In The Matrix trilogy the borders between real and digital world become blurred. For most humans reality is actually only a simulated reality called the Matrix and created by intelligent machines to control the human population. Human minds are simply uploaded like computer programs into the Matrix, while their bodies are used as an energy source for the machines. With the help of others who have been freed from the “dream world,” Neo (Keanu Reeves), the protagonist, tries to defeat the machines and free as many people as possible from the Matrix. The machines are controlled by one central source and characterized by artificial intelligence.
Autonomous of human control
While The Matrix trilogy remains abstract in regards to the central control of intelligent machines, The Terminator series is more specific: Skynet is the mind behind the action. Originally, it was designed as an autonomous and intelligent US military command and control computer network to improve nuclear defence. However, Skynet grows too dangerous for its own good. In the end, it makes its own decisions and identifies humankind as the major threat. Following its rationality, Skynet launches nuclear attacks all over the world and thereby causes the immediate death of three billion people – it is Judgement Day.
Machines with artificial intelligence autonomous of human control are a notion that was around even before the first Terminator hit the movie theatres in 1984. Currently, we are toying more than ever with the same idea. M2M has potential to transform the world. Networked communication between everyday items has changed the way we do business and live our lives. But what can the M2M industry learn from such dystopian visions? The Internet of Things is just starting to take shape. The growth in M2M applications and connected devices is undeniable and already offers many advantages that make daily life more comfortable.
Safety and reliability are the keys
In The Matrix trilogy machines act individually but also interact with each other in packs or swarms. Sounds familiar? The industrial Internet of Things already promotes networked interaction of machines and robots without human support. Fire departments, for example, use drones in the event of fire in order to gain a quick and safe overview of the situation. However, this progress needs to go hand in hand with safe usage respectively the prevention of misuse.
This is something which is also obvious in The Terminator series. Machines build machines – the Terminator itself is designed, manufactured and programmed by Skynet, the spearhead in the fight against humans, taking the battle literally to the past, our presence. Skynet continues the battle against humanity to the very end in The Terminator series – all for the sake of self-preservation. Today we are already on this path: The Internet of Things benefits, for example, from mesh networks, self-healing systems that enable continuous connections even if one node of the network breaks down.
Tapping the full potential without losing track
However, does this path lead to the edge of human extinction as described by Hollywood? Skynet is a metaphor for what the Internet of Things in combination with artificial intelligence should not become: An advanced machine or programme that has progressed so far as to oppress its creators. Putting aside the dramatic effects of Hollywood cinema, concerns especially about data security must certainly be addressed to promote responsible and safe usage. New technologies should be designed to improve humans’ quality of life, but not to serve technology itself.