M3GAN: AI Toy Turned Murderer

M3GAN has been a box office smash, grossing nearly $60 million in its first two weekends on a $12 million budget. The movie follows a robotics engineer at a toy company who builds a life-like doll that begins to take on a life of its own. This raises the question: Could M3GAN be real?

Generative AI models already exist that can replicate these kinds of verbal responses. You can easily train an AI model to respond to information in malevolent ways. (Tay, an early Chatbot by Microsoft, was turned into a misogynistic, homophobic, Hitler lover in less than 24 hours after interacting with a highly motivated group of trainers: American teenagers.)

That said, AI models are narrow focused, so you’d need to put several different models together to create anything that resembled artificial general intelligence (AGI), AI that can learn anything (like humans). Many AI experts believe that we are close to AGI systems; others think it’s decades away or may not even be possible. I think it is possible – my timeline is more than three years and less than a decade – but that’s just a guess.

Based on the state-of-the-art in robotics, it’s M3GAN’s mechanical capabilities that are way out of reach. M3GAN is supposed to be life-sized with fully articulated arms, legs, hands, and feet. There hasn’t been a business case to justify the expense of trying to build a full-size, lifelike humanoid robot. I have no way to estimate the cost of such a device, but the sensor arrays to enable it to navigate, feel, and move would be at the very edge of our science. Then, there is the local computational power and data storage required, which is also beyond any tech yet created. You can’t have it rely on wireless cloud computing, as that would give you a de facto on/off switch, and the whole idea is that M3GAN is autonomous.

I could go on about power requirements and a bunch of other critical stuff, but it doesn’t take long to realize that – at least today – this is science-fiction. But remember: today’s science fiction is the inspiration for tomorrow’s science.

If you find M3GAN creepy (I do), you might want to do some research about the “uncanny valley.” M3GAN is certainly dancing its way through it.

Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, co-founder of Metacademy, and the CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and CNBC and writes a popular daily business blog. He’s the Co-Host of the award-winning podcast Techstream with Shelly Palmer & Seth Everett and his latest book, Blockchain - Cryptocurrency, NFTs & Smart Contracts: An executive guide to the world of decentralized finance, is an Amazon #1 Bestseller. Follow @shellypalmer or visit shellypalmer.com.

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