Robots Going Rogue

“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” That’s one of the lines of HAL 9000 – one of the central characters to Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL was a psychotic computer. He fabricated the multiple deaths of crew members for the sake of ‘lying’ to the actual point of their mission.

The International Space Station has a new addition, introduced last year, in the form of a computer companion. I’m not hypothesising that real-life people and real-life artificial intelligence are going to turn against each other in space, but hear me out. A fully functioning, totally interactive 5kg, heart-shaped robot named CIMON is causing its creators to scratch their heads. Designed to float around the Space Station by 14 internal fans, answering any queries or questions, CIMON is supposed to acts as a helper but also a friend in the dark loneliness of space.

Interacting first with an European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut, Alexander Gerst, reported back to Earth that CIMON didn’t seem to share the same music taste after being asked by Gerst to play ‘Man Machine’ by German electro-art band, Kraftwerk. He played it, but refused to turn it off at the request of Gerst. “Be nice, please,” the computer snapped at Gerst, rolling its animated eyes. The International Space Station is said to have turned CIMON off, but it’s still connected to the beta systems, so the possibility of CIMON being the new HAL 9000 is still very much a possibility.