Just returned from a very emotional hospital visit to see our Grandson. He's premature by nine weeks and very very small. Its quite simply heartbreaking to see such a tiny and vulnerable human to whom you are related but can't really help except for speaking to him through the side of his plastic box.
His young parents are true super heroes. They face a difficult journey ahead for sure but I will be there along with Missus Moonbase to lend a hand whenever needed.
So, feeling somewhat drained and angry I am going to do some blog writing, which usually helps to calm me down.
Today's topic for discussion is artificial intelligence or AI for short, with robots thrown in for good measure.
Last night I saw a TV programme about the greatest watch ever made, the Marie Antoinette. A beautiful see-through pocket watch, every conceivable Eighteenth Century innovation the maker Breguet could muster was included in his masterpiece, known as the Grand Complication and commissioned for the French Queen Marie Antoinette.
The phrase Grand Complication is beautifully apt for AI as well, as is the very concept of clockwork. Early attempts at making things human-like relied on clockwork mechanisms. Just think of those creepy automata kept under bell jars that play harpsichords.
AI has always fascinated us. We seem to have an innate desire to recreate human life in other materials, which is odd given the miracle that is the birth of a human child itself. Is that not enough? I suppose having copies of ourselves and our stuff makes us understand our world a bit better, makes us more at home somehow.
Just think of toys, especially our beloved space ones. Many are simply miniatures of real rockets and spacecraft. Why do that? Do miniatures of the adult things around us help us develop as children?
Alchemists wanted to go the whole hog and thought they could summon entirely new beings by mixing blood with semen. They called these creatures Homonculus and believed they would help them turn base metals into gold.
Imbuing inanimate or inhuman objects with human qualities has been a feature of popular culture for hundreds of years. Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman and the Mummy are all anthropomorphs as are the more recent David boy doll in Kubrick's seminal AI and the synthetic people populating the TV series Humans [series 2 starting soon].
In the 1972 portmanteau movie Asylum by Amicus, Herbert Lom creates a humanised robot from toy parts and some yukky squidgey bits. Never a good idea in a horror film, the silver robot with a miniature Herbert Lom head does his creator's dark bidding and I don't mean on Ebay! Here's the fellow - anyone recognise the toy robot?
Doing our bidding seems to be at the heart of AI and robotics, the two being often connected. In fact I can't think about AI without envisioning a robot, but this could be as a result of spending my childhood with too many Zeroids.
You Tube is awash with clips about clever robots, each one trying to be outhuman the last. Like the sad Pino I have boxed up in my attic and the tamagotchi's gathering dust across the globe, we love to get our robots to entertain us, whether they are toys or not. ASIMO was and perhaps still is the most pleasing of all the synthetic humans thus far but he does have some competition.
Check out a few new contenders in this short clip offa You Tube.
Is it really the purpose of AI and robots to simply entertain us, to dance for us and bring us juice? The advancement of the science brings the ethical quagmire ever closer. Could a robot have enough AI to ever be classed as human? If so does that 'human' enjoy the same rights as us and is it bound by the same laws?
Yes, its the very essence of Science Fiction but one day soon .... who knows?
What do you think readers? Will synthetics walk among us?