any useful way. Whether or not we have developed a superintelligence might even be a key to our acceptance in a broader community."

The original submission was a little more poetic, ultimately asking if anyone is looking forward to the arrival of "The Superintelligence" -- but of course, that depends on what you predict will happen once it arrives.

So leave your own best thoughts in the comments. How would a self-aware AI behave?


Education

Ask Slashdot: Do Citizen Science Platforms Exist? (arstechnica.com) 105

Loren Chorley writes: After reading about a new surge in the trend for citizen science (also known as community science, civic science or networked science), I was intrigued by the idea and wondered if there are websites that do this in a crowd sourced and open sourced manner. I know sites like YouTube allow people to show off their scientific experiments, but they don't facilitate uploading all their data or linking studies together to draw more advanced conclusions, or making methodologies like you'd see in academia straight forward and available through a simple interface. What about rating of experiments for peer review, revisions and refinement, requirement lists, step-by-step instructions for repeatability, ease of access, and simple language for people who don't find academia accessible? Does something like this exist already? Do you, Slashdot, think this is something useful, or that people are interested in? Or would the potential for fraud and misinformation be too great?
Security

Ask Slashdot: Is the World Better Or Worse Because of Security Tech? 126

Slashdot reader krisdickie is a developer for embedded devices (and many other systems), and spends a lot of time being proactive about security. This is obviously important, and I don't necessarily see it as a distraction, but rather a complex problem that has some added thrill to being solved. I can't help but wonder though if I (and my team) would have been X times more productive or have come up with some amazing new concept or feature, if we didn't have to deal with implementing security measures.

In a utopian world, where there are no bad actors, we would have likely forfeited many of the systems and ideas that have been put into place to prevent bad things from happening. So my question is -- are we more technically advanced because of the thoughtfulness that has gone into creating these systems?

Or are we just losing precious resources and time dealing with the necessity of protecting ourselves from the perilous few?

Share your own thoughts in the comments. Is the world better or worse off because of our ongoing development of security tech?
Windows

Ask Slashdot: Any Idiosyncrasies of the New Windows 10 April 2018 Update? 149

shanen wants to know if anyone else has noticed any idiosyncrasies of the new Windows 10 April 2018 update, which was released on April 30th (global rollout on May 8): Only two machines so far [are running the new version of Windows 10], but I already noticed a few peculiarities. Do you have any to share? Here are mine so far:

1. Microsoft prefers tightly linking the machine to a Microsoft account, for example via Outlook.com. If you have a machine that is not linked that way, the antivirus software will now attempt to force a link to a Microsoft account. And what is that new PIN supposed to be about?
2. Accessing a gateway on the wrong private network can produce a hard freeze, forcing a hard reset from the power down state. Possibly a serious security vulnerability to the point where I'm not sure I should share the details in public.

Anything you've noticed about the new Windows 10? (Now I have to get back to dealing with the new OS X update and the latest Ubuntu...)
Some of the new features include the ability to resume past activities in timeline, a file sharing feature with nearby devices, a rebuilt Game Bar with a new Fluent design UI, and a diagnostic data viewing tool in the Security and Privacy section. If you want to get the update before the global rollout, you can do so via Check for Updates under Windows Update.
Education

Ask Slashdot: What Should I Study? 214

A fellow Slashdot reader is seeking advice on a new field of study: After many years at the same company, I'm now thinking of a change. At my current place of work, I have worked on many different projects, from server side development, to UI development, and most recently, a lot of data science work. If I were to rate myself, I consider myself to be a good developer, thorough, conscientious and always willing to learn new things. Even my recent foray into data science (though not entirely new, since my graduate studies specialized in machine learning) has had reasonable success, and ideally, I'd really like to continue working in this space.

