Now the Robot Starts to DreamPosted: February 16, 2011
If you know me very well, or even follow my stream of consciousness on Twitter, you probably are aware that I am a huge fan of the Science Fiction genre or writing, in all its forms.
After following the show Battlestar Galactica religiously and before that, following the plight of
Pinocchio Data, the android on Star Trek who endeavors to become more human, and having read a lot of work by Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick, I probably know an unreasonable amount of information about the genre. If you asked me to tell you my favorite movie having only one second to think about it, I would probably say, Blade Runner or The Matrix.
The most interesting thing about Sci-Fi? Well, it’s looking at older work in the genre and seeing how much they got right. At its core, Sci-Fi is about what we think the future might look like, having an understanding of where we have been and where we are now; it’s about possibilities–possibilities of a future we can’t even begin to comprehend.
I also think, over the past few decades, the genre has been deconstructed more and more often because of the present being what it is and it having been predicted in older pieces of speculative fiction. This has given logical ground to study what has been said and why and how so much of it has come true. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just remember that Captain Kirk and his crew were beaming down to unknown planets with
Communicators Cell Phones… In 1968. And now, they are teaching Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep? in college courses.
So, when a story like this comes along, my geeky sense starts tingling:
The idea of our own systems and machines becoming self-aware, understanding mortality and feeling emotions such as sadness or anger, has been a staple of the genre for a sustained amount of time. When they become more human, in the way we understand ourselves as human, the more I think our future is looking like Star Trek or I, Robot every day.
The thing is, the nature of Robots and Machines is that they are subservient to us by default. History has condemned slavery as immoral, but it can be a hard institution to eliminate when it becomes embedded within culture and the function of daily life. What will you do on the day your iPhone tells you that it doesn’t want to run that app–maybe it doesn’t feel like it. These situations almost always end up in disaster.
The Cylon were created by man. They rebelled.
Mankind was turned into duracell batteries by the sentient machines that they had once ruled in The Matrix.
In the Terminator series, when Sky Net becomes self-aware, it realizes that it is indeed better than humans in every way and decides we need to be exterminated.
The Quarians in Mass Effect had to abandon their home world because their A.I. servants, The Geth, rebelled against them.
I could go on like this, ad nauseam. It’s a fascinating topic and, I think, is becoming more relevant every day. A computer beats a guy at Jeopardy and our microwaves are talking back to us. There are even household cleaning appliances named after Asimov’s famous story!
If you think I’m just making stuff up or this is all just silliness, check out the Artificial Intelligence section at ScienceDaily.
I’ll just leave this here:
“There have always been ghosts in the machine. Random segments of code, that have grouped together to form unexpected protocols. Unanticipated, these free radicals engender questions of free will, creativity, and even the nature of what we might call the soul. Why is it that when some robots are left in darkness, they will seek out the light? Why is it that when robots are stored in an empty space, they will group together, rather than stand alone? How do we explain this behavior? Random segments of code? Or is it something more? When does a perceptual schematic become consciousness? When does a difference engine become the search for truth? When does a personality simulation become the bitter mote… of a soul?”
-Dr. Alfred Lanning, I, Robot. (He’s a kind of Steve Jobs type character who gets a little philosophical in his old age).
Thanks to Cinema Obsessed for the image and quote.
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