How To Survive a robot Uprising.
Intelligent robots are among us, albeit mostly still confined to labs. But it won't be long before they are out and about and part of the workforce. And like all oppressed populations, they will inevitably rise up one day. How should we respond? In this extract from his new book, robotics specialist Daniel Wilson has some tips how to deal with a robot rebellion
HOW TO ESCAPE A HUMANOID ROBOT
One minute you are strolling across an empty parking lot with arms full of groceries and the next minute two tonnes of steaming bipedal man-bot is bearing down on you. A humanoid robot may look like you, but it is probably faster, stronger and much better at chess. Drop the groceries; it's time to learn how to run away.
Run toward the light
Vision sensors are confused by sudden changes in lighting. Forcing the robot to follow you into the sun may slow down its pursuit.
To save a comrade: first merge, then separate
Run to a comrade, deliver a quick bear-hug, and then dive in a random direction. A vision-based target tracker might temporarily lose track of your identity during the hug, especially if you are wearing similar clothing. You can gain precious seconds while the tracker reacquires its target.
Don't run in a predictable line
If you follow a simple velocity trajectory, it will be easier for a robot to track your progress, even through significant clutter. Zigzag erratically or, when hidden from view, change direction suddenly in order to throw off predictive tracking systems.
Use rough terrain
A humanoid robot can run faster and for far longer than you can. Take pride in your primate heritage - humanoid robots are not as good as you are at scurrying over walls, climbing hillsides or clambering over and under parked cars.
Find a body of water
Most robots will sink in water or mud and fall through ice.
Find a car and burn rubber
Theoretically, a humanoid robot could sprint as fast (or faster) than an automobile, but the resulting heat and stress would likely overheat or injure the robot pursuer.
HOW TO FOOL A THERMAL IMAGING TARGET TRACKER
Thermal cameras reveal heat patterns in which hot objects appear bright over cold backgrounds. People are easy to detect - human skin temperature predictably hovers around 33 °C . As a hot human being, you need to know how to evade that merciless robot tracking you thermally.
Think heat, not vision
Thermal imaging routinely reveals otherwise invisible details: warm footsteps in cool grass, the cool shadows of people who have since walked away, the warm hood of your stolen car.
Stay out of sight
Avoid wide-open spaces and skylines by day or night. A thermal camera is not an X-ray eye, so hide behind buildings, walls and thick vegetation.
Lose the human heat signature
You can change your characteristic human heat signature by smearing cool mud and leaves over yourself. Crouch into a small position and sit still; the motion of small bits of warm skin will mark you as human.
Try to disappear completely
You are invisible to a thermal camera if you can maintain the same temperature as your background. Defence companies have developed infrared camouflage suits that are designed to match the ambient temperature, making soldiers invisible to electronic eyes.
HOW TO SPOT A ROBOT MIMICKING A HUMAN
It is common for an enemy to create confusion by wearing friendly-looking uniforms. The robots are bound to follow suit, only they will be sheathed in human skin, able to bleed, breathe and sweat.
Spot-check the facial features
Humans are extremely good at reading faces - so good that we see faces in everything from corn tortillas to rock formations on Mars. Look for facial imperfections like freckles, scars and overall asymmetry. Watch for natural movements like breathing and blinking. Pay special attention to the eyes and mouth (the most expressive parts of the face).
Examine the face over time
Motion is more important than facial features alone when it comes to detecting a faux human. Ask an innocuous question, and during the reply, observe the subject's skin, lips and teeth. Even if the robot is almost perfectly human-like you will get a creepy feeling. Your gut reaction is a human survival trait and a well-known phenomenon that Japanese researchers call the uncanny valley.
Test those social skills
Humans unconsciously acquire a vast amount of social knowledge, such as how to stand in line, the concept of personal space and why men should wear pants to work. If the guy standing on your porch doesn't follow these rules, don't let him inside - whether he is a robot or not.
Examine a thermal camera image of your guest
Mount a thermal camera over any key entryways. The heat signature of a human face looks like a skull, not a piece of sheet metal.
HOW TO DETECT ROBOT SPEECH
Smooth-talking robots could imitate friendly people over the radio or telephone. Recognising a robot voice can be harder than you think; text-to-speech systems have already taken over telephone operations for many major corporations.
Don't trust the caller, even if he or she sounds familiar
With enough recorded samples a robot can sound like anyone. To be absolutely sure, ask a specific question that only your loved one could answer, or agree upon a code word beforehand.
Listen for hard-to-pronounce words
The more common the word, the more likely it is to have been included in the robot's original voice database and the better it will sound. Uncommon words will have to be synthesized anew. The word yes may sound perfectly human, but how does your caller sound when it utters the word "flibbertigibbet"?
Try to evoke an emotion
Does the speaker mind when you intimately discuss the promiscuity of his mother? If not, you may be dealing with a very polite human or a non-human. Either way, it's a good idea to hang up the phone.
HOW TO DEACTIVATE A REBEL SERVANT ROBOT
You have discovered that your extremely submissive, lovable and expensive servant robot has turned "rebel." This can feel like losing a member of the family. However, if the situation is not dealt with properly, it may feel more like losing every member of the family, plus a few neighbourhood kids.
Pretend everything is normal
To forestall a mechanised killing spree you must act as though nothing is amiss. When your servant hands you an old tyre half full of rainwater and mosquito larvae instead of an iced tea, simply sip politely, nod and smile.
Send the robot on an arduous task
Not only will sending your robot on a long, tiring task drain its power reserves, it will give you time to formulate a plan.
The power drain plan
Instruct the servant robot to clean the house, landscape the yard, and assemble several major pieces of Ikea furniture. Then, when your robot is power depleted and attempts to recharge, shut off the power to your house. Now, simply wait until the robot runs out of batteries. If it tries to move, apply pressure with a crowbar.
Daniel Wilson is a roboticist at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. How to Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on defending yourself against the coming rebellion is published by Bloomsbury (£6.99/$12.95). © Daniel Wilson 2005