‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is a science fiction film that left a lasting impact on multiple generations, both on viewers and future directors of the genre. An authentic masterpiece created by Stanley Kubrick, it introduced us to the unsettling supercomputer HAL 9000, an artificial intelligence responsible for managing a spacecraft bound for Jupiter.
While we don’t yet have an AI capable of reaching the complexity level of HAL, scientists are already on their way to creating an AI that would accompany future astronauts on their space journeys. As reported by The Guardian, NASA is currently developing its own ChatGPT interface that would enable astronauts to communicate and assist them in space exploration.
This yet-to-be-named AI would be incorporated into the future extraterrestrial space station Lunar Gateway, part of NASA’s Artemis program. ‘The idea is to reach a point where we have conversational interactions with spacecraft, and they can also provide us with alerts and share interesting findings they come across in the solar system and beyond,’ stated Dr. Larissa Suzuki, NASA researcher and one of the key contributors to the development of this AI. ‘It’s no longer science fiction.’
Suzuki’s plan involves creating an integrated AI-based interplanetary communication network capable of detecting and even correcting errors and inefficiencies. “It would then alert mission operators of the likelihood of packet transmissions from spacecraft X being lost or failing in delivery,” she explained. “We can’t send an engineer to space every time a spacecraft disconnects or its software breaks in some way.”
Furthermore, the scientist is currently researching how to train the AI in space using machine learning. In space, processing large amounts of data through supercomputers is not feasible, so instead, they plan to create a fleet of explorer robots that can share their knowledge with the AI through “federated learning,” without needing to transmit large amounts of data back to our planet.
For now, we can only speculate on what this AI will be capable of, as it still has a long way to go in terms of development. Let’s hope that its creators take into account the events of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ to avoid (without getting into spoilers) certain “conflicts of interest” with the humans on board the spacecraft.
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