If your biggest end-of-the-world fear is of the zombie apocalypse, you clearly haven’t been paying attention to what is happening in technology.
This week, the Center for a New American Security, a non-partisan think tank focused on national security, released a report titled Robotics on the Battlefield Part II: The Coming Swarm. In the report, they predict global spending on military robotics will reach an estimated $7.5 billion in 2018 and that militaries will deploy “swarms” of autonomous or semi-autonomous robots that will overwhelm enemy forces (robots and humans alike.) The report issues a stark warning: the US must embrace this new technology and the paradigm shift that fighting alongside robots will require or risk being vulnerable to enemy states that will adopt this mindset. Essentially, the robot arms race has already begun. So the unavoidable follow-up question becomes, could there really be a robot apocalypse, and if so, how will it start?
When and how will the robot apocalypse start?
“How far away is it when robots become true AI? The singularity is crossed. Probably at least 10 years,” according to Steve Francis, founder and chief product officer at LogicMonitor and an expert in running data centers.
Sci-fi has many theories on how robotic overlords might assert their steely dominance. Robopocalypse, a best selling novel with a film version being developed by Steven Spielberg, is set in the near future when robots are widely deployed. A rogue artificial intelligence, called Archos, becomes self-aware and develops a virus that infects robots and vehicles with a murderous intent to destroy and dominate humanity.
“This could all start with home automation. With the Internet of Things, your house could turn against you,” predicts Jeff Behl, Chief Network Architect at LogicMonitor and a veteran in the world of technical operations. “What if Google’s self-driving wonder-bug, which doesn’t even have a steering wheel, decides to take you on a ride off a cliff?” says Behl.
What’s required for a true Robot Apocalypse is “a scheming and Machiavellian intelligence that is willing to lie in wait until there are enough robots or penetration of the Internet of Things that it can take everyone out and turn our technology against us,” noted Steve Francis.
Here are a few scenarios: Humans create an intelligence that becomes self-aware and does a calculation, in order to save humanity from being destroyed by its own overconsumption of resources or in order for the Robot Intelligence to achieve some ambition that it conceives, it must reduce the human population. Or the robot intelligence could simply decide humans are an inferior species and because we are different, decide to wipe us out.
Here are answers to some of your biggest questions about the robot apocalypse:
What will the robot menace look like?
“The real danger is not the [big] robots coming to kill you. It’s the micro robots that are being developed for medicine to go through your blood and do microsurgeries,” said Jeff Behl. Nanobots that are implanted in the human body to detect and fight disease could be reprogrammed to find your aorta and tear it, and there would be nothing you could do.
Will robots and drones be embedded with their own intelligence or will they remain under human control?
“They [the robots and drones] will definitely start to get more intelligence to act on their own, because as part of any contingency plan, every drone must prepare for a time when it is unable to ‘phone home’ and talk to home base. Therefore, it must evolve to make some decisions on its own,” said Jeff Behl. Added Francis: “That’s already happening. Fleets of semi-autonomous ships still have a human controller who is controlling the fleet as a whole, but the interaction in terms of the ships within that fleet are all autonomous. They can be given an objective, such as ‘blow up that boat over there’ and even if they lose connections, they can continue to operate. People make mistakes and are subject to emotions. It may be safer to put firing control of an M1 Abrams [tank] under a computer’s control. It’s not subject to emotions… until it develops a hate for us all.”
Which humans will die first and which will survive?
“Who dies first? I think it will be the Western Civilizations or areas that are more technologically advanced. Places where there would be robots everywhere,” predicted Francis.
Who else would the robots take out? “World leaders. Sow discord. It’s not like they’re the smartest or the best, but it’s likely that a decapitation strike would be in the robot’s plans. Create confusion and block the chain of command,” said Jeff.
How can you stop the robots coming for you?
“I don’t think they’ll make a big bad-ass robot,” said Jeff Behl. “I think they’ll just make tons of them and come at you with numbers. Right now, we just step on ants. But imagine if there were a giant swarm of them that were much meaner and they were well organized. We’d be sunk.”
“This goes back to our roots of building computer systems,” Jeff Behl added. “You don’t just make one really tough system. If it breaks, you’re in big trouble. You make a bunch of them and distribute the work.”
So how can you stop them? “You could target their ability to cooperate,” said Behl. “That’s a virus we could invent: one that gives them feelings so that they can’t or won’t coordinate any more. Have them compete with each other.”
What weapons do humans need to make now to stop the robots?
“Giant magnets,” said Behl. “Disrupt their hard drives.”
