Remember HAL 9000 from the timeless movie 2001: A Space Odyssey? The sentient supercomputer with a tendency to murder astronauts? Well, he’s no longer just a figment of Stanley Kubrick’s imagination.
A computer scientist has built an artificial intelligence, directly inspired by Kubrick’s iconic supercomputer-supervillain, that’s able to serve simulated astronauts on a virtual planetary base. Fortunately, its creator has clearly stated, “we have no plans to program paranoia into the system.” Good idea, we reckon.
“I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey in my senior year at West Point in 1968. West Point had only one computer,” author Pete Bonasso wrote in the study. “I programmed that computer to shoot pool, virtually. But when I saw 2001, I knew I had to make the computer into another being, a being like HAL 9000.”
In his new study, titled “CASE: A HAL 9000 for 2021,” Bonasso explains how he did just that. He details how CASE was trained to carry out all the menial tasks of day-to-day life on a virtual planetary base, such as maintaining oxygen generation and carbon dioxide-removal systems or even sending a rover out to get rock samples. Of course, these types of tasks can take a lot of work in real life. CASE is also able to react to changing situations and reschedule activities if and when problems arise, like a gas leak or a planetary dust storm.
Just like HAL, it can also engage in conversations and interact with the crew by answering questions and responding to commands. The study explains, “If you say, ‘Open the pod bay doors, CASE’ (assuming there are pod bay doors in the habitat), unlike HAL, it will respond, ‘Certainly, Dave,’ because we have no plans to program paranoia into the system.”
Bonasso ran a 4-hour long simulation to see how CASE dealt with the numerous problems it faced. No astronauts were killed, which is a plus, and it appeared to successfully run the base without any hiccups.
There’s still a lot of work to go before CASE will actually be capable of managing humans. Nevertheless, Bonasso has some bold plans for the future. He says they could start experiment with CASE in real-life scenarios in order to see how it would deal with a real crewed mission to the Moon or Mars.
Who knows, perhaps somebody CASE will be joining us on a voyage to Jupiter to investigate some mysterious black monoliths. For goodness sake, just don’t give it lip-reading capabilities.