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How close are we to building Cylons?

I am an unabashed sci-fi fan. I love “Star Trek,” and even tried to get into “Enterprise.” I have watched all six “Star Wars” movies and “Blade Runner” in the theaters during their first weekend of release. I loved “Battlestar Galactica,” old and reimagined series.

As a science fiction aficionado, I am well aware of the axiom that today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science fact.

We have seen that happen numerous times in terms of Jules Verne’s classic vision of a moon landing becoming our reality 40 years ago on July 20. Scientists are even reporting that warp drive is theoretically possible as well.

One of the interesting back-stories that emerged from the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” series is that the Cylons, the cybernetic tormentors of humans in the series, were originally created by humans.

They fought humanity’s wars, and did humanity’s work in the Twelve Colonies before they rebelled and nearly wiped their creators out. Unfortunately, Dr. Daniel Greystone, the creator of the Cylons, hadn’t heard of Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws Of Robotics.

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Now, I have recently begun to wonder – how close are we to actually producing our own Cylons?

If we eventually create Cylon-like robots, they’ll probably speak Japanese and have a “made in Japan” label. While robotic technology development is ongoing in several nations, Japan has really pushed the robot development envelope.

One-fifth of the Japanese population is 65 or older, so the country is investing heavily in research and development efforts designed to produce robots that will replenish the work force and care for the elderly. Over the last ten years they have been creating advanced humanoid looking robots that can talk, mimic a limited range of human emotions, move effortlessly, and interact with humans as well.

Robots have long been part of Japanese production and culture. They can serve as receptionists, vacuum office corridors, spoon feed the elderly and plant rice.

It’s also interesting to note that thanks to the 2003 completion of the Human Genome Project, discoveries are being made almost every day in terms of what section of the DNA strand controls what aspect of human development. We are also learning that deficiencies in certain parts of the DNA strand trigger certain diseases and are creating gene based medicines to target those diseases. This knowledge should also aid us in creating robots that more closely resemble us.

Knowing that human sex drives, curiosity and marriage of technology know no boundaries, especially when the profit motive is involved, how long will it take before we have some enterprising Gaius Baltar wannabee creating his own Caprica Six?

Judging by haw fast things are moving already, not long.

For the record, though – just make sure that when you program them, those robots observe Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, or else the future may not be so bright after all.


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4 thoughts on “How close are we to building Cylons?

  1. Are the three laws that good, though? Most of the stories that use them involve ways that they can go wrong. And what about the rights of the robots? If we make sentient machines or machines that become sentient on their own as with the Cylons, it’s like slavery. Should Cylon-types be bound by the laws and figure out a way to bypass them, would not their wrath be greater? I don’t know, it’s complicated. There must be some kind of way out of here, but there’s too much confusion.

  2. It certainly risks becoming akin to slavery if we’re not careful.

    All too true it is that the Asimov Robotics tales turn on all manner of unintended consequences of such programming. And the robots interpretations of the Laws – if put into their ROM coding before anything else is done – need not involve wrath at all to be an unpleasant surprise to us…and to the robots themselves as well.

  3. @Nogard I see what you did there!

    I believe that if we are going to create life like us, then they really should be like us – meaning, if they want to kill, they should be allowed to.

    It may seem a crazy idea at first, but how many humans kill other humans? As there are what, 6, 7 billion of us alive, there’s only a very, very small percentage that do take another life. If the life we create are so like us, then maybe we don’t really have that much to worry about?

  4. Nice thing with Japan and the robots.. here’s the thing though, Cylons aren’t robots. Cylons are AI. The robot bit is just an appendage. The AI is the thing to monitor not its hardware.

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