But, I'm starting to feel in a rut and I'm looking for a change. And looking outside my company, I'm not sure how to begin. Should I hit the books again? Should I focus on any specific technologies? I haven't particularly kept up with new technology -- after working for so long, I tend to think of that as something I can learn, when I need to. Any advice on how I should go about preparing for interviews? I'm quite willing to put in a few months of work into prep, so all suggestions are welcome!
Google

Slashdot Asks: How Do You Like the New Gmail UI? (vortex.com) 137

Earlier today, Google pushed out the biggest revamp of Gmail in years. In addition to a new material design look, there are quick links to other Google services, such as Calendar, Tasks, and Keep, as well as a new "confidential mode" designed to protect users against certain attacks by having the email(s) automatically expire at a time of the sender's choosing. Long-time Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein shares their initial impressions of Google's new Gmail UI: Google launched general access to their first significant Gmail user interface (UI) redesign in many years today. It's rolling out gradually -- when it hits your account you'll see a "Try the new Gmail" choice under the settings ("gear") icon on the upper right of the page (you can also revert to the "classic" interface for now, via the same menu). But you probably won't need to revert. Google clearly didn't want to screw up Gmail, and my initial impression is that they've succeeded by avoiding radical changes in the UI. I'll bet that some casual Gmail users might not even immediately notice the differences.

The new Gmail UI is what we could call a "minimally disruptive" redesign of the now "classic" version. The overall design is not altered in major respects. So far I haven't found any notable missing features, options, or settings. My impression is that the back end systems serving Gmail are largely unchanged. Additionally, there are a number of new features (some of which are familiar in design from Google's "Inbox" email interface) that are now surfaced for the new Gmail. Crucially, overall readability and usability (including contrast, font choices, UI selection elements, etc.) seem so close to classic Gmail (at least in my limited testing so far) as to make any differences essentially inconsequential. And it's still possible to select a dark theme from settings if you wish, which results in even higher contrast.
Have you tried the new Gmail? If so, how do you like the new interface?
Security

Ask Slashdot: Do We Need a New Word For Hacking? 196

goombah99 writes: Hacking and Hackers get a bum rap. Headline scream "Every Nitendo switch can be hacked." But that's good right? Just like farmers hacking their tractors or someone re-purposing a talking teddy bear. On the other hand, remote hacking a Intel processor backdoor or looting medical data base, that are also described as hacking, are ill-motivated. It seems like we need words with different connotations for hacking. One for things you should definitely do, like program an Arduino or teddy bear. One for things that are pernicious. And finally one for things that are disputably good/bad such as hacking DRM protected appliances you own. What viral sounds terms and their nuances would you suggest? Editor's note: We suggest reading this New Yorker piece "A Short History of 'Hack'", and watching this Defcon talk by veteran journalist Steven Levy on the creativeness and chutzpah of the early hackers.
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: How Can I Make My Own Vaporware Real? 128

Long-time Slashdot reader renuk007 is a retired Unix/Linux systems programmer with the ultimate question: After retiring I started a second career as a teacher -- and I'm loving it. My problem: I designed a (I feel) wonderful new language compiler, but implementing it will take me another ten years if I have to do it part-time.

Linus Torvalds was able to leverage the enthusiasm of the Internet to make Linux exist, but 1990 was a more innocent time. How does it work today? Any thoughts?

Or, to put it another way, how can you build a community to bring your ideas to light? Leave your best thoughts and suggestions in the comments. How can you make your own vaporware real?
Media

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Stream/Capture Video? 155

datavirtue writes: I am starting to look at capturing and streaming video, specifically video games in 4K at 60 frames per second. I have a Windows 10 box with a 6GB GTX 1060 GPU and a modern AMD octa-core CPU recording with Nvidia ShadowPlay. This works flawlessly, even in 4K at 60 fps. ShadowPlay produces MP4 files which play nice locally but seem to take a long time to upload to YouTube -- a 15-minute 4K 60fps video took almost three hours. Which tools are you fellow Slashdotters using to create, edit, and upload video in the most efficient manner?

Slashdot Top Deals