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Are We Heading Past The Point Of No Return In Thinking Robots?

Can robots know right from wrong?

The U.S. military would want to spend millions of dollars on this. Grant money amounting to $7.5 million will be awarded by the Office of Naval Research to researchers from different universities, namely, Brown, Yale, Georgetown, Tufts, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The mission? They are to explore the possibility of introducing and building a sense of right and wrong into autonomous robot systems.


Robot That Knows Right And Wrong
In other words, over the next five years, university researchers are to build a robot that recognizes right from wrong. With this sense of moral consequence, autonomous systems could operate more efficiently and independently. This may have stemmed from some people’s thinking that machines have the ability to make better decisions since they could strictly follow the rules of engagement to the T, and calculate the outcome of multiple different scenarios. The world has grown past the concept of robots being pieces of metal attached together and wrapping over brushless DC motors and drive belts and gears.

Preprogrammed Moral Code
Can you imagine a future where autonomous robots are making life or death decisions based on a preprogrammed moral code? The following robot systems may be created with moral and operational functionality:

  • missile defines
  • autonomous military vehicles
  • drones


Capability To Select And Engage
Lethal and fully-autonomous robots are prohibited by the U.S. military which means only semi-autonomous robots are developed – having no capability to “select and engage” individual targets or specific target groups without intervention from an authorized human operator. That makes it fully dependent on decisions made by the human operator. Hence, it’s extremely important to have full knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of the systems and a full understanding of the rules of war.

Need For Moral And Ethical Reasoning
Robot systems need not be armed to require the ability to make moral decisions. Imagine a disaster scenario where a robot has to decide on who will be evacuated or treated first – a situation that would need some sense of moral or ethical reasoning. Robots of this kind will be useful and valuable in first-response, search-and-rescue, and medical operations. And with robots being put to many uses where it’s difficult to predict their actions or the kind of situations they’ll face, having this capability of ethical reasoning will definitely help them sort through various options and arrive at the best decision.


Need For Standard Moral Code
While the purposes for which the robots with morals or ethical reasoning are nobly acceptable, the debate is on whether a certain moral code will be agreed upon by multiple parties – military, rescue teams, first responders, etc.  Sure, computer processing may be able to take care of that, say, in handling triage at a field hospital in a disaster scene, but what about when pointing missiles at people?

Need For A Moral Agency
Will this require the creation of a “moral agency?”  This would mean people understanding others and knowing what it means to suffer. Even if some rules of ethics are installed in the robot, you can’t expect it to care because it will follow the idea of ethics of the human operator or designer.

The Kind Of Robot In Five Years
In the meantime, the debate will go on. And while that is happening, the university researchers are deep into their mission and in five years, they may be able to surprise the world with a different kind of robot.

Do you think robots can be programmed to be ethical and moral?

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New mRNA Technology to Remake Vaccine Research and Production

Messenger RNA, or mRNA, is the central technology behind the rapid creation of the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines. Known as cell-based vaccine technology, mRNA mimics the way cells generate proteins that activate immune responses. The process provides advantages over old vaccine production methods that relied on culturing viruses within eggs. Cell-based technology allows for increased vaccine efficacy and makes it possible for manufacturing facilities to produce multiple vaccine products at the same time.

Marriage of Biology and Computation Power

The scientific discipline of bioinformatics sequences DNA, which produces RNA messengers to carry out its functions. Modern advances in computational power speed this process and help researchers learn how to manipulate the immune response. As a result, scientists increasingly have the means of controlling dangerous viruses, like coronavirus and Ebola. In terms of vaccine production, the new method increases vaccine yields, purity, and potency.

The breakthroughs resulting from bioinformatics and mRNA will require a new generation of production equipment, including bioreactors and fermenters. Demand for such vaccines will be high around the world due to the devastation and economic disruption caused by outbreaks and pandemics.

Vast Potential Beyond Coronavirus

The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has focused the global research and pharmaceutical industries on vaccine development and production. Science could bring many viruses under control, such as Zika, Epstein-Barr, or Lassa. The massive global efforts that delivered a coronavirus vaccine in under a year will also be called upon as new viruses emerge. Variations of influenza could threaten human populations at any time.

Higher Demand for Refrigeration Equipment

At this point, mRNA vaccines must be stored and transported at extremely low temperatures. The Pfizer vaccine must be kept at -70 Celsius, and the Moderna vaccine needs a temperature of -20 Celsius. Pfizer already maintains massive freezer farms for holding vaccines.

As the global population continues to cope with coronavirus and future threats, refrigeration manufacturers could experience greater demand for their products. Let us know if your industry expects additional business due to the ballooning growth of vaccine production.

