Have we met our match in inventing our own assassins? Is it part of our evolutionary, technical DNA, to foster devices that intend to kill us? Have we have created a death wish covenant with technology?
If we believe, “If you build it, they will come” — then we also must accept the new verity of, “If you build them to kill, they will come to kill you” —
An elderly man has killed himself by programming a robot to shoot him in the head after building the machine from plans downloaded from the internet.
Francis Tovey, 81, who lived alone in Burleigh Heads on the Australian Gold Coast, was found dead in his driveway.
According to the Gold Coast Bulletin, he had been unhappy about the demands of relatives living elsewhere in Australia that he should move out of his home and into care.
Notes left by Mr Tovey — who was born in England — revealed that he had scoured the internet for plans before constructing his complex machine, which involved a jigsaw power tool and was connected to a .22 semi-automatic pistol loaded with four bullets. It could fire multiple shots once triggered remotely.
Mr. Tovey provides evidence of the first big leap over the technological precipice and into the endless electromagneto crevasse below.
As we create and celebrate artificial life, so too, do we encourage our deaths.
How soon will our iPhones kills us with brain cancer; when will our cars be used as bombs; when will airplanes become incendiary killing devices… oh, wait… we have already created to be killed… and yet we still admire what we fear.
We are in love with our own dying — we enshrine the greater, smarter, technical artificial being over the bleeding bones of the human ordinary in movies, television, art and books. Our cultural touchstones become the totems of replacing us.
We want to be better now — and in that Right Now! instant exchange with technology, we lose site of what made us and how we evolved — and the devices we covet become our enslavers and they rule us with their aesthetic needs and their selfish take on inventing perfection based on their own evolutionary, ethereal, culture and their valuing of binaries over the bits of us.
Our current love affair with death technology that binds us and seeks us out to kill us is reflexive of the maniacal 1960’s — when the rallying cry of college kids and the sit-in radicals to change the world was: “Kill Your Parents!”
Now, 40 years later, our silent cry against technology is this mantra: “Let us die a slow death by CPU, and please make it hot and prolonged.” My retinas burn as I write that motto just as the words fry your retinas reading it.
The truth sings as it stings!
Is our future castoff as a broken visage of the mask that once became us?
Have the faces of our human form in the public square been replaced by metal gears and copper wiring?
Are we already forlorn, abandoned, and a feeble warning against the evolutionary process that never abandons us, but leaves us behind — dead and dirty — in the dust?
These are some scary thoughts, David! I can’t help but think that for every technologist out there making death bots, there are more technologists working out how to make the perfect cup of tea! I only hope that is the case.
The man who killed himself via machine – wouldn’t it have been just as easy to aim the gun at his own head? Perhaps he saw it as not killing himself if the robot did it for him.
Thank you for sinking you teeth into this hoary subject.
In historical science fiction, the threat to humanity has always been the unintended genius machine that “went wrong” and turned against its master: the percolating coffee pot that spews hot water in the face of the elderly couple, the washing machine that trundles itself down the street to kill children, the telephone that predicts the future and beckons voices of the dead to terrorize the living.
Those creations that were made to be “intelligent” were usually depicted with passive personalities that were non-threatening and were there to serve man instead of eat him.
Now your criticism of the guy who built the suicide machine is right on point. Why not use your own hand to hold the gun? Why acquiesce your self worth and your eminent domain to a machine?
And that is the conundrum of today’s article. Do we create these machines in the hope that they’ll turn on us and put us out of our misery?
By creating them and imbuing them with our sense of spirit and personality — do we give them life and a mind of their own they can then use to pull the trigger of a gun — thus absolving us of any suicidal tendencies or wants?
There is a reason we create — and it is usually to find everlasting life — but what does it mean when we create to wittingly be killed by what we have made?
I think if we take a good look we can find self-destruction in every field of being. Chemistry has brought us tasteless odorless poisons. Writers have written manuals on how to best kill yourself. Musicians have even composed scores of music to play while doing it.
I wonder if the people who create such machines that kill see any value in living – otherwise, why would the create the killing machine?
Don’t you think intent has a lot to do with the creation, Gordon? The warnings the old Sci-Fi writers were giving us was that technology was wonderful if enslaved and observed — but unobserved technology leads to a quiet evolution as the machines rise against the world of their creators and become “self-thinking” beings that do not want to be controlled by other, lesser, things.
I think the reason people create killing machines instead of doing the deed — both murder and suicide — by hand is one of responsibility and disconnection. “I didn’t bomb the milk factory. I pushed a button, but the bomb exploded there, not me. I wasn’t even in the same country.”
“I didn’t shoot myself in the head even though I bought a machine and filled a gun with bullets and pointed it at my head. The robot finger killed me.”
We don’t want to earn our darkest deeds even though we crave the end result.
Certainly intent is 100% related to creation. Judaism has hundreds of pages written about intent and what we are doing. Even when I am drinking a cup of tea I have to have the proper intent when I am thanking G-d for the cup of tea. When I was in Israel and learning in yeshiva I asked about art and they said it’s all about intent. “Everything I do, I do in service to G-d” – that’s my thang.
That’s interesting analysis, Gordon — I guess there are those who, through their creations, tempt the idea of God and hope their creations will outlast civilization or even bring it to an end.