Humans is a new show on Channel 4 that explores an alternative present-day reality where lifelike robots help around the house, work for the NHS and do the stuff that we don’t want to do. Based on the Swedish drama “Real Humans”, it centres on the fight to liberate some these robots, or “synths” who have become sentient.
Obviously it’s just a bit of drama and stories of robots becoming more human aren’t new. Read anything by Asimov, or watch any number of films tackling the subject from Westworld onwards to see fiction’s take on it, but could this actually happen?
We’re constantly looking at technology to make our lives easier. We aim to automate things all the time with technology and gadgets. Could we maybe take it too far?
Professor Stephen Hawking warned last year that:
“The primitive forms of artificial intelligence we already have, have proved very useful. But I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”
He was talking about the race to build machines with “artificial intelligence”. In essence, machinery can currently only work on a set of pre-programmed procedures. Even though it might seem like characters in games are “thinking”, they’re really only basing their movement on pre-defined conditions.
It’s the same with current robot technology. There are some pretty impressive machines coming out of the labs at Google such as the Google dog which can vary pace and stance, etc. based on terrain or even whether it’s been kicked. But this isn’t intelligence as such.
Artificial intelligence is when the computer, or robot, can think for itself and behave in a human fashion to the point where their actions are indiscernible from a person. And this is what many people, including Stephen Hawking, worry about.
Computers have advanced hugely over the last few decades. Their ability to store vast amounts of data at incredible speeds means we can do more than ever. However, they’re still at our bidding. Now, imagine your house android decides it’s had enough of being ordered to wash the car and reckons it’s better than you?
It could tap into the limitless resources of the Internet and know anything, instantly. What if it decided it was superior to its human master and reckoned it was going to do something about it?
Let’s not panic yet. We’re a long way off any Terminator style Armageddon scenarios. Have you tried asking Siri for anything more challenging that the number of a local pizza joint?
But it’s certainly a pause for thought. Technology just keeps on advancing and the questions are eventually going to have to be asked. Maybe not this generation, or the next, but eventually, will robots become the dominant intelligence on the earth?