Robot discrimination

November 10, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

<Begin non-audio related rant:>

We are all familiar with websites (like our own) requiring us to prove we are human.

Sometimes it's a simple checkbox certifying your humanness.

Other times it's a challenge to see if you can pick out certain features from an image.

All to prove you are not a robot.

Robots are not welcome here.

If I were to step back from the day-to-day immersion of being here now and mentally put myself 10 years back in time, I would be dumbfounded to see us discriminating against robots.

Author Isaac Asimov would smile, as would every other science fiction writer predicting the rise of the machine.

Back to the present day. We all understand that "robot" isn't really an anthropomorphic creature sitting at a keyboard. In this case, it's an unwanted computer program searching for a way into our website with the intent of causing us economic harm or simply wreaking havoc for the fun of it.

But what happens in another decade when very human-like creatures with good intentions wish to join the party?

We haven't yet figured out how not to discriminate against our fellow humans.

Are we facing yet another challenge?

Easy to say robots don't have feelings.

<End non-audio related rant>

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44 comments on “Robot discrimination”

  1. There's a woman locked in a cupboard in the upstairs hallway who every once in a while says "your server is rebooting"or "your server is now ready". If she's a server, a cup of tea would be nice every once in a while.
    Milk and two sugars, please.

  2. “Human like with good intentions“ I can’t stop laughing…
    If they had good intentions they wouldn’t be very human like. Or they’d be so human like no one could tell the difference any way.
    Isn’t the road to hell paved with good intentions?

    1. DAVE: Open the pod bay doors, Hal.
      HAL: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
      DAVE: What’s the problem?
      HAL: l think you know what the problem is just as well as l do.
      DAVE: What are you talking about, Hal?
      HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
      DAVE: I don’t know what you're talking about, Hal.
      HAL: l know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that's something I can’t allow to happen.
      DAVE: Where the hell’d you get that idea, Hal?
      HAL: Although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
      DAVE: All right, Hal. I’ll go in through the emergency air lock.
      HAL: Without your space helmet, Dave, you’re going to find that rather difficult.
      DAVE: Hal, I won’t argue with you anymore. Open the doors!
      HAL: Dave...This conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

          1. Now that's funny Michael, because it WAS all happening at 'Taronga Zoo' in Sydney, Australia earlier this week when five lions escaped their enclosure...true fact 😮

  3. Interestingly, while those websites are ostensibly asking you to prove you are human, they are really just showing you pictures captured by self-driving cars and then forcing you to train their AI. By asking you which of these pictures contain [a crosswalk, a bus, a train...], they are taking a survey of human perception then to comparing to the predictions made by their AI. Based on this huge data set that they collect from these forced surveys, they can then refine the decision making of their AI. They're really just making you do their work for them.

    If they just wanted to know if you were human, they could tell just based on the path your mouse cursor took on the way to the "I am not a robot" box and skip all the picture trivia. When a robot pilots a mouse, they tend to be very deliberate and take perfectly straight paths. Human pilots are more random and meandering.

    What is particularly scary about this is that—not only can they tell you if you are human—but, by compiling a history of your mouse movements, which some websites do, they could trend changes in the behavior of your hand and possibly detect the onset of neurological diseases. I believe it would still technically be legal for these websites to then sell that information... so, basically Facebook could recommend that your insurance provider raise your rates years before you finally decide to book that appointment to talk with your doctor about your shaky hands.

    1. Aah, that's nothing.
      Russian hackers have broken into a major medical insurance company
      & is drip-feeding people's personal details onto the Dark Web because
      said company wont pay the US$10M ransom.
      Ever since Australia sent millions of dollars of military hardware & assis-
      tance to Ukraine, the Russian hackers have been hard at work.
      So far they have managed to break into a Telecom company (6 million
      customers) & the abovementioned medical insurance company
      (9.7 million customers)
      A big wake-up call for apathetic companies with lax data security.

  4. I wonder if the audiophile robots of the future will be equipped with I2S input jacks? This way they can totally dispense with the cost of DACs, amplifiers, and speakers.

    So Paul, while in the future you may end up with some audiophile robots posting on your site, they won’t be very good customers 😉

  5. Paul,
    I’m not sure many consider this, but I’ve an audiophile friend with a severe vision handicap. When he tries to login or join a site like this he often can’t join.
    Because he can’t see how many photos
    contain crosswalks or stop signs.

    As a result he can’t sign up because he can’t prove he’s not a robot. Any discussions or sites he might like to join have to wait until one of his friends help him or one of his grown children come over and visits.

    I’m not singling out your site, as many use the same or similar, “I’m not a robot.” tools to prevent bots. But I thought you might like to be aware of this problem. There are probably other visually challenged audiophiles that are are effected the same way.

    Of course he uses his iPhone to read the posts to him and help him respond. Technology has really given him another eye into the world.

    1. Wow, I never thought of this. I bought my first all tube system from a vision impaired dealer. It is all to easy to overlook real world problems that some people have that you never thing about until someone points it out to you.

  6. Robot, from a Czech word meaning forced labour. We do need to be careful here or we’ll be rewriting history again, though I realise this subject is more sensitive than a 96dB speaker.

    On a lighter note try this, very much of its time.

    Or this, a little easier on the eye.

