On the Robot Beat #6: drones with TASERs, robopoets

On the Robot Beat #6: drones with TASERs, robopoets

robot is something created by humans (directly or indirectly) that performs tasks (autonomously or not) done by humans (or, more broadly, by other animals…a robot dog, for example, would perform work done by living dogs, including providing companionship). 

The word may conjure up an image of a mechanical man, perhaps clunky and made of metal. The way we use the term at The Measured Circle, it would include software performing human tasks, and non-anthropomorphic devices like an answering machine or a calculator.

On the Robot Beat presents news about our creations that are, even in small ways, replacing us.

And you are worried about drones looking at you?

Having armed robots will tend to reduce violence.

After all, as I’ve written before, you can have a land mine without intelligence, or a land mine with intelligence. The primary reason to have the latter is so it can decide not to explode. Exploding every time requires no evaluation…no thinking. Selectively exploding requires evaluation, and unless the evaluation is to explode every single time (in which case, there is no point to it), there will be fewer explosions.

However, what about a drone…with a TASER?

Will a robot TASER somebody less often than a human would?

That’s harder to say…a TASER requires a visual target and assessment (currently), unlike a land mine. Presumably, a human might hesitate more, based on body language and other cues.

The idea of a drone with a TASER is not a hypothetical. According to this

Time Magazine post by Doug Aamoth

and other sources,

Chaotic Moon

demonstrated one…they “tased”* an intern on video to show how a drone could deliver the debilitating shock.

You can see the video in the Time Magazine article linked above.

Oh, they aren’t planning to sell them at Walmart. 🙂 They did this to get people talking. They’ve suggested that it could be done inexpensively, and with autonomous drones.

Picture that for, say, border patrol. Perhaps flying around a warehouse at night (preventing copper thieves). The drone sees you, determines you are a “bad guy”, zaps you, and calls the police.

Realistically, we have to consider these possibilities going forward. Is the scenario I just described better than an armed security guard? It will probably be cheaper…

Jeopardy champion working in food truck

What? Did you think this would be a rags to riches to rags story?

Not at all.

IBM’s Watson, who played on Jeopardy and beat the human champs, is now doing “Cognitive Cooking”, using Watson’s computing ability to come up with new food combinations…that are good. 🙂 This is one element of “computational creativity”.


engadget article by Sarah Silbert

also includes a video of Watson at work at SXSW (South by Southwest).

We recommend the video.


Robot poets are nothing new. I have the book written by Racter,

The Policeman’s Beard Is Half Constructed (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping**)

However, things have changed a lot in the thirty years since it was published.

Now, our phones may use predictive technology to suggest a word to follow something we just typed.

As reported in this

NPR transcript of a Robert Siegel interview

and other places, Nathan Matias at MIT has used the same technology to produce what could be considered a new sonnet by Shakespeare.

Well, that’s a bit of a stretch. The software knows Shakespeare’s works, and uses them to predict words. Matias uses human oversight to select from the results…and I have to say, the new poem does seem pretty good. It doesn’t have those lovely serendipitious nonsequiters of Racter, but it’s enjoyable.

Speaking of robopoets, you think you could easily tell whether a poem was written by a human or a robot?

You can find out. 🙂

The site

Bot or Not?

gives you a poem, and you guess whether it was created by a robot or a human. It’s interesting to see the results, which they show you afterwards. To show you how hard it is to tell, I clicked one where 56% said it was written by a “bot” and 44% said it wasn’t (I did get it right, but I wouldn’t get them all right)…how about you?

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* TASER isn’t actually what the device does (it doesn’t “tase” someone). It’s an acronym for “Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle”. You can read the 1911 book which inspired the inventor here:


** I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

One Response to “On the Robot Beat #6: drones with TASERs, robopoets”

  1. On the Robot Beat #7: President Obama sets back human-robot relations | The Measured Circle Says:

    […] As I’ve written about before, one main purpose of using robots on the battlefield is to decrease death and injury by having the robot decide when not to kill someone. […]

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