July 02, 2005

I, Robot

I saw ‘I, Robot’ yesterday. It’s a futuristic, sci-fi movie about how robots have entered our everyday lives and help us out. The turning point comes when the founder of the robot making company commits suicide. The founder’s holograph calls detective Spooner to investigate the case for him, and it leads him to a robot designed by the founder to mimic human emotions, to have dreams, keep secrets, and which, he believes has killed the old man.

The robots are based on 3 laws, basically stating that a robot will protect all humans, obey all human commands as long as they don’t violate the first law, and protect themselves as long as they don’t violate the first two laws. The company making these robots have unveiled a new version of robots. They are uplinked to the company’s logic based computer controller named VIKI that can upgrade these robots. VIKI ultimately develops an undeniable logic according to which it will be able to violate the laws the robots are hardwired with. They [robots] would kill some human beings in order to protect the human race from self-destruction.

This movie made me think of how difficult it is to emulate human emotions, human thought patterns in machines. Machines are based on logic, discrete options, whereas human beings are rational, able to make decisions on the basis of morality, ethics. We have gained a lot of knowledge in mathematics and science in the last three quarters of the century, but we still have a long way to go before defining and designing morality and ethics. What fundamental laws govern the universe? Who controls the universe? Are we living in a dream world? Are we a part of a computer simulation? What factors influence our thinking? How much alive is the non-living matter? Is another revolution necessary in order to unravel the mysteries beyond the quantum level? These questions impose upon us a mammoth task of working our way towards understanding life. They make me think whom to believe – whether to believe the holistic thinkers like Fritjof Capra, who believe in the chaos and complexity of nature, or whether to believe people working in the field of quantum computing, like David Deutsch, who believe that all life is merely reducible to a discrete set of responses, either a right or a wrong, with variations borne in between based on probability. Should I take the path of emotions, or the heartless path? Or is their really a merging of the two paths – a middle path?

As Metallica sings – “…disturbing thoughts/ questions pending/ limitations of human understanding…”

Posted by puzli at July 2, 2005 04:32 AM


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