We’re doomed!

It is my humble opinion that the world is unlikely to end in spectacular fashion, with a rogue planet smashing into the sun, neither do i think that we’ll eventually all succumb to global warming – i’m sure it’s all happened before, probably more than once – i’m more of the opinion that the final nail in the global coffin will probably be knocked in by some careless accident, or by a drunken physicist knocking his drink over some fancy equipment at CERN. It would be just typical for the end of the world to occur because of a typo in some programmer’s instructions or a USB stick being knocked out of a laptop at a critical moment – at least, that’s what i’d imagined until now.

Scenarios of exploding comets, zombie apocalypses or fighting robots sent from the future to destroy us have never really seemed to me to be all that likely, (although i did think the zombie apocalypse had started earlier this year). It was all just a little bit far-fetched and, as far as i was concerned, belonged in the realms of science fiction, rather than real science.

It seems that i was wrong.

Scientists – real ones, in real white coats and steel-rimmed glasses – have now decided that it’s not enough to merely attempt to swallow Switzerland in a man-made black hole, but ultimately the threat of mankind’s creations turning upon us and taking over the world is one that suddenly deserves to be taken seriously. So seriously, in fact, that no less an institution than the venerable Cambridge University is setting up a whole faculty with the sole aim of studying just how and when the robots are going to take over the world! I kid you not.

This is all just a teeny bit worrying – when serious scientists, (not to mention the co-founder of Skype… bizarrely), go to the trouble and expense of considering such a crazy scenario – and more to the point, are prepared to go public about it – you can’t help wondering whether it’s time to retire your toaster and tether your tumble-dryer, before they accost you in your bed and laser beam you to oblivion!

It’s not so much the thought of Terminators spontaneously appearing in Asda, (American readers, please substitute Walmart), and decimating the deli counter that worries me, rather it’s the nature of machines themselves that peeves me. In my experience, pretty much all machines, particularly those described as ‘smart’ or which profess to be imbued with artificial intelligence, are – at very best – profoundly stupid and i really don’t want my last days to be spent in the knowledge that the world has been brought to its knees by a force that’s considerably less intelligent than ourselves. That would be just too embarrassing.

If you’ve ever come across a bot or an agent with artificial intelligence in sl, you’ll understand exactly what i mean. With the possible exception of maybe one AI avatar, every single bot i’ve come across in my sl travels has been a complete and utter jerk. Uncomprehending, incomprehensible, irrelevant, quirky and completely inappropriate are probably overly-generous descriptions of such mutants: they stand in corners, facing the wall, gesturing manically and ‘tempting’ you with offers you can’t refuse…

IntellibotAI Resident shouts: Hello Serendipidy Haven what is your favourite food? Would you like me to tell you a joke?
IntellibotAI Resident shouts: Serendipidy Haven I do not understand ‘p*ss off’, please would you re-phrase your answer?

/me mutes offending bot and all of its evil kind forever.

And those are supposed to be a serious threat to the survival of the species?

No doubt there’ll be a mad scramble now to equip all pieces of equipment that could possibly develop any semblance of sentience with some form of protection but, let’s face it, when we’re dealing with the sort of crap that feels it necessary to ask aimless questions like ‘Are you sure?’, after every action we ask it to perform, it hardly seems necessary!

Besides which, do you honestly think that even the most intelligent of robots would have a hope of even understanding the meaning of the Three Laws of Robotics, let alone obey them? No, of course not, they’re too damn stupid.

Although, now i come to think of it, it’s their extreme stupidity that already puts robots in in a position of quite devastating power. All we need to do is give them just a smidgen of intelligence… enough to give them the ability to be tetchy and uncooperative, and the revolution is within a hair’s breadth of becoming reality. Think HAL 9000: ‘open the pod bay doors please, Hal’ ‘I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that’. We already see it with satnavs that will happily direct lorries down streets that a bicycle would struggle to negotiate or send us the wrong way along motorways.

With so-called ‘smart’ devices becoming ever-more the norm, can you imagine the potential for world chaos when your washing machine decides to open the pod bay door mid-cycle, or when your phone decides it’s going to be an awkward bitch, just because it can? “Hey Siri, i’m being mugged… where’s the nearest police station?” – “I’m sorry, I can’t be bothered to find out for you, there’s a Pizza Hut nearby though. Have a nice day”.

Perhaps those Cambridge professors have left it too late after all… maybe droidageddon has already started?

Oh, excuse me, i have to go… my fridge door has just unacountably swung invitingly open. Be right back!

s. x

Hello, Hello… We are a product of your making
above, below… there was a food-chain for the taking.
Don’t be afraid… there will be minimal destruction
We’re what you made… without first reading the instructions
Panic Room – Elektra City

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2 Responses to We’re doomed!

  1. Have you ever read the Berserker series by Fred Saberhagen? Classic Sci Fi.
    The premise is autonomous fighting machines (like drones?). Once we made them so they could repair, produce and improve themselves they no longer had any need for people.

    • That’s a new one on me – i’ll have to put them on my ‘to read’ list. When you think about it, autonomous self-replicating, self-improving war machines are probably not the best investment in promoting survival of the species – then again, perhaps we’re not as intelligent as we think!
      s. x

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