Subtitle: “Just exactly how autonomous is this… machine, Mr. Smith?”
V’ger is revealed to be Voyager 6, a 20th-century Earth space probe believed lost. The damaged probe was found by an alien race of living machines that interpreted its programming as instructions to learn all that can be learned, and return that information to its creator. The machines upgraded the probe to fulfill its mission, and on its journey the probe gathered so much knowledge that it achieved consciousness. Spock realizes that V’ger lacks the ability to give itself a focus other than its original mission; having learned what it could on its journey home, it finds its existence empty and without purpose. Before transmitting all its information, V’ger insists that the Creator come in person to finish the sequence. Wikipedia
The book, Saletan tell us, is about “the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as Darpa, a secretive arm of the United States government. And the revolution they’re leading is a merger of humans with machines.”
In its 2007 car contest, Darpa took elaborate measures to stop robots from going rogue. Each vehicle was outfitted with multiple shutdown devices and trailed by a human driver with a kill switch. The penalty for the slightest disobedience was immediate disqualification. But at least one team, according to Belfiore, liked to run simulations with its car’s “software aggression level cranked up into what they jokingly called Rambo mode.”
Imagine your arm in Rambo mode. Something like that has already been reported: Michael Weisskopf, a journalist who lost his right hand in Iraq, was making a turn in rush-hour traffic sometime later when, as Belfiore describes it, Weisskopf’s new hand “clenched the wheel of his car in a death grip and refused to let go.” It was just a misunderstanding. But electronic limbs are being programmed to make more and more decisions. After all, it isn’t just your body anymore. It’s theirs, too.
Stimulated by the contest“, “The Grand Challenge”, this blog considered the same question, and raised the ante. Who is responsible for the progeny until such time as the child comes of age? It became too difficult* to write further as the human father character began to extrapolate. After Stanley’s (his mate) sudden departure, he had begun to wonder how much his employers were willing to invest in breeding.
* Note: Many human – computer movies are dystopian and horrific, the trend began with Metropolis (1927), though in terms of horrific, movies about the Borg, e.g., Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: The Experience rate right up there.
- Blade Runner (1982)
- Demon Seed (1977)
- Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)
- The Matrix (1999)
- Avatar (2009)
- Human Computer Interaction in Sci-Fi Movies
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- The Body Electric (nytimes.com)