Mike’s Corner: The illusion of control

By Mike Wagoner
Reader Contributor

I saw a movie at the old drive-in theater in my hometown when I was in high school… sittin’ in my tired ’54 Chevy… speaker in the window, a warm summer night with a pretty, young, probably nervous girl sittin’ beside me. I can remember trying to get enough courage up to kiss her when a funny thing happened… I started to become interested in the movie. I think it was called Colossus: The Forbin Project.

The gist of it was that the U.S. had a big supercomputer housed in a highly secured complex that was tied into the country’s weapon systems. The main guy in charge of the thing that took up a whole wall was named Forbin. He would talk to it and it would respond by way of a large screen. 

Things were fine until late one night when Forbin entered the place to do something… no one was around, he walked into the control room to find the computer on… communicating with another computer… it was in Russia. It wasn’t supposed to be doin’ that, and Forbin told it to stop. The machine went silent. But it wasn’t long until it started to do it again, even with people around. It began to make demands of its own. When Forbin challenged it, it began to arm different weapon systems and threaten to launch them.

It got to the point where the screen began presenting all kinds of mathematical formulas at a tremendous rate, and the Russian machine began following suit until they became in sync. The security cameras in the facility became the eyes and ears of the machines, whereby nobody could do anything to try and turn it off.

I checked with the library here in town and found that they have it. I looked at the date on it… 1970. I got to thinkin’, man, talk about bein’ ahead of its time… with all the stuff that has “come online” since those days… artificial intelligence… even some of the people who are developing it are sounding warnings about the possible nightmare scenarios it could create. 

When you think about some of the scary stuff the net has already begun to spawn… I’m thinkin’… we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

I don’t remember if I ever kissed the girl, but I remember that movie. I won’t ruin the end for ya, in case ya wanna check it out.

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