Replacing humans with Teslabots isn't going to be an easy sell  

Replacing humans with Teslabots isn't going to be an easy sell  
The primary aim of Optimus is to eliminate dangerous, repetitive, boring tasks and is intended to be ‘friendly of course’. (Supplied)
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Updated 24 August 2021

Replacing humans with Teslabots isn't going to be an easy sell  

Replacing humans with Teslabots isn't going to be an easy sell  
  • The robots could do risky work, but need rules, says Saudi expert
  • Society and policy makers need to determine the rules that govern humanoid robots.

LONDON/JEDDAH: Elon Musk’s latest brainchild, a ‘friendly’ humanoid robot, sparked a social media frenzy following the announcement at his Tesla company’s AI day event last week. 

It has split fans and critics; those enthused by the technological advancement and those with Hollywood’s dystopian depictions of a world run by robots firmly rooted in their minds.

The latter never ends particularly well for humanity. In an ominous tone, Musk’s attempted assurances that the design would ensure a relatively slow, weak robot which ‘you can run away from’ may not assuage genuine fears of the impact the advancement of AI has on humanity.

YouTube co-founder, Chad Hurley, was skeptical the announcement was anything more than clever marketing by the Tesla CEO. He tweeted: “Hmm, autopilot still doesn’t work… how can we prop up the stock? Robots!”

The autopilot reference relates to the recent problems of Tesla’s autopilot partially automated driving systems in its cars. The U.S. authorities have begun an investigation covering hundreds of thousands of Tesla vehicles.

Chris Holm, scientist and author, took to Twitter to express his misgivings about the robot named Optimus. “Seems to me if you have to put a ‘it won’t murder you’ disclaimer on the announcement of your next big product, you’re already behind the eight-ball.”

Musk himself has in the past been vocal in his warnings that the proliferation of AI and its adoption by wider society would be akin to ‘summoning the devil’. 

He suggested that the pace at which AI would advance posed a ‘fundamental existential risk’. He is in good company here. The renowned English physicist Stephen Hawking remained fearful to the end that AI could ‘end mankind’ with the new form of life outperforming humans and destroying civilisation.

Dr. Mishaal Al-Harbi, chief operating officer at Riyadh-based Research Products Development, one of the leading robotics companies in the Kingdom and a support agency for developing R&D and commercializing academic research, said society and policy makers need to determine the rules that govern humanoid robots.

Researchers need to find ways to codify these rules into the AI that govern robots’ behavior and interactions with humans, he added.

“In terms of the humanoid, I remembered the famous science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, the Three Laws of Robotics that he introduced in his 1942 short story ‘The Runaround’ and those three rules basically addresses the rules for a robot in order to perform its duties or responsibilities without hurting humans,” Al-Harbi told Arab News.

The first rule is ‘a robot may not injure a human being or inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.’ 

“A robot must obey orders given to it by a human being except where such orders would conflict with the first law. The last rule is the robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first and the second one. This has been discussed in the 1940s but it still gives a basis basically of how much freedom we should give robots and AI,” he said.

The primary aim of Optimus is to eliminate dangerous, repetitive, boring tasks and is intended to be ‘friendly of course’. It will stand at 173cm tall and weigh 57 kilograms. 

Musk said the machine would be deliberately weak enough that most humans will be able to overpower it if needed. “You never know,” said Musk at the event. 

Al-Harbi explained that in future, Teslabots could conduct tasks that are too dangerous or risky for humans like search and rescues, or working in very hostile environments like mines.

 “There are a lot of areas where the robot can do a lot of good, but the challenge - this is something that also requires research and especially in AI -  is how can you allow the humanoids or robots to conduct their responsibilities within certain parameters and guidelines to prevent them from causing damage? 

“This is a technical issue, but also a philosophical issue that needs to be addressed in probably a separate track in AI research; how to enable this capability, to make sure that the robot does not do harm to others. I don’t see it as a threat, I see it as a challenge, and as long as people are working on this challenge then I believe a lot of good can come out of it,” he added.

While the announcement predictably also triggered a slew of memes across social media, TheVerge.com, a tech news site, went further suggesting the announcement was nothing more than pure theatrics from the flamboyant Tesla chief.

They described the announcement and stage antics of a dancer dressed as a robot as ‘a bizarre and brilliant bit of tomfoolery’ designed to mock Tesla’s critics and generate more publicity for the company.

At the earliest, it will be next year, when Musk said somewhat vaguely that he thought he’d “probably have a prototype,” before we have a better idea whether the entrepreneur was serious about the Teslabot or not.

Even if he wasn’t, others will be working on humanoid robots, and the rules Al-Harbi says we need will be required to apply to them as well.