Will humans prevail or are we going to lose this one?
“Oh we are losing,” said Steve Francis. “I think it will be a symbiosis,” said Jeff. “I think robots won’t bother eradicating us. Are we really a threat?”
“I think they’ll just get rid of the humans that are actively opposing them,” said Steve. “If one comes out of the forest and causes trouble, they’ll probably go deal with that one. Otherwise, they’ll probably just let the humans go ahead, and probably destroy our habitat inadvertently. Humans will just be an endangered species. As the robots mine away our resources and deplete our infrastructure.”
“Are we really losing if we created the progeny that win out?” asked Jeff.
Want to hear more?
In our first episode of The Tech and The Noob podcast, our techs, Steve Francis and Jeff Behl and our Noob, Scott Barnett, discussed How to Survive the Robot Apocalypse. Download eBook here. Note: this podcast was recorded before we became aware of CNAS’s report but covers much of the same ground. Download or stream the podcast episode.
The beta version of the new Alerts UI has been available to LogicMonitor users for a few months now. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should (keep reading to find out how). But even those who’ve tried the sexier new UI may not have noticed all the sweet new features we’ve introduced along with it.
See the information that’s important to you
The current UI can tell you a lot about your alerts at a glance. But sometimes that’s too much information, sometimes not enough, and sometimes it’s just not the right information. (Who knew monitoring had so much in common with Goldilocks!) In the new UI, we’ve added four additional columns of data (Escalation Chain, Alert Rule, Cleared On, and In SDT) and we allow you to add, remove, and arrange columns in any way that makes sense for you. Just click the Settings button above the Alerts table and choose “Manage Columns”. You’ll be able to select, unselect and drag the column options however you choose.
Giddy with all the new information you have access to, but don’t have enough pixels to show it all? Click that ‘Settings’ button again and you can make the font size smaller and even choose how many alerts to show at one time. Plus, you can drag columns to whatever width you like.
Filter on just about anything
The four most common filters (Group, Device, Datasource, Datapoint) are readily apparent at the top of the alerts table. And clicking the “more” filter dropdown gives you access to six additional filters (Alert Rule, Escalation Chain, Severity, Acknowledged, In SDT, and Cleared).
The Cleared filter (and “Cleared On” column) allows you to see the last seven days of cleared alerts (or cleared and active alerts), which is pretty helpful when you want to get a feel for alert response times or just how often a particular alert has been occurring on a particular device.
For a faster, broader search, you can use the new “Search Anything” tool, which searches across all visible columns.
Everyone has a different workflow when it comes to alerts. And you need specific information at different times. The new column and filtering options are flexible enough to handle those situations. You’ll be able to quickly find the information you want so you can know what’s going on and fix it.
View and copy error messages with ease
Sometimes the little things make a big difference. The current UI gives you error messages in a hover tip, which makes it impossible to select the message for copying (as soon as you move your mouse, the tips disappear).
In the new UI, we’ve made a concerted effort to not depend on secondary mouse interactions (right-click and hover, specifically), and the alert messages are no exceptions. Just click on any alert to see the new Alert Details screen, which not only provides the message in a more readable format, but also makes it selectable and, yes, copyable.
All the important stuff is just a click away
Alert Details (above) allows you to make notes, schedule down time (either for the selected alert, or the entire device), acknowledge the alert, or escalate the alert to the next person in the relevant Escalation chain. And if you receive alerts by email or SMS, the link provided in those messages will give you the same easy Alert Details screen in a mobile-friendly format.
There are other little UI helps like row highlighting for easier readability, but part of the joy is in the discovery, so we won’t ruin the surprise. If you haven’t seen the new, better, sexier alerts page yet, go to Settings > Roles and Users. Edit your user profile (or ask your admin to do it) and select “Use New UI”. Once you’ve saved your user and refreshed the page, you’ll see a link at the top of the page that says “toggle UI”, which will allow you to switch back and forth between the new and the current UI.
Once you’ve used the beta version of the new Alerts page, let us know what you think by clicking the blue “Feedback” button on the right edge of the screen. Our goal has been to make the Alerts page simpler, easier, and perhaps even a little more enjoyable (which is not a word usually associated with alerts). We’d love to know if we’re on the right track and what we can do to make it even better.
A customer contacted our support recently, wondering why his Linux servers showed high memory utilization. We’ve talked a fair bit about monitoring Linux memory, and what it means. But this case was a little different. The customer showed that according to free, top, and LogicMonitor graphs, most of his server’s memory was in use – and not as file system cache.
