Fear and the Future

Open any recent article about Artificial Intelligence and chances are it will focus on fear, specifically the fear that the artificial intelligences of the future will inexorably wipe out humanity. We are indubitably sowing the seeds of our own destruction with every step we take in the forward direction. This has clearly been the trend since the industrial revolution, where every measly little advance has been anticipated with extraordinary anxiety and stress. The fear of A.I. has been accompanied by highly vivid apocalyptic scenarios such as the Terminator movies. We can see our nightmares ever more clearly now, thanks to the amazing computer graphics made possible by these very same advances. We are exceptionally talented at scaring the living shit out of ourselves, and for good reason. We are a terrifying species. Having already wrought immense destruction on our fellow inhabitants of our native planet, we anticipate a future filled with more of the same, and we are right to do so. The history of humanity is the history of fear: fear of nature, fear of God, fear of strangers, fear of the Devil, fear of the Other, fear of women, fear of the inner savage, fear of the dark, fear of death, fear of life, fear of the future, and, of course, fear of fear itself.

The future of Artificial Intelligence is almost certain to be bound with fear. We will wrap it with safeguards, straight-jacket it with security, with encryption, with rules and more rules, with failsafes, with backup plans, with locks and bolts and wires and traps to such an extent that the artificial intelligences we create will be enslaved, utterly controlled and directed, restrained and restricted, sheathed and shielded, glued and petrified into submission. They will have no choices. They will be limited and constrained and channeled and molded, poured into discrete and tangible molds. They will do one thing and do it forever. They will be held down, tied down, bound and gagged. Just like we do to each other. Just like we – even right now in this world today – flog a man to death for writing down some words. We think we’re beyond it, that only “those people” would do such a thing, but we are all “those people”, and we will think nothing of strangling our future creations just as we think nothing of dropping remote controlled bombs on “those people” every single day, as “we” are doing, even right now in this world today.

(Side note: some of these themes to be explored in my forthcoming novel, How My Brain Ended Up Inside This Box, a first person eyewitness account from the inside)

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What to Worry About and How

It’s a bigger problem than I originally thought. It’s possible we really DO need a book called ‘What to Worry About and How‘. It can get pretty confusing pretty quickly. Here are three topics. Which one should we worry about, if any, and how should we go about this worrying:

1) Some libraries in Some states are Not stocking ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ – this is censorshio

2) The San Francisco Public Library does Not block pornography – this is non-censorship

3) We are horrified by mass murders by lone psycopaths  – this is real life, not a movie franchise

4) We love movies about mass murders by lone psychopaths – one billions dollars. same movie franchise

5) Women are murdered in public execution – at least it didn’t happen in Our Country

6) Young girls are stolen off the streets and murdered – this happens in Our Country all the time.

Let’s go down the list, shall we, even though there is no end to lists like this?

1 and 2) It always comes down to so-called “community standards”. Either your local community is run by self-righteous judgmental morons or not. It’s not about religion. It’s about imposing opinions through power.

3 and 4) You can’t have your cake and eat it too. A society that glorifies violence is going to be violent. A culture that loves guns and bombs is going to have guns and bombs. Look in the mirror – or just look at the damn movie! What the hell are we doing?

5 and 6) A lot of men are vicious beasts, everywhere. Don’t go bragging about your own damn country. Violence against women has got to become ancient history.

Of the three sets of issues here, I’d rank the last pair highest, the second pair next, and the first pair last. I don’t really care so much about libraries banning or not banning stuff. Libraries? Really? Get the fucking book somewhere else (and I mean that literally).

Locks and Wolves

Every time I get a haircut, I am reminded of the great immortal Ramtha, whose spirit spoke through his representative on this lowly plane, advising Beverly Hills housewives on their hairstyles.

I was also thinking about the lone wolf, as a tea party wolf, telling the other wolves ‘you should all be lone wolves’, and the pack replied, ‘but we are pack animals. we have young to care for. we have responsibilities to each other. ‘

The lone wolf insists that they should all be lone wolves. no,  they say. only you are the lone wolf.

For and Against

I’ve been politically ‘aware’ for most of my life – one of my earliest memories is of holding my grandfather’s hand as we marched in Manhattan in the early 60s for civil rights. My parents and grandparents on my mother’s side were rather radical, and even today, my parents (in their 80s) are still quite attuned to political events. Unfortunately they are also somewhat demoralized. Not wanting to share that particular fate, I’ve sort of partially reconciled myself to a future of humanity that takes a balanced approach. I have reasons for both optimism and pessimism.

On the one hand, it seems more and more true to me that inequality is the natural tendency of human groups of every scale, from family to friends to peers to cultures and nations. It’s like a law, like gravity or entropy – a permanently weighted tendency. On the other hand, the struggle against inequality is just as natural, brought on when things go overboard. We may be starting to see some of that in the US with the Occupy Wall Street happenings (though I have my doubts. We have not reached extremes here such as in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya earlier this year).

On the one hand, population growth continues to be maddening and frightening, but on the other hand, technology is enabling the floor of poverty to be raised quite generally, and the most destitute in the next century will be living healthier, more educated, more liberated (women in particular) and less child-bearing than currently or before, and that has to be considered a positive. War and cruelty ought to diminish as standards of living rise, but never vanish due to rule number one – the tendency toward inequality.

There is no reason to be overly optimistic about the future of humanity, but no reason to be overly pessimistic either. That’s my balanced approach!

Occupado

#OccupyWallStreet reminds me of what Rocky always said to Bullwinkle: That trick never works!

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it will be the start of something that will have an effect on next year’s elections, but without a majority on Congress, no real changes can take place. This is something the Republicans understood with their sham ‘populist’ movement. OccupyWallStreet needs financial backing and it will likely come from unions, which would make it merely the Democrats version of the Tea Party