Q: Do you think computers might take over the world some day? I like to read science fiction stories where they do this, and computers are so powerful today that I wonder if it might actually happen. — L.F.
A: I have always been fascinated by this idea. When I was young, one of my favorite movies was Colossus: The Forbin Project in which the titular computer gained control of all of the world’s nuclear weapons and set about to rule the world. More recently, much science fiction has been written about a technologocal singularity which is usually related to the development of self-improving machine intelligences. The idea is that these machines would continue to make themselves more intelligent, and that pre-singularity humans (us, now) would not be able to predict or comprehend what life in the post-singularity would be like. I’ve particularly enjoyed stories by Vernor Vinge and Charles Stross on this theme. There are even some that think a technological singularity is likely to occur within the next century. While I find these stories and novels immensely entertaining, I don’t know enough about computing or machine intelligence to know if these estimates are realistic. In the meantime, I will continue to seek out good science fiction and enjoy myself.
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