Afraid of the Robots

downloadArtificial Intelligence scares me. Terrifies me. In my own human, intelligent, rational brain I know that AI means different things and has many different levels. I know, for example, that my internet search engine is a form of artificial intelligence. It thinks, in a way, and can predict what I want when I type in a couple of words. Our smart phones can tell us where to go for lunch based on our preferences. We have robots that can play chess, play video games, and do basic human calculations and functions. This doesn’t scare me…much. But this is only the beginning and in my paranoid human brain, I can only think of scenarios where this all goes terribly wrong.

I read an article not long ago about a robot that some AI engineers had created. It was a fairly human looking robot; it could walk on two feet. The article mentioned how the engineers would push the robot over and knock it around, like bullies picking on a weaker kid. They were testing it, like any good engineer would test a product, and it made perfect sense that they would do this. I couldn’t watch it! All I could think of was that the robot was not some dumb machine, but a thinking, feeling creature. It would hurt! Even worse, it would get mad! When we created robot brothers for it, they would exact vengeance on us!

Usually I laugh about the fear, but I wonder about it as well. Is it based on some real, instinctual fear? Is it the normal human fear of The Other? Part of my fear is based on the unlooked for consequences. We don’t know what will happen and that is always scary.

The Terminator robot
The Terminator robot

On the other hand, it could simply mean that I’ve watched too many movies and read too many books about futuristic dystopias where the robots and smart machines take over the world. In my mind the future of AI is always a Terminator, Blade Runner, or 2001: A Space Odyssey scenario. Create a supercomputer? It goes all HAL 9000 and kills everyone. Google creates a car that drives on it’s own? It will develop a mind of its own and the human riding the car will be at its mercy. Create a humanoid robot? It will take over the world, go to war with us, and we humans will regret the day we thought AI was a good idea.

What do you think about Artificial Intelligence? 


2 thoughts on “Afraid of the Robots”

  1. As someone who doesn’t read much sci-fi or dystopian fiction, I fall back on one of the few stories I HAVE read, Rules for Robots in I,Robot: No robot shall hurt a human. (I love it when my email box automatically signs my name to my emails if I just type “S” — my name in my family is Shirl.) But then, I’m famous for having no discernible imagination and you are an author, so . . .

    1. kimberlysbarton

      I think of those rules of robotics too and hope that whoever finally creates humanoid and thinking robots remembers to program them with those rules in mind.

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