How Close Is the TV Series ‘Humans’ to Predicting the Future of AI?
“Humans” have cleverly delivered a modern synthesis of a long tradition of sci-fi narratives that blur the distinction between humans and intelligent human-like machines. Like those narratives that came before it, the series explores what will happen when we develop androids that look and behave like us. Will they obey their programs and serve us, like obedient slaves caring only for our every whim and need? Will they develop sentience and claim equal rights? Will they surpass our level of consciousness and intelligence and, in effect, become “superhumans”? And, importantly, what would be the reaction of “real” humans to all those emerging possibilities?
First, let us examine the possibility of androids actually happening. And let’s start with the biomechanics of the human body. Evolution has made us bipedal after much trial and error, and after compromising our skeleton to such a degree that our S-shaped spine will cause almost every one of us to suffer from chronic backache as we age. Standing on two legs and walking, or running, or climbing, maybe come straightforwardly for a human but it is a very complicated control problem for an automatic machine. And yet, the advantages of developing bipedal robots that can move and interact with artificial environments built by humans for humans are profound. Hence DARPA’s Robotics Challenge in providing incentives and a focal point for developing robots that can walk on two legs. Meanwhile, Japanese researchers have explored the limits of making robots human-like; the latest example being the prototype android Chichira Aiko made by Toshiba. These androids currently have limited capabilities; for instance they lack locomotion and have only a few degrees of freedom in facial expressions. But it is only a matter of time before bipedal capabilities are introduced to these human-like androids. The fusion of these two technologies will lead to the further development of androids, and one can easily imagine them becoming more human-like in the next ten to twenty years. Their behavior will also become more human-like, as their software advances. But we humans, although predictable in many ways, also believe that we can be “unpredictable” anytime we want: this belief is based on the idea of “free will”. Surely, the androids of the future will not, and cannot, have free will — right?
Free will presupposes the existence of self-awareness and consciousness. Although there has been considerable progress in understanding many of the neurobiological processes that lead to consciousness, science has yet to discover how each one of us thinks that he or she is “someone”. But how do we know that we are surrounded by other humans who are also “someone”, other beings like us who are also in possession of self-awareness? The simple answer is, of course, that we do not. We actually guess so, thanks to a property of the human mind that psychologists call “theory of mind”. Basically, theory of mind means that we “theorize” about other humans having minds too. Theory of mind makes empathy possible, and with empathy the existence of human societies becomes possible as well. The more human-like the androids of the future the less distinguishable will be from actual humans. And that will cause our own minds to “theorize” that those machines have minds like ours. This psychological theorization will lead us to forging complex relationships with the androids. We will become their collaborators, friends, and lovers; just like in the TV Series “Humans”.
These mechanical newcomers to human society will offend many humans. Some will fear that the androids may develop actual sentience and turn against their creators. Unlike conventional software programming highly-developed Artificial Intelligence techniques furnish machines with the ability to learn. The ability to learn enables behaviural adaptation, and therefore makes evolution possible. In other words, a machine with the ability to learn has the potential to evolve. So who is to say that, given enough time and computational resources, such a machine will not become “self-aware” – in the similarly nebulous, scientifically improvable way that we humans are also “self-aware”?
Other humans will oppose the human-like intelligent machines on metaphysical grounds. They will claim that biology is, somehow, superior to electronic engineering. And that creatures made of cells possess a mysterious “lifeforce” that makes them more “real” that creatures made of metal, plastic, silicon and information bits. The invocation of what is “natural” and “normal” versus what is “unnatural” and “abnormal” is likely to define the politics of android acceptance, in the similar fashion that the politics of heterosexuality versus homosexuality have been defined in the past. We will then discover that human-like androids are a mirror to our own humanness, in all the spectrum of its various shades, dark and light.
Source: How Close Is the TV Series ‘Humans’ to Predicting the Future of AI?
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