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.

Amazon’s Delivery Robots Arrive in Irvine, California

Transport and delivery robots convey items of all kinds, like parcels and purchases from one party (often the provider or broker) to another (often the customer) or they accompany and relieve pedestrians and cyclists of their burden. From 2016 to 2018, Swiss Post tested small transport robots by Starship Technologies in Berne. Amazon began testing autonomous robots in a suburb of Seattle at the beginning of the year. According to USA TODAY, they will deliver packages to customers in Irvine, California. Irvine is a university town with about 250,000 inhabitants. It was planned and built in the 1960s by the Irvine Company. “Amazon said the robots, which are light blue and have the Amazon smile logo stamped on its sides, are able to avoid crashing into trash cans or pedestrians. Still, a worker will accompany the robots at first.” (USA TODAY, 6 August 2019) This is, of course, an effort that cannot be operated indefinitely. Once the escort is removed, accidents are inevitable. Transport robots of this type are dangerous trip hazards. They also create enormous complexity in urban traffic. These problems were addressed in Oliver Bendel’s article “Service Robots in Public Spaces” in June 2017 which can be downloaded here.

The Bartender Robot

The activities in a pub or a club are demanding. You have to take orders from guests, you have to understand them and be friendly to them, and you have to prepare drinks like Porn Star Martini or White Lady behind the counter. Then you must bring the bill, take money and give change. Robots are more or less good at these things. F & P Robotics has developed Barney, a complete and simple robotic bar solution. The Swiss company is known for its ambitious robots for therapy and care. Now it obviously wants to conquer the gastronomy. Barney offers an easy-to-use interface and a simple payment system. According to the manufacturer, the system impresses with elegant movements during the preparation of the drink. As a typical cobot, it can also work hand in hand with human bartenders. At Hotel Interlaken, Switzerland, you can see Barney in action from 13 August to 15 September 2019. You can form your own opinion and either come to the conclusion that this is the future – or that you still want a human service and a human smile. More information via www.barney-bar.com.

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.

Could Artificial Intelligence Trigger Wars?

Deep fakes are a young phenomenon. Of course there have been fake videos for a long time. But that artificial intelligence makes the production possible, even in standard applications, is new. On August 1, an article dedicated to the phenomenon was published in the German newspaper Die Welt. It begins with the following words: “It is well known that a picture says more than a thousand words. And moving images, i.e. videos, are still regarded as unmistakable proof that something has taken place exactly as it can be seen in the film. … Powerful artificial intelligence (AI) processes now make it possible to produce such perfect counterfeits that it is no longer possible to tell with the naked eye whether a video is real or manipulated. In so-called deep fake videos, people say or do things they would never say or do.” Among others, the philosopher Oliver Bendel is quoted. The article with the title “Artificial intelligence could trigger wars” can be downloaded via www.welt.de.

No Solution to the Nursing Crisis

“In Germany, around four million people will be dependent on care and nursing in 2030. Already today there is talk of a nursing crisis, which is likely to intensify further in view of demographic developments in the coming years. Fewer and fewer young people will be available to the labour market as potential carers for the elderly. Experts estimate that there will be a shortage of around half a million nursing staff in Germany by 2030. Given these dramatic forecasts, are nursing robots possibly the solution to the problem? Scientists from the disciplines of computer science, robotics, medicine, nursing science, social psychology, and philosophy explored this question at a Berlin conference of the Daimler and Benz Foundation. The machine ethicist and conference leader Professor Oliver Bendel first of all stated that many people had completely wrong ideas about care robots: ‘In the media there are often pictures or illustrations that do not correspond to reality’.” (Die Welt, 14 June 2019) With these words an article in the German newspaper Die Welt begins. Norbert Lossau describes the Berlin Colloquium, which took place on 22 May 2019, in detail. The article is available in English and German. So are robots a solution to the nursing crisis? Oliver Bendel denies this. They can be useful for the caregiver and the patient. But they don’t solve the big problems.