The Robots of Your Dystopian Future Are Already Here: Two Chilling Videos Drive It All Home

A year ago, Boston Dynam­ics released a video show­ing its humanoid robot “Atlas” doing, well, rather human things–opening doors, walk­ing through a snowy for­est, hoist­ing card­board box­es, and lift­ing itself off of the ground. Rarely has some­thing so banal seemed so pecu­liar.

What is “Atlas” doing these days? As shown in this new­ly-released video above, it’s jump­ing to new heights, twist­ing in the air, and doing back­flips with uncan­ny ease. Stand­ing six feet tall and weigh­ing 180 pounds, Atlas was designed to take care of mun­dane prob­lems–like assist­ing  emer­gency ser­vices in search and res­cue oper­a­tions and “oper­at­ing pow­ered equip­ment in envi­ron­ments where humans could not sur­vive.” But that’s not where the appli­ca­tions of Atlas end. See­ing that the Pen­ta­gon has helped finance and design Atlas, you can eas­i­ly see the humanoid fight­ing on the bat­tle­field. Stay tuned for that clip in 2018.

Which brings us to our next video. The new short film, “Slaugh­ter­bots,” comes from the Cam­paign to Stop Killer Robots and it fol­lows this plot:

A mil­i­tary firm unveils a tiny drone that hunts and kills with ruth­less effi­cien­cy. But when the tech­nol­o­gy falls into the wrong hands, no one is safe. Politi­cians are cut down in broad day­light. The machines descend on a lec­ture hall and spot activists, who are swift­ly dis­patched with an explo­sive to the head.

Accord­ing to UC Berke­ley AI expert Stu­art Rus­sell, “Slaugh­ter­bots” looks like sci­ence fic­tion. But it’s not. “It shows the results of inte­grat­ing and minia­tur­iz­ing tech­nolo­gies that we already have.” It is “sim­ply an inte­gra­tion of exist­ing capa­bil­i­ties… In fact, it is eas­i­er to achieve than self-dri­ving cars, which require far high­er stan­dards of per­for­mance.” Recent­ly shown at the Unit­ed Nations’ Con­ven­tion on Con­ven­tion­al Weapons, “Slaugh­ter­bots” comes on the heels of an open let­ter signed by 116 robot­ics and AI sci­en­tists (includ­ing Tesla’s Elon Musk), urg­ing the UN to ban the devel­op­ment and use of killer robots. It reads:

Lethal autonomous weapons threat­en to become the third rev­o­lu­tion in war­fare. Once devel­oped, they will per­mit armed con­flict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can com­pre­hend. These can be weapons of ter­ror, weapons that despots and ter­ror­ists use against inno­cent pop­u­la­tions, and weapons hacked to behave in unde­sir­able ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.

If we already have mil­i­tary drones tak­ing out ene­mies across the world (in places like Yemen, Soma­lia, Iraq, Syr­ia, Libya and Afghanistan), the men­tal leap to deploy­ing Slaugh­ter­bots does­n’t seem too great. Do you trust our lead­ers to make fin­er dis­tinc­tions and keep a lid on Pan­do­ra’s Box? Or could you see them tear­ing Pan­do­ra’s Box open like a gift on Christ­mas day? Yeah, me too. The robots of your dystopi­an future are now here.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

George Orwell Pre­dict­ed Cam­eras Would Watch Us in Our Homes; He Nev­er Imag­ined We’d Glad­ly Buy and Install Them Our­selves

Experts Pre­dict When Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Will Take Our Jobs: From Writ­ing Essays, Books & Songs, to Per­form­ing Surgery and Dri­ving Trucks

Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence: A Free Online Course from MIT

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  • Ishihara Kasumi says:

    There is much to con­sid­er in the future of tech­nol­o­gy, but I rather fear too lit­tle is made of the very basic, even essen­tial part of life which seems to get large­ly over­looked, and that is in the pro­duc­tion of food. With even min­i­mal pop­u­la­tion growth it is patent­ly obvi­ous that we need tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ments to improve crop pro­duc­tion, gath­er­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion. We need to move away from live ani­mals for pro­tein, as even on an human­i­tar­i­an lev­el ani­mal pro­duc­tion is an inef­fi­cient, and non-eco­nom­i­cal­ly viable resource for the future. Bio-tech­nol­o­gy and phys­i­cal tech­nolo­gies should con­cen­trate on these areas, and not be so con­cerned about fac­to­ries pro­duc­ing more prod­ucts. Food and food sup­ply involves us all, and is a basic need.

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