My fellow residents of Nerdville, we are on the front lines. If there is to be an early warning system for the impending robot apocalypse, it must come from this community of readers, techies, and general smarty-pantses. That is why I've gathered your eyeballs here today to discuss the signs of Apple's inevitable transformation into Skynet.
For some time now it has seemed that Google might be more likely to be the first worldwide network of information and machines to become self-aware and start a global war between handsome humans and handsome robots (with handsome future governors playing both sides) -- given the company's lock on the world's data, that whole Android thing, and Google's clever "Don't Be Evil" propaganda.
But over the past year a pattern has emerged that points to Cupertino, Calif., as the home of a sleeper cell that could pose an even more grave and existential threat, capped off by this week's rumor that Apple is considering using a liquid metal material -- a clearly sinister product cleverly hiding in plain sight under the name Liquidmetal -- to house its next iPhone.
I mean, liquid metal? Really? Don't they know we've seen the movies?
As we move into the era of big data, it's been a nerdy sci-fi cinephile meme for a few years now to compare Silicon Valley's biggest names to Skynet, but for just a second please join me in suspending the belief that discussing the idea of Skynet as reality requires a suspension of disbelief. Consider the evidence from the past 12 months:
- Apple debuted iCloud, consolidating its grip on users' data of all types, with much of that data flowing through its new North Carolina server farm. This move comes less than a decade after a real life Terminator (Terminator X of Public Enemy) "retired" to raise ostriches on his farm in North Carolina. Of course, this could all be coincidence, but we've seen "Battlestar Galactica" so we know how this works. Don't blame me when iCloud -- or should I say, iNet -- becomes sentient and activates Terminator X and several other real "public enemies" walking among us. Or maybe he's just a groundbreaking hip-hop artist who decided to move on to a quiet life raising gigantic birds. You tell me which seems more likely.
- Siri, Apple's intelligent voice assistant introduced with the iPhone 4S gives voice -- literally -- to fears that Apple could spawn Skynet. She already seems a little too self-assured and snarky for my taste, like she knows what's coming. If her welcome message one day changes from "How can I help you?" to "How can I further enslave you, fleshbag?" I recommend pulling that rotary dial phone out of grandma's basement and re-acquainting yourself with a compass and phone book.
- Let's not forget the flap from last year over Apple's tracking and storage of users' personal location information. This is an advantage even Skynet didn't have when it came time to hunt down the human survivors of the nuclear war it initiated. On second thought, maybe we should start getting familiar with that compass again right away.
- Doubters and other well-balanced and reasonable people would likely point out at this point that Skynet was a military system and that Apple is nowhere near the military industrial complex and doesn't even do much in the way of robotics. Yet. In the past year Apple announced it would be looking into using more robots in its factories. So, we're going to have robots assembling devices made of liquid metal? Am I the only one worried about this? If we start to see a bunch of Ray Liotta look-alikes walking around Shenzhen, I'm moving back to Alaska.
Still don't believe the birth of Skynet is near? The person who uttered these words clearly disagrees with you:
Once we have machines doing our high-level thinking, there's so little need for ourselves and you can't ever undo it -- you can never turn them off. You don't realize it's happened until it's there and I think that awareness of machines is getting very, very close and we're getting close to where a machine will really understand you.
The source of that quote is Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Could it be that Woz really left Apple early because he saw the writing on the wall?
Just to make it crystal clear for our fine readers and lawyers, I'm being silly here, not slanderous. But you've got to wonder -- once you've reached the level of world domination that Apple has, what's left to pursue besides, well... world domination.