They're coming for us - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Jess will be quite chuffed (not to be confused with being chaffed, chiffed or chorfed - that’s Scott’s department) that she’s given me fodder for two columns in a row. However, this one comes from another article she sent me, not her two actual suggestions, which were: how about you write one about your daughter or write a funny one (again, that, it appears, is Scott’s department).
This one is again from the New York Times. It’s a profile on Geoffrey Hinton, who is often referred to as The Godfather of Artificial Intelligence. The Godfather, who has some Canadian roots as a professor at the University of Toronto, has quit Google and he’s now warning about the precarious (and, indeed, dangerous, as cited by the article) future ahead in terms of the rise of artificial intelligence.
I suppose we should have known that evil was lurking around the corner with artificial intelligence. Twitter man-baby Elon Musk is involved, which is an instant indicator that we should have a certain level of concern, but we also have decades of films, television and books warning us of the rise of the machines.
When I was young, we had plenty. Cyborg, Universal Soldier, the Terminator movies; we must have had a real robot obsession back then. And most of those movies followed the very American method of keeping each other safe. You know, the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun? Those movies showed us that the only way to stop a bad robot was with a good robot. Sure, those movies told us that, but the subtext of that sentiment is that humans are forgotten. We don’t stand a chance, that much is clear.
However, long before SkyNet went live in 1984 in The Terminator, we had HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Stanley Kubrick released the movie in 1968, but its story comes from an Arthur C. Clarke short story from 1951.
Clarke knew. After we got rid of Hitler, a new evil lurked about and it was robots.
So, one might say my generation has been conditioned to fear our new robot overlords. And then HBO made Westworld. The doomed series (it was cancelled before what was to be its fifth and final season) told of a future in which rich folks could live out their deepest and darkest fantasies in a number of themed settings without consequences. The humans would interact - sexually, violently or otherwise - with robots so real it was impossible to tell them from the humans. Sure, the creators tried to trick us by having Evan Rachel Wood, Thandiwe Newton, James Marsden, Angela Sarafyan, Talulah Riley - some of the world’s most attractive people - playing said robots, but they were all evil. So, despite the best efforts of Hollywood, most of us have sussed out that robots, artificial intelligence and the like are evil, right?
Back to Hinton and his warning, I feel like we all should have known this from the start. Sure, there are the “robots will replace us and do all of our jobs” concern, but I think we should also have the “robots will gain sentience and do away with us all in short order”. Perhaps this was foretold in the Bible. The robot revolution is probably in the same chapter as the one that tells us not to fly Pride flags and the one with all the guns in it (your right to own an assault rifle, after all, is very often referred to as being God-given, so it must be in there somewhere).
I’d be happy to work with the robots when they take over, doing the bidding of their king Elon Musk, but there might not be room for me on the org. chart. After all, I think a robot is capable of e-mailing