Saffron's Space

I’m very excited about this week’s When Science Fiction Becomes Reality, it’s all about artificial intelligence. Let’s face it, we all knew that it was only a matter of time before Terminator came true. Firstly, some interesting facts:

  • It is estimated that humans will get rid of their bodies and become entirely machine (consciousness uploaded to software) by 2050
  • There are already several computers that are in the process of being ‘taught’, starting at the age of a toddler and moving up from there
  • Robots can develop the ability to lie and deceive (the topic of this post).

So, a neat team in Switzerland created a ‘swarm’ of robots which they released into a contrived environment containing both ‘food’ and ‘poison’. The ‘survivors’ of this group of robots were taken and their make-up subjected to genetic-like processes; sexual reproduction, mutation, etc. This continued for 500 generations and the behaviour of the robots was analysed. "Swarm-bots" near a laboratory in Brussels, Belgium. Photo courtesy of National Geographic.

There is a great article and video here which tells you a bit more about the process.

In the end the researcher’s found some amazing things:

  • The robots learned to signal when there was food and to recognise this signal from other robots
  • Robots whose evolution was based on whole-colony selection would help each other
  • Robots who were in competition with each other learned to signal deceptively i.e. drawing other robots away from the food source

Just think about the implications of these three things!! Completely naive robots learned to co-operate (when it suited them) and to lie and deceive! Ladies and Gentlemen- if these robots had been more than lights on wheels how much further could this experiment have gone? What if, for example, they were made with weapons? How many generations before they turned on their human creators?

The implications for these facts in science fiction is obvious. If your robots haven’t advanced much past the intelligence of an iPhone then you may want to consider re-writing. Clearly artificial intelligence is undergoing exponential advancement, even if we threw our imagination as far out as it would go we probably still wouldn’t be close to what will actually happen.

Just think, current predictions have us becoming robots within 37 years… that’s within my lifetime! How can you possible write a story based on that eventuality?

Post below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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