Monday, May 4, 2015

Sci Fi will save us from AI

A photo posted by Ex Machina (@exmachinamovie) on

Spoiler Alert: I’m going to give away the end of Ex Machina in this article. If you haven’t seen it already, you should since it is a very good movie. 

I deeply enjoyed the new movie Ex Machina. It did a great job dealing with the interesting issues about the future of artificial intelligence in a way that was accessible without sacrificing facts. Importantly, it was also just a very well made film with excellent acting and beautiful cinematography. I did have one problem with the end. 

It concludes with the creator of the first A.I. being murdered by his creation. It is a nice poetic end to the movie that's reminiscent of Frankenstein. The problem is it doesn’t make logical sense.

We are supposed to believe that the foremost expert on A.I. would have his only defense against one of his creations going rogue be an electronic lock. He didn’t use a manual deadbolt to lock her room. He didn’t tether her to a power source without batteries. He didn’t progam his creations with some form of Asimov’s three laws of robotics. He didn’t install a small bomb/kill switch in her that he could trigger with the press of a button or speaking a code word.

This is just silly because on this issue, the collective Science Fiction genre has succeeded. Sci Fi is best when is it preparing and warning us about things before they happen. When it comes to the potential danger of rogue A.I., we have been thoroughly warned. I suspect everyone in the country has at least seen a Terminator movie, a Matrix movie, or read one of the dozens of great Sci Fi books which have dealt with this concern.

Sci Fi writers have hammered into our collective consciousness that A.I. can be unpredictable and potentially extremely dangerous. I imagine everyone working on building the first true A.I. is going to include a manual kill switch and probably an extra dozen backup kill switches as a result.

That is why I’m relatively optimistic about A.I. -- not because I’m ignorant of the potential dangers, but because basically everyone in the tech world is aware of the potential dangers and will probably take the proper precautions.

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