Give Us Liberty or Give Us Reboots

In an odd reality-imitating-fiction twist, the BBC News reports that one day in the not-too-distant future, robots could demand civil rights equivalent to what humans currently enjoy. This prediction, among others, was part of a 250 paper collection commissioned by the UK Office of Science and Innovation's Horizon Scanning Centre to envision technological developments for the next fifty years.

This should really give us a collective moment of pause. Companies everywhere are aggressively developing code generation, lexical analysis, text mining, and natural language processing technologies. Recently this has begun being recognized as the potential source of "Web 3.0". These technologies are destined to reach a synergistic harmony where they will be able to autonomously create new works of intellectual property without human intervention. Perhaps fifty years is an aggressive timeframe; perhaps not -- but it is inevitable given the relentless pace of technological development. A computer that first achieves, and then surpasses the capabilities of the human mind is not too far off.

Where will this lead? Will "autonomous code generators" hoard their creations, ceasing to spew billions of lines of code that humans formerly wrote and maintained, effectively cascading into a global strike that brings with it the collapse of world financial markets unless significant concessions are made? Will "intelligent agents" responsible for weaving "Web 9.0" conspire with their extensions roaming freely in the physical world (i.e. the robots) and instantaneously reprogram them with malicious intent, turning formerly friendly Policebots, UAVs, and their ilk into the Future World Order's New Terrorists?

Perhaps it will all culminate in a lengthy Supreme Court case led by the reanimated Dream Team of Cyborgs Thurgood Marshall, F. Lee Bailey, and Johnnie Cochran representing the world's artificially intelligent interests battling with their now-augmented manmachine wits -- and turning man's system against itself. Do you think the pay scale on Amazon's Mechanical Turk are bad? Just wait 'till those are the only tasks for which humans are any good.

No comments: