20 January 2012

Watching Science Fiction Become Science Fact.

I don't know why, but it troubled me from the time I saw it. I think the reason it troubled me was that I could see, fantastic as the idea was at its core, there was a frightening reality there.
It was a "Star Trek" episode called
"A Taste of Armageddon". In the episode, two tribes are warring with one another. The "gimmick" of the story is that the two warring factions have come to an agreement to "war" in a civilized fashion:
Why destroy one another's infrastructure and face the ugliness of having to clean up and bury dead bodies? Why not fight one another via computer simulations?
A catchy idea and neat solution, right? But these two tribes went even further-
When the computer simulation indicated X number of citizens had been killed in an attack, that tribe, by treaty, had to line up that number of citizens and send them to the "disintegration booth". Inspectors from the warring tribes were there to insure the contract was fulfilled.
A clean, intelligent alternative to settle disputes.
"Our computer versus your computer".

I've been reminded of that episode a lot lately. We've been using unmanned drones quite a while in dangerous missions so that we don't have a pilot at risk. At first, these missions were for reconnaissance... then someone realized we could attach a missile to the drone and actually use them as fighter/bombers.

One of our drones recently succeeded in "saving" itself by landing virtually undamaged in Iran. It's easy to see where this progresses, "Star Trek" style...
Our enemies "reverse-engineer" our technology... maybe even tweak it a little here and there to improve it, and the next thing you know OUR leaders are being blown up by stealthy pilotless aircraft flying unseen, overhead.

For some time now the "weak link" in fighter aircraft has been human capabilities. Our "Electric Jet" F-16 fighters actually have the ability to sense when the pilot has been subjected to forces rendering them unconscious, and are programmed to try to save aircraft and pilot under these circumstances. We know that future fighters will either have to find a way to overcome human frailties or get the job done without a human onboard. Having no pilot at risk is so attractive, it's easy to see that we'll soon be fielding "unmanned" fighter aircraft to do that dirty job.
And surely we'll then see "our unmanned fighters versus your unmanned fighters"...
Who can build the best flying computer?

We use computers because they are better/faster at calculating than we are. In 1997, chess champ Gary Kasparov was beaten by
Deep Blue, a computer developed for the task by IBM. Deep Blue simply could crunch more numbers
than Kasparov... calculating thousands of different permutations for each move and planning hundreds of possible future moves. I'm told great chess champions can plan five or so future moves.
That was in '97, and computers have not been idle...
They're getting better and faster every moment. Some are predicting that computer "thinking" power will exceed that of man
by the year 2020.
What happens then? Do we resign ourselves to our machines and let them take over? Will we face "disintegration booths"?
Or will our computers be smart enough to finally resolve the problem and point out how stupid we are by wasting our material and human resources in useless wars?
That is my hope.

So now the question is, can we make it to the year 2020 without destroying our world so our computers have something to save?
Meanwhile, the "Doomsday Clock" continues to tick!


jinksto said...

Meanwhile, a group of hippies takes out the DOJ website in retaliation for shutting down Megaupload. If our government can't protect us from a bunch of college kids with junk computers what makes us think they can protect us from a concerted digital attack from countries with actual money?


OlePrairiedog said...

Well written and thought out. We are getting close to changes that we cannot even imagine. I'm cautiously optomistic, but realistic enough to buy more ammo.

Thanks, GB

Ed Bonderenka said...

It will get to the point that you won't know if a commenter is an AI or human, or human, or human,

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Jinksto: thanks for the link. I haven't read of that yet. And let's not forget: taking humans out of planes and out of ships isn't altruistic. It's also a money saver. And a problem-remover. Those humans are so fussy and arcane.


The Old Man said...

Us crunchies and treadheads will be the inheritors of the blowback caused by the mechanization of aerial combat/recon. If you have no boots (or treads) on the ground, you have bupkis. The pendulum swingeth and moves on.
I'm looking forward to the "blowers" and "calliopes" going head to head with the BOLOs....

Becky Wooley said...

The world will end when and how God will have it. The scenario in Revelation has begun and could culminate at any moment.

Ed Bonderenka said...

BZ's got an AI! I'm so jealous!