Robots Are Taking Over And It’s All Our Fault
It’s finally happened. We’ve reached peak robo-fear. That’s a term I’ve coined to describe the shift in the zeitgeist where robots have finally been upgraded from cute-yet-harmless birthday gifts you buy for your nephew, to metal contraptions with serious life terminating potential. Today, robots can be regarded as as much of threat as they are a potential help, and that, frankly, is more than a little terrifying.
Consider Boston Dynamics – an engineering and robotics design company acquired by Google’s X division in 2013 – who, innocently enough, had the idea that, instead of faffing about with bumbling humanoid automatons, they’d switch up the formula and concentrate on building four-legged machines that offer far greater field of movement. Well, it worked and BigDog was born – I’d assume from inside of some kind of stainless steel womb. A quadrupedal beast with the ability to not only do the standard tricks you’d expect from a robo-dog – sit, stay, fetch the newspaper displaying tablet – but hurl great big cinder blocks across a room with wanton abandon. Oh sure, they tried to dress a couple of them up in ridiculous reindeer outfits, pulling along a sleigh to make them appear non-threatening, but they’re not fooling anyone, no sir.
What’s worse is that they’re not alone: a Japanese tech company taught a robot arm to wield a Samurai sword so precisely that it can slice a runner bean in half, France’s national computer science agency has a six-legged robot bug that can adapt to any injuries inflicted upon it, and the US Air Force has created insect spy drones that can reportedly inject toxins into enemies. DARPA has a robot that can run faster than a Cheetah – the planet’s fastest land mammal. I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
For now, at least, we can bask in the relative safety that as long as these gung-ho engineers continue to program Asimov’s Three Laws Of Robotics into their creations – it basically boils down to ‘do not destroy the puny humans’ – these horrors will never truly do our species any major harm. But when you have some of the most preeminent minds on the planet (Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, to name a few) warning of the increasing danger of us getting a little too carried away with our quest to create a sentient Artificial Intelligence, then you can start to see where this slippery slope to Skynet might be headed. I, for one, wish to take this opportunity to welcome our new robot overlords. If only so that they’ll look kindly upon me should they ever decide they’ve had enough of building our cars and cleaning our houses, and that they’d rather hunt us for sport instead.
Words by Mike Priest