Unearthing secrets of the digital world is no longer left to the imagination of Hollywood Sci-Fi writers
In the futuristic world of Blade Runner, Nexus-6 replicants are detected using the Voight-Kampff machine, a surprisingly low-tech method for sniffing out civilization’s most advanced forms of artificial intelligence. Shouldn’t we have less cumbersome – and more secure – ways of managing our high-tech creations?
Luckily, it’s not 2049 yet, and we’re nowhere near the level of technological achievement envisioned by author Philip K. Dick, in which robots are largely indistinguishable from their human counterparts. Nonetheless, Blade Runner 2049 paints a dramatic and engrossing view of the future, and creates a sense of drama and danger around robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) that seem within the realm of the possible, especially given the sense of foreboding that our current technologies occasionally invoke.
But for now, art is outpacing science, and the technology envisioned in Blade Runner is not likely to proceed along the path imagined by science fiction writers. The replicants of Dick’s imagination represent the fusing of robotics and AI that are advancing in leaps and bounds, but driving toward goals more important (at least for now) than the creation of robots that look and act like people.
Not that it’s prevented researchers from trying. Every few years, a company will roll out a robot designed to read and mimic human emotions, but with fairly machine-like results. The U.S. Defense Department has also sponsored competitions to build robots that stand upright and can smash through doors and walk over rough terrain like soldiers. No one will mistake these creations for a member of our armed forces any time soon.
It could be that humanoids represent the future of robotics, but for now artificial intelligence is inhabiting more common forms, including solutions like satellites that will enhance communications and connectivity, and vastly increase the amount of data we receive about our planet. And when AI powers today’s robots, it is still teaching them to do rudimentary things like navigating a crowd or jumping – or gambling or conducting an orchestra, endeavors for which there will likely be little demand for human replacements.
In the meantime, Thales is working to mimic humans – but just some basic brain function for the time being. In partnership with the University of Bordeaux and Evry, Thales recently developed of an artificial synapse capable of learning autonomously. This advancement, however, is part of an industry-wide push to build computers and systems that can process data as fast as a human brain, but while using less energy – a Holy Grail in the era of Big Data.
The goal is to make better analytics software and hardware – a capability desperately needed when everyone and everything is generating terabytes of information every day. For now, faster and better AI solutions will not replace human decision-making, but offer insights that make arriving at the right decision much easier for us.
That’s why technologies featuring artificial intelligence will become increasingly important. On the battlefield, AI informs systems defending friendly aircraft against advanced threats, and tech companies in the private sector are announcing consumer-focused advancements in AI and machine learning nearly every day. Fusing AI advancements with the right security, communications, data and network solutions is our job at Thales, where customers across key industry sectors count on us to help them navigate the evolving business, security and operational environments created by this new age of technological disruption.
So, until the technology of Blade Runner 2049 arrives, the real test for detecting AI won’t be a Voight-Kampff test. Instead, it will be obvious from the organizations and professionals using data in the most effective way to transform industries, communities and perhaps the way we see Earth itself.