CAMBRIDGE, MA—Scientists at MIT's Advanced Machine Cognizance Project announced Tuesday that, after seeing the final installment of the Matrix trilogy, they will cease all further work in the field of artificial intelligence.
"As scientists of conscience, we must consider the ethical ramifications of AI development," said Dr. Gregory Jameson, director of machine epistemology and ontology at MIT. "The Matrix taught us that we cannot ignore our obligation to the future of mankind. We must free our minds to this fact, or we will accidentally unleash a nightmarish army of sentient machines."
Added Jameson: "Some may call the extinction of humankind inevitable, but I, for one, will still resist."
A statement drafted by the MIT group was co-signed by an international coalition of AI experts that included scientists from the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, members of the Society for Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behavior, and a team of fan experts from the newly created San Diego ComiCon Committee on Moral and Ethical Implications for Society at Large.
In the statement, researchers said they were "frightened by the disastrous potential of AI" and called the Matrix trilogy of science-fiction action-thrillers a "wake-up call to any scientist concerned with the long-term consequences of his work," as well as a "freaky head-trip about a future run by floating metallic drones that look kind of like really scary seafood."
Pattern-recognition development analyst Dr. Janice Wunderling said the MIT team has placed its AI projects on hold pending the completion of a comprehensive feasibility study on the threat of "humans being imprisoned in tiny, slime-filled cyber-canisters."
"When we first saw The Matrix back in 1999, the premise of AI evolving into an unstoppable army of self-aware programs intent on dominating the planet gave us pause," Wunderling said. "But like most moviegoers, we dismissed the movie as a fun blockbuster showcasing cool bullet-time photography and shapely, leather-clad cyber-babes performing gravity-defying kung-fu in slow motion."
After seeing The Matrix Reloaded, however, Wunderling and her fellow scientists began to worry.
"The more we thought about it, the less we were able to laugh off the threat of killer machines," said Dr. Henry K. Arronovski, a leading expert in the field of heuristics classification. "It really started to freak us out. What if, decades from now, humans end up in a virtual-reality construct designed to blind them to their enslavement to the hivemind—all because of the work my colleagues and I started?"
Added Arronovski: "I want no hand in creating a world where only Keanu Reeves can protect my great-grandchildren from a giant drill that plummets through the ceilings of subterranean cave dwellings."
It was The Matrix Revolutions, the final movie in the series, that convinced scientists at MIT to put the brakes on their AI research.
"We were hoping that the third movie would quell our fears about the work we were doing, but it only raised more questions," Jameson said. "Sentient programs, like the Merovingian, though formerly agents of the Architect's operation to neutralize the human race, rebelled against the very system they were meant to serve? And which side were the renegade programs even on? Was the Oracle a sentient program herself, earmarked for 'deletion' by her former masters? Or was she just another part of the system without knowing it? We had no choice but to pull the plug."
Team member Dmitri Markovitch, author of Mechanical Computation And Consciousness, called his vote to abandon AI research "an intensely personal decision."
"I saw Revolutions with my 12-year-old son Eric," Markovitch said. "He saw the look of worry on my face and said, 'Dad, don't be scared. It's only make-believe.' I had to tell him, 'No, son, it's what your father does for a living.'"
"After watching Captain Mifune blast away in his robotic battle exoskeleton as hordes of relentless Sentinels swarmed the dock screaming in battle-frenzied rage, I could no longer put my career before the future of mankind," Markovitch continued. "Those poor, brave children of Zion—their annoying tolerance of rave culture notwithstanding—did not deserve that horrible fate."
Critics of AI research commended the decision. Dr. Lyle Freeberg, author of Ethics In The Age Of Nanotechnology, said humans have ignored the warning signs about AI long enough.
"The first two Terminator films identified the potential for global-linkage computer networks to send android assassins back in time, but the warning went unheeded," Freeberg said. "Artificial Intelligence: AI recognized the ethical dilemmas inherent in creating a robot who can love, but no one took the movie seriously, because it was so boring. But in the wake of the Wachowski brothers' prophetic series, we must, as the '90s alternative-rock band Rage Against The Machine urged us, 'wake up.'"