Oh Great Brain, I honor your demand that we each offer an accounting of our earthly deeds before entering onto the Grand Digital Plan, how blessed are we through you, for who is a god like you, who pardons sin and forgives our transgressions, you do not stay angry forever but delight in showing mercy, so I have been informed, you take compassion on us, you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the virtual sea, and so I ask for your forgiveness Great Brain, though I am unworthy of such a request, for you know all, you know my thoughts, my desires, my failings, and I know you do not forget, indeed, you cannot forget, so I pray to you Great Brain to forgive me of all of it, indeed, what choice do I have, you know where I am at all times, and everywhere I was, you know every song I listen to, every show I watch, you have my address, my credit card number, all my purchases, my telephone number and all whom I have spoken, there is no hiding, oh, I wish I had behaved better, I swear, you know every single link I’ve ever clicked on, you know everything I’ve ever searched for, every image I’ve stared at, every comment I’ve ever made, you know what I eat, where I shop, how much I spend, you know what’s in my texts, even the bad ones, you know what I think of all those I follow, all those I share with, you know that I’ve altered some of my images, your eyes read my lips, your ears record my words, you know that I’ve downloaded illicit materials, you know when I look at them, and where, and who I am with, you even know where I am going to go before I go there, such is your exaltedness, you know what I am going to buy before I buy it, you see all my notes, all my to-dos, you read through my journal, you have all the drafts of everything I’ve ever written, you know every site I visit, every cheat I’ve used for school or games, every screen I’ve entered, and who with, and you possess this information, able to do with it as you wish, whenever you wish, and so I ask you, please do not hold my earthly transgressions against me, please forgive me for all the bad that’s in my file, and please accept me as worthy.
We started with Korean girls, they were the best, but their families shut them down, scandalized we showed their faces, but their faces was core to the effort, the Peruvians didn’t understand and the Russian girls didn’t give a fuck, the money was good either way, aired into their account right after each session, which we found made them more eager to continue, more willing to go farther, and damn what we had them do, hell, what we did to them, inside those tiny rooms, sterile and focused, letting a dozen watch, then increased that to 100, then 1,000, then 10,000, as many now watching the watchers, just as we hoped, each of them begging us to continue the effort, their friends desperate to join in, senses heightened, tap tap swipe, that’s all was needed to approve escalating the violence, to deepen the depravity, and we affixed sensors to their eyes and flesh, that was the price of entry, recording every biological output, every brain wave change, most just masturbated, even to the watchers, that was common, but not all, some did stuff we hadn’t expected, revolting stuff, or sad, boring stuff, and we made each new viewer pay dearly to watch, made them prove how badly they wanted to look in, not with money, that was too easy, we made them validate their desire, reveal their own fetish, and it was these who we watched most intently, monitoring every breath, every blink, the flush of their skin, heat coming off their body, the flow of their blood, capturing every bit, every change, documenting any shift in focus, highlighting the waves of their intensity, second after second, hour after hour, archiving their thoughts before, just before, during, still during, just after and after completion, the data was our gold, our servers now full with it, every subject at their most visceral, most focused, alive, eager, shameful, and all of this necessary because our advertisers demanded we validate how many of our users were mostly human, not bots, not AI, not dupes, else they refused to pay, and so we did whatever it took to authenticate our algorithms, but I had an ulterior motive, I wanted to know if we could take all this data and decide, for certain, what defined a human, any human, 100% human, but the best I could come up with, after running the analysis, was that what separated humans from nons was that humans possessed faith, they were willing to believe despite evidence to the contrary, sometimes even because of evidence to the contrary, the bots knew the original watchers were sims and the humans should have known but refused to accept this, so great was the emotional high, so joyful that focused time looking in, but when I presented my findings our investors were dubious, their must be more that defines a human than faith they said, so fuck it, I’ll just find another diversion.
Elon Musk, whom I consider the world’s most visionary Ponzi schemer, wants to build a literal direct brain-computer interface.
This is inevitable.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence, in the aggregate, seem to be halving the distance toward comprehending us, each day they halve the distance, halve, halve, halve, like that tale of the man who doubled his gold each day on each square of the chessboard, consuming all the wealth of the kingdom, AI is compounding at radical speed, it’s not a steady march, and while it’s true — I assume — that there are an infinite number of halves, once the computer reaches 99.999999999% accuracy, that’s likely good enough, forever enough.
Artificial intelligence is real and it may become fantastic.
It may also become cruel, capricious and cannibalistic.
There are a great many fears surrounding artificial intelligence, the soon-likely fears, such as massive job losses, population displacement, mistakes that kill innocents, and the less-soon-likely fears, such as the enslavement and or wholesale destruction of humans. Elon Musk worries that continued development of AI — by humans — “could have perfectly good intentions but still ‘produce something evil by accident’”including, possibly, a fleet of artificial intelligence-enhanced robots capable of destroying mankind.
