Saturday 25 April 2015

Battle Lines Drawn Around the Legality of 'Killer Robots'

U.S. Navy drone aboard aircraft carrier.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. The publication contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
The future of lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) – often referred to in the popular press as “killer robots” – remains uncertain following a week-long meeting in Geneva to discuss their legality.
While the LAWS debate in Geneva was deeper and richer than previous discussions, key definitions – which are needed to word a protocol to restrict them – remain unclear and up for continued debate.

And with nations like the United Kingdom openly opposed to a ban, a protocol may end up being blocked entirely, much to to the chagrin of activists.
The British say existing international humanitarian law (IHL) is sufficient to regulate LAWS. While there was universal agreement among delegations that key IHL principles such as distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack apply to LAWS, there were sharp differences of opinion as to whether machines can be programmed to observe such distinctions.
The UK has taken the view that programming might in future represent an acceptable form of meaningful human control, and research into such possibilities should not be pre-emptively banned. In future, they might even reduce civilian casualties. The Czechs (a NATO ally) also expressed caution about a ban.
However, other nations repeated their calls for a ban, including Cuba and Ecuador.

Down with the robots

Still, for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, British opposition is surely a major concern. The UK has a veto on the UN Security Council. British allies such as Australia and the US might decline to support a ban. Battle lines have been drawn. Definitions will be critical.
Clearly the British will defend their national interest in drone technology. BAE’s Taranis – the long range stealth drone under development by UK multinational defence contractor BAE Systems – is a likely candidate for some sort of “state of the art” lethal autonomy.
Interestingly, BAE Systems is also on the consortium that is developing the F-35 Lightning II, widely said to be the last manned fighter the US will develop.
Sooner or later there will be a trial dogfight between the F-35 and Taranis. It will be the Air Force equivalent of Kasparov vs Deep Blue. In the long run, most analysts think air war will go the way of chess and become “unsurvivable” for human pilots.

Definitional issues

At the Geneva meeting, many nations and experts supported the idea of “meaningful human control” of LAWS, including Denmark and Maya Brehm, from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Although others, such as France and former British Former Air Commodore, W. H. Boothby, thought it too vague.
The Israelis noted that “even those who did choose to use the phrase ‘meaningful human control’, had different understandings of its meaning". Some say this means “human control or oversight of each targeting action in real-time”. Others argue “the preset by a human of certain limitations on the way a lethal autonomous system would operate, may also amount to meaningful human control”.
It is perhaps a little disappointing that, after two meetings, basic definitions that would be needed to draft a Protocol VI of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) to regulate or ban LAWS remain nebulous.
However, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christoph Heyns, has been impressed by the speed and also the “creativity and vigour” that various bodies have brought to the discussions.
Most nations accept that “fully autonomous weapons” that could operate without “meaningful human control” are undesirable, though there is no agreement on the meaning of “autonomous” either.
Some states, such as Palestine and Pakistan, are happy to put drones in this category and move to ban their production, sale and use now. Others, such as Denmark and the Czech Republic, maintain that no LAWS yet exist.
This is another definitional problem. Paul Scharre’s presentation was a good summary of how we might break up autonomy into definable elements.

Future of war

Aside from the definitional debates there were interesting updates from experts in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.
Face and gait recognition by AI, according to Stuart Russell, is now at “superhuman” levels. While he stressed this did not imply that robots could distinguish between combatant and civilian as yet, it is a step closer. Russell takes the view that “can robots comply with IHL?” is the wrong question. It is more relevant to ask what the consequence of a robotic arms race would be.
Patrick Lin made interesting observations on the ethical notion of human dignity in the context of LAWS. Even if LAWS could act in accordance with IHL, taking of human life by machines violates a right to dignity that may even be more fundamental to the right to life.
Jason Miller spoke on moral psychology and interface design. Morally irrelevant situational factors can seriously compromise human moral performance and judgement.
Michael Horowitz presented polling data showing that people in India and the United States were not necessarily firmly opposed to LAWS. Horowitz’s key finding was that context matters. What the LAWS is doing when cast in the pollster’s story is significant. How you frame the question makes a significant difference to the approval numbers your poll generates.
Overally, the meeting was a step forward in the debate around the status and legality of lethal autonomous weapons. Although that debate – and it implications on the future of warfare – is still far from settled.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and — and become part of the discussion — on Facebook, Twitter and Google +. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.

choosing a gps watch

Flowchart shows GPS watch options.

