The Reaper, the Air Force's unmanned aerial attack vehicle, was operating over the Sangin region of Afghanistan on the hunt for enemy activity when the crew received a request for assistance from a joint terminal attack controller on the ground. Friendly forces were taking fire from enemy combatants. The JTAC provided targeting data to the pilot and sensor operator, who fly the aircraft remotely from Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The pilot released two GBU-12 500-pound laser-guided bombs, destroying the target and eliminating the enemy fighters.
(Some of the details in the article above, from the “official web site of the United States Air Force”, differ from those in the story as reported by the Air Force Times. And The Register has its own take.)
Depending on which particular UAV was involved in this story from last week, the Reaper's first use in combat might have been particularly tragic:
Extraordinarily keen observation by a British Royal Navy officer narrowly averted a potentially tragic friendly fire engagement using a Predator or Reaper UAV.
The UAV operator had been given clearance to engage the targets – a group of 7-10 men - in an operational theater. The men had been identified as hostile forces.
The navy officer, believed to be working as part of a joint US-UK UAV force operating from Creech AFB, Nevada, noticed that the men, while dressed in local attire, did not actually walk in the same manner.
This single observation led to the potential engagement being called off. The group were in fact special forces.
The world changed out from under us very quickly. The new “workstation” category of computer appeared: the Suns and Apollos and so on. New technology for implementing Lisp was invented that allowed good Lisp implementations to run on conventional hardware; not quite as good as ours, but good enough for most purposes. So the real value-added of our special Lisp architecture was suddenly diminished. A large body of useful Unix software came to exist and was portable amongst the Unix workstations: no longer did each vendor have to develop a whole software suite. And the workstation vendors got to piggyback on the ever-faster, ever-cheaper CPU’s being made by Intel and Motorola and IBM, with whom it was hard for Symbolics to keep up. We at Symbolics were slow to acknowledge this. We believed our own “dogma” even as it became less true. It was embedded in our corporate culture. If you disputed it, your co-workers felt that you “just didn’t get it” and weren’t a member of the clan, so to speak. This stifled objective analysis. (This is a very easy problem to fall into — don’t let it happen to you!)
He also comments a bit on Eve Phillips' 1999 article, “If It Works, It’s Not AI: A Commercial Look at Artificial Intelligence Startups”.
DLW's thesis that Symbolics lost as part of the general losing of custom hardware (including all the parallel computer companies) is basically correct. Lucid on Suns was as fast as ZetaLisp on Symbolicses.
But not so fast that that alone made me switch. What made me switch was that Lisp machines (both Symbolics and LMI) were so gratuitously, baroquely complex. The manuals filled a whole shelf. Each component of the software was written as if it had to have every possible feature. The hackers who wrote it all were the smartest and most energetic around. But there was no Steve Jobs to tell them "No, this is too complex." So the guy in charge of writing the pretty-printer, for example, would decide. "This is going to be the most powerful pretty-printer ever written. It's going to be able to do everything!"
Unfortunately this complexity persists in Common Lisp, which was pretty much copied directly from ZetaLisp. In fact, both of the worst flaws in CL are due to its origins on Lisp machines: both its complexity and the way it's cut off from the OS
And then there's the reddit thread on pg's comment.
After my last post I wanted to check to see if there was a Lisp interpreter available for the Commodore 64. I found one! It is called Micro-Lisp.
Looks like Micro-Lisp appeared in volume 8, issue 6 of Transactor, in 1988:
11 robot vehicles entered the course and 6 were able to finish. CMU came out on top while Stanford got second place—a reversal from 2005's Grand Challenge. Wikipedia has the complete race results.
Not as highlighty:
Overall the teams did better than I expected at handling the urban environment, with its lanes and curbs and moving obstacles.
THe DARPA Urban Challenge was supposed to have 20 teams competing, but after the qualifying runs this week DARPA has judged that only 11 autonomous vehicles are safe enough to become finalists [via Danger Room, which has had excellent coverage of the Urban Challenge so far].
DARPA's top dog warns the media that the robotic vehicles in tomorrow's Urban Challenge race will be unpredictable and will quickly get “random”. “We really don’t know what they’re going to do,” said Dr. Tony Tether, but he assures everyone that safety will be the number one priority for both spectators and the crazy stunt car drivers who will get in the way of the robots.
As the qualification rounds came to a close, Dr. Tether personally inspected the runs to make a better determination of who would make it into the race. He recalls one scary incident where Team Lux's robot did a sudden U turn and accelerated towards the van that Dr. Tether was riding in. “That vehicle was coming straight at us… we were screaming pause pause!,” referring to the remote kill switch that officials carry during the race. Someone eventually hit the switch and killed the bot only a few feet away. “That reminded me, this was not a game,” Dr. Tether said.
Many teams are understandably upset at DARPA's decision to only pick 11 teams for the finals, but Dr. Tether assures that his trained staff had all the data necessary to make the tough choices. The initial cuts were for safety reasons because DARPA didn’t want bots to collide with other bots. Slower vehicles that would have caused traffic jams were the last ones to be eliminated.
Saturday's race could conceivably have all 11 robots on the course at the same time. Dr. Tether told us there will be staggered starts and the bots won't go to the same spot at the beginning.
I'll be in Victorville tomorrow, watching out for rogue carbots and marginal people.