What came first,
the chicken or the egg? The answer is easy.
Science fiction came first. And because of its power
to inspire for both good and bad, the creative and the destructive
innovations that are thought of first as
Science Fiction ultimately become technical reality.
Verne: "Anything one man can imagine, other men can make
It's in our nature
to make it happen, to push the envelope,
to peer where no one should look, to discover the mysteries
of nature. And God help us.
Like curiosity that killed the cat,
like the naive frog that trusts the scorpion on his back
not to sting him, our very natures will prove our undoing because
Science Fiction, like some
perverse destiny, calls to us. And we can't help but see if we
can achieve what has been imagined. And more often than not what
has been imagined has been dire. Yet we do not heed the warnings.
Instead, we focus on the challenge of achieving the technology
without the wisdom to realize that it should never be built.
innovations have occurred of late that give me
the willies because they have been inspired by
Science Fiction and
do not bode well in any way, shape, or form. And it begs
the question: don't these
techno-twits get it? They read the
Science Fiction. They steal the ideas. And they turn
the ideas into reality for the sheer challenge of it. But don't
they get the message? Duh?
These innovations are dangerous. Come on, guys, I talked about
the Frankenstein motif back
in 1981 in my thesis:
The Doomsday Theme in Science Fiction. Mankind
always loses control of his creation. Let me stress the word:
Our modern technological
creations would spin Mary Shelley's
head. They leave Victor Frankenstein's
ham-fisted and unnamed creature
in the dust. I'm talking The
Terminator, baby, because current innovations are
bringing us to a dangerous culmination in technology. Yes I mean
like in the 1984 film by James
Cameron. I'm talking Skynet,
self-replicating robots, robot aircraft, and high yield
laser weapons. You know that the U.S.
will build it, apply it, and lose control of it. It's
inevitable. And the human race will quickly find itself in a
fight for survival against a form of superior mechanical life
that we have created. Just because you can do a thing does not
mean you should do a thing. It would be unwise. But do they get
it? Obviously not ...
has been in the works for years. And today, much like what
Isaac Asimov wrote about in
I, Robot (1950) and in
The Rest of the Robots (1964) we use robots for
repetitive tasks and for hazardous situations but something always
goes wrong. Basic movement, balance, and vision have been achieved.
The primitive robotic arms with their brute strength welding
car frames together on assembly lines have led to the subtle
Asimo robots developed by
Honda that demonstrate self-sustained
balance, locomotion including running, and vision. As in
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) by
Robert Wise based on the short story
"Farewell to the Master" (1940) by
Harry Bates; THX 1138 (1971) directed by
George Lucas; Star Trek (2009) directed by
J. J. Abrams; and Elysium
(2013) directed by Neil Blomkamp,
robots are destined to be our policemen. Policing is
becoming far too dangerous to have young men and women risking
their lives to maintain the peace.
Robot Policemen and THX in THX 1138 directed by George
Photo copyright © 1970 American Zoetrope. All Rights Reserved.
I'll be back.
from Terminator directed by James Cameron
Photo copyright © 1984 Orion Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
When robots work
properly, they provide a service to humanity. When they misbehave,
and they always eventually do, they are a problem. But when they
are built for military purposes and move like large cats, and
run amok, they are lethal
beyond belief. In Red Planet
(2000) directed by Antony
Hoffman, the astronauts lose control of their large,
catlike, military robot named AMEE,
on a mission already rife
with disaster, and it begins to kill them. What is truly
scary is that I saw a similar robot named
Wildcat demonstrated recently that is being developed
by Boston Dynamics for the
U. S. military. I saw it running
or rather galloping at sixteen
miles per hour. And I thought of AMEE.
Such a robot could run after an enemy or you effortlessly,
catch you, and dispassionately eviscerate you. Then there is
ATLAS which looks crude but
lethal. But PETMAN is a great
improvement in design on our road to the
T-800 from Terminator.
We are so close. And that
sends a shiver up my spine.
increased in computing speed according to
Moore's Law every two years, and decreased in size from
1945 which filled a 20
by 40 foot room, weighed
30 tons, and used more than
18,000 vacuum tubes to the
CPU of 2013 that is
smaller than a postage stamp and could easily fit within the
head of a robot to make the machine self-sufficient and sentient.
And there is only a small step, mere
window dressing, between the demonstration version of
Wildcat and the full battle ready
hunter-killer depicted in
Terminator. But that is not the only thing that
For a number
of years, the weakest part of our modern fighter jets has been
the human component. Yes, I'm talking about the pilots. The jets
are physically capable of maneuvers that are so extreme that
the pilots pass out. Then last week, on the evening news came
the story that the first unmanned plane, the
U. S. Navy's X-47B stealth attack jet was being launched
from an aircraft carrier. So, they finally achieved it. They
have taken the pilot out of the cockpit. They have removed him
from the equation. Remotely controlled drones have been flying
from military bases and carriers for years. But now, like the
unmanned combat air vehicle with the onboard artificial intelligence
named EDI in the film
Stealth (2005) directed by
Rob Cohen, we have autonomous robotic fighter jets.
help us because machines are not as subtle at making
decisions as we humans are. But if the mentality is
shoot first and ask questions later, if civilian losses
are the price of waging war or of doing business, who cares?
