Nobody would accuse the HBO show “Westworld” of being a sunny science fiction tale about artificial intelligence. The show features humanlike robot “hosts” who live, die, and live again to serve the fantasies of human guests visiting a Western-themed amusement park. But the dark premise of “Westworld” is still escapist fiction compared with real concerns surrounding the rise of artificial intelligence.
The lurking threat of a “Westworld” robot uprising begins with the premise of artificial intelligence (AI) confined within the boundaries of the amusement park. Human visitors wishing to play cowboy or cowgirl arrive in the Westworld amusement park on a train, indulge in their immersive vacation experience, and then leave on the train. The managed pleasures and dangers of the Wild West fantasy—supported by the robot hosts—remain cordoned off within the park and safely separated from the rest of the world.
But don’t mistake the enjoyable science fiction premise of “Westworld” for real life. Like the railroads that helped transform the Wild West, AI technologies have already begun sweeping across the land and and transforming the human communities they touch. They are poised to reshape the fundamental underpinnings of both individual human livelihoods and entire national economies. Read More
Amazon gets to play full-time Santa Claus by delivering almost any imaginable item to customers around the world. But the tech giant does not have a magical sleigh pulled by flying reindeer to carry out its delivery orders. Instead, a recent Amazon patent has revealed the breathtaking idea of using giant airships as flying warehouses that could deploy swarms of delivery drones to customers below.
Many patent filings related to new technology often indulge in fantastical flights of fancy. But it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate some of the truly wilder scenarios being imagined within this Amazon patent filing. One scene envisions human or robot workers going to work busily sorting packages aboard airships hovering 45,000 feet above major cities. Another scene imagines the airship’s kitchen whipping up hot or cold food orders that would be loaded onto delivery drones for delivery within minutes.
A third scene anticipates swarms of delivery drones dropping off orders of food or t-shirts to people attending concerts or sports games. Amazon’s patent filing even considers how the airships could fly at much lower altitudes to act as giant billboards or megaphones that advertise and sell items directly to the crowds below. Read More
A dozen lucky 7-Eleven customers have already gotten to taste the possibilities of drone food delivery in Reno, Nevada. In November 2016, these customers experienced the futuristic thrill of placing 7-Eleven orders through an app and then watching a hovering delivery drone drop off their order within 10 minutes. Next year, 7-Eleven plans to expand on such drone deliveries in partnership with a company calling itself the “Uber of drone delivery.” Read More
Google has been dreaming of hot pizzas and freshly-made coffee descending from the sky to your doorstep. The Google X technologies lab has already begun delivering burritos to Virginia Tech students using its Project Wing drones. But the truly bold part of the Google X plan may be the goal of offering drone food delivery for just a $6 fee. Read More
Many of the world’s business leaders seem fairly dazzled by the latest advances in artificial intelligence and robotics that promise to help reshape the world. A majority of CEOs surveyed in a global study said that technology would be their company’s greatest competitive advantage in the future and would create greater value than people will. But their confidence in technology may blind them to the fact that their human workers remain the likeliest source of innovation and value in the future. Read More
Shooting down unwanted drones near a crowded sports stadium or concert can be tricky business. Even a fairly small quadcopter could cause injury to people below if it falls out of the sky because a laser weapon has burned its electronics or a jammer has disrupted its flight controls. A startup has a safer anti-drone solution for the skies above the U.S. homeland: hack a potentially dangerous drone’s radio communications and take control. Read More
Most companies testing self-driving cars worry about making sure the driverless vehicles obey the rules of the road and avoid accidents. The Swedish automaker Volvo has a slightly different concern about whether human drivers will try to bully driverless cars on the road. That is why the automaker plans to keep its early fleet of test vehicles in London unmarked so that they don’t look any different from a normal Volvo car. Read More
Military drones such as the U.S. Predator and Reaper have soared above battlefields for more than a decade. But small consumer drones that anyone can buy online have also begun to make their presence felt in modern battlefields. The militant group Islamic State has begun turning such small drones into flying bombs in their battles across Syria and Iraq.
Uber wants to usher in the flying car future depicted in science fiction films such as “Back to the Future” and “Star Wars.” The company has published a paper explaining how its ride-hailing service could help launch flying cars as a fairly affordable option for commuters. But Uber’s plan for flying cars also exposes the company’s more immediate challenges in dealing with self-driving taxi competitors. Read More
Anyone with a fear of flying robots and giant claws may not want to hear what the maker of the U.S. military’s Predator drone has planned for the future. The military contractor General Atomics is working on transforming a huge cargo aircraft into a drone mothership that uses a mechanical arm to grab returning drones in midair. Read More