US’s Lockheed Martin to design NASA space station

US’s Lockheed Martin to design NASA space station
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 16 sec ago

US’s Lockheed Martin to design NASA space station

US’s Lockheed Martin to design NASA space station
  • The company will be working on the Starlab project along with Nanoracks and Voyager Space

RIYADH: Lockheed Martin, the US-based aerospace company has confirmed it is one of three partners awarded a $160 million contract by NASA. 

As per the contract, the company is to design NASA’s Starlab commercial space station as part of the US agency’s Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Development program, Cobb County Courier reported. 

The company will be working on the Starlab project along with Nanoracks and Voyager Space. 

“Starlab is the confluence of Lockheed Martin’s rich space expertise and history, Nanoracks’ innovation, and Voyager’s financial savvy,” said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin.

“This team is equipped to aid NASA on its mission to expand access to LEO and to enable a transformative commercial space economy,” she added. 

Last month, the company appointed Robert Lightfoot as the new executive vice president of the Space business area as of Jan.1 2022. 


China’s economy expected to grow 5.3 percent in 2022, says govt think tank

China’s economy expected to grow 5.3 percent in 2022, says govt think tank
The main shopping street in Shanghai. Shutterstock.
Updated 06 December 2021

China’s economy expected to grow 5.3 percent in 2022, says govt think tank

China’s economy expected to grow 5.3 percent in 2022, says govt think tank
  • The world’s second-largest economy is expected to have expanded by about 8 percent this year

China’s economy expected to grow 5.3 percent in 2022, says govt think tank

China’s economy is expected to grow around 5.3 percent in 2022, bringing the average annual growth rate forecast for 2020-2022 to 5.2 percent, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), a top government think tank, said on Monday.


Advisers to the government will recommend that authorities set a 2022 economic growth target lower than the target set for 2021 of “above 6 percent,” Reuters reported, amid growing headwinds from a property downturn, weakening exports and strict COVID-19 curbs that have impeded consumption.


The world’s second-largest economy is expected to have expanded by about 8 percent this year, according to the annual blue book on the economy from CASS.

The think tank warned that the property downturn was likely to persist and weigh on the expenditures of local governments next year.


It urged the central government to proactively engineer a soft landing for the property sector, to avoid failed land auctions in big cities and to fend off risks of quickly falling property prices in smaller cities, the report said.


Alibaba appoints new CFO, reshuffles e-commerce businesses

Alibaba appoints new CFO, reshuffles e-commerce businesses
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 06 December 2021

Alibaba appoints new CFO, reshuffles e-commerce businesses

Alibaba appoints new CFO, reshuffles e-commerce businesses
  • Alibaba said that it would be creating an International Digital Commerce team to handle its e-commerce businesses in international markets

China’s largest e-commerce group Alibaba said Monday it is appointing a new chief financial officer and reorganizing its e-commerce businesses amid a regulatory crackdown in the technology industry.


The company said in a statement Monday that Toby Xu will succeed Maggie Wu as its new CFO from April 1, 2022. Xu joined Alibaba from PricewaterhouseCoopers three years ago and was appointed deputy group CFO in July 2019.


Wu, who has been Alibaba’s CFO since 2013 and has helped lead three Alibaba-related company listings, will continue to serve as an executive director on Alibaba’s board.


She will also remain as a partner in the Alibaba Partnership – a group of senior executives who have the right to nominate a simple majority of Alibaba’s board of directors.


“We are focused on the long-term, and succession within our management team on every occasion is always in the service of ensuring Alibaba will be stronger and better positioned for the future,” said Daniel Zhang, chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group.


Separately, Alibaba said that it would be creating an International Digital Commerce team to handle its e-commerce businesses in international markets. A China Digital Commerce team will be in charge of e-commerce operations inside China, according to a post on the company’s Alizila news hub.


The international and domestic digital commerce teams will be led by executives Jiang Fan and Trudy Dai respectively.


Jiang has been in charge of Taobao and Tmall, Alibaba’s core e-commerce sites in China. Dai was the firm’s chief customer officer.


The Hangzhou-based firm was fined a record $2.8 billion for antitrust violations and is under scrutiny as regulators step up oversight of the technology industry at a time when the economy is slowing.


Last month, Alibaba cut its sales outlook for the year amid mounting competition from rivals such as Pinduoduo. It expects growth for its current year to be the slowest since it listed in New York in 2014.


Alibaba’s flagship Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza also posted its slowest-ever growth this year, amid muted marketing campaigns and a shift to sustainability and philanthropy amid Chinese President Xi Jinping’s calls for “common prosperity.”


Alibaba’s New York stock price has plunged more than 50 percent over the last 12 months. The company’s Hong Kong-traded shares were down 4.9 percent Monday.


