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Topsight, February 12, 02008

fashionarm.pngBecause "Bottomsight" just sounds too naughty.

• Hot Cyborg Action: Industrial designer Hans Alexander Huseklepp wondered what would happen if you took the modern design aesthetic seen in simple prosthetics like eyeglasses, and applied it to more sophisticated prosthetics, like arms. The result appears to the right.

Those of us who have worn glasses for quite some time know that the range of eyeglass styles available now are just orders of magnitude more interesting and appealing than those of a couple of decades ago. Modern glasses help to create an identity and make a fashion statement in ways that would have been simply unimaginable in the past.

It's unlikely that there's enough of a customer base for fashion prosthetic limbs, but -- as I've noted in the past -- the application of modern technological and design principles to the world of adaptive systems can be revolutionary.

• Massively Multiplayer Bank Robbery: A coordinated mass attack stole over $9 million from 130 automated teller machines in 49 cities around the world, including Hong Kong, Chicago, Montreal, and Moscow over the course of 30 minutes. Apparently it required a scam of a payroll service company that provided paycards usable in any ATM. While there are security camera photos of the people who actually hit the machines, they're generally considered to be "cashers," not the people behind the robbery.

Let's see... mass-attack on a security flaw in a networked system? Sounds like the Griefer Future is rolling along nicely.

• Mars Needs Rangers: New Scientist asks, Should Mars be treated like a wildlife preserve?

My take: if life is found, definitely. No question. If fossilized life is found, also definitely, since that could mean dormant life, waiting for a Mars Spring.

If there's no evidence of past or present life found... the question becomes more difficult. I always kind of sympathized with the Reds over the Greens in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, but I also believe that establishing a human foothold off of Earth is a wise long-term survival strategy.

Could we justify changing the Martian climate, knowing that -- as with Earth -- such changes are irreversible?

• Oh, This Will End Well: Robot brains able to evolve to meet new conditions:

The robot is controlled by a neural network - software that mimics the brain's learning process. This comprises a set of interconnected processing nodes which can be trained to produce desired actions. [...] Finding the best combinations is not easy - so roboticists often use an evolutionary algorithm to "evolve" the optimal control system. The EA randomly creates large numbers of control "genomes" for the robot. These behaviour patterns are tested in training sessions, and the most successful genomes are "bred" together to create still better versions - until the best control system is arrived at.

MacLeod's team took this idea a step further, however, and developed an incremental evolutionary algorithm (IEA) capable of adding new parts to its robot brain over time.

Nice. Look, if you don't want rampaging robots stealing your medicine, don't give them the capacity to alter their own brains! Sheesh. Just what we need.

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