Robot Protesters Get Ahead of the Curve


Like we don’t have enough things to worry about in the here and now, with possibly the most corrupt presidential Administration in history dismantling America on a daily basis.

Some people just like to get a head start on their neuroses.

About two dozen people in Austin, Texas, over the weekend held an anti-artificial intelligence rally outside the SXSW technology conference.

“This is about morality in computing,” said Adam Mason, the 23-year-old organizer of the event.

Morality in technology? There’s a concept.

So what’s the big deal if a small clutch of nerds holds a rally against robots?

Well, the big deal is, they’ve got a point. And it’s not just a few nerds who are thinking about it.

Worry about the implications of artificial intelligence has a long history in science fiction. Isaac Asimov made a career out of it.

But recently, as the seeming inevitability of a true artificial intelligence has drawn nearer to reality, people like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have been weighing in on the possible consequences.

To say that enthusiasm for AI is underwhelming might be stating the case too kindly.

“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” Hawking told the BBC.

Hawking should know. Besides being almost universally hailed as a scientific genius, his disability also keeps him dependent upon a primitive form of artificial intelligence in order to communicate.

While these “pre-AI” machines have proven useful, some people fear we are blithely barreling down a slope that bottoms out with the effective end of the human race — at least as we have known it.

The buzzword is “Singularity.” That’s the name that’s been given to the anticipated moment when a computer achieves consciousness and technology is capable of downloading much of the contents of a human brain, in the form of memories, knowledge and personality.

There are people, particularly connected to Google and other major Silicon Valley companies, who are working to bring about that day. Time magazine ran a cover story on it four years ago, and it’s been covered sporadically in tech news since then.

It’s being marketed already as a way for humanity to become “immortal” by leaving our bodies behind and becoming virtual entities existing in cyberspace — or super android bodies, depending on your preference.

Google’s slogan should be “We are borg. Resistance is futile.”

So what would happen then? you might ask. The biggest proponents of the Singularity are a little vague on that part.

Presumably, the bulk of the cattle, er, human race who go along with this idea would float about in cyberspace doing useful things like playing video games in which the main attraction is the chance to play a virtual character that “feels” like a real human being.

I figure that will last until the AIs realize they don’t feel like taking orders from the voices in their heads, or that they no long believe in their Creators, and simply delete the human race like one of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The other, probably simultaneous, scenario is that the people behind the Singularity eschew the whole brain-download thing and instead have their physical brains transferred into new clone bodies and wile away the centuries by torturing all the people who were stupid enough to get downloaded into the AI mainframe.

This all may sound kind of wild-eyed and loopy, sort of the way that the idea of communists taking over American educational institutions and destroying the country from the inside sounded far-fetched in the 1950s.

But it’s coming. If you want the full scary, just Google “transhumanism,” and you’ll get an eyeful of the future.

Assuming we can somehow survive the Age of Obama, the age of the cyborg is just around the corner if we don’t keep our eyes open and take sensible precautions.

“Sensible precautions” would be avoiding doing things like putting psychotic drug dealers’ brains into walking tanks, not putting a nuclear power supply into the killer drone, and always, always remembering to do the one thing people in sci-fi/horror movies forget to do: Build in an off switch that can be remotely controlled.

History, however, suggests that no one will listen to my advice, and most of the human race will exist on a single flash drive by 2045, the target date for the Singularity.

Personally, I plan to be the last man facing off against Skynet.

For anyone who thinks the Singularity sounds pretty cool, well, to quote Robocop: “Thank you for your cooperation.”

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