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Peace on Earth (1987): Utilizing telerobotics to test in on a swarm robotic rebellion on the Moon


Robots: humanoids, teleoperated reconfigurable robots, swarms.

Advice: Learn this traditional exhausting sci-fi novel and broaden your horizons about robots, teleoperation, and swarms.

Stanislaw Lem was one of the crucial learn science fiction authors on the earth in his day, particularly the 70s and 80s, although not in America as a result of there have been hardly ever translations from his native Polish to English. Europeans may parse the French translations, we couldn’t even parlez vous francais. Lem famously didn’t like American science fiction, with a only a few exceptions. One being Philip Ok. Dick- and it’s no surprise since Lem’s 1987 novel Peace on Earth shares most of the identical themes that Dick lined: militarization of robots, individuals dropping their reminiscence or not being what they appear, and authorities conspiracies. In some methods Peace on Earth is just like the longer, extra detailed, and, truly, *higher* model of Dick’s 1953 quick story Second Selection (which was foundation for the Peter Weller film Screamers).

Peace on Earth has a kind of a Battlestar Galatica (reboot) backstory. Mankind has put all their army robots on the moon to do no matter army robots do. The quickly evolving, tremendous good robots can proceed to make use of simulations and machine studying to enhance or work out options to Clauswitz fashion of warfare however out of the way in which in order that it may well’t affect people.

Or can it?

Besides after a few many years nobody has heard from the robots. This isn’t sudden, however individuals, being individuals, are starting to surprise if the robots are nonetheless up there. Or possibly the robots have developed into one thing peaceable. Or into some supreme intelligence which may need to take over the Earth. Or possibly the robots have run out of issues to shot at up there and the winners are actually eager about capturing at Earth. Oooops. Perhaps we must always ship somebody to test in on them, simply in case…

The story is advised from the perspective of the astronaut, Ijon Tichy, despatched to test in on the robots. The e book begins together with his return on Earth with mind injury that has severed his corpus callosum, left him with main reminiscence loss as to what occurred and why he’s on the run. We’re in Christopher Nolan Momento territory (with out the tattoos) or Jonathan Nolan’s/HBO’s Westworld out of sequence story telling as Tichy tries to determine what occurred on the Moon and what it means.

Alongside the way in which we get some fascinating descriptions of telerobotics and telepresence in addition to swarm and distributed robotics. Lem was a tough science ficition author, who had gone to medical college earlier than switching to physics. He was very a lot into the science element of his books and on this case extra of the concepts of organic evolution. He posits that organic evolution has been in regards to the evolution of small to giant— from viruses and micro organism to single cells to animals and other people, however that robotics evolution will likely be from giant to small. We began with massive robots enhancing, then getting smaller with miniaturization of sensors and actuators, then smaller computation as a single robotic wouldn’t want to hold all its computation onboard however may depend on distributed computation, and the pattern will proceed lastly a robotic turns into a group of tiny, easy robots that may forged itself into a bigger form with better intelligence— the concept behind Michael Crichton’s novel Prey. These swarms of what we’d now name nanorobots would offer the last word flexibility in reconfigurable robots. In fact, Lem hand waves over limiting elements resembling energy and communication. However that apart, it’s a thought-provoking thought and a radically completely different take than Dick’s on how army robots would evolve.

One of many fascinating scientific themes in Peace on Earth is Tichy’s use of teleoperation robots to land on the Moon and try to take a look at the robots within the completely different sectors of the Moon. Finally Tichy quits utilizing humanoid robots and begins utilizing a reconfigurable robotic physique that may rework into completely different animal shapes in order to maneuver extra successfully by the completely different buildings constructed by the robots.

Teleoperated robots are generally referred to as avatars, although the time period avatar was initially restricted to software program simulations- James Cameron modified that connotation together with his film. There may be rising curiosity in telecommuting (and telesex) by robots, a lot so, there’s now a XPrize competitors on avatars.

My favourite form that Tichy’s teleoperated robotic took on was that of a dachshund. And right here is the place Lem underestimated the scientific challenges of teleoperation. Lem centered on the bodily science— how the avatar may reconfigure into a brand new form. He assumed that Tichy would have little issue adjusting to the brand new form as a result of Tichy could be carrying a swimsuit that sensed his physique actions. Besides this ignores the human-robot interplay element— how does Tichy know to maneuver like a canine and synthesize notion from angles a lot decrease than a human? The levels of freedom are completely different, the motion patterns are completely different, the placement of sensors are completely different. Operators get quickly fatigued with humanoid robots the place there’s a one-to-one correspondence between the human and robotic and there’s no change in measurement. The cognitive load for attempting to manage a 4 legged animal could be large. It’s exhausting to think about that Tichy would achieve success with out an middleman clever help program that will translate his intent into the suitable motions for the present form.

And that sort of assistive AI is a tough, open analysis query.

The XPrize ANA Avatar competitors is making an analogous assumption, that should you can construct a humanoid avatar, it is going to be straightforward and pure for a human to manage. That hasn’t been supported by many years of analysis in telerobotics and the humanoid robots within the DARPA robotics problem typically required a number of operators.

However again to Peace on Earth. It’s a really readable e book jam filled with scientific concepts that have been forward of its time, mixed with a severe jab on the stupidity of the nuclear arms race that was in progress on the time.

Extra importantly, Lew foresaw a world during which robots might be a risk, although politicians have been an even bigger risk, and have been an answer to the risk. A refreshing tackle robotics and the New World Order. What a disgrace Lem has been comparatively unknown within the US.

You actually ought to learn this one, particularly should you like exhausting science fiction like Arthur C. Clarke or if you wish to get past the US viewpoint of sci-fi.

For an audio model of this evaluate, click on under…


Unique article posted in Robotics By means of Science Fiction weblog.




Robin Murphy
is a Raytheon Professor of Laptop Science and Engineering at Texas A&M College and Vice-President of the not-for-profit Middle for Robotic-Assisted Search and Rescue

Robin Murphy
is a Raytheon Professor of Laptop Science and Engineering at Texas A&M College and Vice-President of the not-for-profit Middle for Robotic-Assisted Search and Rescue

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