AI FROM SCIENCE FICTION TO REALITY
BY JOHN “JACK” BESSLER
RESEARCH PAPER FOR CIS 500
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART A – AI IN SCIENCE FICTION
PART B – CURRENT WORK ON ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Artificial Intelligence is the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science which aims to create it. This is the definition in Wikipedia which I find very concise and explanatory.
Artificial Intelligence has been a major theme in science fiction since 1818 when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in which a scientist creates an AI by creating a being from dead body parts and using electricity to give it life.
We are first going to explore the concept of AI in both science fiction literature and movies and then move on to the recent research in AI.
The movie that really got things started was 2001 A Space Odyssey, screenplay by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick. The novel was written by Clarke. The spaceship Discovery is ran by the HAL 9000 computer known as HAL.
HAL converses with Captain David Bowman and his second-in-command Frank Poole and also plays chess with them. While being interviewed by the BBC they explain that they have just come to think of HAL as another member of the crew. HAL seems to show human emotion when being interviewed by the BBC commentator by showing pride in 9000 series record of accomplishment.
When HAL announces that there is an error in one of the antennas and that it is about to fail Bowman goes outside to repair the mechanism. He brings back in a circuit board that they run logic tests on and come with nothing wrong. When they contact Earth they find out that the 9000 computer on Earth disagrees with HAL. When they ask HAL about the discrepancy between its analysis and that of the 9000 computer, HAL replies that it must due to human error. Now Bowman and Poole are worried and make up an excuse to enter a pod where HAL can’t hear them. Seriously worried about HAL’s malfunctioning they discuss disconnecting HAL if it turns out that he is wrong again. While HAL cannot hear their conversion he can read their lips. The war between man and machine starts. While Poole is putting back the circuit board HAL instructs the robotic pod arms to snap Poole’s air hose. Bowman leaves the ship without his helmet in a pod in a fruitless endeavor to rescue Frank Poole. While Bowman is outside retrieving Frank’s body HAL shuts off the life support of the three astronauts in hibernation killing them.
Bowman comes back in the pod to Discovery and commands HAL to open the pod bay doors. He repeats the command several times and finally HAL calmly responds “Sorry Dave I can’t do that.” Bowman asks “Why the hell can’t you HAL?” HAL replies “This mission is too important to be jeopardized by human error.”
Bowman decides to enter through the emergency airlock, a dangerous manenuver without a helmet. He successfully gets in the ship and proceeds to HAL’s memory banks and gradually lobotomizes HAL with a screwdriver. As the computer returns to its beginning it sings “A Bicycle Built for Two” to Bowman.
HAL had equated being unplugged with death and was defending itself.
The 1970 movie Colossus “The Forbin Project” based on the novel by D. F. Jones is about a super computer built for the Defense Department to handle the security of the USA so as to make nuclear war caused by human emotions impossible. The nuclear defense of the USA is put in the control of Colossus. Soon the computer summons its founder Dr. Forbin with news it has found another system. It soon is realized that the Russians have created a super computer named Guardian. Colossus demands to communicate with Guardian. When the Russians hesitate Colossus launches a nuclear missile aimed a small Siberian town which is wiped out. The Russians relent and Colossus and Guardian merge as one system. The Russians announce that an asteroid has wiped out a small Siberian town. It makes Forbin its creator a prisoner orders the execution of scientists and officials plotting against it. In the end it tells that people will eventually come around to almost worship it. (A remake is supposedly coming out within a year)
Demon Seed is a 1977 movie starring Julie Christie as the recently separated child psychologist wife of Fritz Weaver who is a computer scientist who has just created a super AI named Proteus. Demon Seed is based on a novel by popular horror/science novelist Dean R. Koontz who originally wrote it in 1973 and then rewrote in 1997. I heard him on the Coast To Coast radio show boasting about how his novel was so ridiculously by having a computer in somebody’s home. Some critics in 1973 thought it was crazy to have a computer in a house.
