On the 51st Anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey...

April 3, 2019

 

 

“I’m sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can’t do that…”

 

Hal was a bit obstinate uttering that famous line. Of course, it was actually Arthur C. Clark envisioning AI taking control in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The science fiction book, published in 1968, was also released as a movie that same year. In fact, today, April 3rd, marks the 51st anniversary of the film adaptation.

Like a clogged parkway toll machine that refuses to read “PAID, THANK YOU,” Hal represents a machine controlling humans – with an attitude. The former leaves you with a bunch of impatient commuters on your behind, and horns barking without remorse.

 

Obviously, E-ZPass® is the way to go here in the tri-state area. After all, these newer AI machines can’t get jammed with clumsy coins. In fact, it’s sort of paving the way for crypto currency, isn’t it? Exit a bunch of human parkway attendants, and how about cashiers? Maybe you had the luxury of dealing with an automated self-checkout system this past weekend. You know, the one which refused to tell you where the Spanish onions were on the menu display. You didn’t buy white onions, you bought Spanish onions – where are they!?

 

A machine that’s supposed to streamline processes winds up creating stress, forcing you to conduct your check out in a timely manner. Luckily, you have the shrill, automated voice to yell at you for neglecting to put items in the bagging area – this of course helps to drown out the huffs and puffs of the less-than-gleeful shoppers waiting behind you. The ones who, just like you, didn’t want to wait on the long line with the human cashier.

 

Such incredibly simple examples fail to fully paint the picture of the vast ways in which AI is controlling everything: from the recent flight you just returned from, to the launch, satellite deployment, and reentry of well-publicized space vehicles. Both amazing to some, and ironically underwhelmingly commonplace for an uninterested population.

 

AI is everywhere, not to mention the unpublicized military applications us common folk know nothing about. The more cutting-edge – and perhaps even mysterious – ways in which automation, robots, and technology in general are being leveraged are therefore left to us: the imaginative sci-fi community. You read it in our sci-fi novels, see it on the screen, and talk about it in blogs and other online communities.  We get to dream things up that are very likely to manifest as a reality one day. Whose next story components will wind up actually being pushed out of a factory, acting as an utterly fascinating development within society?

 

Then again, it too will one day be commonplace.

 

Things change and evolve – this is the natural course of life. Moving forward, robotics and AI combined will merge with human intelligence. Perhaps human intelligence will remain the most incredible of all – and the most concerning.

 

We are what we program. Alexa, where did I leave my hovercraft keys?  

 

Indeed, AI is everywhere. What could go wrong?

 

One way to find out is to read this next sentence aloud:

 

"Alexa, order the Computer Love Inc. trilogy."

 

It won’t disappoint.

 

-Kurt

 

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