An anti-robot rally? It's the last thing anyone would imagine happening in SXSW but, at the same time, the annual festival also sets the best stage for such a cause.
About two dozen or so protesters took the streets of Austin and marched holding signs saying "Stop the Robots," a general warning about the future of artificial intelligence. Ironically, the protesters were from the University of Texas were major strides in technology are being made, including progress with artificial intelligence. Adam Mason, thrust forward as the face of the cause, said that the rally is about morality in computing.
Mason and his group are not the only ones worried about artificial intelligence taking over humans in the future. While it's still in it early stages now, artificial intelligence has also been considered a threat by big names like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. In fact, Musk has even donated to the Future of Life Institute the sum $10 million to allay his fears.
Stop the Robots, as a group, is mostly concerned about implications of a society that lets technology run too deeply into its core. Even the use of printed stickers instead of writing a name on a coffee cup has been considered as "a little less human."
Given the timing of the rally and where it was done, Stop the Robots has managed to generate the buzz it needs to bring their cause to the forefront and make people pay attention to what they are saying. A Twitter account has been made for the group over the weekend and it's chronicled the conversation so far.
While many are supporting Stop the Robots, others are arguing instead that instead of simply stopping robots, a focus on morally guided development should be highlighted. After all, before robots or artificial intelligence can do any harm, they are created first by humans. If a robot or even just a program was built guided by the right principles, then they should not be able to turn against humans.
A Tinder stunt by Ex Machina during SXSW may offer a glimpse at what the future of artificial intelligence could be. A 25-year-old woman named Ava questioned her matches about being human. What sounded like simply philosophical queries like "What makes you human?" turned out to be a robot actually asking people how it is to be human. This perfectly ties into the movie which premiered Saturday at the festival but those Tinder matches who were actually smitten by Ava were left a little heartbroken at finding out she wasn't who she appeared to be. The woman in the profile is Alicia Vikander, the Swedish actress who portrayed the fully humanoid artificial intelligence Ava in Ex Machina.
Photo: Justin Morgan | Flickr