What’s the greatest threat to mankind?
No water… no food… nuclear war… a devastating global pandemic?
It’s a robot apocalypse.
Don’t believe me?
Even the smartest man on the planet – renowned theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking (a guy with no fewer than 12 letters after his name!) – says so:
“Success in creating artificial intelligence would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last… Artificial intelligence could be a real danger in the not-too-distant future. It could design improvements to itself and out-smart us all.”
And another renowned name – Elon Musk, the entrepreneur-extraordinaire behind Tesla Motors (TSLA) and SpaceX – backs him up.
He’s wary about artificial intelligence potentially going rogue, too.
Have these guys suddenly lost their brilliant minds?
Actually, they may have a point, given these three terrifying robot technologies…
Artificial Intelligence: Friend or Foe?
Many films have depicted a terrifying robot apocalypse – none more so than the Terminator franchise.
In a recent CNBC interview, Musk was asked about his investments in artificial intelligence robotics companies, DeepMind and Vicarious, both of which were acquired by Google (GOOG).
“I want to keep an eye on what’s going on with artificial intelligence… In the movie Terminator, they didn’t expect some sort of terminator-like outcome. It’s sort of like the Monty Python thing: Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. You have to be careful.”
Particularly when it comes to these ominous “Terminator technologies”…
Terminator Tech #1: Sophisticated Tactical Aircraft
In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the HK-Drone (T-1 Aerial) was manufactured for military use before it was mass-produced for the apocalypse.
Today, not only do sophisticated drones exist within the U.S. and foreign militaries, they’re also for commercial use.
Take C.U.P.I.D., for example…
C.U.P.I.D. stands for Chaotic Unmanned Personal Intercept Drone.
But trust me, you absolutely do not want this baby flying around you on Valentine’s Day!
That’s because this “Cupid” isn’t carrying around a quiver full of love arrows. Instead, it packs an 80,000-volt stun gun. (To put that in perspective, stun guns that police offers carry only produce 50,000 volts.)
C.U.P.I.D. is the brainchild of Chaotic Moon Studios, which created the drone as a flying security system. Its features include:
- Property Mapping: Owners can tell C.U.P.I.D. the perimeters that it needs to secure.
- Facial Recognition: C.U.P.I.D. also comes equipped with a GoPro camera so it can relay perimeter activity back to owners, and (more importantly) differentiate between “friendly” facial features and criminals. After all, you wouldn’t want to send 80,000 volts shooting down grandma’s spine on Sunday morning.
- Voice Command: C.U.P.I.D. issues vocal warnings to potential intruders by default or through customized messages. And if they don’t heed its warnings… well, see the consequences for yourself below…
Terminator Tech #2: Self-Aware Artificial Intelligence
In The Terminator, Skynet sends the Cyberdyne Terminator T-800 from 2029 to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor – the would-be mother of John Connor, leader of the human resistance against its machines.
The T-800 was Skynet’s most sophisticated, efficient killer.
It had a metal exoskeleton as its body…
It had living tissue (synthetic flesh, hair and blood) that it used as a disguise to blend in with humans…
And it had a “Neural Net Processor” (a digital brain) that was aware of its surroundings, could engage in normal conversation, and could learn anything by simply downloading files from Skynet’s database.
Today, all of those technologies exist…
- Exoskeleton: Over the years, DARPA – mainly through its funding of Google-owned robotics firm, Boston Dynamics – has quietly led the charge on robotics. And the robots they’ve created (for military purposes, of course) are as disturbing as they are awe-striking. Take a look…
- Flesh: The University of Tokyo is currently developing bionic skin – a super-light, flexible slab of electronic mesh (organic thin-film transistors) that can either be wrapped around the mechanical exoskeleton of a robot, or the mechanical bones of a prosthetic limb. The e-skin’s temperature and pressure sensors can let a robot do things like measure a human’s vital signs upon shaking hands. And when applied to a prosthetic, the e-skin gives amputees a more life-like sense of touch, while also monitoring vital signs.
- Brain: While attending MIT’s EmTech Conference in October, I met with Qualcomm’s (QCOM) CTO, Matt Grob, and got a firsthand look at its newest creation – the Zeroth Chip, a Neural Processing Unit (NPU). Essentially, the chip gives computers human cognition, so they can interpret their surroundings and senses with life-like understanding. It even allows you to “train” your computer like you would a dog, using rewards and commands to help it better understand how to serve you.
But don’t be too harsh. Researchers at UC San Diego have developed a way for robots to wear their emotions on their sleeves. Or, more specifically, their faces…
Terminator Tech #3: Uniform Communication
In the Terminator series, Skynet used its databases and the robots’ Neural Units (brains) to form a “community.”
It essentially created a hub for all robots to streamline communication to one another and to Skynet, allowing them to pull any kind of vital information at a moment’s notice.
Today, RoboEarth is perhaps the creepiest of all the “Terminator technologies.”
Well, if you’re familiar with the Internet of Things (IoT) – the concept of all machines, devices, services and systems being wirelessly interconnected – then consider RoboEarth the “Internet of Robots.”
RoboEarth is a worldwide web (hub) for today’s advancing robotic intelligence.
RoboEarth allows robots to…
- Store and Share Information: By centralizing the past experiences of other robots, new robots can leverage that data and learn at lightning-quick speeds.
- Common Language: By centralizing robot language (code), developers can share one central language, instead of customizing it for each individual robot.
- Offline Awareness: Robots can use RoboEarth to download relevant information – maps, medical treatment, even facial expressions (as you saw above) – all of which they can store in their brains in case there’s any unexpected interference (lucky us).
So there you have it… we’re all doomed.
Seriously… there’s no doubt that robotic technology and artificial intelligence have an increasing presence and important role in our lives.
But humanity had better hope that the premonitions of a robot takeover in numerous movies and TV shows don’t turn from science fiction into science fact.
Your eyes in the Pipeline,