The Resurrection of Dead Authors

lyrikline.org is an interesting and touching project. The writers themselves read their works. You can listen to Ingeborg Bachmann as well as Paul Celan. Spoken literature has been booming in Europe and the USA for about 15 years. The Chinese discovered audio books some time ago. Basically it is time-consuming and expensive to produce such books professionally. Moreover, the authors are not always available. The Chinese search engine Sogou wants to solve this problem with the help of visualization technology and artificial intelligence. It creates avatars of the authors who speak with the voice of the authors. “At the China Online Literature+ conference, the company announced that the first two authors to receive this avatar treatment will be Yue Guan and Bu Xin Tian Shang Diao Xian Bing … If these first AI author avatars are well-received, others could follow – and that could just be the jumping-off point. A company could produce book readings by deceased authors, for example, as long as enough audio and video footage exists. Eventually, they could even incorporate hologram technology to really give bibliophiles the feeling of being at their favorite author’s reading.” (futurism.com, 15 August 2019) So you could have Ingeborg Bachmann or Charles Bukowski read all of their own texts and watch them, many years after their death. Whether the results really sound like the originals, whether they influence us just as emotionally, can be doubted. But there is no doubt that this is an exciting project.

Knightscope’s Fourth Generation K5

Knightscope’s security robots have been on the road in Silicon Valley for years. They can see, hear and smell – and report anything suspicious to a central office. A new generation has emerged from a partnership with Samsung. The monolithic cone has become a piecemeal object. The company writes in its blog: “With its all new, fully suspended drivetrain, the K5v4 is uniquely suited to manage the more aggressive terrain outside Samsung’s Silicon Valley workplace. Since deploying, we have been able to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a robot guard tour in areas inhibited by speed bumps, while continuing to sweep both of their multi-story parking garages for abandoned vehicles and provide their command center with the additional eyes and ears to provide more security intelligence and improve overall security.” (Knightscope, 16 June 2019) Security robots can certainly be an option in closed areas. When used in public spaces, many ethical questions are raised. However, security robots can do more than security cameras. And it is hard to escape the fourth generation.

The Relationship between Artificial Intelligence and Machine Ethics

Artificial intelligence has human or animal intelligence as a reference and attempts to represent it in certain aspects. It can also try to deviate from human or animal intelligence, for example by solving problems differently with its systems. Machine ethics is dedicated to machine morality, producing it and investigating it. Whether one likes the concepts and methods of machine ethics or not, one must acknowledge that novel autonomous machines emerge that appear more complete than earlier ones in a certain sense. It is almost surprising that artificial morality did not join artificial intelligence much earlier. Especially machines that simulate human intelligence and human morality for manageable areas of application seem to be a good idea. But what if a superintelligence with a supermorality forms a new species superior to ours? That’s science fiction, of course. But also something that some scientists want to achieve. Basically, it’s important to clarify terms and explain their connections. This is done in a graphics that was published in July 2019 on informationsethik.net and is linked here.

China’s Brain Drain

“China’s AI talent base is growing, and then leaving” – this is what Joy Dantong Ma writes in an article with the same title. Artificial intelligence is promoted in the People’s Republic in various ways. Money is invested in technologies, institutions, and people. “China has been successful in producing AI talent, evidenced by the rapid growth of AI human capital over the last decade.” (MacroPolo, 30 July 2019) This seems to be good news for the country in the Far East. But the study to which the article refers comes to a different conclusion. While “Beijing has cultivated an army of top AI talent, well over half of that talent eventually ended up in America rather than getting hired by domestic companies and institutions”. “That’s because most of the government resources went into expanding the talent base rather than creating incentives and an environment in which they stay.” (MacroPolo, 30 July 2019) According to Joy Dantong Ma, Beijing seems to have recognized its failure in retaining talent. “The well-known New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan, released in 2017, vowed to lure top-notch AI scientists in neural network, machine learning, self-driving cars, and intelligent robotics by opening up special channels and offering up competitive compensation packages. Still, it’s not clear that Beijing will be able to reverse the Chinese AI brains from draining to its biggest competitor, the United States.” (MacroPolo, 30 July 2019) Does the USA even want the talents? That is anything but clear in these times.

Unknown Links between Classic Artworks

Can machine vision detect unknown connections between famous or classic artworks? This seems to be the case, as the work of Tomas Jenicek and Ondřej Chum shows. In their paper “Linking Art through Human Poses” they write: “We address the discovery of composition transfer in artworks based on their visual content. Automated analysis of large art collections, which are growing as a result of art digitization among museums and galleries, is an important tool for art history and assists cultural heritage preservation. Modern image retrieval systems offer good performance on visually similar artworks, but fail in the cases of more abstract composition transfer. The proposed approach links artworks through a pose similarity of human figures depicted in images.” (Abstract) Human figures are the subject of many paintings from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age and their unmistakable poses have often been a source of inspiration among artists. Think of “Sleeping Venus” by Giorgione, “Venus of Urbino” by Titian and “Olympia” by Édouard Manet – paintings with similarities and correlations. The method of the two scientists consists of fast pose matching and robust spatial verification. They “experimentally show that explicit human pose matching is superior to standard content-based image retrieval methods on a manually annotated art composition transfer dataset” (Abstract). The paper can be downloaded via arxiv.org/abs/1907.03537.

Can Robots ever be Found Guilty under Criminal Law?

With robots and AI conquering our world, not only specific legal regulations but also a rethinking of the very nature of legal institutions and their philosophical foundation can become necessary. In criminal law, these changes can particularly affect the understanding of personal responsibility. The question if robots can ever be found guilty is closely related to the prevailing understanding of blameworthiness in society. In their contribution to the Criminal Law Forum, Monika Simmler and Nora Markwalder present an overview of different potential scenarios of criminal liability in the context of robotics. Discussing the conditions of “guilty robots”, they reveal that criminal culpability is inherently socially constructed, however not randomly constituted. Robots’ liability would thus require that robots are regarded as suitable agents of responsibility. The article lights up the conditions for such social and legal change, concluding that a guilty robot, as fictional as that appears today, may be nothing unrealistic nor unlikely in the future. The article with the title “Guilty Robots? – Rethinking the Nature of Culpability and Legal Personhood in an Age of Artificial Intelligence” can be downloaded via Springer.