It sounds like science-fiction – but like the darkest of speculative fantasies, this story resonates because it speaks to our deepest fears.
By, 14 Feb 2019
Chinese internet mega-corporation Baidu has announced that local cats are in cahoots with a hi-tech artificial intelligence (AI). The machine’s purpose is to offer the feline community sanctuary in a Beijing ‘smart shelter’ while keeping all those its artificial eyes do not perceive to be cats strictly outside.
Not so much ‘Skynet’ as ‘Skypet’
This remarkable piece of technology uses cameras hooked up to AI to police the compound doors against non-feline intruders.
And it can accurately identify 174 different breeds of cat. The doors slide open on positive feline identification, but coldly deign to leave our canine friends out on the streets.
Baidu’s machine-cat interface can even spot whether newcomers are suffering from any of four different cat diseases. If the AI identifies swelling, skin issues, or physical trauma, unpaid human labourers (‘volunteers’) are brought in to treat the sick creature.
The phrase ‘evil genius’ is banded about too loosely these days. But Baidu engineer Wan Xi remains adamant that his ‘cat face access control system’ is a humanitarian gesture.
"At first, I just wanted to provide them with a warm place in winter with food and water that is not frozen," Wan told state media, as reported by Mashable.
These pod bay doors remain unopened
A few obvious questions remain unanswered. Could your dog disguise itself as a cat and gain entrance to the compound? If so, could it handle what it found going on inside? We can only speculate as to what’s being built behind those automatically-closed doors.
Plus, the AI measures oxygen and carbon dioxide levels to keep the lair breathable for cats. Were a dog to be lured into the space and isolated, there is no saying what might become of him.
It is too soon to claim that this is the end of canine and human civilization as we know it. But if a dog in shades and leathers arrives on your street claiming to be from the future, for all our sakes please listen to what he has to say.