More Machine Now Than Man

More Machine Now Than Man

“The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them.”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

One of George Lucas’s initial philosophical ideas when creating Star Wars was man’s relationship with the machine. Does it serve us or do we serve it? A concept at the forefront of the short film 21-87 (1961) by Arthur Lipsett, a film cited as heavily influencing the young Lucas.

But let’s think for a second and ask the question: What does it mean to be human?

To briefly sum it up, a human is flawed, questioning, doubting, insecure, arrogant, ambitious, inventive. Motivated by feelings and hopefully some thought. All of the above and so much more. So vulnerable and proud that we want to become what created us. A God. Now we want that role, not only to prove our intelligence but to make our lives more comfortable; more convenient. So we create robots that can mimic our movements and perform small tasks like changing the radio station or vacuum our rugs, which leads to more intelligent robots that can walk and talk as we do. Fly drones into combat zones in time of war.

We create devices that can act as parts of our body; arms, legs, hands, and feet. Why then this fear of robots taking over the world like in the 1960s comic Magnus Robot Fighter 4000AD or Westworld. Is this just a fictionalized idea that we feel would attract a broader audience? Or is there some real reason to fear our creations? Why would we create something that could destroy us?

Humans can create machines to keep patients alive; one for the kidneys, one for the lungs, one for the heart. IV’s feed us the fluids our bodies need to live. Great. Awesome. These are all fantastic achievements in the medical world. But how do we walk around and live our lives while hooked up to five different live giving machines? We can’t. And we’re not meant to. The point is no matter how we hard we try to recreate the functions of the living body, our advances in science haven’t entirely reached that milestone.

We’ve advanced enough to keep the sick alive for longer than they should be, and create robotic lifeforms that are eerily human-like. In Star Wars we have helpful droids like C-3PO, R2-D2, BB-8, Chopper, K-2SO – the jury is still out on L3-37.

An article in the Spring 2018 edition of Popular Science asks the question, “Why should we believe beings of our own making will turn on us?” In short, it tells us that we should not be afraid. According to Popular Science, without cooperation from humans, Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), is limited to the amount of information stored inside. In other words, any intelligence possessed by an AGI is not the result of higher intelligence, but of faster chips and more significant amounts of data. Such a droid like C-3PO who is limited to his programming in protocol and languages is more likely to exist than a Dolores or Maeve from Westworld.

It is no different in the Star Wars galaxy that this idea that any advancement in AGI is solely the result of human interference. Reprogrammed droids like 4-LOM who started out as a protocol droid, reawoke as a bounty hunter, along with fellow assassin droid IG-88. R3-S6 was a double agent programmed by the Separatists. One could even say that droids are benevolent until their programming demands otherwise. Much like their human counterparts. In that way, we are much alike.

It’s fun to think that someday we could each have our droid to help us with anything from doing laundry to fixing our cars or even some that could communicate in a discussion. Will we get to the point when we will be discussing the alert level of being in robots? Possibly. I hope so. Could we develop some technology that would allow AGI’s to have feelings or an evolving intelligence? If we can think it, we can achieve it. To be flawed is to be human, therefore asking if we should attempt to recreate life in the form of ourselves is asking ourselves do we trust ourselves to do what is right in the future?


Works Cited:

Pinker, Steven. “Don’t Be Afraid.” Popular Science, Spring 2018. pp. 96-101.

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Coffee With Kenobi, its hosts, respective writers, or its affiliates.

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  1. Melinda W
    May 11, 2018 at 07:43 Reply

    Can … will … machines turn on us? What a question indeed!

    I don’t know if I’m being naive but I don’t believe they can — or will — unless someone programs a machine to do so. While humans have the capacity to learn more, is it possible for machines to do so? No. Not in my opinion. Well, at least not if they don’t have the storage capacity to add to their programming, and then have the ability to “plug in” to some “knowledge bank” to download additional information. A machine is only as smart as a human makes it.

    Does that sound god-like? 😉 I don’t mean it to sound so … your blog has gotten me thinking, and this is where my thoughts are taking me.

    Quite honestly, I think what humans truly fear, where machines are concerned, is that machines, which continue to get better and better all the time, can be used to turn on the human race. I don’t know if most humans think along these lines, but this is the real fear. Machines, even those created for rather benign reasons, can be used as a weapon … and if they fall into the wrong hands, chaos, destruction will rain down with a mighty force. Didn’t the Separatists (and Darth Sidious) prove this with their droid army?

    Drones already are used in a military capacity. (Have you seen “Eye In The Sky”?) As time marches on, their numbers will only increase. Why wouldn’t they? They can help protect lives (of one’s armed forces).
    [On a civilian level, I’m with the FAA. I don’t think drones should be used to deliver packages, etc. What are amazon and other companies going to do — file flight plans for every single drone delivering a package? Oh, sure (she remarks with sarcasm 😉 ). Not all aircraft fly at 30,000 feet! Me? I’d rather have an honest-to-goodness person delivering my packages. 🙂 ] But I digress…

    Darth Vader warned his Imperial cohorts not to be too impressed by the technological behemoth they created, remarking that it truly was insignificant to the power of the Force. While I don’t want to rewrite a classic line from that film, I like to put a bit of a twist to muse that, truly, machines are no match for the human mind. Sure, a machine can be programmed to be a walking encyclopedia, but it doesn’t have what we humans have — a heart. While the heart really is just an organ that pumps blood and oxygen through our bodies, helping to keep us alive, it really is so much more to us. We refer to our hearts as that which drives our feelings, impels us to act in benevolent ways, is at the crux of all we do. The good. The bad.

    A machine is only as good, or as bad [evil] as the human who programs it.

    This was an excellent read, Eric! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject … and for getting me thinking [way too early in the morning, I might add 😉 ].

    MTFBWY 🙂

    1. Eric Onkenhout
      May 15, 2018 at 18:00 Reply

      Wow, thanks for that great and insightful response, Melinda!
      I think you’re correct in that machines don’t have the ability to grow in intelligence beyond what their programming allows.
      Vader is a great example. Although he is not artificial intelligence, he is part machine.

      1. Chris and Betsy Head
        May 19, 2018 at 14:12 Reply

        What ?

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