Best GPS Watch for Triathletes: Garmin Forerunner 920XT

Price: $440 (plus $50 for compatible heart-rate monitor)
Mobile compatibility: iOS and Android
Data transfer: Bluetooth, USB
Features: tracks indoor and outdoor running, cycling and swimming; multisport or triathlon mode; daily activity tracking; vibration alerts; ability to create and follow custom workouts; live race tracking (i.e., send live GPS data to others); smart notifications from mobile device
The Garmin FR920XT close up.
The FR920XT is fairly wide, but it's thin enough to slip inside your wet suit or under your running glove.
Credit: © Jeremy Lips /
The FR920XT may not be the smallest GPS watch (in fact, it's rather bulky), but it is slim enough to slip under a wetsuit or tuck under your sleeve. And though it's large, it's very comfortable to wear when you're working out, and the device's four buttons are easy to press. The watch also has a bright backlight that makes it easy to read, even if you're underwater.
The FR920XT tracks all three triathlon sports (running, cycling and swimming) and is loaded with features. You'll want to spend a bit of time getting to know the FR920XT before using it during a workout, but once you familiarize yourself with the watch, it's easy to navigate.Garmin's website also has some great video tutorials that can help you get started with the watch. Unlike most GPS watches, the FR920XT connects to Wi-Fi, which makes it easy to upload data from the watch to your mobile device or computer. You can also transfer data to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth, or plug the watch into your computer with a USB cord to upload your workouts.
Value of information:
The FR920XT tracks a lot of data, from the most basic stats (e.g., distance, time and pace) to more advanced metrics, like running and swimming efficiency and VO2 max (maximum oxygen consumption during a workout, a good measure of physical fitness). All of this data is displayed in an easy-to-read format on the Garmin Connect website or mobile app. Both the site and the app have a few features to help you make sense of the data. For example, if you use Garmin's HRM-Run heart-rate strap, you can collect information related to running efficiency (such as vertical oscillation and ground contact time). This data is graphed out and color-coded in Garmin Connect. (Purple dots on your cadence graph mean you're a very efficient runner, whereas red dots mean there's a lot of room for improvement.)
When you achieve a fitness milestone while wearing the FR920XT, you'll be rewarded with a "badge," which is like a congratulatory note after you run your fastest mile or bike your longest recorded distance. I really liked this feature and found that it kept me motivated during workouts. Garmin Connect also doubles as a kind of social network for fitness lovers, and you can use the site to connect with athletes in your area or get some insight into how others are training with their GPS watches.

Best GPS Watch for Runners: TomTom Runner Cardio

Price: $250
Mobile compatibility: iOS and Android
Data transfer: Bluetooth, USB
Features: tracks indoor and outdoor running, vibration alerts
The TomTom Runner Cardio close up.

The Runner Cardio has an unconventional design that makes navigating the watch easy.
Credit: © Jeremy Lips /
The TomTom Runner Cardio has a large, brightly lit display that's easy to read while running. And unlike most watches with buttons along the outer edges, this watch has a single button located underneath the display that can be pressed up, down, left or right. While unconventional, this design makes it easy to navigate the watch during a workout.
Not only is the watch easy to navigate while running, but it's also easy to figure out how to work the Runner Cardio without reading any kind of instruction manual. You can upload data from the watch to your computer by plugging the device in with a USB cord, or you can upload data wirelessly to a mobile device via Bluetooth. But the most user-friendly feature of this watch is its built-in heart-rate sensor, which lets you leave your heart-rate chest strap at home and track your pulse right from your wrist.
Value of information:
This running watch provides all the information you need to track your progress, whether you're a seasoned runner who's training for a race or a beginner looking to monitor your improvement over time. The watch tracks distance, time and pace, along with calories burned, elevation gain and cadence (steps per minute). Unlike the Forerunner 620, an advanced running watch from Garmin, the Runner Cardio doesn't collect data about your vertical oscillation (movement up and down, or "bounce") or ground contact time (the amount of time your foot stays on the ground with each step). But running-efficiency data can actually be more overwhelming than it is useful, which is one of the reasons we chose the Runner Cardio, not the Forerunner 620, as our pick for the best GPS watch for runners. The heart-rate data that the Runner Cardio collects is displayed in an easy-to-read format in the TomTom MySports mobile app and on the company's website. It's easy to analyze your average heart rate, as well as your heart rate over the course of your run, in both the app and the online dashboard.
The straightforward design of this watch makes it enjoyable to use, even during intense workouts. The watch is missing some of the motivational features that come with watches from Polar and Garmin — like "badges" that you can receive for achieving your best time, or the ability to share your stats with other TomTom users — but these features aren't necessarily must-haves for GPS watches. The watch does have one great motivational feature: the "Race This" mode that lets you try to beat your time or distance from a previous workout.

