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“This Above All: To Thine Own Self Be True.”

October 14th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

AI. Artificial Intelligence, the catch 22 of today’s society. We embrace it, at least, most of us do. We Twitter, we Facebook, we MySpace (*Snicker*), we blog. We are designing lifelike robots that act like humans. At what point will the AI evolve on its own and surpass us? If I, Robot has taught me anything, it’s that if Will Smith moves into my neighborhood, it’s time to move to a nice, secluded part of Alaska.

Rule #1 “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm…Unless it looks good on-screen.”

In the battle between man and machine, I’m sorry to say that machine is winning. It can think faster than we can and process more data in a shorter period of time. If you need proof of this, watch Watson compete with Jeopardy contestants the next time you’re browsing videos on YouTube.

Okay, now I want to see you try Family Feud.

Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation is an android, built by his creator, Doctor Noonian Soong. He has no emotions, yet his goal is to become human. He strives and struggles every day to evolve beyond his programming. He eventually succeeds in the movie “Generations”, having decided to have the emotion chip he received years ago installed, believing to be finally ready and mature enough for the change he was about to experience. In the end he was successful in making sense of all the new sensations he saw his friends take for granted every day. The same couldn’t be said for his brother Lore, who Data was forced to kill and dismantle. Lore was created before Data and was given emotions right off the bat. Long story short, he was a homicidal maniac. Soong realized his mistake and later created emotionless, harmless Data. It would be chilling to see what effect emotions would have on the machines of today.

Lore was a bit of an ass.

You could go a non-robotic route like Star Trek: Voyager did with “The Doctor.” He was an Emergency Medical Hologram that kicked in during emergencies to assist the crew when needed. When Voyager was lost 70,000 light years from home and the Chief Medical Officer killed, he assumed a permanent role, something he was not programmed for. Throughout the series we watched him struggle with his own limitations while evolving beyond his own programming, it was hard toward the end to even think of him as a computer program built by complex algorithms. There was even an episode on holographic rights, something someday we may have to address as computers become more and more self-aware. One of my favorite parts of the series was when the Doctor was forced to save two lives but only had time to save one, which one did he pick and why? He became a walking malfunction afterwards, trying to understand why he chose one patient over the other seeing as how both patients were equally valuable and each had an equal chance of living. When his program threatened to destabilize, Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine made an effort to help him see through the moral dilemma. At the very end of the episode when the Doctor was at his breaking point, he read a poem from the book “La Vita Nuova”…”In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you, appear the words: Here begins a new life.“ The credits ran shortly after, but we got the jist, it helped him to understand that by having this experience the rest of his life would be changed.

Of course, there’s always the classic Battlestar Galactica viewpoint. Man creates machine. Man and machine go to war. Machine makes man an endangered species. Machine chases Edward James Olmos all over the frakkin galaxy. Perhaps one day that is exactly what will become of us if we maintain a naive attitude and create AI life without understanding it.

The Cylons created Tricia Helfer so they can’t be all that bad, right?

It’s very possible everything will work out in the end, and that all homes will feature an R2 unit of our very own that annoyingly beeps at us when we ask it to clean the gutters. C3PO was harmless in his own right, if you don’t count the obsessive compulsive need to talk someone’s ear off for hours on end.

Leia snapped this picture right after me and R2 destroyed the Death Star. No really…

Uncle Ben would often sit me down before I went off swinging from building to building and kissing women upside down in the rain and tell me that “With great power comes great responsibility.” I’ll leave the question to you, are we ready for such responsibility?

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