By Christian Chen, Staff Writer
Imagine the following scenario from “The Terminator” film series: a supercomputer known as SkyNet suddenly becomes sentient, senses its own creators are a threat, and attempts to start a nuclear apocalypse/enslavement of humanity. Some have claimed that such a scenario could happen in real life. They reason that we have the technology. Use our drone programs with facial and gait recognition software, and then throw in artificial intelligence and you get a cyborg human-murdering machine, right?
Well, not really. Some people actually do not think “The Terminator” could happen in real life. We have drones, but they’re not exactly unmanned. They’re just just piloted by someone remotely. The military is nowhere near letting these things go off on their own to go on missions, and their levels of autonomy are more basic. Even more complex commands are nowhere near commands like, “Find X target, conduct recon, terminate if threat confirmed.” If sci-fi “killer robots” exist, they will most likely take the form of aerial drones.
Why do I say that? It is because the ground presents a problem for robots at the moment. Humans have enough problems with the ground. After all, most people still stumble around like a fifty-dollar Wal-Mart robot on a staircase. Imagine an actual cyborg doing the same thing. Now, I am not saying that Terminator-type robots are 100 percent fake. Robots similar to “The Terminator” may have been tested in labs, but it is nowhere near the battlefield. Realistically, if your drone-tank hybrid malfunctions in battle, you’re screwed. You would have to look at destroying that thing to prevent it from falling into enemy hands, which means a waste of millions of dollars in hardware, construction, and programming. Something is bound to go wrong in a realistic combat scenario with a piece of tech possessing so many moving parts.
In short, most lethal forces of the world are still just a bunch of guys with ungodly amounts of military training (in the form of special operations soldiers). Robots currently supplement human soldiers, but haven’t completely replaced them yet.
There are some people, however, that are convinced that a Terminator-type scenario is very real. According to Dr. Amnon Eden, we could be getting close to a “point of no return” without proper understanding of the consequences of AI. Oxford Professor Nick Bostrom added that AI may “advance to a point where its goals are not compatible with that of humans.” Governments are not implementing policies to control AI like they are with climate change and genetic engineering. If allowed to make its own decisions, “The Terminator” could happen. In the eyes of people who believe “The Terminator” could happen, governments must take action now before robots even become sentient.
Although the evidence for the likelihood of a “Terminator” scenario in real life is interesting and worth looking into, I have to disagree: A robot or computer cannot do something its maker didn’t program it for. Furthermore, there is the principle that a created being is never above its creator. That is not how the world works. In addition, computers are not like humans, namely because they are incapable of making moral decisions and can only do the things within their programming. Because we as humans have a moral compass as moral agents, we are capable of making moral decisions that a robot cannot. A robot cannot overstep its programming boundaries, because then it would be above its maker.
In short, “The Terminator” scenario is unlikely to happen in real life; it is just Hollywood magic at work.