One day soon, our lives will be filled with robot maids, chauffeurs, and police officers – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Society will have to change to accommodate their presence, but how will that affect our opinions, attitudes, and ethics? Luckily for us, several visionary filmmakers have already attempted to answer that question. Let’s take a look at a few extraordinary movies – and see if they can offer us a peek at the technology that's just around the corner.
The story behind A.I. was born inside the mind of Stanley Kubrick. The same director who brought us legendary films like The Shining and Full Metal Jacket, Kubrick became famous for his incredibly sobering movies about men in perpetual conflict with themselves, their peers, and their environment. So how do these films relate to A.I.’s main character – an adolescent robot named David, who is destined to remain a child until the end of time? A.I. seems to suggest that when robots finally achieve self-awareness – which they will, likely within the next two decades – it will place them in continuous conflict with their origins. Living in the same world as one’s creator brings with it an inevitable power struggle.. especially if the creation exhibits superior physical and mental traits, when compared to the human beings which invented it.
Will robots eventually resent us? I think that’s doubtful, but James Cameron’s vision seems to differ from that opinion. His Terminator films present us with a series of terrifying tales about the militarized robot. In T2, we see a teenager struggling to control the relentlessness of his own T-800, and the complications which come when the robot interprets his commands too literally. The metaphor is obvious – the first generation of consumer-based robots will be something akin to genies. They’ll be designed to grant our wishes, but will lack the cognitive abilities to truly fulfill them.
Luckily, we can avoid this complication by creating specific verbal commands which cannot be misinterpreted – a kind of spoken programming. Again, it was Kubrick who predicted the need for such a language. In his epic masterpiece 2001, the film’s antagonist – a robot named HAL – refuses to follow instructions from his human users. Unalterable “shut down" words could have prevented this problem, and will likely be an incredibly important part of instructing the robots of tomorrow.
Unfortunately, this brings up an even more dire problem – soon, we’ll have this kind of technology implanted in our own bodies. The very real field of cybernetics is now well-established, which means we may one day have override commands hardwired directly into our brains. As such technology becomes more and more common, an enormous ethical debate will emerge – in order to determine how this tech should effect our ideas about personal freedom.
So how will we be able to protect ourselves against such a potentially crippling problem? In the low-budget sci-fi classic Cyborg, Jean Claude Van Damne uses his superior martial arts skills to protect a robot-human hybrid from the forces of evil... which is why I’ll be ordering an AI-powered Van Damne bot the second they hit the market.
You must be a registered user to add a comment here. If you've already registered, please log in. If you haven't registered yet, please register and log in.