Google Corporation’s penchant for snapping up robotics startup companies such as Boston Dynamics might have some wondering if this represents a real life Skynet in the making. It’s no secret the information technology giant has a keen interest in the development of robotics and artificial intelligence.
One of Google’s recent acquisitions, to the tune of $500 million, was DeepMind, a company whose mission goal is the creation of “powerful general-purpose learning algorithms.” Operative word: “learning.” That seems to lay the groundwork for the creation of artificial intelligence. How much learning would it take for an AI to cross over into the realm of self-awareness?
Google X is the semi-secret research complex dedicated to advancing the improvement of technology. The Mountain View, California facility is located less than a mile from Googleplex, the company’s corporate headquarters, is overseen by Google co-founder Sergey Brin and scientist Astro Teller. Since 2010, Google, a search engine and software company, have been snapping up startups at the rate of about one a week. That list is long and deep, covering the width and breadth of technologies such as speech synthesis, security, social network and gaming, travel technology, computer vision, and mobile software, just to name a “few.”
First, one needs to know that Skynet is the fictional AI in the Terminator series, controlling networked systems and robots. Certainly Google has all the elements necessary for making a “Skynet,” although the DeepMind team has not been moved to the robotics division and an ethics board has been set up to ensure that abuses such as the invasion of privacy and identity theft do not result from DeepMind’s work.
Actually one of the projects DeepMind has been working on is a game with a very advanced AI. This would make it more along the lines of the 1983 movie WarGames, which co-opted a nuclear launch system and made the prediction of the outcome of a nuclear war into a game.
Still it is only amusing speculation on whether or not Google is headed towards creating a Skynet, although there are a number of parallels. Google is developing driverless cars which could be compared the unmanned combat vehicles controlled by Skynet, however loosely that comparison is. A closer comparison is likely Boston Dynamics’ robots with eerily lifelike movements and the terminators themselves.
Amusing comparisons aside, Google is already having a technological impact on the world with the test release of Google Glass, a voice-controlled computer mounted on the frames of eyeglasses. This device is scheduled for release to the general public in late 2014. The comparison there is this micro-computer to the CPU chip that runs individual terminators.
So does the possibility exist for the creation of a “Google Skynet?” Anything is possible and even likely, but if so, given Google X’s focus and goals to make “science fiction sounding solutions” to the advancement of technology, that actually is decades down the road—if at all.
Editorial by Lee Birdine
Los Angeles Times