ABOUT Pfizer

We help protect as many people as possible from life-threatening illness with quality vaccines that make an impact across all stages of life by combining unrelenting passion, global impact, and an enduring quest for progress to unlock the promise and value that vaccines hold for our world.

Our passion for science, for delivering excellence, and for people’s health drive bold advancements in Research and Design (R&D) and high-quality manufacturing to consistently make a meaningful impact on public health. Passion drives our organization and permeates everything we do.

From our research scientists to our business operations teams, Pfizer Vaccines is comprised of passionate, world-class employees who work every day to translate cutting-edge science into next-generation vaccines that improve people’s lives.

ABOUT Moderna

Every cell in the body uses mRNA to provide real-time instructions to make the proteins necessary to drive all aspects of biology, including in human health and disease.

Given its essential role, we believe mRNA could be used to create a new category of medicines with significant potential to improve the lives of patients.

We are pioneering a new class of medicines made of messenger RNA, or mRNA. The potential implications of using mRNA as a drug are significant and far-reaching and could meaningfully improve how medicines are discovered, developed, and manufactured.

Since our founding in 2010, we have worked to build the industry’s leading mRNA technology platform, the infrastructure to accelerate drug discovery and early development, a rapidly expanding pipeline, and a world-class team.

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GM Announces Plans To Launch Self-Driving Taxis As Early As 2019

General Motors (GM) has announced ambitious plans for a 2019 commercial launch of autonomous taxis, which the company aims to release in multiple cities. Described as a direct challenge to other autonomous vehicle tech ventures, including Alphabet Inc’s Waymo and Uber Technologies, the move represents a large step forward for prevalence of self-driving vehicles in everyday life.

FileCruise Automation Bolt EV third generation in San Franciscojpg

Image Source: Wikimedia

Autonomous Taxis In A Matter Of Months

With the success of the electric Chevrolet Bolt, its acquisition of Cruise Automation last year, and its $500 million investment in ride-sharing company Lyft also in 2016, GM’s move into the autonomous ride-hauling service race isn’t much of a surprise, but their claim that they can make this roll-out a reality in such a short time has turned a lot of heads. “If we continue on our current rate of change we will be ready to deploy this technology, in a large scale, in the most complex environments, in 2019,” GM President Dan Ammann said.

A Goal For Safe, Low-Cost Transportation

Ammann also stated that safety would be the deciding factor on when driverless taxis ultimately hit city streets. GM did not name specific locations for their launch but for “dense urban environments”. They have also stressed the economic benefits for riders. GM’s CFO Chuck Stevens has said that with the launch of their autonomous taxis, “We have a path to take 40 percent of the cost out of ride services,” taking charges to less than $1 per mile by 2025 compared to roughly $2.50 per mile today according to a Reuters’ report.

Image Source: The Detroit News

Who Will Win The Self-Driving Race?

While GM has the right umbrella of capabilities to make this type of autonomous launch a reality in less than two years, Uber, Waymo, and other companies are closing in on the race to get autonomous taxis deployed in major cities and adjacent suburbs. Whatever company will be most successful with their brand is not yet clear, but one thing appears sure: public access to autonomous vehicles is just around the corner.


What are your thoughts on GM’s plans? Comment and tell us what you think of this story.

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Artificial Muscles May Create A Softer, Stronger Robot

Most robots are comprised of metal and hard plastic, which ensures their stability but it’s not always the most ideal structure for more dynamic strength and safe interaction with humans. A new type of robot “muscle” could serve to remedy those limitations while expanding capabilities.

Image Source: Wired

Origami-Inspired With Enhanced Strength

Researchers at the Wyss Institute of Harvard and MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) recently announced the creation of artificial muscles that can be incorporated into a range of robotic skeletons and enable them to greatly extend their lifting capabilities. The structure of the muscle system has been inspired by the complex geometric folds of origami creations. The muscle is able to lift 1000 times its own weight and is meant to be filled with a layer of air or water, which enables it to function based on controlled variations in pressure.

Image Source: Wired

Flexible And Inexpensive

The vacuum maintained within the layers of the muscle system helps balance strength with a softer touch. The system is fairly versatile and can be closely fitted to a robot’s skeletal frame, as it requires only air and water to function under the control of the vacuum. This also contributes to their lower cost—researchers state that a muscle can be created in roughly ten minutes with fabric or plastic-based materials that cost less than a dollar.


Will this system help give future robots a more deft touch with greatly enhanced strength? Comment and tell us your thoughts on this development.

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