Monday, November 19, 2007

The Robots are Taking Over!!! One Species at a Time

Pardon the paranoia, but I recently dugg up this little ditty. So forgive me if I'm a little scared of our mechanized friends at this moment.

For those of you too lazy to click on the underlined blue text, you've got a lot of nerve. But it is a link to an article on the National Public Radio website about a recent experiment involving robots and cockroaches. To summarize, the scientists were able to make a robot infiltrate cockroach society and guide any group decisions. They did this not by making robots that looked like cockroaches, but by making robots that smelled like cockroaches, seeing as how scent is their primary sense.

This little smelly robot was originally programmed to prefer dark spots to rest (a typical cockroach trait) but then after collecting some data, they changed it, making it prefer lighter nesting places. This influenced the other roaches and had them follow the robot into the lighter areas.

While I think that this is simply fascinating, and I realize that there is enormous potential in having us unlock knowledge about animal societies, I do have my concerns. First off, I think that it is scary to think that scientists are able to program a machine to think like an animal. Sure, cockroaches are pretty dumb, but today if is just insects today, what is to stop it from being fish or birds? And if fish and birds are ok, then what about pigs and cows? And then if those are ok, then what about dolphins or, heaven forbid, humans.

The thought of having a pre-programmed robot infiltrate human society should scare the crap out of you. Sure it's something that we may not have to worry about for a while, but still, it's a creepy, creepy thing! I don't want to end up falling in love with some girl, only to find out that she's actually a machine in disguise! And to fully integrate into human society they would probably be programed to NOT know their true identity, since it would be some sort of a give away.

Maybe I'm just a technophob, but I have serious concerns wondering just what kind of future artificial intelligence hold for us. In fact I think it could probably look something like this...

Yeah Han Solo is in all of my visions of the future...

I guess the fact that I chose that trailer explains my point perfectly. I have seen too many movies where technology goes horribly wrong. For every Blade Runner, Matrix, Minority Report, Dr. Strangelove, or even Jurassic Park there is a warning about something horrible that could go wrong. While I don't plan on taking any blue pills any time soon, I can't help but wonder just what potential for disaster there is any attempt to push the limits of human ingenuity.

While the gains are potentially monumental, the loses are potentially catastrophic. Because if someday a scientist is able to duplicate a human brain and have them infiltrate our society then we have lost something huge. We lose our identity, we lose our ability to be human if someone out there is able to make something "More Human Than Human".

Until next time,


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