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Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Bugout time?

Photo Credit: Agence France-Presse

Yesterday I had an interesting meeting with another Doug (he of Doug's Dynamic Drivel fame) who is down here in the Lower Mainland for a visit.

Among the (many) topics of conversation was a diversion into the consequences of science, both of us agreeing that science is essentially neutral, with two troublesome caveats on that: 1) It's impossible to control what use (good or bad) any given scientific discovery is put to; and 2) There is a disturbing tendency among scientists and the public at large to ignore the consequences of a scientific discovery. One of the areas of research we touched on was artificial intelligence, which we both agree has the potential for good or bad consequences, but we also agreed that we probably won't see the creation of a viable AI anytime soon.

This is not to say that there's nobody working towards it:
Australian scientists are using the collective intelligence found in insect swarms to develop the next generation of hi-tech military hardware.

Alex Ryan, a mathematician with the government's Defence Science and Technology Organisation, heads a team that is working on computer software recreating swarm behaviour for use on the battlefield.

The goal is to develop swarms of small, expendable unmanned vehicles that can carry out missions in ground, sea and aerial environments too dangerous for humans.
It's an interesting idea they're playing around with, and it's an awful long way from being able to create something like a Terminator, but I do hope their programming doesn't involve emulating things like missile-firing kangaroos.

Mind you, I don't really plan to worry too much about least until I read that they might actually be thinking of arming the silly things...