Most of us have heard of the famous Ridley Scott. An 'imagineer' extraordinaire, indeed. His movies Blade Runner and Alien are not just futuristic, they are thought-provoking. Giving us all a great deal of philosophies and possibilities to ponder over as we turn off the DVD or walk out of the theatres. Not surprisingly, Scott's latest sci-fi flick, Prometheus has garnered a whole lot of attention, even before the film has been fully shot. It's about a crew on a ship called Prometheus in 2085. While many assume that the movie could be a prequel to the aliens, it isn't. In fact, a brilliant, brilliant viral marketing strategy of Scott's upcoming film has revealed a lot more about the subject of the movie.
We're not quite sure yet whose idea this was, but we doff our hats to whoever thought of it. Given the popularity of TED Talks, the makers of Prometheus decided to create a viral video using the TED property and also introduce the film. So Peter Weyland, an imaginary corporate visionary is giving a 'TED Talk' in 2023. Weyland, played by Guy Pearce, and directed by Scott's son Luke Scott, gives an awesomely self-aggrandising speech. The speech talks about man becoming god, and human beings getting into a position to create humanoids. The future Weyland so confidently predicts in the TED talk, will it come to pass? Can we allow corporations, governments or even scientists to, as Weyland says in the speech, to show us "what they are capable of"?
For the first time in human history, the computer has come close to increasing the odds of creating a machine that can think and feel. Once that is done, the exterior body or shell will not be hard to replicate. Human biology can be recreated. Medical science has already borne the fruits of research in this space, with prostheses, bio-chips, bio-implants and so on. Technology and Biology already make for seamless functioning in many human systems. DNA sequencers not only improve the health of overall population, but also help scientist apply the new understanding of DNA to artificial intelligence.
Most recently, electronic telepathy breakthroughs have signaled new frontiers in the man-machine relationship. Early this year, scientists actually managed to read "thoughts". A study by researchers in the University of California at Berkeley resulted in a computer program that predicted spoken words simply by analysing brain activity of volunteers. Earlier research reports had shown that imagined words activated same areas in the brain that spoken words did. Just last year, at around the same time, author Michael Chorost, in his book,World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet, had predicted that electronic telepathy was just around the corner. He has spoken about "Singularity", where machines begin to increasingly mimic human intelligence, and humans embed technology to enhance their own bodies.
Now, the human race, as Peter Weyland has said, has the unique opportunity to not only create humanoids, but also turn themselves into superhumans. While Weyland seems to have no doubt in his mind that this is an absolute way forward, for those living in the real world, the question of whether we should create full-fledged, thinking-feeling humanoids, is one that definitely needs to asked; particularly from ethical, moral and philosophical points of view.
So, given that the earth continues to be overpopulate with time, why should we have humanoids? Especially, given that with time, man has come to look at emotions as somehow irrational and causing more trouble than progress - at least scientifically speaking. The fact is that if we wish humanoids to be reliable and useful is some way, like humans, they should be able to adapt and evolve. The fact is that utilitarian behavior cannot be written in code, it must be something that can develop within the humanoid organically. For this evolution, we need thought and emotion to meet inside a machine. Given that our emotions are driven by our internal motivational systems, this means creating full-fledged motivational systems within machines. We could choose to, if we wish, acknowledge our emotions as more real and call what humanoids feel mere "simulations". But the question is, when the day comes, can we do so?
Another danger is that humanoids will become super intelligent and rule over us. However, the fact is that as machines get more real, the real danger maybe that we choose machines over people. Most people already choose chat rooms and virtual relationships over real ones, for those can be turned on and off easily.
Given the rise of "Singularity", perhaps, it is almost inevitable that humanoids will come into being. And it will not doubt, not come without controversy, as the Ted Blog under the Prometheus viral video says, "Peter Weyland has been a magnet for controversy since he announced his intent to build the first convincingly humanoid robotic system by the end of the decade..."