If you have ever watched the movies The Terminator; I, Robot; or any other similar Sci-Fi movies with machines taking over humans, your most likely reaction would be “That will never happen!” or “This is just a piece of science fiction!”. And while we are truly far from witnessing such a thing, I don’t think it is wise to rule that out as a possible event.
For those who haven’t seen those movies, what happens is that machines somehow manage to take over the world and kill humans or, at least, dominate and control them. This has actually been a major science fiction theme during the last few decades (Y2K, anyone?).
While we are far from seeing something like that happening to us humans, a bit of careful thinking about the issue as well as some research led me to think that this IS a possible event (provided that we live that long to see it!).
Here are 8 reasons why:
- Aren’t they already taking over us? Look around you! Machines are, in fact, taking over humans (in a way). Many humans have already been “replaced” by machines. We used to think that they’re just for repetitive tasks which do not need decisions to be made, but is that really the case? (read on)
- Humans are greedy! Scientists’ dream is to perfect Artificial Intelligence and build a fully intelligent robot. The more science advances, the more greedy scientists seem to grow. Will they stop before it becomes too late and then we’re all doomed?
- The technological/scientific advancement over time. It’s not only growing; it’s growing exponentially! What seemed far-fetched 10 years ago is more or less a reality now.
- The effect of science fiction. You may not notice but science fiction sometimes “sets the bar” for science. It provides science with a vision and a direction. It influences science in a way or another. That might be a factor here.
- Computers are already much faster and more efficient than humans. I think this is highly evident. Have you ever raced your computer to “do the math”? Who won? Dr. Peter Diamandis estimates that we’ll begin to see supercomputers with human brain capabilities during these 2-3 years!
Note: I’m only considering the computational efficiency here and not other types of capabilities in which the brain is clearly far more advanced than a machine.
- Machines can always optimize where humans can’t. Being an Industrial Engineer who applies the tools of Operations Research/Optimization, it is clear that the formulation of the problem (modeling some decision problem as a mathematical model) is done by a human whereas the process of getting the optimal solution to that problem or decision is done by a computer! If these machines manage to formulate their decision problems as proper Optimization models, then that would mean that they will always get the optimal (best) solutions no matter what! Even if the optimal solution/decision was to kill a human, they wouldn’t hesitate!
As an example, if you’ve ever played Chessmaster on your PC, how hard is it to beat the Chessmaster himself/itself in the game (assuming you could do it)? The AI (Artificial Intelligence) somehow manages to get the optimal (best) moves with the optimal final outcome (crushing you as the poor human who struggles with every move). Repetitive task? I think not!
- Machines can always be rational as opposed to emotional. Humans suffer(?) from emotional dimensions when it comes to making a decision. This might affect the outcome in a negative way (not always, of course). A machine that always thinks rationally can easily overcome this issue and come up with rational decisions.
- Machines might be more collaborative than humans. It is easier to think of machines collaborating together to achieve a goal than humans doing so. Humans are influenced by many factors in their collaboration decisions. For machines, it’s just a matter of 0 or 1. Machines are already collaborating everywhere around us (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.).
I’m currently playing the famous Sci-Fi PC game Mass Effect and was really surprised at the idea of the Geth (synthetic race of machines that rebelled against their makers) using neural networks (more on those maybe later in another blog post) to communicate and share information even in combat situations! That is collaboration at work!
“Part of the geth’s success is due to their neural network. Effectively, they “share” their processing power, distributing low-level processes like motor control and visual identification to free up bandwidth for higher reasoning and complex thought. […] An individual geth has only a basic intelligence on par with animal instincts, but in groups they can reason, analyze situations, and use tactics as well as any of the organic races.”
Now, that’s interesting, don’t you think?
Food for thought!
If you have any comments, please do share them and enrich the discussion.