Google’s biggest event of the year was interrupted yesterday by a protester who wished to raise concern over the development of autonomous robots, a movement Google is now deeply engaged with.
The protester, seen in the photograph below and heard in the video above, stood up at the I/O 2014 developers conference in San Francisco and shouted toward the stage “You all work for a totalitarian company that builds machines that kill people!”
At the time, Google’s senior VP of technical infrastructure Urs Hölze was delivering a keynote speech on the latest version of the Android software.
“You know that’s true,” the protester added, before being dragged out of the Moscone Center venue by security.
— Mashable (@mashable) June 25, 2014
While a few members of the audience yelled “Go home!” at the protester, the Google executives on the stage only momentarily paused, before continuing as if nothing had happened. Engineering Director Dave Burke made later referred to the protest by claiming “The [Android] battery saver is great, when you’re going to embark on a long trip or a long protest!”
In December of last year, Google bought the robotic engineering company Boston Dynamics, the Pentagon funded entity that has developed cutting edge semi-autonomous robots such as BigDog, Cheetah, WildCat and Atlas, with, critics claim, the intention of seeing them deployed on future battlefields.
Google promised to fulfil Boston Dynamics’ contracts with DARPA, the controversial research arm of the US military.
Numerous robotic experts are on record with their concerns that the Pentagon’s fleet of cyborgs is being developed with one primary goal in mind – to pursue “suspects” and kill large numbers of people.
Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, has repeatedly warned that the robots currently being developed under the auspices of DARPA will eventually be used to kill.
“Of course if it’s used for combat, it would be killing civilians as well as it’s not going to be able to discriminate between civilians and soldiers,” said Sharkey.
Award-winning military writer and former intelligence officer Lt. Col. Douglas Pryer also recently wrote an essay warning of the threat posed by remorseless “killer robots” that will be used to stalk and slaughter human targets in the near future.
In a 50-page report published in 2012, Human Rights Watch also warned that artificially intelligent robots let loose on the battlefield would inevitably commit war crimes.
Experts at the prestigious University of Cambridge announced a project in the same year to conduct research into the “extinction-level risks” posed to humanity by artificially intelligent robots.
Boston Dynamics also announced last year that it now has a robot that can run faster than the fastest human on the planet, with a flexible spine to help it “zigzag to chase and evade.”
At the time, Professor Sharkey commented “It’s going to be used for chasing people across the desert, I would imagine. I can’t think of many civilian applications – maybe for hunting, or farming, for rounding up sheep.”
Indeed, the Pentagon has, in the past, issued a request to contractors to develop teams of robots that can search for, detect and track “non-cooperative” humans in “pursuit/evasion scenarios”.
Google also bought seven other robotics companies in 2013, and is clearly looking to become the leading development company in the field, as part of an initiative led by former Android CEO Andy Rubin.
Last May Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt predicted that the company will be capable of developing artificial intelligence for its programs that will be indistinguishable from a human being within 5-10 years.
As we recently reported, Google’s primary vehicle for its artificial intelligence technology will likely be Google Now, the voice-recognizing search product which is being hyped as a tool that will eventually be able to manage almost every aspect of your life.
Eric Schmidt has never shied away from his vision, dystopic to some, of a future transhumanist world where robots will play a central role in managing human affairs.
Top futurists like Ray Kurzweil have embraced Schmidt’s vision and took it even further – writing that within decades man will merge with machine and that by 2099 the entire planet will be run by artificially intelligent computer systems which are smarter than the entire human race combined – similar to the Skynet system fictionalized in the Terminator franchise.
Such predictions, allied with Schmidt’s drive to see them come to fruition, make it all the more ominous that Kurzweil was hired by Google last year to oversee the company’s project to “produce an artificial brain.”
In an interview with Wired, Kurzweil noted that, “A lot of (sci-fi) movies about artificial intelligence envision that AI’s will be very intelligent but missing some key emotional qualities of humans and therefore turn out to be very dangerous.”
Steve Watson is a London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, andPrisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.