American, Lebanese restaurants lag behind home-grown eateries in Riyadh’s lifestyle boom

American, Lebanese restaurants lag behind home-grown eateries in Riyadh’s lifestyle boom
Updated 06 December 2021

American, Lebanese restaurants lag behind home-grown eateries in Riyadh’s lifestyle boom

American, Lebanese restaurants lag behind home-grown eateries in Riyadh’s lifestyle boom
  • The US and UAE are the second and third largest sources of restaurant chains in Riyadh

RIYADH: More than two-thirds of Riyadh’s new restaurants are Saudi, dwarfing American and Lebanese influenced eateries, according to a report from real estate firm Knights Frank.

The Saudi capital has seen the birth of 288,000 square meters of new developments since 2016, when the National Transformation Plan was announced, the research says. 

“The Kingdom’s capital is beginning to morph into a foodie’s treasure trove and we’re not done yet,” Faisal Durrani, head of Middle East research at Knight Frank said. 

This growth is led by home-grown restaurants and cafes, he added, with 68 percent of Riyadh’s new outlets being Saudi - 21 percent of which specialize in international cuisine. 

“American food outlets account for 16 percent of food and beverage outlets, while Lebanese restaurants are the third most prevalent at 13 percent,” Durrani said. 

The US and UAE are the second and third largest sources of restaurant chains in Riyadh, respectively, he added.

“International brands must adapt their proposition across the full spectrum to suit demand, both in terms of operational aspects, as well as the actual menu offering itself,” said Pedro Riberio, head of retail advisory KSA at Knight Frank.

The Kingdom’s capital will further benefit from upcoming tourism developments, including the Bujairi Terrace and Diriyah Gate, which the Knight Frank report said will add “15,000 sqm of lifestyle retail space to the capital when it's 17 restaurants open their doors in 2022.”

This rapid growth and competition are putting pressure on older developments, the report indicated, with some operators struggling to keep vacancy rates and footfall up. 


TASI rises for a third consecutive day, up 1 percent in early trading, led by SADR: Market Open

TASI rises for a third consecutive day, up 1 percent in early trading, led by SADR: Market Open
Updated 06 December 2021

TASI rises for a third consecutive day, up 1 percent in early trading, led by SADR: Market Open

TASI rises for a third consecutive day, up 1 percent in early trading, led by SADR: Market Open

RIYADH: Share prices of the major players in the Saudi stock market rose for a third consecutive day as omicron-related imbalances eased.

Sadr Logistics came on top of the biggest gainers, up almost 10 percent to SR94.8 ($25.26), which marks an all-time record for the company.

Biggest moving stocks of the day also include Wafrah for Industry and Development Co., National Industrialization Co., and Al Kathiri Holding Co, up 6.26 percent, 5.02 percent, and 4.14 percent respectively.

Today’s gains were crimped by a 3.97 percent drop in stc’s price.

This came as the Saudi Public Investment Fund and stc’s announced the subscription period for stc’s secondary offering that could raise as much as SR11.6 billion.

 

9:30am Saudi Time: Will TASI reignite after its slight fall in November? Here are key takeaways: Premarket

Saudi Arabia’s main benchmark index TASI started the week in the green zone with stocks recouping omicron-related declines, up around 350 points from last week.

Al Rajhi Bank traded at 4.8 percent higher this week with around 4 million traded shares.

Sahara International Petrochemical Company saw a recovery of 7.44 percent.

The Kingdom’s oil giant Aramco saw gains of 0.72 percent.

This came as the group announced its entry into the Kingdom’s domestic lubricants as well as its collaboration agreement with French companies including hydrogen car deals with Gaussin.

The International Company for Water & Power Projects, or ACWA Power, and Natixis CIB signed a memorandum of understanding aiming to collaborate on the development of ACWA power in the GCC region.

Natixis CIB will finance up to almost SR7.5 billion ($2 billion) over two years to finance ACWA Power’s projects.

Sadr Logistics’ shareholders approved the board of directors’ recommendation to raise SR175 million through a rights issue worth SR150 million to expand its logistics services. The rights issue trading and new share subscription period will start today Dec.6.

Apart from its rights issue, Sadr Logistics has been on the rise since last week jumping to an all-time high of SR86.2.

With reference to the Public Investment Fund and stc’s earlier announcement, the subscription period for stc’s secondary offering will start on Dec.7 and end on Dec. 8 for retail tranche whereas, for participating parties, it started yesterday and will end on Dec.9.

Saudi Exchange announced the initial public offering of Saudi Tadawul Group Holding Company to be 442.53 percent oversubscribed.

Subscriptions exceeding individual subscribers will be refunded no later than Dec.8, when the listing and trading of the company’s shares on the main market will begin.

Jahez International Company for Information Systems Technology issued the prospectus for its initial public offering at 13 percent of its capital on Nomu, Tadawul’s parallel market.

The offering period will commence on Dec. 23 and end on Dec. 26.