Financial Times - 12.27.13 by Tim Harford
By the time today’s 10-year-olds have their degrees, computers could be a hundred times cheaper and smarter than they are today.
On August 29 1997, Skynet – a computer system controlling the US nuclear arsenal – became self-aware. Panicking operators tried to deactivate it. Skynet, perceiving the threat, launched its arsenal, killed most of humanity, and ushered in a world in which the robots ruled. So went the backstory of the 1984 movie The Terminator . But computers did not become self-aware in 1997 – the closest they managed was when Deep Blue, a B-list supercomputer, beat Garry Kasparov, the world chess champion. Despite decades of hand-wringing about robots taking over, the robots never quite seem to rise.
But perhaps 2014 will be different. Google certainly seems to think so: early in December it purchased Boston Dynamics, a producer of military prototype robots – with names such as “BigDog”, “WildCat” or “Petman” – that wouldn’t look out of place in the Terminator films. These nightmarish machines will now be brought to you by the folks who host all your email, know what your internet searches are and are tracking your phone’s location.
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