I was reading a report today about the possibility of our spiraling into a dangerous future if we let our technology get away from us. The headline on a Daily Mail article read “Rogue ‘Terminator’ robots which can kill without human orders could become reality in just a few years.” Well, that’s a bit much! All of us know that our technological advances are increasing at a steady rate but the scientist’s anticipated predictions always seem to fall short of their unrealistic warnings. One day, very soon, there could be the possibility that clunky, clattering machines will replace humans doing mundane tasks but I think these scientists think too much of themselves at present, and their ability to create future Frankenstein monsters.
When I was a kid growing up in the 1960″s, the scientific portrayals of what the world would be like in 2016 is nowhere near our expectations. If it was, we would have flying cars whisking us to our pushbutton jobs everyday in our domed cities. All the diseases would have been eradicated and the Lunar Colonies would be entertaining our vacations. We would be almost finished terraforming Mars and our starships would be probing the outer planets, and beyond. Benign robots would be cleaning our houses, taking care of our children and cooking our food. Great space stations orbiting the Earth would be controlling our weather, hunger and starvation would have been eliminated, and the specter of war forgotten to history. Well, we are not even close to those forecasts. In fact, we are in as barbarous a position now as we have been in any point in antiquity, except we are slightly more technologically advanced. But they say we must not sheath our spear to give machines their lance.
Realistically, to get us to the juncture of needing to fret about killer robots terrorizing us all, technology must first reach “technological singularity”. The is the hypothetical point when computing machines with artificial intelligence, will be capable of recursive self-improvement or progressively redesigning itself; or of autonomously building ever smarter and more powerful machines than itself to the point of a an intelligence that surpasses human control or understanding. Now, because the capabilities of such a superintelligence may be impossible for a human to comprehend, this technological singularity could lead to the point where events may become unpredictable or even unfathomable to human intelligence. In a nutshell, the machines would become smarter than us and able to replicate themselves beyond our ability to understand or control them. We’re not there yet. We may be close to the target but that reality only counts with grenades and atom bombs.
So let’s take us that little trip down Reality Lane again. Any machine is easily controllable. If you can turn it on, you can turn it off. If it runs on power, curtail the power source. If it has a battery, give the battery a short lifespan, and then don’t change it or recharge it if needed. Don’t give a machine the ability to repower itself and it’s totally dependent again. It can grow intellectually all it wants, but without power it’s a just a formerly mechanized clothes hanger. And based on the commercial manufacturers abilities at present, to get something mechanical to work at all, and keep it running correctly, is a challenge. That’s why mechanical luxuries have warranties, and some even seem to have built in “working live spans” of so many years before they begin to degrade to the point they can’t be salvaged anymore. Bought an automobile or a laptop lately? And let’s talk about programming. If you program the proper protocols into the system then the machine cannot reprogram itself into higher levels of consciousness, much less giving itself independent thought processes. C’mon geniuses of technology. Think blue collar instead of white collar!
I know a lot of these scientist’s like to justify their lofty positions as a consultant here or a professor there with a laureate pending, but they don’t have to create an unfounded fear where none may exist. I am sure government funding and grants have something to do with it. I do not foresee rogue terminator robots thinking independently and chasing poor ignorant folks around with weapons that must be continually reloaded from an ammunition resource from somewhere. I guess the machines will start their own manufacturing infrastructure for that as well. And unless humanity starts living in a hole blindly oblivious to the world around them, I’ll bet we’ll
Science guys, think with some common sense instead of textbook sense, and all will be well.