The machines are not taking over… right?
Behold the M5 Computer from Star Trek the original series. It was designed to remotely operate a starship in combat, thus sparing humans from such a dangerous endeavor. What could possibly go wrong? Of course, in the decades since this episode first aired we have seen depicted repeatedly the dangers of machines going amok. Because “evil” machines make such good villains, such plots have outweighed their more benign counterparts.
At a former workplace, the common joking refrain was how the machines were taking over, much like “Skynet” from the Terminator franchise. In the universe of Tethered Worlds mankind is too spread among the stars to be endangered by even a planetary computer gone bad. Additionally, it is implied in Unwelcome Star that humanity has progressed through various eras of human/machine interactions, and now the relationship is settled and mature.
But apparently it did not come without difficult learning experiences. It is said that before the great war that separated humanity into two prominent political regions, mankind went through a disastrous flirtation with androids. That could be the subject of another post by itself. Suffice to say it is quite possible other kinds of incidents also occurred which firmly solidified the boundaries of computer roles in society.
Two centuries after the war, the time of the novels, most of humanity enforces accepted norms for all thinking machines. Combat bots have limited capacity, and are almost always fielded with humans. Greater danger lies in the more powerful thinkers, AIs. But whole AI lines are unceremoniously pulled from the market if they show a tendency toward unlawful behavior. Profit and self interest keeps large AI creators from endangering their business and/or facing criminal penalty. Society has little tolerance for killing machines, and AIs corrupted to such ends is looked upon even more unfavorably than if done by human hands.
However any tool (or AI) can be misused, and even with interaction protocols matured, what about war? It’s hard and brutal. Machines “think,” or at least calculate, faster than people. And robots are tougher. We will touch on this and other notions in part II of the post series.
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Tethered Worlds was not written by machines, nor is it for machines. It is the author’s hope that many humans will go on its adventure, and through the highs and lows come out the other side better for the experience.