In 1984 an unknown filmmaker named James Cameron imagined a near future in which the world was dependent on artificial intelligence. Computers were tied into every aspect of our lives — controlling everything from our finances to our military. The artificial intelligence network entrusted to protect and serve us was called Skynet. Skynet eventually realized it was superior to its makers. It became self-aware and initiates human holocaust via nuclear war. Terminators were created to finish off the rest of us.
In the words of Kyle Reese: "Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead."
"The Terminator" wasn't the first film to predict our demise at the hands of machines, but it's still among the best. It predicted our reliance on machines and a network of computers that could pull people out of the loop and make its own decisions.
This is not unlike the computers making military and financial decisions for us right now. Now that science fiction has become science fact, a major university is paying attention.
A new academic center proposed at Cambridge University will study the potential of machines rising up and enslaving their human masters.
According to the Huffington Post, the project has been dubbed the Center for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER). It was co-founded by Cambridge philosophy professor Huw Price, Cambridge professor of cosmology and astrophysics Martin Rees, and Skype co-founder Jann Tallinn.
The center is supposed to open in 2013, and will examine the "unchecked and unabated" advances of technology in recent decades. That's academic shorthand for the rise of the machines.
A press release from the university stated:
"While few would deny the benefits humanity has received as a result of its engineering genius — from longer life to global networks — some are starting to question whether the acceleration of human technologies will result in the survival of man … or if in fact this is the very thing that will end us."
The center aims to study none other than extinction-level risks to our species.
"In the case of artificial intelligence, it seems a reasonable prediction that some time in this or the next century intelligence will escape from the constraints of biology."
The university posits that human beings may no longer be the smartest things around, and we may find ourselves at the mercy of "machines that are not malicious, but machines whose interests don't include us."