The Phantom Menace Phantom Menace

What if The Phantom Menace is not only one of the most reviled movies in history but also a parable, a warning to all — children and parents, especially — of how Hollywood recruits, sexualizes, enslaves and destroys children?

In the beginning there was the AI and the AI was good, and the AI was supplemented with machine learning, trillions of sensors, quadrillions of processors, cameras — lenses the size of dust — and data, more data than all the combined data from the start of human history up through yesterday.

But mortal humans continued to not see what was before them.

Or maybe we simply need to extend who we care about.

We have never had more data, never had better tools, greater connectivity, clearer transparency, yet there persists a widespread feeling of powerlessness.

With good reason.

Life, random and forced, have added accelerants to these.

You grow up in North Carolina. You had no say in this decision. You grow up loving the North Carolina Tar Heels basketball team. You become one of its most ardent fans. The team makes it into the NCAA basketball tournament in your senior year. You plan to attend the contest, to be held nearby.

You can’t.

Without any warning, without any say, you discover that rich, powerful forces, most of them based in far off Silicon Valley, have pressured enough organizations to move jobs and events out of North Carolina, including the NCAA basketball tournament, because the state has decided to require adult women — as identified by the state — to only use women’s bathrooms and likewise to require adult men — as identified by the state — to only use men’s bathrooms.

You ask: what’s wrong with this?

You are vilified.

You ask, now meekly: is it rational for a man to call himself a woman? Is it rational for a woman to call herself a man? Is it rational for a white female — as fully understood by 99.99999% of Earth, to darken her skin, kink her hair, and now insist she is a black female?

When did this happen?

It happened around the same time a very capable adult was fired from her job for tweeting an offensive joke. The past is becoming more unknowable than the future, and just as fast.

Humans outsource their labors, this is one of our strengths. Until now, this meant outsourcing our physical labors. No more, now we outsource our mental labors as well.

We are becoming more irrational in this age of data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

We should have seen this coming.

Humans become what our machines cannot. We do what can’t be outsourced. Dream, waste time, love, hate, care, seek vengeance. Our machines expedite the rational. This leaves us an obvious path, frightening, possibly glorious.

Ours is the age of the irrational.

Humans have also possessed irrational elements but these were kept in check — not by society but by necessity. This is the start of the end of necessity. It will not be pretty, much of it.

We will turn to faith, to spirituality, to God. Atheists are already on the wrong side of history. The desire for the rational is now a foolish pursuit given that our (thinking) machines are and forevermore always will be more capable of the rational than any of us, than the best of us. The few remaining atheists on the planet within a generation or two will be like the Amish, a cloistered sect deliberately rejecting the future.

The future is irrational.

As we are all connected to each other, and as we each connect soon to all of our things, the irrational will accelerate, likely exponentially, as more of our thinking, our calculating, our reasoning, our numeracy, our decision-making is off-loaded onto the giant brain.

How will society punish you when your trashcan tweets to the world that you tossed in a half-eaten sandwich wrapped in plastic? How will you respond when a drone photo of you picking your nose goes viral and more than 200 million humans personally and publicly ridicule you?

Where will your power come from?

Here’s a man, a quadriplegic, kept alive, now able to just move his limbs through the use of devices inserted into his brain. What will devices inserted into the brains of our weakest, dumbest, smartest, toughest, meanest, most caring, most decent, cruelest, youngest and oldest enable them to do?

The future has arrived only its evenly distributed. Everyone’s equally outraged, lost, uncertain, scared; their potential unbounded as never before — while they huddle in packs, the entirety of everything bearing down on them.

Best to get working on your soul.

The machine can’t improve on that.