How to survive the robot apocalypse

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How to survive the robot apocalypse

Hannah Denne, Staff Writer

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For anyone who’s gotten in on the conspiracy theory trend as of late, one theory that has actually been around for quite awhile is the fear that robots will become more human – therefore, of course, malevolent – and take over the world.

Needless to say, I am not here to prove that.

People have the most absurd perception of artificial intelligence: for example, the theory that Hillary Clinton is actually a robot. It’s easy to make talking about this concept sound ridiculously sci-fi and crazy in nature, and negate it as impossible… or only possible in fiction. However, we’re a lot closer to truly artificial intelligence than a lot of people would think.

Some forms of AI already exist and thrive: these are usually categorised under “weak AI”, or artificial intelligence that still depends strongly on its source code. In simpler terms, this just means that they do not actually think for themselves, but rather act as if they do. In some cases, they can even adapt, and – in the case of the robotic supercomputer, Watson (Google it if you’re interested) – predict human behaviour. However, this is all according to code. Human brains, while functioning as a result of DNA and chemical releases, do function for themselves. We know that we have autonomy. Especially as Christians, we know that God gave us free choice. And that’s the primary difference: robots don’t have free choice.

At least, not yet.

The second category of AI is called “strong AI”, and these beings would essentially be synthesised humans. Whether or not they look like people, their brains would function in around the same ways that ours do, more than likely at a stronger capacity.

Big name companies like Google are currently working to make this dream of strong AI a reality. Strong AI, while offering up several new opportunities for society to progress, also poses multiple threats to society as it currently stands. For example, the White House predicts that as AI more prominently enters the workforce, the demand for low-skill jobs will drop, and even more Americans will find themselves unemployed – along with the millions of others already in this position.

Perhaps on an even more serious note, given the strong military tensions between multiple countries currently, the weaponization of robots could be a very, very bad thing: and that’s another concept scientists are looking into, which I don’t see as a good thing.

A short story I love is “The Machine That Won the War” by Isaac Asimov.

Basically, it’s about a future intergalactic war that is won because of a supercomputer that predicts enemy moves and sends out troops. However, by the end of the story, you discover that multiple people had been tampering with the data they fed to the machine for their own personal reasons. We come to understand by the end of the story that the “machine” the title references is not any supercomputer – at least, not in any literal sense – but the human brain.

This being said, even with entirely emotionless robots controlling weaponry, we can see how the people who created them would still have a strong influence on their actions. Should we create incredible robotic war technology and it fall into the wrong hands, there could be disastrous consequences.

I know this all still sounds far off – and, most likely, it is. But scientists have been working tirelessly for decades to bring about this change while we’ve been writing it off as fiction, and they’re making progress.

We should be engaging with this topic just like any other emerging method of progress. I don’t mean to shed an entirely negative light on this subject, but, rather, just to shed any light on it at all. If we all engage and discuss this major concept of technological progress, we can do so intelligently. However, if we don’t engage, and allow single biased minds to make this progress for us, we don’t get any say.

Let’s talk about it: in the government, in schools, in the work place. If it’s all a conspiracy theory now, it won’t be for long.