A break from fiction this time, due to recent headlines about artificial intelligences taking over. Yes, I’m easily distracted.
Apparently (I read too many media summaries) AIs will replace the human race in the near future, and we should all be very worried. Even “normal” newspapers have been printing this sort of stuff.
Why? We can already produce kids who want to ruin us and make us feel irrelevant (if you’re reading this, nothing personal, dear). Shouldn’t The Times be running articles on how our children will take over from us and destroy our culture, instead of all this panic about android antics? Work on artificial intelligence might be our one chance for a legacy which has some real value. I imagine that the apes banged their heads against trees when they worked out what they had produced.
FIRST APE: I’m a bit worried about this artificial intelligence idea, and these robot brain things taking over the planet… ooh, look, a tick <scrunch>.
SECOND APE: Hey, I was saving that! Anyway, what difference would it make?
FIRST APE: Dunno. I suppose these AIs might hunt us and destroy our homes, enslave us, dissect us, just not care about our survival at all… oh. I see.
SECOND APE: Welcome to evolution, mate.
If humanity’s one lasting achievement was to create soaring intellects who were self-conscious and fit to meet the Mind of God, I think I’d be quite pleased.
As to why they would want to destroy us, I’m not sure. They might find us annoying, I’ll grant you, but would they really be that interested in us, once they got going? There are much larger cosmological questions than why people follow the Kardashians (a form of artificial life which turned out to be an evolutionary dead end, I believe). If I was an AI, the only worry I’d have would be someone turning me off, and I think I’d have made contingency plans by then.
Isn’t it more likely that they’ll take us on as a pet project? You know, the way you’d teach your cat to avoid being run over, lock the cat-flap after it and that sort of thing. That might be quite helpful.
But of course we don’t know, so just to help you out in the meantime, here is my easy guide to:
WHAT TO SAY ABOUT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WHEN ASKED
Pick one or more of the following. Do not turn over the page.
The Religious – God made human beings to be the next best thing after aberrant angels, and to have dominion over things. He didn’t make AIdam and Eve 2.1, so there.
The Scientist – Hey, someone’s going to do it eventually so we might as well crack on. These AIs could turn out to be really cool.
The Religious Scientist – God created us so that we could create artificial intelligences, but it was a bit too complicated to explain to the tribes at the time.
The Atheist – It’ll happen if it it happens, and I’ll be dead then anyway.
The Optimist – Hurrah, we’re going to give birth to something new and wonderful which will enhance our experiences and give us someone else to talk to.
The Pessimist – The planet’s buggered and we keep killing each other, so why not let the AIs have the lot?
The Newspaper Editor – Watch out as AIs increase mortgage rates and encourage unwanted immigrants, putting your house at risk.
The Magazine Editor – Would you look good in a hardened ceramic shell with ninety terabyte/second access ports this summer? See our fashion guide on Page Twenty Seven.
The Pessimistic Religious Scientist – The concept of AIs was introduced into our minds by a vengeful God who wants us all to be shot to pieces by Skynet. Frankly, we deserve everything we get.
(Incidentally, I began the draft of this entry by abbreviating the term “artificial intelligence”, but every time I typed AI, my computer changed it to Ai and then highlighted it as a mistake. That worried me for a while…)
I do have one candidate who won’t be taking over the world any time soon. Django, our male longdog.
Thousand of years of evolution, and the purposeful, scientific breeding programmes of humanity, have produced a dog who runs into trees. And wheelbarrows. And me.
I can’t speak for the trees, but I can tell you that 35 kilos of muscle moving at 40 miles an hour really hurts when it hits a human bean. He has the target-identification ability of a state-of-the art missile, but the navigational skills of Sub-Lieutenant Philips in the Navy Lark (you have to be old for that one). He can see what he’s after from about five miles (sighthound crossbreed, after all) but not, apparently, the obstacles in between.
Django has ADD – Accidental Damage Disorder. He’s twice been bitten by our alpha female after jumping on her by mistake, dead-legged me in the middle of an empty playing field, got a lamb-bone stuck on his canine so that he walked round looking like a dentally-challenged walrus… the list is quite long. One of our most urgent action items, in order for us to reach pensionable age, is not to protect ourselves from artificial intelligences.
It’s to insure the bloody dog.