Over fifty years ago there was a television program that conveyed the illusion of a man communicating with an orbiting spaceship by way of a hand held, cordless device. Fifty years ago this made for good science fiction, but actually possessing a real device like this in one's lifetime seemed ludicrous at best. Today nearly every citizen of the United States owns a cell phone and can use it to communicate with people worldwide. Not so ludicrous anymore.
Yet, in the face of these realizations, many people will still make the assumption that an idea or concept introduced by science fiction is "impossible". One such topic is that of a doomsday scenario that has been prominent in the realm of sci-fi where robots take over the world and enslave (or exterminate, depending on what you're reading/watching) humanity.
People generally like to think that this could never happen, for obvious enough reasons. Nobody wants to envision a future in which humanity is not the top of the food chain, that's natural. But to totally reject such a notion one should first ask themselves two very important questions. The first would be what does "take over the world" really mean?
This is an important definition that cannot be overlooked. Many would define it as geographical conquest; controlling all civilized territory on the planet. This definition would not necessarily be wrong, but the key word in this definition is control.
To reject the idea that robots could take over the world one would first need to identify how much control over the Earth robots already have and how much more they would need to have "taken over the world". Then of course there is the question of whether or not the difference between what they have and what they need is attainable. So how much control over the Earth do robots currently have?
One does not have to look far to see that robots influence their daily lives on a regular basis. Traffic lights are robots telling people when to stop and when to go. Automatic doors are robots that detect one's presence and kindly invite you in. And let's not forget Blackberries and like technology that are robots designed for communication, accessing information, tracking the location of people and places and various other tasks.
What's that? Not fair? These robots aren't sentient beings and it doesn't count? Well, the weather isn't a sentient being, but one would be hard pressed to deny the fact that the weather has control over the planet. Total control, no, and consequently weather has not taken over the world.
The argument could certainly be made, however, that the influence that robots have over the planet is far greater than any control the weather may have. You can be enjoying temperate, sunny weather for a week straight but in that week you will interact with robots probably thousands of times. In effect one could make the claim that robots have already taken over the world, as they control the daily lives of most of the civilized world.
This control is more of a "collective" type of control, and one most don't associate with the question of whether or not robots could take over the world. When most people think about robots taking over the world they think of stories like "The Terminator" wherein robots become self-aware and see humanity as a threat to their existence. This is the notion that many people will deny could ever take place.
Before totally rejecting this idea one must ask themselves one more question, and that is whether or not a technology created by humans could become self aware and act under its own impulses. Because there is currently no technology available to the public even close to representing what people have seen in the movies it is easy to dismiss this as the impossible. But it isn't what everyone is aware of at the moment that matters. The mass public wasn't aware of cell phone development in its early stages, and such is the case in robotics.
Each year great strides are made in robotics programming. Many scientists worldwide are striving to be the one to create the most responsive and most life-like robot on the planet. This is a race to be the greatest, and despite the fact that the possibility of AI is certainly many years away people are still very interested in furthering the science. People are inspired.
Where you find inspiration you find drive. There are scientists in the world that are driven to create this technology. They aren't asking themselves questions about the morality of the situation or whether or not humanity is ready for this kind of power, they are merely inspired to create it.
This kind of drive doesn't just disappear. It gets passed on from generation to generation, so it is safe to assume that one day this dream of creating artificial intelligence will one day be realized. Human determination will overcome the odds of impossibility.
Under the assumption that AI will one day exist it is only a matter of speculation as to whether or not the human race would lose control over it. There are no facts for this one way or the other, its all just speculation and guessing games. Its safe to say there's a 50/50 chance.
Could robots take over the world? The answer is a very simple yes. They could. One day if they haven't already. But the real question is will the human race be able to recognize the control when they are faced with it, or will it go unnoticed like a whisper in the wind.