On March 1, 2012 the Nevada DMV issued the first license for a “Google Driverless Car.” The idea behind this innovation is that one day soon new technology will drive cars safer and more skillfully than humans, thus saving lives and billions of dollars in car crashes. How well this idea catches on is a bit questionable, given the powerful “romance” of driving one’s car, but it’s certainly an indicator of things to come in the daily intersection of human and artificial intelligence and mobility. There have always been those who have dreamed of stepping into a mechanical exo-skeletal-type “suit” and letting the engineering do the work, instantly increasing limited human speed, strength, endurance and accuracy.
Mech-suits like the ones that have become standard fare in sci-fi films and videogames may be getting closer to becoming a practical reality more than you might think. Already, tech innovations for leg braces helping people walk, back supports for the crippled and other futuristic light-weight prostheses have been developed as spin-off benefits of Honda’s work in building their robot “Asimo.”
Asimo is more than just a cool tribute to Isaac Asimov (the sci-fi writer who first “imagined” robot androids indistinguishable from humans in stories like “I, Robot”) – he (she?) walks and moves independently, utilizing a rudimentary “artificial intelligence.” Asimo may not be capable at this point of doing much more than carrying out a human master’s commands with programmed responses and actions, but this is definitely the very real beginning of a future portending some very fascinating, and possibly scary, questions...
At what point will our robots’ “artificial” (programmed) intelligence become all too real, arming them with “free will?”
Prometheus was punished for all eternity by the gods for giving the gift of fire to us mortals. Will we mortals be inadvertently hastening our own obsolescence and overthrow by giving the gift of “true A.I.” to the powerful machines we’ve built with our own hands?
Maybe we’ll keep innovating and strengthening our mighty mech-suits. Then if our robots, having attained free will via true A.I., choose to rebel against us, we will be ready to don our own armor for the final Battle Royale. And so it will be that the robots who have become virtually humans will fight it out with the future humans capable of transforming into virtual robots for dominion over all that’s left of “civilization.” (Or maybe by then Humans and Androids will have sufficiently evolved their intelligences to be able to live together peacefully as extensions of and helpers to one another.)