AI in the News - #9

January 8, 2016 | Earl Wajenberg

The Jeeves Problem (

You have probably heard of Bertie Wooster and his superhuman valet, Jeeves. (And there's a link, if you haven't.)  Bertie is a wealthy but weak-willed twit of amiable disposition, easier steered by his addled friends.  But his life is one long sweet song as long as Jeeves is in charge.  Trouble (and the plot) starts only when Bertie slips off Jeeves's leash, and the trouble doesn't end until Jeeves shows up again.

In the Forbes article, "When Algorithms Give Orders," Kalev Leetaru asks, in effect, if we are heading for a world where everyone with a phone is Bertie and a selection of personal assistants are Jeeveses.  Do we want them to do what we tell them, or do what's good for us?  Can we make them do what we tell them, when the assistant's manufacturers are beholden to governments, sponsors, insurers, and so on?

(There's always divide and conquer, like the time my family got Siri and the GPS arguing about how to navigate Worcester, MA.)

Self-Driving Cars by 2030 (

Auto maker Kia is putting $2 billion into self-driving cars by 2018, expects to market partially autonomous cars by 2020, and to be offering wholly self-driving cars by 2030.

Robot mules still in prototype  (

The robot mules (actually called BigDog) created by Boston Dynamics to follow soliders through rough terrain with their gear, have reached the end of their contract without getting renewed by the military.  The problem is not with the robotics, but with the gasoline engine that drives them: they're too noisy.  Boston Dynamics tried making a quieter version ("Spot"), but it was too small and could not carry useful amounts of cargo.