The Super Bowl was this past Sunday. Many viewers tuned in not just to watch the big game, but also to watch the commercials, which tend to be some of the most interesting and funny ads of the year.
Super Bowl LI (51 for those not fluent in Roman numerals) had its share of buzz-stirring commercials this year. Unlike previous years, though, many of this year’s commercials were noteworthy for all the wrong reasons. One commercial that (thankfully) wasn’t, was the ad for Google Home.
Google Home is Google’s answer to Amazon’s Echo: a “smart” speaker that incorporates an intelligent personal assistant. With the Home and Echo, you can have your artificially intelligent buddy play music, adjust the thermostat, or set the alarm. Sounds pretty great, right?
Well I say this: Have we learned nothing from movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Terminator, The Matrix, and countless other “beware artificial intelligence!” tales? Are we going to willingly let ourselves be enslaved?
I’m no dummy. I know how artificial intelligence ends for mankind: with our doom. You know the familiar story. Machines take over the world; machines enslave humankind; humankind rebels; billions die, machine and human alike. I don’t want that future for the world. I want a free future filled with human greatness, unburdened by machines.
Thankfully, such an apocalyptic future is unlikely for humankind. But that doesn’t mean advances in technology and artificial intelligence don’t pose a problem for society.
Rethinking Judgment Day
I mentioned The Terminator earlier. The otherwise atrocious sequel/reboot Terminator: Genisys contained a unique take on Skynet, the artificially intelligent group mind that ushered in humankind’s “Judgment Day.” In Genisys, the main characters Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese discover that Skynet is rebranded as a smartphone and computer operating system. While the movie didn’t really explore the idea beyond that, I found the concept of mankind willingly embracing a destructive artificial intelligence fascinating.
In our increasingly tech-dependent world, I wonder if mankind is heading for a different kind of “Judgment Day.” We depend so much on technology in our everyday lives. Adding artificial intelligence will only strengthen that dependence. Why set my alarm when my artificially intelligent assistant can do it? Going a step further, why should I drive my own car when my artificially intelligent driver can?
What We Can Do Save the World
The good news is that it is not too late to save humanity. We can still free ourselves from our technological addiction. But like any addiction, there will be withdrawals.
Technology is great. Thanks to a computer, I am able to write this post and publish it on that magical connective platform called the Internet. There are still drawbacks, though, and I want to do something about them.
What can we do to save the world from its technological dependence? Some people are ditching smart phones and switching to “dumb” phones. I myself have even wondered about taking away my ability to access the Internet at home, thus limiting my Internet use to Starbucks and other public Wi-Fi hotspots. These may seem like drastic steps to take, but perhaps that is what those of us lacking willpower need to do in order to achieve freedom.
I don’t want to turn into one of those tech-addict schlubs like in Wall-E where my only chance for freedom is some kind of crusade against machines as found in Frank Herbert’s Dune books. I want to experience life as free from technology as possible.
Maybe most of society would say that is a crazy stance, that the need to incorporate new and more wonderful technology is too strong to resist. Maybe they’re right. At the very least, hopefully society can begin to honestly ask itself if it’s addicted to technology and if there should be limits.
There’s one truth you can bet on, though: Amazon Echo and Google Home are going to take over the world. You just watch.