The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. Stephen Hawking
With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. Elon Musk
It’s amazing that in an era in which it has been well nigh impossible to wash anything under the carpet, when nothing has remained a secret, when information is as ubiquitous as cowboys were in the Old West, a very insignificant looking incident with possible repercussions for the future was allowed to remain insignificant. In the last week of June this year, a 22 year old Volkswagen employee was killed by a robot. The man was setting up the stationary robot, which was programmed to do different production tasks, with another team member when it grabbed and crushed him against a metal plate. Maybe, it was just another of those accidents, but delving deeper into the incident, was it another warning towards a future that looks increasingly dystopian? With mankind leaning more and more towards automation every passing day and with artificial intelligence not being the distant dream it was in the past, who can guarantee that there will never be a Skynet in the real world? Who can save mankind if things as soulless and menacing as terminators descend on us with the single intention of wiping us of the planet we so dearly call our home?
Well, that was probably a hyperbolic statement, and even its greatest detractors will agree that artificial intelligence has unforeseen benefits, but we certainly can’t afford to overlook impending doom. What if thinking robots that can engage and eliminate a target without human intervention become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow? While experts and scientists are always trying to limit the development of deadly AI, mankind has proved time and again that anything good always has a dark side. Unlike heavy duty nuclear bombs, these weapons require no rare or costly raw materials, and will be, hence easier to mass produce. This makes it extremely likely for them to end up in the black market, and then, terrorists, dictators (Was there ever a difference?) and others of their ilk are never far away, are they? With potential to be used as both weapons of mass destruction and for stealth missions, the future doesn’t look too rosy, does it? And with small being perennially beautiful, what if the Ant Mans of the reel make the seemingly imminent transition into the real?
No less than Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have warned that a global robotics arms race is inevitable, saying that starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control. In light of these views, maybe Skynet level AI will not be such a giant leap for mankind as previously thought. And if judgement day ever happens, may the force be with us.