That “galaxy, far, far away” in the famed opening lines of “Star Wars” flicks actually is part of “our reality,” according to a commentary released on a key site, KurzweilAI, that deals with artificial intelligence and the like.
It’s because the newest chapter of the long-running series, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” has a robot as a key character.
The robot previously was part of the “Imperial Empire” but was captured and reprogrammed to become part of the rebel group that sets out to steal plans for the “Death Star” and uncover a fatal flaw.
Jonathan Roberts, a professor of robotics at Queensland University of Technology, warns that robotic technology used in military conflicts could be turned back against those who created and released it.
The “Rogue One” character is a droid, K-2SO.
“Without giving away too many spoilers, K-2SO is part of the Rebellion freedom fighter group that are tasked with stealing the plans to the first Death Star, the infamous moon-sized battle station from the original Star Wars movie,” he said.
“Some robotics engineers and researchers are working on exactly this and have started to develop the algorithms that will enable autonomous military robots to be ethical. They propose that robots may be able to be protect civilians better than human soldiers,” he said.
“But all of this assumes that the human creators of the robots are acting ethically and want the robots to also be ethical,” he warned.
“What happens if a future autonomous soldier robot is tasked with doing something that it decides goes against its code of ethics? Will it just say ‘no,’ or will it conclude that the most appropriate action is to turn on its owner? Would it defect to the other side? How would loyalty be built into an autonomous robot and how would the robot’s creator ensure that it could be trusted to not switch sides?”
See a trailer for “Rogue One”:
The KurzweilAI site was launched by Ray Kurzweil, a pioneer and advocate for artificial intelligence who has been described by the Wall Street Journal as “the restless genius.”
His biography says he was the principal inventor of the “first CCD flatbed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition.”
He’s been honored with a number of technology awards and in 2002 was inducted in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
He now works for Google.
Roberts suggests there will be many reports coming on “trusted autonomy” for technology and said, “‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ may be set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but its plot lines are actually based in our reality.”
He continued: “Dealing with states that build frightening new weapons, stealing plans to those weapons, and then fighting back with robots is not science fiction. And it may be that soon we see those fighting robots turn on their creators.”
He pointed out that neither having robots switch sides (as in the “Terminator”) nor having soldiers defect (as in Gen. Benedict Arnold) is new.
“In the 21st century, we have seen the development of remotely controlled systems for reconnaissance, surveillance and the delivery of weapons to targets. Such systems are likely to be very important in the future of defense capabilities,” he continued, “As this equipment does not require a person on board, it means that human defectors or spies are no longer required to deliver this robotic hardware to the opposition.”
He said there already is a “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots” to warn the public, which advocates that a human should be responsible for making a final decision before a weapon is launched.
“The International Committee of the Red Cross has pointed out that the so-called ‘rules of war’ must be coded into autonomous military robots of the future,” he wrote.
The Red Cross video warning from 2014:
It explains the basics of international humanitarian law.
“Because some weapons and methods of warfare don’t distinguish between fighters and civilians, limits on their use have been agreed. In the future, wars may be fought with fully autonomous robots. But will such robots ever have the ability to distinguish between a military target and someone who must never be attacked? No matter how sophisticated weapons become it is essential that they are in line with the rules of war.”