Autonomy and Robotics

A Machine-Driven Way to the Stars

September 27, 2011

Are humans ever likely to go to the stars? The answer may well be yes, but probably not if we’re referring to flesh-and-blood humans aboard a starship. That’s the intriguing conclusion of Keith Wiley (University of Washington), who brings his background in very large computing clusters and massively parallel image data processing to bear on […]

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Artificial Intelligence Among the Stars

May 5, 2010

Talk of a ‘singularity’ in which artificial intelligence reaches such levels that it moves beyond human capability and comprehension plays inevitably into the realm of interstellar studies. Some have speculated, as Paul Davies does in The Eerie Silence, that any civilization we make contact with will likely be made up of intelligent machines, the natural […]

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Growing the Interstellar Probe

May 26, 2009

Centauri Dreams reader Brian Koester passed along a link to a provocative video last month that spurs thoughts about the nature of interstellar probes. The video is a TED talk delivered by Paul Rothemund in 2007. For those not familiar with it, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, a conference that began in 1984 and […]

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New Earths: A Crossroads Moment

April 16, 2009

A symposium called Crossroads: The Future of Human Life in the Universe seems timely about now (the site has been down all morning but should be up soon). With the Kepler mission undergoing calibration and CoRoT actively searching for small extrasolar worlds, we’re probably within a few dozen months of the detection of an Earth-like […]

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Mulling Robots and Their Names

March 17, 2007

Lee Gutkind takes a look at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon in Almost Human: Making Robots Think (W.W. Norton, 2007), a book entertainingly reviewed in this weekend’s Los Angeles Times. Out of which this wonderful clip from reviewer M.G. Lord: I wish Gutkind had spent more time on an area that I find fascinating: […]

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Deep Water and Europa

March 3, 2007

If humans ever do establish a presence on Europa, it will surely be somewhere under the ice. Assuming, that is, that the ice isn’t too thick, and to learn about that we have to await further study, and probably a Galilean moon orbiter of some kind that can observe Europa up close and for lengthy […]

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A Human Future Among the Stars?

February 15, 2007

Speaking at the Space Technology and Applications International Forum (STAIF 2007) in Albuquerque yesterday, space historian Roger Launius questioned whether the idea of a human future in interstellar space is still relevant. From a USA Today story: “We may already be Cyborgs,” Launius pointed out, looking out into an audience filled with people wearing glasses, […]

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Toward a Soft Machine

January 26, 2007

When Project Daedalus was being designed back in the 1970s, the members of the British Interplanetary Society who were working on the starship envisioned it being maintained by ‘wardens,’ robots that would keep crucial systems functional over the 50-year mission to Barnard’s Star. Invariably, that calls up images of metallic machines, stiff in construction and […]

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Deep Space Challenge: Shrinking the Tools

November 10, 2006

Shrinking our instrumentation is one of the great hopes for extending spacecraft missions into the Kuiper Belt and beyond. No matter what kind of propulsion system we’re talking about, lower payload weight gets us more bang for the buck. That’s why a new imaging system out of Rochester Institute of Technology catches my eye this […]

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Of Consciousness and the Machine

August 9, 2006

Igor Aleksander (University College, London) is a specialist in neural systems engineering who is working on emerging consciousness in machines, a process he calls ‘more basic’ than artificial intelligence. Velcro City Tourist Board offers up an interview with Aleksander that gets into models of the mind and the meaning of consciousness itself. A snippet: “There’s […]

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