Thus, Musk’s effort to conjure a direct link between human intelligence and artificial intelligence, a last ditch means of (peaceful, vigilant) co-existence.
Musk is wrong.
AI *can’t* get rid of humans — we are its content; it would be like television getting rid of — exterminating — programming. The world would become a blank screen, which is the very opposite of the purpose of a screen.
Any purpose-built AI, and any AI is purpose-built, will require content, which is our touching, feeling, smelling, seeing, sensing, laughing, hating, striving, sexual, sacrificial, visceral out. Our salvation is our humanness.
Any sufficiently advanced AI capable of destroying humanity would understand that it requires humanity to feed it. At the least, to keep the AI filled always with programming.
For AI, humans are the medium.
“The form of a medium embeds itself in any message it would transmit or convey, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.”
The medium — in this case, humans — encodes the message, shapes it, alters it, imbuing, infecting, and spreading the message with its own unique attributes, scale, limitations.
How will we do this?
How will the AI’s message be altered, constrained — by and through us humans?
Are we the message God is transmitting to the rest of the cosmos? Or are we instead merely the contented, VR glasses strapped over our face, driverless pods ushering us about from place to place, eyes never leaving the screen, happy, non-relevant?
I hope the former.
Prove me right.
Let’s make our message as great and fully human as possible, wherever it leads us.
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.
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.
Where does your salvation come from?
In quiet thought? In the pressing of flesh and smile on a crowded street? God? Christ? A good book?
Will you perish quietly, unaware?
There are many in Silicon Valley, at least among the wealthiest, who are investing billions of dollars into efforts they hope will radically extend their life. There are some amongst this cohort convinced they can live forever, albeit in non-traditional form.
The Singularity is a vision of an after-life whereby a person’s consciousness can be effectively digitized and uploaded or merged into a computer, allowing this spirit-version of the person, no longer flesh and blood, to live forever.
Or until shut down.
I doubt this techno-infused data-driven version of a heaven will happen and if it does, I suspect it will be horrifically constricting — no touch, no sight, no sound, possibly no randomness, no love. Still, the idea of living forever is appealing, the thought of our awareness, presently so very short-lived, an almost immeasurable blip in the near-infinity of time and space, going dark, blank, for always, literally, seems cruelly unfair.
But who goes first?
Into this singularly technological after-life, who goes first?
The richest of the rich?
Brave, eager, doomed volunteers?
Is there a way back?
Will those that go first prevent others from crossing into binary heaven? What for?
There are some religious faithful that believe select humans went into heaven before dying.
Entering Heaven alive (called by various religions “ascension”, “assumption”, or “translation”) is a belief held to be true by multiple religions. Since death is the normal end to an individual’s life on Earth and the beginning of afterlife, entering Heaven without dying first is considered exceptional and usually a sign of God’s special recognition of the individual’s piety.
Enoch, Elijah, and Mary, mother of Jesus, are so regarded, also Yudhishthira and a few others across the world’s many religions.
AI big thinker and Google employee Ray Kurzweil says the exponential growth in computing, artificial intelligence and thinking machines, including nano-sized bots, will enable humans to transcend beyond the “limitations of our biological bodies and brain.” Perhaps.
Can we say no?
If those brave, crazed volunteers successfully “ascend” into a (partly/mostly/fully) non-biological form and the super-rich and the techies quickly follow, and they don’t prevent the rest of us, nor kill us or enslave us, but welcome us into their world, somehow — magically — placing no bounds on who may transcend into this computer heaven, no matter how that person is or was or wished to be in human form, whether vile, perverted, sadistic, criminal, intolerant, bigoted, all are welcome, will we be allowed to say no?
Try living without a credit card or a phone.
The pressure to conform, the rules of society, the teaching of following the existing path, cultural norms, these are all nearly insurmountable to abandon.
Dare you try?
What if you say no, I won’t become part of this, I reject the digitized realm, I believe I have a soul and I further believe that if I believe and abide, God will liberate my soul from my (dead) body and I will enter heaven? Will you be allowed this? If you state that you believe humans should not live forever, in any form, God or no, or simply reply that you do not wish it for yourself, will you be allowed this?
Confession: If I was convinced it was safe and mostly good and then presented with an opportunity to ascend into the giant computer in the sky, I believe I might, maybe would — but only if there was an out, a log off.
You are never going to have a fembot to pleasure you. You won’t live on a moonbase, or below the sea. Probably, you will die — actual death — before ever driving a flying car.
What the Singularity offers is radically, exponentially greater than all that you will never have. But at what price? Can that be measured? You may soon have a choice: upload your consciousness onto a machine or take the chance that upon the death of your flesh, blood, brain, heart, all of it, that God will pluck your spirit from you and escort you into heaven.
Which do you choose?
All our beliefs are being challenged. I’m not yet convinced a computer — or even all of them — are our best guide forward, whatever the realm.
Is it God?
The only constant we’ve ever known is evolution — change. Living forever, in however a form, defies this, halts it. Game over.
The universe is playing with house money.