Humans and artificial
intelligence - Joel Hall

Many movies have taken different approaches to what the world would look like if man created robots that are cognizant, as humans are.

"The Terminator" series probably provides the most nightmare-inducing Doomsday scenario of what would happen if robots were given feelings. After watching "Terminator Salvation," the latest installment, my mind began racing about the possibilities of robot-human interaction.

In "Terminator Salvation," an artificial intelligence network known as Skynet becomes aware of its own existence and sees the human race as a threat to it. Thus, as stereotypically methodical robots do, Skynet creates an army of killing machines set on terminating the human race.

"The Matrix" trilogy provides a slightly different take on the cruel-robot-bent-on-human-destruction theme. Rather than destroy humans, the robots enslave mankind without their knowledge, harvesting the energy human bodies create for their own purposes.

The conflict in "The Matrix" evolves only when a small group of humans flee their captivity and begin posing a threat to the robots. While slightly less cruel and calculating than the Skynet network, the robots of "The Matrix" are frightening enough to make toddlers smash their Legos out of fear they will rebel.

One of the more interesting takes on human-robot interaction is the 2001 Japanese animated film, "Metropolis." Written by Katsuhiro Otomo, the film takes the viewer into a future in which most jobs have been outsourced to robots, leaving a large portion of the population unemployed.

While the robots in the world of "Metropolis" are sentient beings, it is the robots, not humans, who are oppressed.

The robots in the movie slave away to do the work of humans in a highly segregated world, in which the punishment for violating any robot ordinance is death. At the same time, the robots are hated and targeted by humans who resent them for taking away their jobs.

Pushed to the breaking point, the robots eventually rise up against the humans in a kind of slave rebellion. What makes the movie interesting is that it is not humans, but robots, who are portrayed as the victims.

While walking, talking, feeling robots may be a long way off, many of the systems that could spawn them are already in place. In Japan, scientists have already created life-like robots that, from far away, are indiscernible from humans. While controlled by pre-programmed operating systems, the robots blink and exercise many of the complex facial expressions of humans.

There may eventually come a time in which there are robots that think and feel like humans do, and there is a possibility that they all won't become cold, calculating killing machines.

There is a chance that robots may one day learn to live, laugh and love.

If that happens, humans will have to take a stance on how they interact with artificial intelligence. Whatever that interaction is, I hope we will hold on to the values that make us the most human.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.