Beware the Machines

The Defenders by Philip K. Dick is a short story in which some predictions of Stephen Hawking and Stephen King have come to pass. The machines have taken over. AI is the supreme entity. Created by man, the machines now dominate man. As far as man is concerned, wars still are fought. Man doesn’t fight them; machines do. The surface world has become too contaminated for human life. All humans of all nations have lived far below the earth for eight years. Each nation has its surrogate robots fighting a proxy war on the surface. The robots record everything and send live stream reports to humans below.

The reports are optimistic. The Russians are losing. If you live in underground Moscow, the Americans are losing. Wait a minute. How can this be? It seems the time for face-to-robot communication is needed. Leady class robots, named for the degree of exposure to radiation, are summoned below ground for an eyes-on interrogation by humans. Humans have suspicions. After an eight-year reliance on piped in intelligence reporting of the progress of war, a group of humans has decided to visit the surface for a personal inspection. They are surprised more than once as to the state of the world.

The tale ends with an interesting and humbling observation that should provoke a thoughtful examination of how strict adherence to assigned tasks given to AI entities could evolve into rather unexpected behavior.

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