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Could Robots take over the World



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One of mankind's greatest fears during the latter part of the twentieth century and the start of the twenty-first is that machines will ultimately take over the world leaving the human race in a subservient role. Well documented in the world of film from Fritz Lang's Metropolis in the 1920's through to 2004's I Robot the general consensus of opinion is that this triumph of machine over man is inevitable man may have been clever enough to invent the machines but not clever enough to keep their progress in check.

In 1965 Gordon Moore predicted that computers would double their processing power every eighteen months and this still remains valid today, unfortunately man's capacity to keep up can never develop at the same rate. Kevin Warwick's dire prognosis seems increasingly likely to become reality and is supported by, amongst others, Professor Stephen Hawking who believes that man needs to develop a "direct connection between brain and computer, so that artificial brains contribute to human intelligence rather than opposing it" (Stephen Hawking). But would a connection of this type be just one step too close?
In February 1996 when Gary Kasparov beat IBM's computer Deep Blue, Kasparov's computer adviser Frederick Friedel said that Deep Blue was showing true signs of intelligence "As it goes deeper and deeper, it displays elements of strategic understanding" (The New York Times Feb 19th 1996). Douglas Hofstadter Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science at Indiana University disagreed, stating that while it may be possible in the future for computers to be able to feel and react in the same way humans do, the only way Deep Blue was able to ultimately beat Kasparov (in 1997) was because its processing abilities allowed it to work its way through the multitude of possible options for each move, far quicker than the human brain could. This is therefore not a relevant example of the humanising' of computers.
Kevin Warwick's extensive work into artificial intelligence and his strong belief that our future is in jeopardy unless we take steps to avoid it, is compelling, as are the lengths he is prepared to go to he had a device implanted into the median nerves of his left arm in order to link his nervous system directly to a computer which could then monitor his movements. If we all had the same devices implanted in our bodies then surely it is the machines that would have a significant advantage over us. There are others, however, who believe the development of AI in the field of becoming more human is still progressing slowly, and whilst computers can be taught to play chess, as yet they cannot replicate human consciousness logic is far easier to programme and in that way man still has the upper hand. But we have come so far in such a short period of time that it is easier to believe Kevin Warwick and wait as the inevitable march of progress continues, and watch his dire prognosis draw ever nearer.

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