Best GPS Watch for Its Value: Polar M400

Price: $150 (plus $50 for compatible heart-rate monitor)
Mobile compatibility: iOS and Android
Data transfer: Bluetooth, USB
Features: tracks indoor and outdoor walking, running and cycling; daily activity tracking; ability to create and follow custom workouts and create custom sports profiles; vibration alerts
The Polar M400 running screen.
You only have to press one button on the M400 to start tracking a workout.
Credit: © Jeremy Lips /
The Polar M400 is made from durable materials, like stainless steel and rigid plastic, that make it seem sturdy and ready for anything. But despite its brawn, the watch is comfortable to wear while working out, and the device's five buttons are easy to press, even when you're running. I like that this watch comes in solid black or white. Many of the watches I tested were brightly colored and too bold for my taste.
Navigating the M400 is easy, which is more than I can say for many of the GPS watches I've tested. You need to press only one button to start recording a workout — and that button is bright red, so you can't miss it. I did run into some trouble when I first tried to set up the watch on my computer. (The Polar software didn't immediately recognize my device.) But when I called Polar's customer service hotline, I was immediately connected with a company representative who helped me troubleshoot the problem, which was entirely a result of user error.
Value of information:
The M400 isn't designed to track swimming workouts, and it doesn't have a multisport mode, so you can't really use it as a replacement for a triathlon watch. However, you can use the watch to track both running and cycling workouts. Runners and cyclists can use the watch to track their time, distance, calories burned, pace, speed and heart rate (when the watch is paired with a heart-rate strap). The watch also tracks your daily step count and calories burned. All of this data is displayed in the Polar Flow mobile app and website, which is easy to navigate and features some ready-to-read charts and graphs. You can also customize the data that the watch collects and displays by creating new "sports profiles" online. This allows you to label all of your workouts properly, whether you're playing soccer or taking a dance class.
The M400 is one of the easiest GPS watches to navigate, which makes it a pleasure to use. And for people who are interested in connecting with other athletes to stay motivated or swap workout advice, the Polar Flow website seconds as a type of social network. You can use the site to find other fitness fanatics in your area and see how you measure up to the competition.

Best GPS Watch Overall: Garmin Vivoactive

Our rating: 8.5/10
Price: $250 (plus $50 for compatible heart-rate monitor)
Mobile compatibility: iOS and Android
Data transfer: Bluetooth, USB, ANT+
Features: tracks indoor and outdoor running, walking and cycling; tracks indoor swimming and golf; smart notifications from mobile device; daily activity tracking; vibration alerts; music controls
The Garmin Vivoactive.
The Vivoactive combines a touchscreen with conventional buttons, which makes navigating the watch easy.
Credit: © Jeremy Lips /
The Vivoactive has a slim design that sets it apart from other bulky, multisport GPS watches like the Suunto Ambit3 and the Polar V800. It has a modern-looking square face that is easy to read and makes the device seem more like a smartwatch than a sports watch. Like the Fitbit Surge — another fitness watch with "smart" features — the Vivoactive combines a touch screen with conventional buttons, making it easy to navigate (once you get the hang of it). The dimly lit screen can be tough to read in the dark, but the watch has a backlight that you can activate with the tap of a button.
The Vivoactive syncs wirelessly with your mobile device via Bluetooth, or you can plug the watch into your computer to transfer data via a USB cord. But if you don't feel like syncing data from your watch to some other device, you can just view your stats right on the watch itself. Workout summaries, as well as a record of your daily activity, are stored on the watch, and you can access this information by hitting the History widget on the main menu. In my experience, the watch's battery lasts about five days when you're using the GPS feature every day for about 30 minutes or so. That's a decent battery life that rivals those of smartwatches and fitness trackers that don't have GPS capabilities.
Value of information:
The Vivoactive is missing some of the advanced data tracking that you'll find on Garmin products that are devoted exclusively to running, swimming or triathlon training. For example, the watch can't be paired with a heart-rate sensor to track in-depth data about running efficiency (which is something you can do with Garmin's Forerunner 920XT and the Forerunner 620). But you can use the Vivoactive to track your distance, pace, time, cadence and elevation gain while running. The metrics are similar for cycling, and you can even use the watch to track speed. Swimmers can also use the Vivoactive to track laps, strokes per lap and swimming efficiency (or SWOLF). All of this data is displayed in an easy-to-read format on the Garmin Connect mobile app or on Garmin's online dashboard, which features comprehensive graphs and charts, as well as workout summaries and information about your daily steps and calories burned.
The Vivoactive connects with Garmin's new app platform, Connect IQ, where you can download custom display screens for the watch and try out apps developed by other Garmin users. I really enjoyed customizing the watch. (I downloaded the weather app and a new "watch face," or display screen.) I also like that the watch features Garmin's signature "move bar" — a graphic on the display screen that turns red when you've been inactive for more than an hour. If you don't get up and walk around, the watch will buzz your wrist until you get moving. I found this feature useful for reminding me to be more active throughout the day.

Best GPS Watches of 2015

Garmin Forerunner 920XT, TomTom Runner Cardio and Polar M400.

After testing more than 20 GPS watches, we recommend the Garmin Vivoactive as the best GPS watch overall. If you want the most bang for your buck, we recommend the Polar M400, a $150 watch that tracks running, cycling and a variety of other sports.
We rounded up a total of 21 watches, including devices designed specifically for runners and triathletes. We tested these products out on runs, bike rides and, when applicable, in the pool for swim workouts. Then, we evaluated each watch based on its comfort, design, accuracy, user-friendliness and the value of the information it provided. Here are our top picks:
GPS Watches Compared