Right? Well, we should all care because these damn machines may
very well be coming after us.
Four other science
articles set off my bells and whistles
because I could see them all being incorporated into
the bigger picture. And taken together they bring the future
scenario depicted in The Terminator
that much closer to reality.
John Romanishin at MIT CSAIL
developed the first self-assembling robot. They are primitive
cubes, at this point, but that will not last long.
Ibon Ordriozola at CIDETEC
in Spain developed
self-healing polymers. So, I can see robots having skin that
heals like ours except faster and better.
Milos Popovic at CU-Bolder
had a breakthrough in silicon photonics that takes the
copper and gold out of computer circuitry to be replaced by
light channels that are impervious to
electromagnetic pulse. Mikhail Lukin at
Harvard and Vladan Vuletic
at MIT created a new
form of matter. Inspired by the light
sabers in Star Wars,
they were able to create photonic
molecules. What that means is that they were able to
give mass to bundles of light. To me that makes the pulsed charges
seen in phasers from
Star Trek that much closer to reality. And add
to that the breakthrough of Yuriy
Stepanenko at IPC PAS
who developed a desktop 10 terawatt
laser. OMG. Do you realize how powerful that is? The
pulses of his laser are more powerful than the output of all
the world's nuclear power plants. The future is now.
Colossus: the Forbin Project (1970) directed by
Joseph Sargent from the novel
by D. F. Jones, we were warned
about putting the control of our nuclear arsenal into the hands
of a computer. We were warned in The
Terminator too. In Colossus,
after dropping a nuke to make
its point, the computer named
Colossus together with its
Russian counterpart Guardian
takes control of the human race to see us through our
evolutionary adolescence. The cost is living under the
totalitarian control of a machine. In
The Terminator, Skynet decides that we are the
enemy, nukes three billion
people, and sends out an army of robots to
mop up humans not killed in the initial conflagration.
In this case, it goes beyond man versus
machine. It becomes biomechanical
life form which are us versus
electromechanical life form which are the robots in a
Darwinian competition for
survival or rather our desperate attempt to survive the purposeful
genocide of human beings by the superior
Frankensteinesque electronic monsters of our own creation.
Good luck with that.
The first working
3D printer was created in
Chuck Hull at 3D Systems Corp.
It was used for prototyping. The worry now is that
3D printers are being used to create firearms that are
undetectable by airport security. The news is that modern aircraft
carriers are going to be equipped with military level
3D printers to turn the ships into large mobile factories
to replicate parts damaged in battle and perhaps to replicate
entire planes. They apparently have already replicated simple
drones. My worry is that, given the program for a complete robot
soldier, and given 3D printers
falling into the hands of robots, if they turned against us,
the printers could well be used by robots to manufacture a robot
- Boston Dynamics
worldwide, from DARPA, US Army, Navy and Marines turn to Boston
Dynamics for help creating the most advanced robots on Earth.
a robot life form needs to replicate itself and to
wipe us off the face of the Earth is here now. The imagination
of Science Fiction writers
and the unstoppable curiosity of very unwise engineers, scientists,
and technicians have made it possible. Pilots have been taken
out of aircraft. Soon, soldiers will be replaced on the battlefield
by robots. As NASA itself
predicts in a paper entitled: The
Future is Now! Future Strategic Issues/Future Warfare [circa
2025] technical innovation and warfare itself will
occur so quickly that we will be left
in the dust. We will lose control. The question is will
Reese: "Skynet saw all humans as a threat; not just the
ones on the other side, and decided our fate in a microsecond:
extermination." - The
News as of
December 17, 2013 is that
Google, of all companies, has suddenly bought several
robotics companies. Why? Perhaps Andy
Rubin at Google read
Isaac Asimov's 1950 collection
of robot stories entitled I Robot,
and decided that U.S. Robots
and Mechanical Men, Inc. was a better name for a company
than their current moniker. Or maybe they are just expanding
into a growth industry in
a Darth Vaderesque kind of
way. According to an article written by
Chris Crum entitled "Will
Google's robots change business or just scare everybody?"
published online by WebProNews.com:
chief Andy Rubin was behind the project, and that Google had
acquired Schaft, Industrial Perception, Meka, Redwood Robotics,
Bot & Dolly, Autofuss (specializing in video production)
and Holomni. The news of the weekend was that Google has added
Boston Dynamics to the list. This is one of the most famous (if
not the most famous) robotics companies on the Internet.
Its robots have gained a massive amount of attention in recent
years, and with good reason. They're truly amazing, and in most
cases deeply terrifying on a "holy crap, this Terminator
thing is really happening" kind of way.
I should say so. Look quickly over your left shoulder. The future
is now. And it has just become truly scary and very real.