Wednesday, May 2, 2012

If machines did think, what else will they do?

Artificial intelligence has long been a favorite of science fiction writers and producers.  Often a key plot device is the consequences which stem from having a self-aware machine.  Such a situation often takes the form of a “Tipping Point Objection.”  In this case, as machines become more advanced, there are initially no signs of danger.  However, a certain point is reached where the machine gains enough abilities that it achieves self awareness.  Once the machine recognizes itself as an entity, it usually acquires survival instincts.  Time and again, these survival instincts bring about all sorts of trouble.  Here are some examples.

Terminator 2: 

In the Terminator 2 scene, we have the classic case of artificial intelligence destroying humanity before they can “kill” it.  Meanwhile, the scene from 2001 has a similar situation; the only difference is that it’s much more personal (HAL only has to kill a few people to “survive”).  What makes the situation with HAL particularly frightening is that HAL has been self aware for some time, and does not respond until threatened.  In each of these cases, the survival instinct each machine acquires is essentially permanent.  This is because, like most self aware beings, these machines cannot easily “unlearn” something they have acquired. 

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