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Robot army vs. Carlos Danger

OPINION

  • New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner attends a campaign event in the Rockaways section in the Queens borough of New York July 31, 2013. Weiner, 48, had surged into the lead in polls for the Democratic Party primary before revelations last week that he had sent more sexually explicit messages to at least one woman after he resigned and promised to change his behavior. REUTERS/Eric Thayer (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) ORG XMIT: ET410
New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner attends a campaign event in the… (ERIC THAYER / REUTERS )
July 31, 2013|By Ryan Smith, @ryansmithwriter | For RedEye

If I told you we're on the brink of a brave new world filled with self-driving cars, memory implants, asteroid mining and government-funded humanoid robots, you'd probably tell me I was hitting the bong and/or the Syfy channel. I can hear the naysayers already: "C'mon dude, 'Pacific Rim' wasn't a documentary."

But while we've spent the past couple of weeks obsessed with other people's babies (of the Royal, Kardashian and Beyonce varieties) and Anthony Weiner's unfortunate taste in sexy pseudonyms, most of us have missed out on the mind-blowing science news about all the aforementioned technological wonders likely to become reality within the next decade.

Cars that drive themselves already exist. Well, sort of. Google has been testing them on a limited basis for awhile, but experts predict they won't be allowed on our nation's highways for at least several more years because a) We get freaked out by the idea of A.I. taking the wheel of our vehicles (even though most commercial aircraft already are auto-piloted), b) It would make car-chase movies of the future really boring, and c) Siri might get confused and drive us in a circle when we ask it to take us to the Loop.

My prediction: Self-driving cars will happen as soon as people realize how much more texting time they'll get on car trips.

The asteroid mining sounds like something concocted by Lex Luthor or Newt Gingrich, but it's actually part of a couple of different startup ventures formed by a bunch of (obviously bored) tech billionaires.

The plan, according to the Daily Mail, is to send a horde of robots into space to inspect asteroids for precious metals and set up mines to bring the valuable resources back to Earth for profit. And if something goes horribly wrong, they'll send a super-team of Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck to space to fix it. Hey, it worked in "Armageddon," right?

Of course, the snag is that it's not clear who owns specific asteroids and who can get permission to exploit them. In space, no one can hear your lawyer scream for property rights.

Speaking of robots doing our work, the Pentagon's new cybernetic project, Atlas, made its first public appearance last month.

The 330-pound titanium bots, which resemble the love child of Johnny 5 from the "Short Circuit" movies and an Iron Man suit, are equipped with laser and stereo vision systems as well as dexterous hands. Government officials say they could eventually be used for disaster relief or operating dangerous equipment. Also, we're supposed to trust the Defense Department because they would never, ever, EVER think about developing a secret remote-controlled robot army or anything like that. Like, seriously, guys.

The memory implant story just freaks me out. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently created a false memory in a mouse and explained that the experiment provides clues about how certain memories form in human brains.

How soon until science can insert fake memories into our heads? If science-fiction movies are any clue as to what could happen if this technology came to pass, it could lead to insidious corporate espionage, government cover-ups and totally blanking out the recollection of our emotionally damaging relationship with Kate Winslet.

On second thought, all of these innovations sound frightening. Let's all go back to Will and Kate and Carlos Danger and forget I said any of it.

RYAN SMITH IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR.


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