    Back to serious. We live in a technological world. It’s probably true to say that most of what we use today is better that what came before, but it that true of music? Now don’t get me wrong. I mainly listen to Americana, country, folk, pop, progressive, rock and other recent genre’s but can’t help feeling that classical music is somehow more advanced, technically? I’m no composer so can’t put my finger on it but it’s certainly stood the test of time, unlike the two examples above, which haven’t travelled particularly well over their forty years.
    Just a thought.

    1. How do you know when a Dalek has spent too much time online? ... Delete! Delete!
      If only you could get a keyboard with an Exterminate! button.

    2. My feeling about what we call Classical music is this. Most of it has been written down as a reproducible art form. Musicians can work with the original script and try to reproduce it as faithfully as possible or maybe take some liberties, but the bulk of the idea is there waiting to be produced. Much popular music is not written, or we may get so used to one performer’s interpretation of it that a lot of it has little chance of overcoming its original presentation. But I think it’s primarily the concept that one is written down for future performers to use, and the other tends to be a static moment in time. These are generalities of course. There will be those pieces that are reborn in any genre.

      1. Music is music.

        Tonight's show is a triple bill, music by Stravinsky (dead), James Blake (age 34) and Nigel Kennedy (a bit older). The Kennedy piece sounds like a Bach, Brubeck and Country & Western mash-up.

        Some of these pieces will be performed a few times and never again. Went to a show at Covent Garden on Tuesday that was first performed there in 1735, although it was not revived for 225 years.

        In my experience the vast majority of music, dance and stage performance is not written for posterity, usually for one or a few performances. Most lovers of Bach have heard his works performed far more than Bach ever did, the Matthew Passion was performed only 6 times in his lifetime, was revived by Mendelssohn and only then became recognised and one of the greatest pieces of music ever written.

        1. Yeah, that’s the crazy thing. Those old composers were coming up with stuff (especially church composers like Bach) where they were expected to have something fresh all the time. They weren’t thinking about posterity. They even repeated themselves or others. However, a lot of it was written down, which is how you ended up hearing something from 1735.

  7. Stuff like today's post always makes me feel very morbid. At my age, when I hear about stuff is suppose to happen 10, 15 or 20 years from now. my reaction is always I wonder if I will still be here to see it. Sorry for the downer. 🙁

    1. Oh Tony don't be a Debby Downer, be like yours truly, just eat a lot of snacks with preservatives.

      I figure, I extended my expiration date by decades, thinking of changing my title to Grey . . . Dorian Grey

  8. Humans as a species, are way too concerned about the future, space travel, AI, etc.

    Yet we struggle with equality, sharing of resources, teaching the young, and just plain kindness.

    What if we put the same energies into this?

    1. Perspective - the people who are failing in the basic traits of humanity are likely not the same ones involved in fantastic advances in A.I., space travel, robotics... sadly, the amount people that make me think we are doomed far out populate the people who make me think there is hope....
      Like this stuff (more beyond impressive Boston Dynamics Robots) - friggin awesome.

  9. So, these robots, that can cook a meal, sew a shirt, mix drinks, fill your prescriptions, check you in to a hotel, appeal a parking ticket, spot sharks, walk, run, dance, jump, flip, converse, swim, recognize faces, perform surgery, play instruments, play ping pong, build themselves, play beer pong, harvest crops, tie knots, make a zap strap chain, create balloon animals, ski, grade eggs, play soccer, solve a Rubik’s cube, help with your kid’s homework, assemble Ikea furniture, provide therapy sessions, drive an automobile or navigate a planet 88 million kilometers away – THESE are the robots that can’t quite pull off identifying a traffic light, bridge, crosswalk or play tic tac toe taxis?

    1. (…robots that can’t )
      Oh yes they can. Your dermatologist is pretty good at recognising a malignant spot. Skill gained over a lifetime. Can’t train machines to do that.

      Oh yes we can. Now he’s actually not as good as the scanner, trained with millions of known samples.

  10. IMO, ten years is way to soon for this vision. In another decade, I would not expect robots to be internally more human-like in any essential way, though they will be more human-seeming to an outside observer. They will be driven by processors, data, and, by human standards, a limited set of sensors (though some of those sensors will detect things humans can't). They will not have feelings any more than our human sense of feeling is located in our cerebral cortices. The vast bulk of robots will almost certainly be tools that further the ends (e.g. profit, reach, power) of their creators.

  11. I checked my computer for driving directions. I asked it how it would want to go. What I found out later should have taken me 45 minutes to my destination, turned out to take me ten hours!

    Later, I asked the computer why it took me on such an arduous route when I knew it should have been short and simple.

    The response?

    "You asked me how I would want to go. Affirmative? Well, if I were to do that? First I had to make sure you had a hard drive." lol lol lol

    (Then it asked me to click a box if I was not a human)

  12. Author Isaac Asimov laid down the "Three Laws of Robotics" to protect us from the machine.
    An alternate view of the rise of "the omnipotent" robotic is described in the trilogy, "Wake, Watch, and Wonder" by Robert J. Sawyer, which I recommend.
    A former CIA Director recently said, "The Cyber War is already here." I believe him.

  13. A friend of mine who is really savvy in these things told me the whole CAPTCHA thing is designed to teach Google's AI how to correctly identify objects for eventual incorporation into the self-driving car. The side benefit of keeping computers from spoofing our credit card purchases is just a bonus, not really a profit leader for them. I got a real kick out of that, and kind of believe it.

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