After a day of strenuous activity in the garden, the Badger settled down to watch something on the television that wasn’t full of doom and despondency. Nothing grabbed his interest as he flicked through the channels, so he scrolled Netflix for a film that wasn’t full of gory action or Marvel superheroes and came across Bigbug from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Netflix describes the storyline as ‘Humans have ceded most tasks to AI in 2045, even in Alice’s nostalgic home. So, when robots stage a coup, her androids protectively lock her doors.’ Intrigued, the Badger hit play and watched this off-beat, quirky, sci-fi comedy to the end. It proved to be thought provoking.
Millennial or Generation Z digital natives will easily relate to the film’s backdrop of a society in 2045 based on automation, AI, and robots, because much of the technology portrayed – AI, drones, sophisticated sensors, the Internet of Things, machine learning, driverless cars, and so on – is a progression of what exists today. Indeed, Bigbug’s 2045, only 22 years away, cannot be deemed unrealistic when digital technology has already revolutionised life in the last two decades. While watching the film, the Badger wondered why we would tolerate the development of a society where AI and robots could dominate, control, and potentially destroy the human race. The answer seemed quite simple; humans are fickle and predominantly focused on the short term and convenience.
There’s no doubt that the pandora’s box of AI-centred systems is already open, and open letters signed by people like Elon Musk, and danger warnings from Geoffrey Hinton, the godfather of AI, will not change that. The genie is out of the bottle, and it’ll never go back in. Its simple common sense, surely, that if we create systems with the potential to be more powerful than humans then we must be clear on how we retain control over them? Unfortunately, common sense seems a bit thin on the ground these days. History shows that action to constrain and control the use of new technologies normally happens retrospectively, and AI seems to be no exception as we realise that it could, to put it provocatively, become a self-inflicted, weapon of mass human destruction!
The Badger found Bigbug’s technology-centric world of 2045 unattractive, but not outlandish. No one can predict the future, but it’s a certainty that AI-centred technology is rapidly changing human life as we know it, and presenting risks for our longer-term existence. The Badger thinks that we should never allow ourselves to become subservient to any technology that can lead to the decline and eventual eradication of our species. Surely that’s only common sense and the time has come to deal with the AI elephant in the room…