thinking is dangerous

Knight Automated Roving Robot

From the NYT: Robotic Vehicles Race, but Innovation Wins

It has been almost 18 months since the Pentagon's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, first attracted a motley array of autonomous vehicles with a prize of $1 million for the first to complete a 142-mile desert course from Barstow, Calif., to Las Vegas. The most successful robot, developed by a Carnegie Mellon University team, managed all of seven miles.

With the next running scheduled for Oct. 8 - and this time a $2 million purse for the winner among 43 entries - it is clear that many of the participants have made vast progress. For some researchers, it is an indication of a significant transformation in what has been largely a science fiction fantasy.

"Computers are starting to sprout legs and move around in the environment," said Andy Rubin, a Silicon Valley technologist and a financial backer of this year's Stanford Racing Team, which produced Stanley.


The exact course will be secret until just hours before the event begins, but Darpa officials are said to believe that the original test was too much an exercise in automatically following global positioning satellite "bread crumbs" - the data points outlining the route that are given to the contestants shortly before the race begins.

So this year the course is likely to include unexpected man-made obstacles and other hurdles that would be trivial for a human driver, but vexing for the computer-controlled navigational systems that are at the heart of the technical challenge the Pentagon has laid out.

Despite the added complexity, there is a widespread expectation among robotics researchers that this time the course will be completed.

In an attempt to come up with some witty discussion questions, I found the following Wikipedia entry:

KITT is Knight Industries' second attempt at a car with artificial intelligence. Its predecessor was KARR, an abbreviation for Knight Automated Roving Robot. KARR was programmed to primarily protect itself at all costs, but this proved to be hazardous to Knight Industries' interests, so KARR was deactivated and KITT introduced in its place.

Unlike KARR, KITT is programmed to primarily protect it's owner Michael Knight at all costs as well as all human life. This is made clear in the pilot movie/first two parter where Knight asks his new boss Devon Miles if KITT will protect anyone driving it. Devon's answer is that KITT's primary function is the preservation of human life, and Michael's in particular.

So questions:

1) Suppose an automated car mishandles a turn and crashes. It is not an agent, so who bears responsibility?

2) Does the difference between KARR and KITT bear on our willingness to ascribe agency to them?

3) Is KITT's primary function teleological? If so, does that make KITT robustly intelligent and perhaps even conscious? If not, is it even possible to give a machine a teleological function?

4) If you answered no to 3, what becomes of Asimov's laws?
20:03 :: :: eripsa :: permalink