We all remember the immortal words Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator, spoke when he was denied entrance to the police station in the first Terminator film. He calmly said, “I’ll be back.” And he did indeed return with vengeance in that first movie and in the much-celebrated sequels. Exciting science fiction depicting an imaginary world of cyborgs and humankind’s battle against them. Pure fantasy.
In years since the 1984 release of that classic film, the fiction depicted has become fact in more ways than we could have predicted. While the Terminator has not arrived (yet), robotics and artificial intelligence have made quantum leaps toward reality. Today, the surrealism of 1984 is the realism of 2021.
In early February, the Voice of America wrote about Hanson Robotics’ plans to unleash thousands of humanoid robots in 2021 to address demands from technology starved consumers. According to the article, these handy robots will help keep us safe from pandemics, assist healthcare workers, take care of the sick and elderly, administer therapy, and provide social stimulation. And that’s just a small part of the many things they can do. What many would say are wonderful benefits.
The article also points out that these friendly robots are also equipped with facial recognition software that can, for example, identify anyone in the public who is not wearing a mask. I suppose they would then politely suggest that you put one on. Or not so politely. And they can process speech and use AI to carry on a conversation as well. Of course, they take orders well too. At least for now.
Robotics supported by AI is here. There appear to be no restraints on further development of AI despite warnings from some of the brightest minds in science and technology that if left unrestrained, AI could make the Terminator more reality than fiction. It seems no one cares about “progress” no matter what the consequences may be.
I explore a future, fictional world in my newest novel, Dragon on the Far Side of the Moon, where the natural progression of AI may lead as China and the United States face off on colonization of the Moon. It’s what I call “plausible fiction.” It may not be reality today, but is it really that far off?
Something to think about.