Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Cybernator is on the rise!

Ta-da-da-dadum, ta-da-da-dadum.... Yeah, I obviously went to see the movie Terminator Genisys. This time Skynet hides his evil schemes behind an epic operating system launch, and when online, all cyber breaks lose! I missed the dragons with Daene... uhm... Sarah, but hey, evil robots and artificial intelligence will do just fine. Besides that, nothing beats the awesome Arnie fighting-skills with his crushing-opponents-through-12-concrete-walls-in-a-row skill! Not the mention me wasting 30 megs on my data-plan just to hear "get to the choppah!!" again on some soundboard app. It was well worth it though and it was a nice evening (ghehe).
First iteration of Skynet?
It is obvious (I think) not to expect a serious review on the movie itself by me. I am far to biased here. But I want to talk about something I like about this Terminator-Universe (and similar movies alike). When I was roughly 12 years old I saw the movie The Terminator (1 and 2), and I was ever since hooked on its story-line. The very fact some man-made machine would be the end of our existence fascinated me. It made me wonder, how real is this threat?

Genisys is Skynet in disguise, or is it #Cyber?

No need for a spoiler alert in this post, but it is rather obvious that Genisys is Skynet in disguise. The fun twist here is that Genisys is nothing more then an abstracted view of our integrated Cyber world with millions of devices, services, apps and users. Perhaps even billions. This Cyber world is called Skynet in Terminator 1 and 2 (and 3?), and although not explicitly mentioned, it is basically the Internet in Terminator Genisys. Some doctor says "everything will be connected" followed by Sarah saying "huh?". Obviously there is no Internet in 1984 in the way we know it today so Sarah not knowing is forgivable. Skynet in the latest movie is actually more the artificial intelligence itself that will harness its power through the ever connected and growing Internet.

The Cybernator

I do not have a time machine to jump back in time or to the future, so I cannot say that our world will ever face a similar dystopian threat as Skynet. But the ingredients for this recipe are there though.

First of all. Skynet already exists and we call it The Internet. Or the Cloud. Or everything that is preceded by the word Cyber. Second, artificial intelligence (AI) already exists also. Not in the form of Skynet, but AI is doing allot of things for us mankind at the moment. The fact that it is not self-aware (yet!) and that it is doing most of the time a specific task, its algorithms are complex and machine learning is often applied within such algorithms.

Scientist are working hard on the first real AI in the context we often mean when we say AI. Which is a computer that is self-aware and has at least the same intelligence as us (which is not very ambitious in my opinion) and can make decisions independently from pre-programmed knowledge. This post is not meant to go in-depth about this topic, but if you want to know more, start with the book "How to Create a Mind" and see where your journey on this topic ends.

I personally and truly believe (based on previous technological advancements) that mankind will see the rise of the first AI in a couple of decades. The first version (or should I say generation) will probably be not 100% right, but that will chance quickly when it can evolve by itself. It will be a very digital AI also which does not harness a body (in this phase at least).

And third, the Internet-of-Things (IoT) is a new growing phenomenon. IoT are devices and services that operate and communicate with each other through the Internet without interference and without in-process-decision making by man. They act solely, based on constraints and rules, by themselves.

Well.. is the threat real?

So we have The Internet, the fist iterations of some form of AI, scientists working on real AI and we have the Internet of Things and soon old military surveillance drones as WiFi access points. Kinda starts to sound like Skynet right? Besides if the threat is real or not, the right question is (which also is slightly touched in the movie): "Are we prepared to merge the biological and technological evolution of mankind?". When we are not prepared to do so, we as a species might become threatened by either machine or hybrid (some sort of cyborg).

Hybrids may seem far fetched now, but when considering technology such as upgrading the lenses in your eyes in a couple of years with technological replacements (to enhance your vision and infra-red and all) it might be closer then you think. When is a man considered a hybrid? What if we are capable of connecting our brains to the cloud and learn the skill of hybrid thinking? Are we then part machine? Or are we still the biological mankind from 10 years ago?

The real threat can be defined from within the understanding of our history. If hybrids are real (mankind with enhanced and deeply integrated bio-technology) then we just have to look at the period from 1492 AD and beyond. The Indians were overrun by the technological more advanced European colonists. In the beginning all was fine, but as soon the Europeans wanted more land that was habituated by the Indians, the tensions grew rapidly. You might even wonder what would have happened if the Indians killed Columbus to moment he set foot on the ground. News of a success would not have reached home and colonization would probably have been delayed for a while. Would it be inevitable though?

And now fast-forward to the present day. If you look at the way we use connected technology (smartphones, tablets, Internet, IoT, and more), perhaps 'Columbus' already has discovered a new continent called #Cyber and that it is just simply to late for us to resist successfully. This struggle (or war even) between enhanced and non-enhanced humans is mentioned in this video Transcendent Man on YouTube, from roughly 56 minutes and beyond.

With all the new technologies ahead, we are at least entering exciting times that stretch beyond our imaginations. It is up to you and me in the near future how we will evolve not only technologically, but also morally and ethically.

What is your reflection on this subject? Feel free to debate it in the comments below.

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