Friday, May 22, 2009

Life Imitating Art: The Rise of the Machines

P.W. Singer, a noted expert on private military contractors, is now working on the next wave of technology and was asked by Slate to think about the Terminator possibility: will the machines rise up against us? He posits four restrictions that limit this possibility: the robots would need to have a survival instinct, they would need to be smarter than humans but with none of our special goodness, robots would have to be able to maintain themselves, and if there were no fail-safes implanted by the humans.

But he also identifies trends--the exponential increase in robots/drones/etc. in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In my book, I mention how one robotics firm was asked a few years ago by the military whether it could design a robot that looked like the "Hunter-Killer robot of Terminator."
So, the military is watching these movies and thinking about the practical applications. Quickly, the US put missiles upon platforms, such as the Predator, that were designed at first just for surveillance.

These developments raise all kinds of questions, including:
  • how do the defense bureaucracies fight against unmanned weapons systems and preserve their traditional missions?
  • will these machines make war more likely as politicians will be less constrained by casualty aversion?
  • will Star Trek's imagination eventually be realized so that war becomes virtual?
  • will James Cameron get a cut from the defense contractors who make the war robots?
  • will I,Robot be re-made soon, and, if so, by robots?
As the woman who gives the briefing before the Terminator show at Universal Studios would say, "Super!"

No comments: