YEAR 1 of the Era of the Singularity is 2045 when “interlaced technologies will merge with our minds and bodies, snowballing, erasing the old us/machine barrier. We will download memory, a la our computers,” if the scenario of inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil is “even half right.” [Gregory Benford, The future is almost here…for we, the haves, 18 June 2015]
In another world, 2042 was/is/will be the year when Legion wages cyberwar against humankind. [Terminator: Dark Fate] More? Mechagodzilla. Bender of Futurama. Megatron. The Mek-nificent Seven. Brainiac. Skippy the Jedi droid. Baymax. Alita, the Battle Angel. K-2SO. Computo, commander of the robot hive. Ultron. Doombots, or the Rev-9 warbot.
Reality vs. fiction. Which one is stranger.
“General Paul J. Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, coined the phrase ‘Terminator Conundrum’ to describe dilemmas associated with autonomous weapons, and he has reiterated his support for keeping humans in the loop because he ‘doesn’t think it’s reasonable to put robots in charge of whether we take a human life.’ However, the U.S. military could face a disadvantage or pressures to adapt if strategic competitors such as China and Russia pursue full autonomy without similar constraints – although it remains unclear when, whether, and in what contexts greater degrees of autonomy will provide a clear advantage.” [Elsa B. Kania, Battlefield Singularity: Artificial Intelligence, Military Revolution, and China’s Future Military Power, November 2017]
CRISIS: robot apocalypse on the horizon ever since. T-800. Tetsujin 28-go. Cylons.
General Grievous. Automan, a sentient hologram. K-Tron Warrior. HAL 9000.
Not cute like Doraemon. But lethal like Samsung Techwin Company’s SGR-A1 armed with a Daewoo K3 machine gun deployable for active sentry duty at the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea. For action in the Northeast Asian DMZ, the sentry bot does not need to distinguish friend from foe. “When you cross the line, you’re automatically an enemy,” according to Myung Ho Yoo, a principal research engineer at Samsung’s Optics & Digital Imaging Division in Seongnam City. [https://spectrum.ieee.org/robotics/military-robots/a-robotic-sentry-for-koreas-demilitarized-zone]
Not flippant like C3PO. But deadly like the five-man BMPT “Terminator” tank combat support vehicle (armed with two 2A42 30-millimeter auto-cannons and four 9M120-1 “Ataka-T” anti-tank guided missiles). “Russian military experts believe the combat effectiveness of a single tank support combat vehicle exceeds that of two motorized-rifle platoons (six BMPs/40 personnel). The introduction of ‘terminator’ of the tank battalion would increase the effectiveness of combat units by 30%.” [Foreign Military Studies Office, OE Watch, Volume 5, Issue 05, May 2015]
Not fun like Cozmo, a real robot toy. But Tactical Missile Systems like the fixed-wing micro-drone. “The Switchblade is designed to provide the warfighter with a back-packable, non-line-of-sight precision strike solution with minimal collateral effects. It can rapidly provide a powerful, but expendable miniature flying intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) package on a beyond line-of-sight (BLOS) target within minutes.” [https://www.avinc.com/uas/adc/switchblade]
Not peaceful like Wall-E. But an instrument of national defense like Sea Hunter, the prototype for DARPA’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program, which was “designed, developed and constructed to provide an entirely new class of ocean-going vessel—one intended to traverse thousands of kilometers over the open seas for months at a time, all without a single crew member aboard.” [https://vigor.net/projects/sea-hunter]
Not self-driving cars and services like Waymo. But autonomous mobile systems like Cobalt.
Where are we going? Fly me to the moon? “Skyborg is envisioned as a robotic wingman for other pilots, using artificial intelligence to fly and control the aircraft and managing some combat mission tasks itself. After initial test flights, Skyborg will scale up to larger test platforms that are closer to the final airframe, according to Air Force spokeswoman Capt.
Cara Bousie.” [http://www.airforcemag.com/Features/Pages/2019/July%202019/Skyborg-Eyeing-First-Flights-This-Summer.aspx]
Not entertaining like Disney’s Stickman, “a z-shaped robot capable of performing somersaults while flying through the air. This incredible innovation has continued to evolve into the first Stuntronics figure—capable of accomplishing extreme aerial maneuvers with precision.” [https://www.thewaltdisneycompany.com/the-evolution-of-the-acrobat-robot-disney-imagineers-unveil-stuntronics/] But unforgiving like “AnBot” of China’s National Defense University. [https://www.popsci.com/china-debuts-anbot-police-robot/]
Dystopia and slaughter-bots. “Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) are creating a ‘Third Revolution’ in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear weapons. It is time we start worrying about the day when armies of robots are capable of conducting hostilities with full autonomy, without humans to command them.” [Vasily Sychev, The threat of killer robots; https://en.unesco.org/courier/2018-3/threat-killer-robots]
In Paramount Pictures’ “Terminator: Dark Fate,” Legion (an A.I. designed for cyberwar) took the world’s servers, triggering humanity’s self-defense instincts, a nuclear holocaust and a robot apocalypse. In the real world? “So let’s go through some of the arms race questions. So the first question is cybersecurity. One of the things that is different between cybersecurity and nuclear is that we have the possibility of defending ourselves against it.
So before we get focused on how terrible things are, maybe we should fix our cyber systems to become more resilient, starting with upgrading all of those Windows 95 systems that the government uses. Last time I checked, we’re still trying to get to Windows 10.
Windows 95 has been thoroughly penetrated by the Chinese and every undergraduate at every university. So if you think your network is secure, trust me, it’s not. There’s a set of things that we can do there that are well beyond, before an arms race. I can go on. [Eric Schmidt, Keynote Address at the Center for a New American Security Artificial Intelligence and Global Security Summit, Washington, DC, 01 November 2017]
Sentient weapons, anyone? “…Advocate following a precautionary principle in robotics research…as critics have done for other technologies, such as bio- and nanotechnologies.
For instance, those fearful of ‘Terminator’ scenarios where machines turn against us lesser humans…” [Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Autonomous Military Robotics: Risk, Ethics, and Design, December 20, 2008]