Science fiction dwells on the fringes of human imagination, but serves (albeit indirectly) scientific thought by stimulating the progress of science and the development of technology with the spurs of creativity and inventiveness. The literary genre itself is a concoction of empirical science, futurology and philosophy with a pinch of sociology and/or anthropology stirred with the distinct pen of its authors. The work of one of its masters, Stanisław Lem, remains proof of the foretelling nature of the genre and the far-reaching effects that literature can have in our lives and our society.
Robots, androids and artificial intelligence are all a part of a theme within sci-fi literature and pop-culture that has captivated generations throughout the years. Their creation, history, evolution and the prospect of their future place within the social fabric are riveting topics.
Films and pop-culture have at times portrayed robots or androids as capable of possessing feelings such as kindness, empathy and even love, which sometimes makes them appear more human than humans. They are also stronger, faster and more efficient in performing the task they were conceived for. In other words, an improvement on humans themselves. Is the anthropomorphism of AI by science and technology a search for a better version of humankind? If AI is conceived to be as human as possible, will it help us become a better species, or will it simply replace us? Here’s Lem’s take on the matter.
In the end, people will shrink to the size of mindless servants of the iron geniuses and, perhaps, they shall worship them as divine
Dialogues, Literary Publishing 1957
Human creativity is only limited by the fear of its own contingency. We have created machines to help us with our daily lives, machines that create other machines, computers that ‘think’ and help us design ‘smarter’ devices; we have created software and hardware to control and destroy. As we stare at our computer and mobile screens we are before a vast ocean of information (perhaps knowledge) that grows (evolves) every second. Are we on the verge of creating autonomous, intelligent machines, androids, entities, beings? What then? Have we created machines to worship? Are we still in control?
Lem‘s idea of (an artificially created) genius, which deserves divine worship, is perhaps admonishing, but interesting enough to raise important questions. How will we relate to AI as soon as it becomes just science, as opposed to science fiction? Will AI learn (understand) the value of human life? How will humans interact with and incorporate AI into their lives? When and what will happen as AI learns and understands the value of its own existence? How will humans and AI interact, integrate? Sci-fi literature has already answered some of these questions, but in doing so it has also raised many more.
“(27) So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (28) God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” ” (Genesis)
Man created AI in his own image, in the image of Man he created it… the rest is science fiction.