Thursday, November 09, 2006

Chipped bins

The following piece in Computer weekly made me laugh in the light of the ongoing row about councils fitting chips to wheelie bins. It is taken from the downtime section and is the weekly DPM's Diary entry for the week commencing 23rd October. DPM's diary is a weekly round up of events at Bodcaster City Council.


The first beta test for our Automated Recycling Support Environment project starts tomorrow. Existing wheelie bins in all the houses in Asimov Close, a modern development on the outskirts of the city, will be replaced by Dave's new versions. Each bin has satellite communications, providing masses of secured bandwidth, as well as global positioning correct to half a metre. Dave has this drinking partner who works in GCHQ... or is it News International? Not sure - I always get those two mixed up.

Anyway, the bins are motorised for movement, steering, lid function and tipping have an array of sensors to monitor both their content and their surroundings and an on-board computer loaded with our very latest AI software. Fortunately there is no way they can reproduce, otherwise, as our risk management projections show, they would take over as the dominant species on the planet within four years.


Big day today, with a lightly-clad young lady who plays a character in EastEnders officially opening the new scheme, and plenty of press coverage. The head of refuse services was interviewed on the one o'clock news, saying that this technology made Bogcaster a world leader. The bins were well behaved. But then we took care only to switch them on just before the opening. It takes a few hours for them to assess the situation and calibrate themselves.


Dave said that the bins are still operating to spec, although he had to log in to some of them to provide counselling.

"How do you mean?" I asked.

"Well," he said, "Imagine becoming conscious for the first time and having to come to terms with being a robotised rubbish bin. There's a lot of stress."


A number of the bins in Asimov Close have been e-mailing their host residents to introduce themselves and ask for favours, like polishing or greasing of the axle. Dave says this is part of their environmental conditioning and within behaviour parameters.


A few bins are already full and have successfully made the journey to the depot, emptied themselves and returned to the right place.

Worryingly though, two stopped off on the way back. One popped into the Dog and Dormouse and had six pints of lager, while another visited the bookies and put a tenner on Purple Patch in the 3.45pm at Newmarket.

The following week continues with more in the same vein:


Review meeting to discuss progress on the robotic bin project. The next stage should be a wider roll-out, but we need to be sure we have the risks under control.

There are signs that the AI engine is developing faster than anticipated. Dave had predicted that by limiting the processing power and storage in the on-board computers, the bins could never evolve more than primitive intelligence. And yet, after just a couple of weeks, the 150 bins in the beta test group have already evolved their own communication language, as well as mastering English, Polish and Mandarin.

Yesterday we discovered that they have their own religion, "Davidism", and have divided into three sociopolitical groupings. We have another 35,000 new bins waiting at the depot, but I decided it might be wise not to switch them on just yet.


I received an e-mail this morning from someone called Dusty who wants to know if he can have a week off to go to a waste management conference in Bracknell. Must be a robot, no human being would volunteer to go to Bracknell. I said sorry, but no he was to stay put and eat rubbish.


Usama Bin Loadin rang from the depot to say that the bins are on the move. Someone must have switched them on first thing this morning and, now their photovoltaic panels have had a chance to charge up their batteries, they are trundling through the gates. Anyone trying to stop them is attacked with snapping lids or is pushed to the ground. Is this the end of human mastery of the planet? Can we and the intelligent wheelie bins somehow find a way to coexist as equals?

and by this week they are ready to take over the planet


Surprisingly, there have been no further bad incidents over the weekend with our robotic wheelie bins. They have all taken up their appointed positions up and down the City, are dutifully accepting rubbish and telemetrically reporting loading details to the central database.
Perhaps the AI development has stopped? Dave does not think so. What he says is that they are still linking together global computer power across the net and have developed their own language to such an extent that he can no longer decode it.

Their conversations seem to be just too complex for us to understand. Dave reckons they are already 50 times more intelligent than us.


Dave and I had a meeting with the chief executive this morning. We tried to explain to him that the Automated Recycling Support Environment project, in creating a new technology to give robotic bins the ability to decide when they needed to empty themselves, has inadvertently created a new race with superior artificial intelligence.

"Great," he said, "when can you start on creating me some social workers, planners and housing benefits assessors?"


Dave is demanding that we arm ourselves and go around shooting our own wheelie bins. "Look...," I said, "how bad can it be? So they are clever, but it is not as if they have opposing thumbs. And the last time I looked at the drawings there was a complete absence of reproductive equipment.

"If any of them step too far out of line, we can just pull the connector to their solar panel recharger."


Came into the office this morning and two bins jumped me. I was pinned painfully between them and led to the desk where the monitor was already on. It flashed text at me at an incredible speed.
"Slow down!" I stammered. The flicking stopped. And the screen read, "Sorry. We will proceed one screen at a time so that your brain can have the time it needs to read and understand. Nod when you are ready to move to the next screen.

"Requirement 1. Meeting with your prime minister at 10am Monday morning..."


Nicola said...

Oh well spotted ......... you know I have a thing about these wheelie bins !

Tony Ferguson said...

I got that impression from posts on your blog