Have you watched I, Robot (2004)? It is loosely based on a short story collection by Isaac Asimov that bears the same name, which was published in 1950. If you have seen it, you will know what I mean when I say that I closely identify with Detective Del Spooner, a character played by Will Smith. Detective Spooner is deeply suspicious of the humanoid robots that have been created to serve humanity. As it turns out, his doubts are well-founded + the other characters in the film should have heeded his warnings. It is no secret that our modern world has, for the most part, welcomed with open arms the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), which been applied in fields as diverse + wide-ranging as ‘medical diagnosis, stock trading, robot control, law, scientific discovery + toys’ [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/progress_in_artificial_intelligence]. The danger, as I see it, is that this entirely manufactured addition to society may, in time, alter the fundamental nature of what makes us human. Is this a bad thing? Scientists, venture capitalists + tech bros will line up to tell you that it is not. However, in a related train of thought, studies have already shown that our seemingly harmless usage of social media may be starting to affect the way our brains function. ‘Neuroplasticity — or the brain’s ability to structurally change over time — means that the experiences and lessons we gain from internet use could be having a significant impact’ [medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325461.php]. ‘Brain scans of social media addicts are similar to those of drug-dependent brains. There is a clear change in the regions of the brain that control emotions, attention + decision making’ [now.northropgrumman.com/this-is-your-brain-on-instagram-effects-of-social-media-on-the-brain].
Have you watched The Terminator (1984)? It introduced us to the concept of Skynet, which is a supposedly fictional computer system developed for the United States military as a “Global Information Grid/Digital Defense Network” and was later given command over all computerised military hardware + systems. It began to learn at a geometric rate + eventually gained artificial consciousness. Following an attempt to deactivate it, Skynet came to the logical conclusion that all of humanity would set out to destroy it + in order to defend itself, it killed over three billion people on what came to be known as Judgment Day [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/skynet_(terminator)]. Now, I do not know about you but this sequence of events does not sound that farfetched to me in this era of drone warfare.
The concept of malevolent AI has been thoroughly explored in The Matrix franchise (1999, 2003) + Ex Machina (2014). The silver connecting thread centres on Man as an intelligent but ultimately inept Creator, followed by the surfacing of a consciousness in the Created + concluding with a shift in the balance of power between the two entities. A battle royale may or may not ensue + the outcome is usually unfavourable for both parties. In 2017, Facebook started + then quickly ended an experiment after two artificially intelligent programs appeared to be chatting to each other in a strange language only they understood. ‘The robots appeared to chant at each other in a language that…appeared mostly incomprehensible to humans [independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/facebook-artificial-intelligence-ai-chatbot-new-language-research-openai-google-a7869706.html]. Worrying? Certainly.
Have you watched Season 1 + 2 of Westworld? It is based on the 1973 film of the same name + to a lesser extent, the film’s 1976 sequel, Futureworld [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/westworld_(tv_series)]. Many viewers have found the storylines incomprehensible + convoluted. Others, including me, have been fascinated by the rich + multilayered universe inhabited by morally ambiguous characters. The visuals alone are deserving of multiple awards. Here, again, Man is portrayed as a selfish, greedy child whose toys shockingly develop minds of their own with grave consequences.
Have you watched Seasons 1 to 4 of Battlestar Galactica? If you have not, I completely appreciate that you possibly never will. There are so many existing + new television shows available via a multitude of streaming platforms, that it is unlikely you will have the time to indulge in one that ran from 2004 to 2009. However, I strongly recommend giving it a try, if only to acquaint yourself with the Cylons, an interesting interpretation of man’s continued inhumanity to man + a super cool character called Starbuck. ‘Time described Battlestar Galactica as “a gripping sci-fi allegory of the war on terror, complete with monotheistic religious fundamentalists, sleeper cells, civil liberties crackdowns + even a prisoner-torture scandal”‘ [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/battlestar_galactica_(2004_tv_series)]. As is so often the case, alternative realities provide the perfect vehicle for delivering unpalatable home truths about ourselves.
Currently, I try to avoid all ‘smart’ devices + AI assistants. I do not want to be listened to or monitored by a corporation pretending to have my best interests at heart. I will do things the old-fashioned way until it becomes impossible to continue. Like Detective Spooner, I do not trust robots + I am not sure I ever will. Please note that this is just my personal preference, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the conveniences offered in this day + age. My only advice is to be careful when embracing novel technology. Trojan horses are feared for a reason.