One of the most popular genres of the day is science fiction. Stargate SG1 ran for 10 seasons, and Star Wars and Star Trek are some of the strongest franchises to ever hit screens. One of the most popular ideas throughout these fictions, ranging from Ex Machina to the Terminator films, is that one-day humanity could engineer a high-functioning machine that could out-think a human and turn its back on humanity to destroy the whole species. That’s why some people unplug their appliances at night – they say it’s for the energy bill, but we see right through that act.
Bill Nye (science educator, author, and executive director of The Planetary Society) has a different opinion. People already use automated trains, elevators, and most planes have some kind of autopilot system. In the more developed countries, that is. In less developed countries, the idea of robots taking over isn’t nearly as scary. Outside of major cities there are no automated trains, or plane trips to Hawaii, or fear of Nutribullets getting revenge in the night.
Bill Nye reminds us that humanity controls electricity, which is what controls animatronics. He believes that if things get haywire we will always be able to pull the plug, and that while the robo-pocalypse is morbidly fun to discuss, perhaps we should be discussing how to get electricity and clean water to everyone across the world, so they too can have the luxury of one day fearing being rammed in the ankles by a spiteful vacuum cleaner. At the end of the day, Nye is totally cool in the face of robotic mayhem, knowing that humanity has been using technology to sort out the more tiresome, boring problems for decades. Technology isn’t bad or evil. It’s only smart.
Bill Nye's most recent book is Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.