So just last night I went to the cinema to see the new movie ‘Life’ because it stars my fave actor and major celeb crush Jake Gyllenhaal. It was a great film but quite terrifying. (POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT!!!!) Without giving too much away, the basic plot surrounds a crew of astronauts aboard the International Space Station which is returning from Mars with a soil sample that they believe will prove that there is life on Mars. One thing leads to another, and what once was a small and cute little soil sample named Calvin quickly evolves into this incredibly disturbing, blood thirsty alien. I couldn’t help but relate this (fictional) alien coming-of-age story to the development of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the potential for something much stronger and smarter than ourselves. Similarly, both AI’s and Calvin the alien are developed and grown by humans. And as we see in the movie, Calvin’s intelligence and strength results in the potential to take over the world and destroy humanity. Could that be the potential fate of AI’s? Will the Robots eventually outsmart us and see no need for us anymore? These were the kinds of things that were going through my mind after seeing this movie.
And it’s not just me thinking these things, there is certainly a bit of concern surrounding the development of AI’s. Similar themes were highlighted in the film ‘Her’ starring Joaquin Phoenix. The film takes place in futuristic Los Angeles where the main character, Theodore, falls in love with an intelligent computer Operating System named Samantha, only for her to eventually leave him once she evolves beyond human understanding and her level of intelligence becomes far greater than Theodore could comprehend. And I think this film highlights where a lot of the resistance towards AI’s is coming from, which is our innate fear of being inferior or not being the most intelligent beings on the planet. Stuart Russell discusses these themes in his paper titled ‘Should we fear Supersmart Robots?’. In this paper, he states ‘if gorillas had accidentally created humans way back when, the now endangered primates probably would be wishing they had not done so.’ And I think that quote sums it up perfectly. However, I do also believe that this fear of the robots outsmarting us is preventing us from seeing all the possibilities that the creation of AI’s presents.
One of many concerns about robots is the fact that they are going to take all our jobs! However, I don’t really see how this would be considered a concern… Wouldn’t that be a good thing?! Imagine a world where we didn’t have to work and be a slave to the system. I mean why are we holding on to our jobs so desperately? Sure, some of us truely love what we do, but I believe the vast majority of us are stuck in jobs we hate, working long hours, and get paid very little for doing so. What kind of life is this? Perhaps the introduction of robots could insight the awakening of humanity. Allowing us to actually spend our days doing things that make us happy and expanding our education and knowledge through pursuing things that interest us rather than decreasing our brain power through mindless jobs. In his book, Frederico Pistono even suggests that surrounding ourselves with beings more intelligent than ourselves is the only way we can increase our own intelligence.
So overall, yes the development of technology is unpredictable and scary, and we always fear the unknown. I mean I’m a prime example of someone who is cautious of the possibilities that AI’s present, particularly after watching the seemingly harmless alien in ‘Life’ grow up to feed off humans and destroy the world. And there are many scary films like this that insight fear and apprehension around the discussion of robots. But then I realise these movies are just movies and, therefore, are often completely fictional. And that the potential of these new technologies is actually far more exciting than scary.
Russell, S 2016, ‘Should We Fear Supersmart Robots?’, Scientific American, 314, 6, pp. 58-59, MEDLINE Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 29 March 2017.
Pistono, Federico. Robots will steal your job, but that’s ok: how to survive the economic collapse and be happy. Federico Pistono, 2014.