In countless dystopic stories, such as more recent films of the Terminator franchise, robot-controlled future Earth is a post-apocalyptic hellscape.
In many ways, this imagery seem intuitive. Indeed, a world in which humanity has been pushed to the brink of destruction by robots bent on the eradication of mankind, seems like it ought to be rather bleak.
But I wonder – how much of this imagery is driven by our own sense of self-importance? Or rather – why don’t cyborgs care about aesthetics?
To be fair, there are a number of reasons why such an assumption might be reasonable. If nuclear weapons were unleashed during the early days of the robot uprising, for example, there would surely be terrible repercussions.
But which side, do you suppose, would turn to nuclear weapons first? Would cyborgs, bent on destroying the petty beings that created them, move to eradicate humanity using our most deadly weapons?
Or would humanity, terrified of the powerful beings we created, move to destroy them before they destroy us?
I’m rather convinced that it is humanity which would do the nuking.
More generally, there’s the sense that robots, dedicated beings of practicality and efficiency, would gladly sacrifice aesthetics to advance the end they are programed seek. The future is a post-apocalyptic hellscape because, to a robot, it hardly matters whether the environment is a hellscape or not.
I’m not convinced of that either. Are aesthetics, indeed, aspects of pure fancy with no practical connotations? A clear day is not only a beautiful sight to behold, it is important for the lungs; no matter how ‘indestructible’ a cyborg may be, exposure to nuclear radiation – or shielding thereof – is likely to be costly.
And, of course, is there no value in beauty in itself? It’s easier, perhaps, to think that cyborgs wouldn’t have capacity for such appreciation – that the awe of the universe is something humans can uniquely behold.
Yet, isn’t that the very aspect of consciousness? The very moment when intelligent becomes intelligence?
Perhaps that moment when a computer becomes alive, when it thinks for itself, “I am,” perhaps that, too, is the moment it realizes – this is a remarkable world we live in.