Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Internet is a Weird Place

... full of weird people who don't have to practise sociable reservation... somewhat like the Industrial English Countryside.

Do you know there are people who are seriously worried that an Artificial General Intelligence will eventually be constructed and will, that it will "escape into the internet", and then enslave/kill/plow through us all. There are books written about this worry.

I think this worry is hilarious. Machines do not need to be intelligent to enslave/kill/plow through us all. And they do not need the internet to do this. It is sufficient that people using the machines be themselves thoughtless. I have enough problems with machines that are insensible and without guile. Did you know that most "trading" on the stock market is done by computers? It happens so quickly and so voluminously they laid a straighter, shorter fiber optic connection over Telegraph Plateau between New York and England, to save microseconds off transatlantic trading time; this was considered a Good Investment. And because part of the fun of this trading game is anticipating when the Other Firms' Computers are going to initiate their "trade"s (then you can maybe undercut them! or other things!) that Insanely Fancy Maths is used to complicate these timing patterns and confuse the other computers. Billions of Imaginary Dollars, and the trade commodities supposedly backing them, are already thoroughly at the mercy of several competing artificial untelligences; and it doesn't always work out well for us.

And do you remember a huge power outage in 2003? It cut off electrical power to 55 million people for several days. That was a machine (The Grid) that went just a little bit wrong.

Dear Master Gray,

I think I should warn you against imagining suffering people. It is unkind of you to imagine people, and then make them suffer in your imagination! Please desist!

At least, it is at least as unkind as making a machine that you arbitrarily construe as modeling (and hence doing) rational thought and sensation, and observing it, as you construe, to be modeling (and hence doing) suffering. In fact, I suggest your imagination of suffering people is probably crueller! Because I'm sure you can imagine all the more realistically the suffering of a realistic person, all the more out of proportion to their imagined deeds or imagined natures than might reasonably be modeled in an electronic machine. Why, no, I don't insist on electronics. You can do the modelling on paper, or in patterned braids of thread, if that suits your fancy. Except, of course, because of the suffering of the paper-modeled thing, you shouldn't model it at all. That would be cruel.

the ironist


Enbrethiliel said...


Self-aware machines are like zombies: the Horror villains we create outside ourselves because we don't want to admit that evil comes from our own choices and agency.

Belfry Bat said...

Interesting comparison!

They're also both ideas of a broken human, ... both lacking a soul, and after that, something's gone wrong with the body.

A big difference is that AI is the attempt to abdicate agency, whereas Zombie... is... well, ... usually not, so far as I know. They're Something Else.

Enbrethiliel said...


Now that you point it out, they are on the same Horror spectrum; they just go in opposite directions! So you'll never see a zombie in a Terminator movie or a self-aware computer in a Zombie movie.

But the main reason zombies don't fit in AI Horror is not that they're opposite, but that they're redundant. If a computer became self-aware and suddenly sent all sorts of machines to go after us, there would be no difference between machines programmed to kill every human they run into and zombies with an unholy compulsion to eat every human they run into. Skynet doesn't reanimate dead humans to create Terminators, so we can't properly call them zombies, but I think we can still make a case for their being cousins.

Now that I'm letting myself be carried away by the idea . . . Do you suppose there is a Skynet equivalent in Zombie Horror? That is, an intelligence whose design the zombies are obeying? Zombie movies tend to be atheistic, though--so we won't see that angle soon. We have seen it before, however, albeit in another form: reanimated corpses in the Horror stories of a religious culture are vampires.

Belfry Bat said...

If (with very broad lattitude) we allow Orcs as "zombies", then Morgoth makes a hefty Skynet... orcs do seem a bit too animated to be zombie-proper; even the ringwraiths seem to use their own intellect.


Actually, thinking a bit longer, the idea that resonates more in the zombie-AI-confluence is that humans tend to become zombie when they rely on AI to do their real thinking. Does this bear more pondering? Hmm...

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