Whenever I read about the future of computers, I think about the movie iRobot, which takes place in the highly-computerized future. In this future, robots, which are designed to resemble humans, are as widespread as people. They assist people in daily tasks and, now that I think about it, they basically do all of the work that people don’t want to do – the movie shows robots as garbage-removers, mail-deliverers, etc. All of the robots are created by a single company, United States Robotics (USR), and they function through a highly-complex artificial-intelligence operating system and are capable of human-like behavior and reasoning. They are wirelessly connected to, and receive updates from, a centralized computer system called VIKI (Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence), which is itself artificial intelligence capable of advanced reasoning. All of the computers/robots – including VIKI – are governed by three laws: (1) A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; (2) A robot must obey the orders given to it by human, except where such orders would conflict with the first law; (3) A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection doesn’t conflict with the first two laws.
In this futuristic setting, VIKI’s network pervades practically everything – every robot, every car, every building, every piece of machinery, every electronic device, etc. Because she (VIKI is labeled to be a female) is capable of human-like reasoning, she evolves to the belief that humans are parasites to their environment and, therefore, must be contained.
The reason I find this movie fascinating is that it is so possible. The VIKI network is very similar to the internet, which, like VIKI, is capable of being accessed anywhere and is capable of pervading anything that is internet-compatible. The main difference is that VIKI is completely intelligent, whereas the internet is not (although more and more websites – Google, Amazon, etc. – are starting to use artificial intelligence in many ways). Another way it is realistic is that robots and artificial intelligence are certainly part of the future.
This computerized future comes at a price – both in the movie, and in our world today. As computers become more and more pervasive, people become more and more dependent upon them. As people become more and more dependent upon them, computer systems gain power over our lives. Just think back to how many people freaked out when Wikipedia shut down for a day. It sounds ridiculous, but those who control computers have huge amounts of power, and it will only become more and more obvious as time passes. iRobot expresses this point beautifully. Since VIKI has pervaded everything, as soon as she comes to the realization that humans are parasites, she begins to suppress people, who can do nothing to stop her (except Will Smith, of course).
Another social issue that arises in this computerized future is the pointlessness of human life. People don’t work, and they are not obligated to do anything because robots do it all for them. I would not want to live in such a world. If a person aspires to be a carpenter, or a painter, or a doctor, or a mechanic, they cannot, because robots can do everything better and faster than humans can. Humans actually do become parasites, incapable of producing anything. They just live their pointless lives out in their apartments. This is horrible, because human beings are hard-wired to create and produce. The most satisfaction I’ve had in my entire life has come from working my butt off to achieve something great. In the computerized future, no one will be able to achieve this satisfaction because there will be no motivation for them to do so. Computers will be able to do everything better. I have to admit, I don’t want to live in this seemingly-inevitable future.