Horror movie sensation M3gan is another story about a rogue AI, albeit one more shlocky than the likes of Ex Machina or 2001. Nevertheless, robot ethicists are adamant that the issues explored in the new horror movie may one day become reality.
In the movie, the titular M3gan is a robot companion that can walk, talk, dance and kill of its own accord. Similar to the likes of Chucky, the doll has a personality of its own, but it’s one that fuelled entirely by AI, not the spirit of a serial killer.
In a piece by The Guardian, robot ethicists explained that we won’t have to worry about a real-life version of the robot anytime soon. However, unless we are smart, we may have to deal with our very own M3gan sometime in the future.
MIT Media Lab tech ethics expert Katie Darling explained that the technology seen in the movie is not currently possible. On the other hand, Darling revealed that it may be possible in the next “decade or two”. Furthermore, the expert believes movies such as this have made people “completely skewed… [as to] what robotics can do at this point in time.”
The movie shows the M3gan robot being used as a companion for a young girl. We’ve already seen robots being used as human replacements for elderly people or even astronauts, but should children be allowed to grow up with just virtual friends?
“I’m not concerned about what I saw in the trailer happening in real life – the AI becoming too intelligent and not listening to commands,” she said. “I am concerned about whether AI should be used to replace human ability in relationships, and the answer is no.”
Darling believes that robotics should never be used to replace meaningful human relationships. Instead, “robots can be used as a supplement” on top of interactions with actual people. With children requiring human connection to grow their social skills, Darling believes robot replacements will harm cognitive development. They explained:
“I’m not concerned about what I saw in the trailer happening in real life – the AI becoming too intelligent and not listening to commands. I am concerned about whether AI should be used to replace human ability in relationships, and the answer is no.”
Another expert, Ronny Bogani, believes that robots as intelligent as M3gan be dangerous in how they change the family dynamic. Similar to stories such as Detroit: Become Human, families that rely on robotic helpers to parent their children will create an environment where their kids would rather listen to a robot than them.
“If a robot gives empirical evidence that shows that the parent’s rules are wrong, how long does that have to happen to an adult before they’re tired of being embarrassed by a toaster?” they asked.
There are other concerns as well, such as data privacy and subscription practices. If a child becomes dependent on the robot, companies could restrict access to humanlike features — such as conversations — in exchange for money.
In the past few years, multiple companies have expressed interest in tying relationships to subscription practices. One expert claimed that virtual “Metaverse babies” will be adopted by families in the future where subscriptions will be used in order to keep people paying.
Nevertheless, we won’t have to worry about killer robots like M3gan anytime soon. Hopefully, on the off-chance it does happen, it won’t happen to us! We won’t be buying any crazed robot girls, that’s for sure.