The Terminator: The Dark Destiny, the sixth installment of the long-running science-fiction franchise, opens Friday and unveils a world in which a self-aware computer builds an army of killer robots, which it then uses in an attempt to wipe humanity from Earth.
This is the same vision that director James Cameron dreamed of the first Terminator movie in 1984, long before the advent of autonomous drones and advanced machine learning made the premise seem a little less a science fiction.
Over this 35-year span, a variety of technological advances in AI and robotics have brought Terminator elements closer to reality. However, artificial intelligence experts are convinced that the kind of independent AI and humanoid robots of the movie franchise are still a long way off.
But they also offer a caveat: the advances humans have made in AI and military technology can create their own kind of "Day of Judgment."
"AI is a powerful technology, but it's a tool, not unlike by pencil, "Oren Etzioni, executive director of the Alan Institute of Artificial Intelligence, told NBC News. "How it is used is in the hands of humans."
AI still cannot boast of self-awareness, but it is already competing and in some cases surpassing human intelligence in a number of applications, including reading CT scans and spotting driver thefts, and helping self-driving cars navigate crowded cities. Developers have not made artificially intelligent machines that resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger, but they can at least make one sound just like Joe Rogan's host podcast to the point where it can mislead human listeners.
The world's fastest computer – currently the IBM Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee – can handle 200,000 trillion calculations per second. But the scientists did not break through the machine learning code to get closer to the basic human common sense needed for nuanced problem-solving skills.
Panicking at this stage in the development of technology, said Etizoni, "is like worrying about Mars overpopulation before we even get a Mars man." "
When might we feel the need to push the panic button? Forecasts vary greatly. Some experts interviewed by NBC News predict singularity, roughly defined as the time when artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence and be able to evolve on its own – it will be in 15 years' time. Others say it will be closer to a century.
One point that everyone agrees on, however, is that the computer will eventually surpass its creators. And when that happens , it is not clear that it will be possible to prog
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"People are not the peak species. because we're bigger, faster, stronger. That's because we're smarter, "says RP Eddy, CEO of Ergo, a New York City technology consulting firm and former White House National Security Council member house. "As we are smarter, we have complete dominion over the world. And now we are talking about creating something that is smarter than we are."
This continuing uncertainty is obviously what drew Cameron back to the science fiction franchise he has been launching over all these decades.
"Over the years, I continued to consult with people working at the forefront of the artificial intelligence world," Cameron said in a statement. "They all believe that there will be A.I. equal to or greater than the human mind. They also say it won't become Skynet (the AI killer in the first few Terminator movies), but how do we know? "
Cameron likens the pursuit of empowering AI to race to split the atom in the 1930s and '40s, which eventually led to the development of nuclear weapons.
"The first manifestation of our planet's nuclear energy was the destruction of two cities and hundreds of thousands of people. So the idea that this can't happen now is not the case, "Cameron says.
In "Terminator: Dark Fate," the super-scout of the future sends another killer robot, "Rev-9" (Gabriel Luna), to kill a young woman destined to become a key figure in human resistance. (Natalia Reyes), who in turn is protected by a time-traveling super soldier (MacKenzie Davis), the killer of Terminator veteran Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and a virtually outdated Terminator model (Arnold Schwarzenegger).
In fact, a robot would make a terrible killer.
"When you see a lot of successes in AI, they tend to succeed in analyzing past experience: what you see in the past and using that to extrapolate into the future," said Reed Simmons, a professor of computer science at the university Carnegie Mellen. "But if something comes up that he has never seen before, he does not know how to handle it and does not know that he does not know how to handle it."
"Computer systems are horribly inadequate in
However, there is no need to develop extra intelligence that reaches its potential
Mary Wendham, director of advocacy for Human Rights Watch's weapons division, would like to see some of that common sense applied to a global treaty banning the use of AI on the battlefield.
Robot dispatches have already been arranged on the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone, programmed to turn their embedded machine guns into North Korean soldiers if they are detected attempting to cross the border. So far, these bots require a human operator to approve a request for a fire.
In August, DARPA announced the successful test of a drone-free autonomous swarm that has military applications.
"This is the moment when we cross the threshold for outsourcing machine killing," says Mary Wareham, organizer of the Kill Robots Campaign, which last week lobbied the UN on the issue.
"Crossing the moral line."
It is interesting to note that the Warmham campaign often includes pictures of the Terminator in their forceful presentations for effect. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton in "Terminator: Dark Fate." Kerry Brown / Paramount Pictures
intelligence. Etzioni has a computer that can calculate solutions for climate change, the glut of plastic in the oceans, and the potential impact of asteroids. He adds that safety protocols can be programmed on site – something like an emergency shutdown.
However, Eddie worries that there are no universal standards or ethics that apply as nations and corporations struggle with "guys in their basements" to develop what might be the most powerful in human history "And probably the last one.
" One thing the Terminator movies did was create this idea of an artificial killer as a foreigner, "said Eddie, who wrote on the subject in the book, Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop "As we watch these great James Cameron films and blockbusters, and we think this only exists in the realm of fantasy and alien fantasy.
"This is actually a conversation service about the consequences."
"Because if the risk is equal to the consequences of a time of probability, then even if the probability is small, the potential consequence is the loss of all life on Earth. that the risk is worth talking about. "