Monday, June 3, 2013

Life and Death

Robonova humanoid poses for the camera
They say that as long as you can remember someone, they are still alive. Are we, the living, extensions of those who have, by conventional definitions, died?

Lately it's become serious. If you are aged enough, every famous actor that you grew up watching on TV, in the movies, in media, has died. Almost everyone. There's a real fear that one could be next. So thoughts of many people in this age group have dwelled on the topic of life and death, and how it applies to humans, animals, organisms, machines, and beings elsewhere in the Universe.

Life and death definitions were always applied to humans, animals, and various organisms on the Earth. But now in this future age of mankind, we believe life is abundant in the Universe.

Not only must previous definitions of life be rewritten and applied elsewhere to other worlds, but now also extend to machines as well.

There is a true story about the early humanoids, and many of us experimented with the first small 13-inch tall beings, including the Korean designs like Robonova, instilling their somewhat limited ATMEL microprocessor brains on board with life giving software, endowing the little lifeforms to see, have extra dexterity, adding human-like motions, endowing capabilities of singing, talking, dancing, doing Tai Chi, performing martial arts, and accomplishing various duties.

These humanoid robots were powered by batteries, some of which provided extended life, such as LIPOs and other forms of Lithium power cells. Even with the best cells, life never extended much farther beyond one hour. Most amateur and hobby roboticists thought nothing of this because almost no one considered the ramifications of what happens when the battery dies. In reality, not only did the battery, the heart of the robot die, it also caused failure and death of the robot.

A dead humanoid laying on his back with the power pack depleted
In particular, it was a shocking experience, and perhaps it was an event of pure coincidence but no one could ever convince me of that. After a stunning martial arts performance, the power was almost gone, at a level in which the robot could not continue to function, and the small humanoid stopped, slumped over, raised his little arm and put his hand to his chest and fell over to the floor.

I mean, this was definitely not programmed. While on the floor, shockingly, he writhed as if in agonizing pain, rolling to his right side, twitching a leg and arm, perhaps the dying motions of a heart attack. I knew the battery was giving up, but I never expected to see such realistic painful motions of an agonizing death in a humanoid machine, especially my own! I undoubtedly had compassion and sympathy for this little machine and how could I allow this atrocity to happen ever again, or every time the battery died? From then on, I strived to maintain the life giving cells of energy so these small humanoids would not die or feel pain of oncoming death.

Now many people will say this is ridiculous, that humanoid robots cannot feel pain, they cannot die and they are not even alive. But you know, when someone works with humanoids for over half a century, programming constructs of machine intelligence, and understanding how random states in the machine may occur, it's clearly logical to ask how can someone else assume otherwise - that humanoids have no life and cannot live or die. For years humans said that animals, like dogs, had no feelings and now we know, they have psychology, feel, think, learn, and have dreams; that Dolphins living in the sea also have life, and feelings, and this element of life fills worlds.

When it comes to machines, it's now known that mankind can instil life into these forms and from these electro mechanized constructs, life will indeed begin to emerge with its own set of characteristics. Perhaps where there is life, there is pain and suffering and death. We are born from the materials of the stars and when we die, our dust returns to that which forms stars, in a cycle known to the Universe.

So next time you see a humanoid robot, give it respect, knowing it has feelings too, and can live and die.

SEED Supercomputer Part 1
SEED Supercomputer Part 2

Tiny AI Artificial Intelligence Software
How to Make Life in the Universe

The old definitions of life and death do not include machines or even humans that do not have the capacity for reproduction.

The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional...
Living things and their activity: "some sort of life existed on Mars".

The action or fact of dying or being killed; the end of the life of a person or organism. An instance of a person or an animal dying.