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When the robots take over, they’ll at least be able to give you a proper funeral

Image: Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

When the robot apocalypse comes, robots will be there to say a prayer over your frail human remains, thanks to Japan’s Softbank.

That’s the message from this week’s Tokyo Int’l Funeral & Cemetery Show, where Softbank’s Pepper robot demonstrated its ability to perform Buddhist funeral rites.

Draped in traditional Japanese funeral garb, Pepper not only presided over a faux death ceremony, it also chanted Buddhist sutras, taking over the usual role of a human monk during such ceremonies.

So far, Pepper isn’t actually performing any real funeral rites, but Japan’s Nissei Eco developed the funeral software for Pepper as an alternative when a Buddhist monk isn’t available, or when the family can’t afford the more expensive human practitioner (the service will cost about $450 versus the thousands of dollars usually spent for a human, according to CNBC).

Does it sound and look spooky as hell? Absolutely. But in Japan, where the elderly are beginning to outnumber children, cheap, automated funeral rites may soon become the norm.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/08/26/pepper-robot-funeral-ceremony-japan/

Elon Musk thinks AI will cause the third world war

Image: BEN MACMAHON/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

Folks, we’re all screwed.

Ever wondered if there would ever be another world war, and what will cause it?

Worry no more, as CEO of everything Elon Musk has the answer: artificial intelligence.

More precisely, “competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WW3,” he tweeted Monday.

It gets darker from there. In a subsequent tweet, Musk said that the war may not be initiated by the country leaders, but one of their AIs, which he apparently thinks will at one point become important enough to be able to make such decisions and act on them.

His comments come shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country that leads in AI will be the “ruler of the world.”

As for governments being slow and incapable of creating true innovation — a point raised by one Twitter user — Musk claims it doesn’t matter, as governments can obtain advanced AI by force.

In the discussion, Musk also gave some thoughts on North Korea’s latest nuclear experiments. He claims that North Korea would never launch a nuclear missile as that would be “suicide for their leadership.” The country’s not a huge threat, he opined, as it has “no entangling alliances” that would “polarize world into war.”

Musk’s obsession with the dangers of artificial intelligence is well documented. The entrepreneur, which has a significant business interest in AI through Neuralink, OpenAI, and Tesla, called for regulation of AI on several occasions. In July, he called AI “the greatest risk we face as a civilization;” in July, he had a mini-feud with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who in his opinion has a “limited understanding” of AI, and in August, he and a number of other experts in the field asked the UN to ban killer robots.

But World War 3? As one Twitter user pointed out, it’s too early in the day for this discussion.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/04/elon-musk-ai-world-war-3/

South Korea could be the first country in the world to implement a ‘robot tax’

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

Amid fears about robots replacing human jobs, South Korea could become the first country in the world to introduce a “robot tax.”

A new proposal could see the country reduce the amount of tax benefits for companies that invest in automated machinery.

So while it’s not exactly a direct tax on robots, it looks like the government is making investment in robotics less appealing for companies.

South Korea has the highest concentration of robots in the world, with 531 multipurpose industrial robots for every 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry.

“Though it is not about a direct tax on robots, it can be interpreted as a similar kind of policy considering that both involve the same issue of industrial automation,” an industry source told news outlet The Korea Times.

Currently, South Korean companies that invest in automation equipment can have up to 7 percent of their corporate tax rate deducted. The new ruling however, will see this cut by up to 2 percent.

But does South Korea really have a reason to be worried?

Perhaps so. The country’s unemployment rate hit a 17-year high earlier this year, with some 1.17 million jobless people.

It’s difficult to say if the increase in unemployment rate is actually linked to an increase in automation, but at the very least, the money saved from reducing the tax incentives could be channelled to welfare programs.

But this isn’t the first time the idea of a “robot tax” has been suggested.

In February, Bill Gates came out in favour of introducing similar measures, saying that working robots should be taxed at a similar rates to their human counterparts.

“For a human worker who does $50,000 worth of work in a factory, the income is taxed,” Gates had told news outlet Quartz.

“If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”

Gates was later criticised for his comments, with some saying he was “holding back progress.”

South Korea’s current tax laws are set to expire at the end of the year, after which the new proposals are expected to take effect.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/08/10/robots-south-korea/

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