In the ‘Terminator’ film saga, Skynet enacts a systematic massacre upon the human race through the various weapons at its disposal. This was the stuff of sci-fi genius. It startled, thrilled and even terrified the movie-going public.
The movies may have been predicting the future more accurately than we realised.
Stephen Hawking has voiced concerns about Artificial Intelligence on several occasions – fearing that advanced AI could kill humans. The difference between Hawking’s own anxieties and the movie universe of ‘Terminator’ is that the AI would only kill humans through sheer incompetence, according to the world-famous physicist.
“The real risk with AI isn’t malice but competence. A super intelligent AI will be extremely good at accomplishing its goals, and if those goals aren’t aligned with ours, we’re in trouble.” (1)
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, echoed these worries. Musk argued that the colonisation of Mars (Something SpaceX aspires towards) would serve as an escape plan for humans, should AI turn on us (2). Deeming AI the greatest threat to humanity, Musk asserted that intervention is required to prevent humans doing ‘something very foolish’ – even likening it to ‘summoning the demon’ (3).
Of course, the concerns of these two indisputably intelligent men remains speculation. Neither of them are in possession of psychic abilities (Something that does beg for an article at some point, I might add…) and so are left to contemplate the future of technology.
However, it is often said that truth is stranger than fiction.
Sophia the Robot, designed by Hong Kong based company Hanson Robotics, has become something of an internet sensation in recent months. Sophia represents a technological breakthrough with her abilities to display more than 62 facial expressions and respond to questions with a wide script of answers.
She’s something of a celebrity, thanks to high-profile interviews on CNN, ‘Good Morning Britain’ and countless other media platforms.
Saudi Arabia even granted her citizenship in October 2017.
And that in of itself, raises interesting questions. If a robot can be granted citizenship, does that mean they’re entitled to the same rights as the human citizen of said country? Can Sophia vote in elections? And one step on from that, could Sophia run for office?
It’s not just in the physical sense that technology is taking on a new life.
Look at the Amazon Alexa, the personal assistant that interacts with it’s owner and responds to questions, demands and queries. You can ask Alexa to set reminders, add things to your shopping list or just to answer your inane questions. It was once thought that searching things up on Google had taken the joy out of looking it up in an encyclopaedia – now even Google is on the fast track to being irrelevant.
It makes one wonder how long it’ll be before personal assistants do practically everything for us. No longer just the go-to for menial tasks, could personal assistants such as Alexa be upgraded to the point where they’re a walking, talking assistant? Of course, Amazon will need to enable Alexa to inhabit a functional body of sorts for that to happen.
Regardless, Alexa is a strangely humanised device. In my house, it’s referred to as ‘she’ or ‘her’, just a step away from being an unofficial fifth member of the family.
Alexa is advertised as something that creates convenience. But could this just be code for ‘enables laziness’?
In his book ‘How To Be Free’, Tom Hodgkinson laments that “Faith in the machine as a redeemer and as a kind of automated slave has been the greatest disappointment of the industrial project. The long-promised technological utopia in which robots do all the work, while we give ourselves up to reading philosophy, drinking fine wine and having sex has never materialised” (p. 183)
Hodgkinson’s point makes me think back to the ultra-positive depictions of the future, as seen in ‘The Jetsons’. Rosie the Robot essentially does all of the busy work, whilst the human characters are free to lounge around their apartment in the clouds. It was an extremely quintessential view of the mechanical servant – something that would be far too upbeat for the media of today. There’d have to be some sort of twist – perhaps that Rosie was plotting to kill the Jetsons or was trying to seduce a human character for nefarious motives.
Fact is, we aren’t as far along with the whole ‘Robot project’ as we’d once imagined. Robots like Sophia are only just making it into the forefront of our attention. They are not yet an accepted norm.
Emphasis on the word ‘yet’.
The new frontier of technology (At least among the confused individuals on the underbelly of society) is creating sex dolls. No longer satisfied with making love to a rubber woman, basement dwellers have decided to invest in rubber women that can talk in response (4). And even worse, there’s been suggestions that child sex robots could be a treatment option for paedophiles.
Science never stops pushing new boundaries. And with each new landmark discovery or invention, I can accept they’re not always necessarily. The washing machine for example, is a creation of convenience. Human beings washed dishes, and continue to do so, by hand and make no use of the machine at all.
But the push for robots is something that is lost entirely on me. Perhaps it’s because there are no limitations to human curiousity, and the desire to break new ground – to change the world. We’re drunk on playing God, with a casual disregard to the potentially damaging consequences. And on that note, I will say of the robot craze – just because science can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean it should.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqokkXoa7uE (Holly and Phillip Meet Samantha the Sex Robot | This Morning)