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Experts Beg EU: Ditch Robot ‘Personhood’ Law

It could let manufacturers off the hook if their robots go rogue. Also, an update on baseball's favorite 3D printed hand, and the Navy's "little crappy ship."

“Little Crappy Ship”

A recent article from Business Insider seems to indicate that the Navy might be throwing in the towel on their highly touted Littoral Combat Ship program.

Originally hailed as a new class of warship with autonomous capabilities for patrolling coastal areas with greater stealth and speed, a new report indicates that after 16 years of cost overruns, mechanical issues and a suspect hull, the program could be sunk before any of the ships see action.

Currently, three of the Navy's four original LCSs are in maintenance, and another four are in their final testing stages. The LCS is being designed with two variants.

The problems include an insufficient number of combat systems, including radar, anti-ship missile defenses, and redundant systems that would kick in if an attack compromised the primary propulsion, defense or recovery systems.

According to a Department of Defense report, "Neither LCS variant is survivable in high-intensity combat. Although the ships incorporate capabilities to reduce their susceptibility to attack, testing demonstrated … limited effectiveness … in high-intensity combat."

While the LCS program has not officially been dropped, it appears that the Navy could be shifting its attention to the Guided Missile Frigate Replacement Program.

These events have many referring to the LCS program as the Little Crappy Ship, which provides a key takeaway for other military suppliers: choose your acronyms wisely.

Hailey Dawson Throws Another First Pitch with 3D Printed Hand

It’s baseball season, so everything is better. Unless you live in the Midwest where it’s still snowing, and baseball season just reminds you of the sadness you live with day in and day out in this bleak, unforgiving landscape.

Well, at least this story will warm your heart. Hailey Dawson was recently invited by the San Francisco Giants to throw out the first pitch at their April 8th home game. For those of you who have been following the story of this remarkable girl, you know that while a rare birth defect called Poland Syndrome has compromised the use of Hailey’s right hand, she brings with her a 3D printed prosthetic that the brightest minds at UNLV have been working for years to perfect.

Her mother reached out to the university a few years back when facing the prohibitive costs of a traditional prosthetic. Brendan O'Toole, chairman of the mechanical engineering department, said though UNLV gets lots of requests for tech, this one was different and they went to work creating her hand, which has since been upgraded several times by the team – including the newest iteration, emblazoned with the Giants logo.

Hailey’s mother said the 3D printed hand has done wonders for her daughter’s confidence, which was on display last week when she threw the ceremonial first pitch CBS News described as “perfect.” But that’s probably because Hailey isn’t exactly a rookie: after announcing her crusade to throw a pitch at every ballpark in the MLB, she’s been invited to do so at many ballparks, including in 2017, where she was able to toss one out at Game 4 of last year's World Series between the Astros and the Dodgers.

AI Experts Beg EU to Ditch Robot ‘Personhood’ Law

There’s been a lot of talk these days about artificial intelligence, and its potential for related catastrophe, something stoked by Elon Musk using benign phrases like AI is more dangerous than nuclear weapons.

Musk, along with other industry stakeholders, have for years called for a regulatory body to be established that would oversee the development of artificial intelligence so it doesn’t outpace our ability to manage it or there could be “a serious danger to the public.”

But not all regulation is being viewed as positive by stakeholders in the AI community, and last week “over 150 experts in AI, robotics, commerce, law, and ethics from 14 countries” signed a letter that criticized a proposal by the European Union to grant personhood status to intelligent machines.

The concept of “electronic personhood” seems to be a way of assigning blame in the event of an AI catastrophe – maybe a smart robot crushes a human working in an auto plant. In this case, would the manufacturer be blamed for the doings of an entity that’s learning on-the-job and gaining autonomy along the way? The EU says it gets murky here, but critics say that not only is it way too early to address this legally, it also creates a giant loophole that lets manufacturers completely off the hook if and when their products go rogue.

Some of the experts who signed the letter – including AI and robotics professor Noel Sharkey from the Foundation for Responsible Robotics – feel that, while laws are required to protect humans from errant AI, it’s not necessarily true that we won’t be able to prove liability if a robot were to wreak havoc in some way.

Kate Darling, a Harvard University expert in robot ethics, tells Gizmodo that “hand-wringing” over these potential problems is odd because they’re not unsolvable. Also, she adds: “Your cat makes autonomous decisions, too, but we do not hold the cat legally responsible for its actions.”


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