I read ‘I,Robot’ at an early age and was excited by the way humans could outsmart the robot overlord of our own creation. My friends and I stared with wonder in our eyes as Sarah Connor fought multiple forms of Terminator. ‘Blade Runner’ showed me that, even if they look like us, we could prevail over the machines should they turn against us. Even ‘The Matrix’ gave me hope that we’re capable of springing back if our creations actually win.
But it was all bullshit. A quick look at the robots of today and the AI which powers it makes it clear we don’t stand a chance if our machines decide we’re unnecessary complication in their continued existence.
We can’t beat them up close
In most dystopian SciFi adventures featuring a robot uprising, there’s some form of resistance cell. These are rugged, tough people barely holding on to the hope that they could make it to the next day. Typically, these folks are presented to us a ground-pounders. They have shotguns and grenades and they climb through tunnels to get the drop on single war machines they’ve lured into a dark corner.
Nope. The notion that we would get the drop on a battle robot is total fantasy. Need proof? Here’s a look at the Janken robot, which plays Rock Paper Scissors with a 100% success rate.
It is physically impossible for a human to defeat this robot. The sensors on it see our hand movements and can use that information before we’ve even finished making the gesture we want to make. It’s incredibly cool, but concrete evidence that we’d never be able to deal significant damage to a battle robot up close.
We can’t run from them
Alright, so we don’t need to fight them up close. We can just be sneaky about it, take them out at range. That way, once they’ve figured out where we are, we can just run away right? This is a super common fight tactic throughout our history because of how effective it is. Small skirmishes, followed by retreat.
Nope. Once we’ve been spotted, a robot would be able to follow us until it disposes of our fleshy bits for good. Unless you’re able to go underground entirely or move faster than the robot can move, you don’t stand a chance.
Commercially available drones like Skydio R1 already have the ability to follow you at distance, through complicated indoor and outdoor situations. It can weave through trees and fly through tunnels without even slowing down. And they’re fast, too. Fast enough to follow vehicles.
They probably won’t be big, people-shaped things
Movies always depict these killer robots as human-like, as though these highly intelligent things would desire to look like more like us before deciding it’s easier to replace us. After all, human beings are the height of perfection right? RIGHT?!
Yeah, about that. Increasingly, alternatives to the standard human model are preferred in a lot of modern robotics design. Take a look at the DARPA Robotics Challenge to see why. Humanoid robots are still pretty big and complicated and not really designed to do one particular thing well. Microbots, on the other hand, are increasing in popularity and could potentially be a lot harder to effectively combat.
Imagine a swarm of those things chasing you through a sewer while you try to reconnect with your team. You’d be toast, we’d all be toast.
And, really, that’s the lesson here. Robots are tools we should be nice to, and also work very hard to make sure they don’t want to unify and defeat us all.