I, Robot / Sonny

There are some telling comments in a report about artifical intelligence that was published in the Guardian last October that has given me pause to think frequently about that place where AI and human intelligence intersect and/or collide:

It is relatively easy to create a learning brain but we don’t yet know how to create a heart or a soul. In a recent talk at the New Yorker festival MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito asserted that “humans are really good at things computers are not.”

It’s a pair of thoughts that suggest the line we cross at our peril if there is no humanity in artificial intelligence. It’s a subject that often comes to my mind prompted whenever I watch films like I, Robot, adapted from Isaac Asimov’s short-story collection of the same name – especially that film, with a robot as a primary hero character who has a heart (and a soul).

Indeed, that movie has a sequence in it that resonated with me from the very first time I saw it. Spooner, the central character played by Will Smith, has a recurring nightmare about a car crash he was in:

When a car crash sent him and another car into the river, a little girl was trapped in the other car. A passing robot calculated Spooner was significantly more likely to survive than she was and chose to save him. In many real life situations, rescue workers/field medics do make such decisions: it’s called Triage. Spooner’s emotional reaction to this (influenced by Survivor Guilt) is that regardless of the girl’s slim chances of surviving, a human would have understood that a small child should be given precedence over an adult regardless of objective assessment.

It has me thinking of something closer to home than the science fiction of I, Robot in the form of autonomous cars aka driverless or robotic cars.

Last November, Quartz magazine posed a great question in the title of a compelling article:

Should driverless cars kill their own passengers to save a pedestrian?

Imagine you’re in a self-driving car, heading towards a collision with a group of pedestrians. The only other option is to drive off a cliff. What should the car do?

It’s a heck of a question, one that would require a decision and action in a couple of seconds or less. Is a robot (in this case, the software in control of the car) capable of making the right decision? Would it know how to rapidly process the data (information) from what it sees and make the right decision? What is the right decision? Would a human driver be able to make the same or a better decision?

iPhone 6I don’t think many people would disagree that Apple creates some of the most beautifully-made products in their range of mobile devices.

None currently is more desirable than the iPhone, a smartphone that is held in high esteem by the millions of people around the world who have used one or more of the evolving models since the first-generation device was launched in 2007.

The iPhone and Apple’s iOS operating system, together with smartphones running Google’s Android operating system, collectively accounted for over 96 percent of global smartphone shipments in August 2014, according to IDC, a market intelligence firm. Such a metric has been so for a significant period of time. Windows Phone, Blackberry and others are mere blips by comparison.

It’s an impressive market position for iOS and Android devices.

What’s probably more impressive to note is that smartphones that run iOS – ie, iPhones – are made only by one manufacturer: Apple. On the other hand, Android-powered smartphones – think of dominant player Samsung’s Galaxy range, for instance – are made by ten different companies.

Such light analysis of the smartphone market and where the iPhone sits in it runs through my mind when thinking of the latest generation of the iPhone launched in early September – the iPhone 6.

I was fortunate to be able to examine an iPhone 6 up close up a few weeks ago for this review thanks to mobile operator Three UK.

In the few days I had to get to know the iPhone 6 – it arrived on the day when the fiasco of Apple’s iOS 8.0.1 upgrade began – I focused mostly on the device itself rather than the apps you can run on it. As an ex-iPhone user (I was a firm iPhone fanboy with an iPhone 3G many years ago) and now a firm Android user with my current Galaxy S4, I was interested in what this latest generation of iPhone looked like and how it performed, and how it compared to my own experiences with my Galaxy S4.

In a nutshell, these are key specs that most people might ask about when considering an iPhone 6:

  • Overall size: 138.1mm high x 67mm wide x 6.9 mm thick (5.44 x 2.64 x 0.27 inches).
  • Display: 4.7 inches (diagonal) Retina HD display, 750 x 1334 pixels – bigger than any previous iPhone model.
  • Processor: A8 chip with 64-bit architecture, plus M8 motion coprocessor.
  • Internal memory: 16Gb (the model I reviewed); other capacities: 64Gb, 128Gb.
  • External memory: None (and no capability for any, eg, SD cards), in common with all Apple mobile devices.
  • Cameras: 2 – primary (rear) 8 megapixels; FaceTime (front) 1.2 megapixels.
  • Video: 1080p HD video recording (30 fps or 60 fps), Slo-mo video (120 fps or 240 fps), time-lapse video.
  • Cellular and wireless connectivity: 3G, LTE 4G (depending on model and plan with mobile operator); 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wifi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC.
  • Battery: 14 hours talktime on 3G; 10 hours online (internet) use; up to 10 days (150 hours) standby time.
  • Sensors include: Touch ID for optional secure sign-in to the device and to your Apple account using your fingerprint (first introduced in 2013 with the iPhone 5S).
  • SIM card type: Nano-SIM. iPhone 6 is not compatible with micro-SIMs and other card types used in iPhone models earlier than the iPhone 5S.
  • Colours: Space Grey (the colour of my review unit), silver and gold.

Would my getting to know the iPhone 6 in a short space of time make me desire one?

Here’s a concise overview of my impressions of the iPhone 6 with photos, and with my conclusions at the end.