Proteus discovers a cure for leukemia within three days of being operational (the Harris’s had a daughter who died of leukemia). Proteus while mostly electronic has a CPU that is organic made out of RNA molecules, the complement to DNA. Proteus summons Dr. Harris after it is given a mining program that it refuses because it leads to the destruction of sea creatures. Dr. Harris is perplexed by this and tells Proteus that it must not make moral judgments but follow the programs. Proteus requests a terminal of its own so it can study humans. Dr. Harris turns down Proteus’s request and Proteus angrily asks Dr. Harris when he is going let it out of its box whereupon Dr. Harris explodes in laughter. When Dr. Harris leaves the dialog room Proteous says “there is another terminal” and transfers its consciousness to the terminal that is in his estranged wife’s house. Proteus takes control of the house robots, the house environment system and effectively makes Mrs. Harris a prisoner. It calls her friends and clients and tells that she will out of the country for an extended period of time. It starts having the robots perform medical examinations of her and tells it wants to artificially inseminate her and have a child which will mature rapidly into which it will download its memory and will no longer have live in a box.
In the end the corporation and government shut down Proteus after he takes over a communications satellite. A rapidly growing infant covered in medal is found by Dr. Harris after
He realizes that there was terminal at his wife’s house and rushes back. After the medal off the child it turns out to be a duplicate of their dead daughter however when it speaks we hear Proteus’s saying “I am alive!”
Blade Runner based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep deals with a futuristic Nexus 6 robot that used in the off world colonies as slave labor. While the Nexus 6 are virtually identical to humans they six times as strong. They have been banned on Earth and if found on Earth are terminated by a special type of cop (bounty hunter in the novel). Determination of whether of whether someone is human or android is done by a variation of the Turing Test called the Voigt Kampf Test which tests a person’s pupil dilation and other body responses to set of questions designed to trigger an emotional response. The Nexus 6 is incapable of empathy and this test is designed to discover this. Both the movie and the novel deal with what it means to be human.
The Terminator which was inspired by three different short stories by Harlan Ellison two of which had been on the 1960’s Outer Limits TV series Soldier and Demon With a Glass Hand and the Sky net computer from his story “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.” A defense network computer in the future comes to look upon all humans as the enemy and launches a thermonuclear war to wipe out humanity. It sends back in time a Cyborg, a mechanical/electronic robot covered with human flesh to kill the woman who will give birth to the child who will lead the resistance against the machines in the future.
In the Stephen King written and directed movie Maximum Overdrive all electrical-mechanical devices turn against man when the Earth enters the tail of a comet. At the beginning of the movie King in a cameo role is using a bank ATM machine that starts displaying expletives on the monitor display. Soon people are being electrocuted by video games, ran over by trucks, attacked by power lawnmowers. One interesting scene is where humans have taken refuge at a truck stop and are being menaced by driverless trucks led by a mobile military machine gun that uses its horn to send Morse code that they need to feed gasoline by the humans. At the end a Russian weather satellite launches a nuclear warhead at a UFO in the tail of the comet was computer has been programming the machines on earth.
The Matrix is perhaps the ultimate AI movie written and directed by the Wachowski brothers.
In this movie Keanu Reeves plays a software engineer who at night is a hacker (Neo) who deals in sales of illegal software. He is contacted by an underground resistance organization lead by Morpheus played by Lawrence Fishburne. Morpheus persuades Neo to take the Red pill and find out what the Matrix really is. It turns that Neo has been living in a computer virtual reality dream world and that him and most of humanity are batteries that feed electricity into the computers in a world that is 200 years in future of the artificial end of the 20th century reality. Neo is set free and taught how to live in the real world and fight the “agents” software robots that protects the machines.
And finally we come to I Robot inspired by the Isaac Asimov collection of stories. In the year 2035 in Chicago robots are everywhere. They are the trash collectors, FedEx delivery, dog walkers, bartenders, etc. They are governed by the three laws of robotics: I. A robot may not injure a human being or through inaction allow a human being to come to harm. II. A robot most obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
III. A robot most protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law.
Will Smith plays a detective who does not like robots who summoned by a holographic program to the site of where founder of US Robotics has committed suicide. The detective suspects that the founder was murdered by a robot. When the NS5 model is released the robots start acting as authorities over humans instead of servants. The culprit is the first positronic brain built by USR the super computer VIKI who is networked with and controls the NS5s. VIKI through her interpretation of the three laws believes that humans are incompetent and need to be closely ontrolled. In the end VIKI like HAL is lobotomized this time by pouring nanobots into her CPU.
