This past weekend, robotics experts joined Battlestar Galactica's President Roslin and Colonel Tigh, for the World Science Festival panel, "Cyborgs on the Horizon." They explained all about the inevitable robot uprising, and screened new Plan clips.
When Colonel Tigh [Michael Hogan] joined President Roslin [Mary McDonnell] on stage, the crowd went wild, naturally. It had been too long since we'd seen them both. Hogan filled in the non-BSG fans with his version of the series "It's about an Executive Officer who faces the end of the human race and how he deals with it." But meanwhile, it was so good to hear Mary make airlock jokes again — and it turns out she's being credited with making airlock a verb, and rightly so.
The two BSG stars joined Nick Bostrom, one of the co-founders of the World Transhumanist Association and Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford and Hod Lipson, evolutionary robotics scientist. As well as Kevin Warwick a Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading, England.
Together after talking a little BSG with the cast, the conversation turned robot-heavy. And as you might have guessed, we're all doomed. First off, they hit up the stem-cell debate, discussing how Hera's stem cells saved the President from the brink of death and how that episode, "Epiphanies," was crafted to get people talking about stem cell research.
Each scientist showed off the latest robotic wares. Hod Lipson screened a video of a robot that leaned how to become self-aware of its own legs and creepily, over time, learned how to flail itself into a walk. And then, when they ripped off one of it's legs, it limped. A chill swept throughout the audience, and that was just the beginning. Hod went on to talk about how they no longer program robots to think or do tasks, the robots learn how to think basically for themselves, and are slowly becoming self-aware. Here's some of the video footage from the night, which Hod had shown in a previous lecture as well:
Kevin Warwick, meanwhile, is a real cyborg: he's implanted a chip into his brain, so he could put his nervous system on the Internet. The chip also allows him to communicate to his wife via neurosignals, becuase she's also implanted. Besides trying to persuade the audience to upgraide their "simple 5 senses," he's a cyborg pretty intent on letting us all know that we're doomed, Skynet style. "You won't be able to switch it off if it [the robot in question] gets too scary. Think of the internet, it's everywhere. You cannot simply switch that off." Then he remarked that it would be pretty naive if we thought we could switch off a superior intelligence, if it ever goes that far.
Here's Warwick, showing off his many cyborg parts:
There were quite a few entertaining fights over government regulated science in the AI industry — Nick Bostrom and Warwick were decidedly against it while Warwick thought it should be regulated, but in an open sense. Then the really scary shit hit the fan. During the talk about military robotics one specialist remarked, "By 2020, the goal is to have no body bags." And then Bostrom explained that while he is one of two scientists working on a "friendly AI" — let's hear it for the three laws — he only spends a fraction of his time on it, and perhaps he should spend more.
Then as if we all weren't spooked enough, they screened a never before seen clip from the new BSG TV movie, The Plan.
We've all seen the Ellen and Cavil scene, but at this event they screened a Boomer and Cavil Plan clip. In it Cavil is with Boomer after she's been locked up for defecting and shooting Adama two times in the chest. He's actually scolding her for not shooting him "two times in the head." In the cell, Boomer reveals to Cavil that she's not in control and that in order to shoot the old man she sort of had to download a centurion inside of her. She remarked that she could feel her skin getting hard and that she couldn't feel her heart beat. To which Cavil responds, "that sounds wonderful." Oh Cavil, you self-hating minx.
I gotta say, it looked good. Maybe it's the crappy summer TV, but I was intrigued especially now that we know that Boomer can become a Centurion, which makes total sense in hindsight. They've got me.