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Scientists Are Using Books to Teach Robots About Morality

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In order to create robots that can understand ethical dilemmas and interact safely with humans, scientists are turning to one of the oldest methods of teaching morality: stories. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are developing an artificial intelligence system called “Quixote” that can read and comprehend the plots of written stories and then learn to act like socially appropriate protagonists instead of unlawful or psychotic antagonists.

“The collected stories of different cultures teach children how to behave in socially acceptable ways with examples of proper and improper behavior in fables, novels and other literature,” researcher Mark Riedl says. “We believe story comprehension in robots can eliminate psychotic-appearing behavior and reinforce choices that won’t harm humans and still achieve the intended purpose.”

The idea, according to Futurity, is to train A.I. systems to imitate the moral actions of the protagonists in stories. Quixote learns to identify moral behaviors in stories through a reward system that reinforces good actions and punishes bad. It’s a system based on Riedl’s earlier A.I. system, called “Scheherazade,” which analyzes story plots from the Internet. Quixote goes one step further, not just identifying plot elements, but evaluating characters’ actions.

Riedl and his team presented their new system at this year’s Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence meeting. Though Quixote is a work in progress, Riedl claims it could one day help robots make real-world decisions (for example, choosing to follow the law instead of committing a crime). 

“We believe that AI has to be enculturated to adopt the values of a particular society, and in doing so, it will strive to avoid unacceptable behavior,” Riedl says. “Giving robots the ability to read and understand our stories may be the most expedient means in the absence of a human user manual.”

[h/t Futurity]

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Hamilton Broadway
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A Hamilton-Themed Cookbook is Coming
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Hamilton Broadway

Fans of Broadway hit Hamilton will soon be able to dine like the Founding Fathers: As Eater reports, a new Alexander Hamilton-inspired cookbook is slated for release in fall 2017.

Cover art for Laura Kumin's forthcoming cookbook
Amazon

Called The Hamilton Cookbook: Cooking, Eating, and Entertaining in Hamilton’s World, the recipe collection by author Laura Kumin “takes you into Hamilton’s home and to his table, with historical information, recipes, and tips on how you can prepare food and serve the food that our founding fathers enjoyed in their day,” according to the Amazon description. It also recounts Hamilton’s favorite dishes, how he enjoyed them, and which ingredients were used.

Recipes included are cauliflower florets two ways, fried sausages and apples, gingerbread cake, and apple pie. (Cue the "young, scrappy, and hungry" references.) The cookbook’s official release is on November 21—but until then, you can stave off your appetite for all things Hamilton-related by downloading the musical’s new app.

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New Tolkien-Themed Botany Book Describes the Plants of Middle-Earth
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While reading The Lord of the Rings saga, it's hard not to notice J.R.R. Tolkien’s clear love of nature. The books are replete with descriptions of lush foliage, rolling prairies, and coniferous forests. A new botany book builds on that knowledge: Entertainment Weekly reports that Flora of Middle-Earth: Plants of J.R.R. Tolkien's Legendarium provides fantasy-loving naturalists with a round-up of plants that grow in Middle-earth.

Cover art for botanist Walter Judd's book
Oxford University Press

Written by University of Florida botanist Walter Judd, the book explores the ecology, etymology, and importance of over 160 plants. Many are either real—coffee, barley, wheat, etc.—or based on real-life species. (For example, pipe-weed may be tobacco, and mallorns are large trees similar to beech trees.)

Using his botany background, Judd explores why Tolkien may have felt compelled to include each in his fantasy world. His analyses are paired with woodcut-style drawings by artist Graham Judd, which depict Middle-earth's flowers, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and shrubs in their "natural" environments.

[h/t Entertainment Weekly]

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