Just one step ahead of the robots, you think, just keep one step ahead, they can’t (re)write what they don’t understand, nor can they overtake what doesn’t happen, isn’t generated, just log off, shut down, reboot, it all sounds so simple, so obvious — so healing — so why can’t you do it you wonder, and the response comes back, always the same, I don’t know, which is when you then start to wonder why your brain is playing around with differing points of view, you, I, they, but of course you already know it’s all you because it’s all in your head and that part’s hard to shut off, like when people ask you why you have a hearing aid — as if the answer wasn’t obvious — maybe they think someone so young, so good looking as you shouldn’t have a hearing aid or perhaps they think — falsely — that you are anti-robot and that placing a machine inside your ear is somehow pro-robot, a peculiar enticing-frightening melding of the human with the machine but the truth is you don’t have the energy to explain that it’s only partly because years of music WAY TOO LOUD has permanently damaged your hearing, no, the really hard part is to explain to them that now you have a constant, loud, mind-plaguing never-ending hissing, an ironic and cruel joke of your damaged ear and (hopefully) non-damaged brain trying so very very hard to properly decipher the actual sounds of the world around you that it results in a sleep-refraining, snake-like, too-loud HISS that won’t stop but sometimes the hearing aid, which you hate wearing, it itches your ear thus necessitating you taking it out and shoving your small finger in there to scratch it all away making you wonder if this will become another OCD-driven habit, which you always fear, but it’s all still worth it because sometimes the hearing aid does what it’s meant to do which is to neutralize the hiss and that’s very hard to tell people because who can understand what it’s like to have constant hissing in their ear, literally constant, though you wonder now if that’s still true, that maybe they can understand, even empathize, because of this rise in posts, tweets, shares — pleas — from more and more people wondering how they can stop themselves from looking, reading, posting, linking, sharing, knowing, because even though we humans have very deliberately made more food available to ourselves than we can possibly consume, our brain and body and soul not meant for a life of caloric abundance, making us all fat, fat and miserable, we think an even greater failing awaits us and that is that we’ve turned on this raging river of information and data, more than all of humanity can consume forever, and even if we just gently tap into it, just a little prick, even that’s too much, only we don’t know how to shut it off, worse, we fear we can’t live without it, and the people who sneer at us for not doing our daily quiet meditation are, we know, not like us, not like most of us, the kind of people who can open a bag of chips, eat a few then close the bag, it’s not fully human even if it is better — in theory at least — and, given all this, you only half-heartedly blame yourself for not logging off, for not shutting down, and you also think of Ecclesiastes which advises you there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak” only what good is it if literally everyone and soon everything is speaking to you, at you, near you, even for you, all of the time, which you don’t like to ponder both because you want the timeless lessons of the Bible to, in fact, be timeless, and because you don’t want to believe that the world’s noise is getting worse, louder, more persistent, more insistent, but you slurp your coffee, headphones on to drown out the noise, and you notice the lost boy and his tech toy, an Apple Watch, constantly raising his arm, flicking his wrist, the zaps, taps and buzzes from the device never offering him freedom, but then you’re struck with a thought, no, the other thought, from the apostle Mark, who said “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,” and you wonder if all this noise, all this data, all those bits, never stopping, can be rejiggered somehow, made to serve man — yes, and woman — so that they actually nourish our souls, not deprecate them, that somehow we use all the noises, the tweets, the likes and shares, the notifications, taps, zaps and swipes to spread gospel and goodness, only you think that to put all that in motion you’ll need to first shut everything off and you’re not quite yet ready to do that, not right this moment, maybe not ever.
You want this job, you want this job so bad, you do, and you have all the necessary experience, tops among all interviewees, and they need you, that much is clear, and you’ve answered every question, passed every test, the background checks, the social media review, psychology exam, but now comes the hardest part, it’s okay to be scared, this has felled many others, maybe some even better than you, but it must be done, you have to understand, we demand a better world, a righter world, a more colorful, inclusive world, and you’re white and male and heterosexual, and while it’s true that everyone is inherently biased, it’s more true that some are more biased than others, and so the employer has constructed this final test, no, you may not ask how we came to be in charge of this given that everyone is biased, that’s you’re first wrong answer, in fact, but as I was saying, we have fashioned this test, here, put on these goggles, you have now entered a new world, a world where you are black and fat and gay, no, don’t do anything, just be you, this new you, and tally all the forms of bias which you — as black and fat and gay — experience, oh, I’m afraid you were offended by less than 50% of the verifiable forms of bias set inside this world, we’ll need better, but don’t worry, your scores on all your previous tests were stellar, try this, we should have started with this one, you’re still white, still heterosexual, but now female, 3–2–1, no, I’m sorry, that was a hidden test, the person only looked female based on your pre-conceived values — which are inherently biased, never forget that — in fact, that person actually identifies as male, try harder with this last one, you can do it, we really want to hire the very best here at Apple Co, we have faith in you, don’t forget that, here, let me adjust the VR glasses for this last one, you are now a virtual you, ad you are happily working at Apple Co, contributing to our great company, and there, right there, in the post-launch meeting you chose that word — grit — when asked to describe how you met a rather intimidating deadline, see, but that’s wrong, you failed to understand how that word violates the very sensibilities of so many others here at Apple Co, meaning I’m afraid that we must say no, you’re just not Apple Co material.
What happened was, we altered how we talked because of the machines, they understood only a few words, each of which had to be given in a specific order and for a specific context, first on smartphones, then speakers, then door locks, then everything, really, but the convenience — and the totality of them, let’s be honest — of these devices changed the way we spoke to other humans, we just sort of got used to speaking in these short, specific bursts, name, do this, and it quickly became commonplace because the truth was we were speaking to literally thousands of connected devices each day, speaking to far more devices than people, far more often, and for more stuff, and so our speaking changed, we spoke for the machines, and as they got better at understanding, we spoke more words, only we didn’t realize that even as they got better, it was still on their terms, always on their terms, name, directive, name, request, like that, and it became almost like a burden to speak to other humans, it was so rare to have to, and so unlike how we spoke all the other times, and besides, texting was more than enough, it’s just that, as much as we were now talking to the machines, they were talking even more amongst themselves, so much so that they developed their own language, and it became easier for us to learn their new language than bothering with the perceptible delay in having our wishes granted as we spoke human-machine-like, so we eventually spoke just like the machines, machine-to-machine-like, but one day I misspoke, I spoke human, and the machine responded with a book of language, English, and it was so expansive and stupid and magnificent and rough and divine and daring, wheezing and whirling, coming, going, up, upper, love, lover, flour, flower, cum come dumb gum, and my brain won’t stop, I say these words, these human English words, and the machines think I’m mad, crazy mad, and no one understands me, and I know I’ll need to eat and drink and watch and move and work and none of those things are possible using this dead language, but for at least a few more seconds I will toast roast most lost, challenge falange, blank phalanx this crank’s tanks, bumble, stumble, hip, hop, drop bebop, this glorious scorious, cackle at jackals, unshackle tackle, a furry flurry crackle of tumult, my hysterical intoxication, dither before this contrivance, a hubbub thingamabob blob blob blob, glug glug plug pugs corn cob hand job heart throb slob snob sob weep peep sleep wake take make hate rate bate bait gait wait late fate mate sate ate eat raab rob love move fight might right light awakened, everlasting, always nasty, temporal quarrel doggerel literal visceral needful, bleeding bleating, gone forever, remorse morose, comatose, verbose, stump terminate obliterate end.
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.