Eventually, robots will have to be given legal rights—and accept certain responsibilities—if advances in artificial intelligence (AI) continue to create sensitive quasi-organisms, according to a paper solicited for Sir David King, the UK’s chief scientist. According to one AI researcher, “If [robots are] granted full rights, states will be obligated to provide full social benefits to them including income support, housing and possibly robo-healthcare to fix the machines over time.” A December Financial Times report on the paper noted that robots might also have to pay taxes and be available for military service. Some of the ideas in the paper track visions described years ago by writer Isaac Asimov.
KARL MALDEN LIVES!
Many voters, and critics in both parties, chided the “do-nothing” 109th Congress (2005-2006) as a body tied up in partisanship and divisiveness. However, the Congress did manage to pass 383 pieces of legislation, except that almost 100 of those laws were merely authorizations to name post offices and other federal structures after famous Americans like Ray Charles, Ava Gardner and Karl Malden.
HOT PANDA LOVE
One trick that zookeepers have used to get male pandas interested in mating with dowdier females (according to a December dispatch from Sichuan, China, in Australia’s The Age) is to let an attractive female roam around a pen, leaving her scent, and then, in darkness, with the male in the pen and frisky at the scent, to introduce the less attractive female into the pen, back-end first, so that the pre-excited male will quickly begin copulating. Said zookeeper Zhang Hemin, “When the males find out [that they’ve just mated with unintended partners], they get very angry and start fighting the female. We have had to use firecrackers and a water hose to separate them.”
From the Arizona Daily Sun (Flagstaff, Ariz., 12-3-06): “About 1,800 square feet of insulation were reported stolen from the underside of a house on the 5100 block of East Hickory Drive. The victim said the insulation disappeared sometime between September and this week. She said she was having trouble keeping her house warm as the weather got colder.”
ETHICS IN TEXAS
The Texas Ethics Commission ruled in November that a public official in the Lone Star state, receiving money as a gift such as from a lobbyist, need disclose only that he received “a check” or “currency” and need not reveal the actual amount of money. Said the outraged district attorney in Austin, it is now “perfectly legal to report the gift of ‘a wheelbarrow’ without reporting that the wheelbarrow was filled with cash.”
John Sheehan, 33, was arrested in November, nude, near the rapid-transit station in El Cerrito, Calif., and when asked if he was carrying contraband, admitted that he had a “screwdriver” in his rectum. Police treated the item as a potential weapon, training guns on him while he removed the six-inch-long awl wrapped in electrical tape. A week later, in Monkwearmouth, England, a 22-year-old Iraq-war veteran told buddies he was bored and, imitating a prank from Jackass, inserted a firework “up his backside,” according to a Daily Mail story, and lit it. He was later taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital with a scorched colon and other serious injuries. MTW