Hasta La Vista, Baby: Dystopian Realities

December 16th, 2014 by

Are the Dystopian futures of science fiction slowly becoming our reality? Stephen Hawking thinks so…

Dystopian fiction has been a part of popular culture for as long as people have been telling stories. Fears about what a bionic future could hold for the human race are explored time and time again in full feature-length glory. Tales of protective super-robots with German accents (Terminator), and relationships with disembodied voices (Her) keep us mere mortals wondering just what might lay in store for us in the future.

I’ve been a sci-fi fan for as long as I can remember; John Connor was certainly one of my early heroes, and the dread I felt on the Terminator Skynet experience at Universal Studios on an early holiday to Florida was real. As a teen, Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis got me thinking: if a 1920s film maker can create a pretty accurate representation of the future that we recognise as our present, how can contemporary Dystopian ideas be rubbished as fiction? What if Arnie really will be back, in robotic form?

I’m not alone in these fears; this week, Stephen Hawking discussed his anxiety over the future of the human race as threatened by artificial intelligence. Hawking, who lives with motor neurone  disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (as brought to higher profile by the ice bucket challenge), communicates with the aid of a machine, and has recently developed new speech technology which predicts words as he is about to use them. When showcasing his new tech, Hawking spoke to the BBC about how ‘the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race’, as robotic intelligence has the ability to develop at an accelerated speed as compared to its human equivalents (our good selves).

Artificial intelligence has slowly crept into our everyday routine. If you’ve taken a look at any tech news from the past few years, you’ll have certainly heard of Siri, the companion living inside the iPhone sent from the Apple gurus to make your life that little bit easier. Siri, and other automated companions such as Cortana (reference), are early models of what could become the operating system which Joaquin Phoenix’s character falls in love with in this year’s Oscar nominated Her?

Visions of the future seem to be merging with the realities of our present. Where once wearable technology was thought available to only the likes of Star Trek’s Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge, we’re now seeing it fly onto the market. Big brands such as Nike have been selling their wearable sporting activity tracker Nike+ Fuelband for the past two years and next year looks to be a promising year for wearable technology innovation too – a reality which was once just a figment of fictional imagination.

Machines are already a huge part of human existence. From the industrial revolution, which saw thousands of people’s jobs replaced by machine work, to the recent trials of driverless cars, computer-controlled military equipment and air traffic control systems, complete robotic control is not an impossibility. Could it spell disaster for humanity?

Should we be worried about artificial intelligence? Have your say @UK2

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