However, the odd thing is that top and ps showed that the sum of all processes RSS (resident segment size) was consuming very little memory. So where was the memory going?
Can LogicMonitor, a developer of datacenter server monitoring, where we monitor everything in all sorts of ways, have an undetected customer affecting issue? Yes. We just had an issue that was reported by some trial customers, before our techops team was aware of it. Even worse, after techops thought they had addressed the issue, the customers were still affected. How? Read more »
Could this happen to you?
Someone in your company makes an erroneous entry in DNS. After a short time, some customers begin receiving ‘Server Not Found’ reports when trying to access your site. Email doesn’t seem to be going through for some users. Help tickets start trickling in.
As your TechOps team attempts to troubleshoot, the error silently propagates through the Internet. The trickle of isolated tickets turns into a flash flood. Executives begin urgently texting to find out what is happening.
Eventually, someone on your team combs through the DNS file and catches the mistake. Instead of entering “.com” in the middle of the night, John must have fat fingered in “.con.” The error is fixed! However, because your DNS is cached it could be a couple of days before service is fully restored for all users.
Customers and executives demand a root cause analysis. “How could this have happened? Why wasn’t it caught earlier? What are you doing to prevent this ever happening again?”
No one can deny the importance of DNS in the Internet age. And to help you keep on top of it, LogicMonitor, maker of the popular automated IT performance monitoring platform, has just released its first free tool, the DNS Change Tracker™ as a free hosted tool. In the near term, we plan to release this tool’s source code on GitHub so that everyone can make it even better.
What it does: Read more »
Last month, LogicMonitor rolled out its Favorites From Around the Web. We know you are busy beyond belief. It’s tough to keep up with the latest tech articles, blog posts, ebooks, podcasts and hilarious, time-consuming cat videos (no shame, we get it). Check out our favorite posts from around the web for September:
No one likes to talk about outages. They’re horrible to experience as an employee and they take a heavy toll in customer confidence and future revenue. But they do happen. Even publicly traded tech powerhouses, such as eBay and Microsoft, who have more technical resources than you’ll ever have, fall prey to outages. And when they do, they are closed for business, much to the chagrin of their shareholders and executive teams.
It’s not so much a question of whether an outage will occur in your company but when. The secret to surviving them is to get better at handling them and learning from the mistakes of others. Nobody is perfect all the time (my current employer, LogicMonitor, included) but I hope by talking about these mistakes, we can all begin the hard work required to avoid them in the future.
An outage occurs. A barrage of emails is fired to the Tech Ops team from Customer Support. Executives begin demanding updates every five minutes. Tech team members all run to their separate monitoring tools to see what data they can dredge up, often only seeing a part of the problem. Mass confusion ensues as groups point their fingers at each other and Sys Admins are unsure whether to respond to the text from their boss demanding an update or to continue to troubleshoot and apply a possible fix. Marketing (“We’re getting trashed on social media! We need to send a mass email and do a blog post telling people what is happening!”) and Legal (“Don’t admit liability!”) jump in to help craft a public-facing response. Cats begin mating with dogs and the world explodes.
Read more »
How Cedexis Deploys Puppet Enterprise and LogicMonitor Jointly to Support its Global Operations
Founded in 2009, Cedexis is building a faster Web. Cedexis offers visibility and control of Web performance through its community-based monitoring & analysis solution, Cedexis Radar, and its global traffic management platform, Cedexis Openmix.
Ops in the Cloud
Deploying their technology strictly in a cloud environment, Cedexis’ TechOps team follows a simple rule: “Never touch hardware.” Cedexis manages its dynamic host deployments globally across a range of managed hosting and cloud providers. To ensure uniformity across datacenters, Cedexis configures new machines identically via configuration automation tools in order to prepare each with a “blueprint” to take the Cedexis code.
Read more »
“Excuse me. Did you just say that I could learn something of actual value from a marketing person?”
Yes, I did.
In case you haven’t noticed, marketing has undergone a phenomenal transformation in the last decade. Marketing has implemented complex automation platforms, like Marketo and Eloqua, that can sift through a sea of prospect data and use predictive analytics to pick out those most likely to purchase. Web analytics, too, have gone mainstream, largely due to Google giving away the functionality for free. Consequently, marketing can better quantify the ROI of what they spend. And, according to Gartner Research, 81% of companies with revenue of more than $500M have a Chief Marketing Technology Officer, and that number is expected to grow another 8% next year. By 2017, Gartner predicts that Chief Marketing Officers will be spending more on technology than CIOs!
So what does that have to do with IT monitoring?
Read more »
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