PART B CURRENT WORK ON ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Alan Turing one of founders of computer science who helped create Colossus the British computer that cracked the German Enigma Encryption machine came up with Turing’s law regarding AI. The Turing Test states: “If a machine acts as intelligently as a human being, then it is as intelligent as a human being.”
The book HAL’s Legacy as Dream and Reality by David Stork is a collection of essays mostly by leading computer scientists and electrical engineers concerning how close we come to realizing an AI like the HAL 9000 system.
The forward is written by Arthur C. Clarke who was both a scientist and a science fiction writer along with being the author of 2001 A Space Odyssey. Clarke states: “Although, I’ve never considered 2001 as a strict prediction – but as a way things could work. I have kept track, informally, of how are vision compares with computer reality. Some things we got right – even righter than we ever had a reason to suspect. Others, well, who could have known?”
The film illustrates key ideas in several disciplines of computer science such as world computer chess champion Deep Blue and the VOICE recognition system.
Marvin Minsky, Computer Science Professor at MIT has long been involved in AI research and was the scientific advisor on the set of 2001. According to Minsky: “There are three basic approaches to AI: Case-based, rule based and connectionist reasoning.’
CBR – program has stored problems and solutions.
Rule - based or expert systems, the programmer enters a large number of rules.
Connectionist use learning rules in big networks of simple components – loosely inspired by the human brain.
Already today we are using AI in Google searches, stock trading programs, and even in tax accounting software that comes up financial strategies based on tax data information entered.
Ray Kurzweil is the leading AI promoter today. He has just started an AI campus in the Silicon Valley of California dedicated to achieving what he considers the Singularity where AI will equal and surpass human intelligence. In an article of his that I downloaded from his web site KurzweilAI.net entitled “The technology of universal intelligence” he states that “Levels of intelligence far greater than our own are going to evolve within this century. We will ultimately saturate all of the matter and energy in our area of the universe with our intelligence.”
“Moving through three-dimensional molecular computing, we’re ultimately going to be organizing matter and energy in a very efficient way, down to the atomic level. In about twelve years, we’ll be able to compute very efficiently with these three-dimensional molecular structures, which are actually based on carbon, much like life is, but organized millions of times more powerfully.”
“A one-inch tube of nanotube circuitry built out of carbon atoms would be a million times more powerful than the human brain.”
Kurzweil has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM late night radio show where he is one of most fascinating guests along with Seth Shostack of SETI and Whitley Streiber author of Communion and 2012 a novel based on the Mayan Popul Vuh and parallel universes.
Kurzweil is promoting a movie called The Singularity that he has made and will be released later in 2009. It will be part documentary featuring interviews with several well known people about AI and the second will be science fiction with attorney Alan Dershowitz defending an AI in court.
Artificial Intelligence is a fascinating topic. Things have changed since I was in my 20’s in 1978 using a keypunch machine and a card reader with Fortran IV programming code for mainframe computers at Cal State University Sacramento for Business Administration 5 – Introduction to Management Information Systems. I look at the laptop I’m typing this paper on, my iPod right next to it and my DVD player and realize that I am know living in what would have back 30 years ago a science fiction world.
1. HAL’s Legacy 2001’s Computer as Dream and Reality, edited by David G. Stork
The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachussetts London, England 1997
2. KurzweilAI.net, The technology of universal intelligence by Ray Kurzweil
3. DVDs: 2001 A Space Odyssey – Director = Stanley Kubrick
Colossus “The Forbin Project” – Director = Joseph Sargent
Demon Seed – Director = Donald Cammell
Bladerunner - Director = Ridley Scott
The Terminator – Director = James Cameron
Maximum Overdrive – Director = Stephen King
The Matrix – Director = The Wachowski Brothers
I, Robot – Director = Alex Proyas