Technology can often be a source of tremendous benefit in our lives. Robotic technologies, in particular, hold the promise of serving many essential functions in the home, workplace, disaster zones or on the battlefield. But these advances within the field of robotics could represent the ultimate double-edged sword as well. What if the construction of these technologies outpaces our ability to control them?
"If the technology grows faster than the wisdom," explains Max Tegmark, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "it's kind of like going into kindergarten and giving them a bunch of hand grenades to play with."
Professor Tegmark's decidedly cautious perspective is just one stitch in the tapestry weaved throughout the exciting new documentary titled Inhuman Kind, an examination of emerging robotic technologies, and the potential consequences of their misuse.
The film begins at Virginia Tech, where several competing labs work around the clock to perfect the next evolutions in artificial intelligence. Teams of ambitious technologists are constructing machines that they feel will play a key role in ensuring the safety and quality of life for countless citizens throughout the globe. Their robots are designed to comb regions scarred by natural disaster or warfare during rescue missions, performing the oftentimes dangerous duties that would normally fall on their human counterparts. When used for humane purposes, the possibilities of such inventions hold undeniable promise. Yet, those who stand in protest of these development programs aren't so sure, especially when they consider that most of these technologies are being funded by divisions within the United States military.
"Where's the ethics? Where's the morality?" asks interview subject Jody Williams, the head of the activist organization Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. "Why do people think it is OK to create machines that on their own can target and kill?" In her view, the military would never invest so generously in this realm of technology unless the end game involved the eventual weaponization of these robotic machines; something which has already occurred in otherwise benign robotic servants like bomb and landmine detectors and, most controversially, surveillance drones. The technology is moving at such a rapid pace that one day it could result in the construction of a fully autonomous robot, and a host of troubling doomsday scenarios.
Inhuman Kind calls for a greater consciousness of these potential issues, and urges that such liberties not be taken lightly or without oversight.