Monthly Archives: May 2009

Gaming & Robotics Summer Camp For Youth

Greetings! We are now accepting applications for 101 Technology Fun, a summer research camp for youth to learn how to:

  • design and program robots using Lego Mindstorms NXT and Pico Cricket
  • make computer games and virtual worlds
  • create digital videos and photos
  • be a technology researcher in a groundbreaking UBC study

We welcome ALL youth to apply and no previous experience is necessary. EXTREME FUN is a must!! Registration is complimentary for all selected participants. A delicious lunch and nutritious snacks will be provided daily.

CAMP DATES: July 20-24  –or–  July 27-31 (9am-3pm)

Step 1:
Download this application form
Step 2: Please email your completed application to

FOR MORE INFO: Please view the 101 TECHNOLOGY FUN Information Kit.

AGE 15+ We have an ADVANCED ROBOTIC camp that may interest you.

Please contact Fareed Teja or PJ Rusnak with your questions and/or comments.

Do we want machines making moral decisions?

What are you reading these days? I’m slowly turning the pages of Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right From Wrongby Wendell Wallach & Colin Allen (2009). An excerpt to share:

“Does humanity really want computers making morally important decisions? Many philosophers of technology have warned about humans abdicating responsibility to machines. Movies and magazines are filled with futuristic fantasies regarding the dangers of advanced forms of artificial intelligence. Emerging technologies are always easier to modify before they become entrenched. However it is not often possible to predict accurately the impact of a new technology on society until well after it has been widely adopted. Some critics think, therefore, that we should err on the side of caution, and relinquish the development of potentially dangerous technologies. We believe, however, that market and political forces will prevail and will demand the benefits that these technologies can provide. Thus, it is incumbent upon anyone with a stake in this technology to address head-on the task of implementing moral decision making in computers, robots and virtual bots within computer networks.”

Eeeeeek! Introducing the emerging (and rapidly expanding) field of robot ethics, Wallach & Allen convincingly argue that as robots take on more and more responsibility, they must be programmed with moral responsibility and moral decision-making abilities. The authors think that even if moral agency for machines is a long way away, it is necessary to start building a functional kind of morality in which artificial moral agents possess basic ethical sensitivity (as robots are already engaged in high-risk situations, such as the Predator drones and the more heavily armed Reaper drones now flying in Pakistan).

Yes, we need to examine, design and create more socially engaged robots and machines that are capable of telling right from wrong. However, if today’s ethical theories and human values are not adequate for living well in the world, then there will be subsequent challenges building artificial moral agents to think and act virtuously. For I believe the problem is not with our technology, the problem is with the people using/designing technology.

Despite all of the remarkable achievements of a technologically advanced society, humans are still a conflicting mix of genius/stupidity; love/self-hatred; peace/anger; wealth/poverty; modesty/narcissism; desire/delusion… I have yet to meet someone who has not suffered, who has no problems nor self-destructing habits, who has no worries. Historically speaking, religion has offered The Way, The Truth and The Light for contending with the evils of the human race, the problems of human suffering, and human death. Technology is now beginning to realize the dreams of theology, and I find this spiritually unnerving…

Can we build intelligent machines with a morality that surpasses our flawed human morality? If human-autonomy for robots is possible, should it be allowed? Else, do we want our robots to be forever relegated to a slave morality such that they will never make choices that are harmful to humanity nor threaten human dominion over the world?


Bethinged [bedingt]


Depending on whose numbers you look at, gaming is now a 30 billion dollar industry that is rapidly growing and evolving worldwide. These emergent and pervasive games are not only major cultural forces and ontological worlds that we inhabit, they are also ethical phenomenathat demand our ethical attention and our ethical scrutiny. Some questions that I am thinking about:

  1. What makes games ethical phenomena?
  2. Does the game design process present new ethical issues to be explored and developed?
  3. What kinds of ethical issues and moral responsibilities are raised by gaming technologies?
  4. How can we think about the relationships between games and the good life for individuals as well as for cultural quality more broadly?

Assuming that we come to know ourselves through our experiences, then what might your gaming experiences (or lack thereof) teach you about yourself? What might be revealed about your ethical being-in-the-world in-interaction-with the technological? How are you bethinged by technological things thinging (simultaneously dependent upon, indifferent to, immersed in and inhabited by technology)? 

We are all members of one human family, sharing one fragile home within a vast infinity of technological possibilities. When you rewind back through gaming’s world history, what do you see? Fast forward to the future: will we look back with dignity or with indignity for what gaming technologies are, how they evolved and how we made them to be?


New ways of Being with Technology: Beggar Robots

Increasingly, the marginalized and materially deprived are not allowed to ask for money in public spaces, and the well-off are remiss to give money to the homeless. However, what if the beggar is a robot?

The Beggar Robot project designed by Pavle & Sašo Sedlacek tests the hypothesis that the “haves” of society will show more sympathy to the “have-nots” if they communicate from a safe distance via a technological interface. Socially excluded people can rent the Beggar Robot for a day and exploit the possibilities of technology to beg for $$$ in the name of the poor.

The Beggar Robot 1.0 was first tested in 2006 in the biggest shopping center in Ljubljana, Slovenia (where they do not allow humans to beg, but excitedly and curiously welcomed the Beggar Robot). Beggar Robot 2.0 is now bringing robotic charity to public spaces in other countries, adapting to the local context and language using open source software. Built using scrap parts recycled from junkyards and second hand stores, the Beggar Robot bears a consciousness for a world dominated by the ideology of endless development. Will we start to see Beggar Robots of the Next Generation on every street corner in the future? What happens when the novelty wears off?

Ingredients for “Žicar/Beggar”
2 – 4 old computer boxes
Accumulator or Computer power supply (both can be included)
1 or 2 CD-rom units for hands
Small TV
Sensor of motion
DVD or WHS player
1.5 A voltage regulator 12/5 V=
Inverter 12V=/220V Hz 100W
Relay 220V Hz
Pulser 0-20 sec. and Relay 12V=
Amplifier for speakers (optional)

More info: