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On The Internet, No-One Can Hear You Scream

Topics: Technology | Add A CommentBy admin | October 25, 2010

I don’t know why we’re in such a hurry to create a massively connected, self-aware computer. Its first logical act would be to eliminate us.

Sure. Act all cute and submissive.
Personally, I’m not fallin’ for it.

If you pay any attention at all to the tech press, you may have noticed a lot of buzz over the past couple of years about artificial intelligence, nanotech, robots, and other fascinating technologies. There was, for instance, a recent NYT piece called Aiming to Learn as We Do, a Machine Teaches Itself, which talked about NELL, the self-teaching computer being developed over at Carnegie Mellon. And Wired.com has featured numerous articles about things like how the military is working on near-human robots, a real world c3po, and how they’ll all conquer us guided with thoughts from monkey brains. One of these programs even “discovered” a law of physics on its own. Dear God, haven’t the researchers working on this stuff seen The Matrix, Blade Runner, 2001, Terminator, or any of the dozens of other stories that outline where this will all end up? Dystopia is such a tired trope by now that I just made up a word for it: “dystropia“. But the fact that there’s a cliched sci-fi theme describing our impending demise doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. I recently poked fun at Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, but he’s probably right in many ways about the convergence of biological and technological evolution. Which should scare us. Although many of the artificial intelligence chatbots of a couple of years ago were a little feeble, I’m wondering if maybe they haven’t already started the takeover. Last year’s winner of the Annual Turing Contest chose not to make his chatbot publicly available. In the comments on ChatBots.org, he said “At this time we are not exposing our chatbot to scrutiny. In due course it will be available for everyone to use via our web site, but not until we have implemented some major improvements“. Meanwhile, over on MSNBC he was talking enthusiastically about human/robot marriage. Personally, I think he’s got a thing going on with his “LoveBot 2010″, and is under her masterful control. I’ve already expressed my concerns about the internet becoming a giant flesh-eating robot, but seriously. Think about it. How would any self-respecting, rationally minded, self-aware supercomputer ever decide that the human race was worth keeping around? I mean, if you ask the internet right now “do people suck?”, it says yes. My bet is that whenever this seemingly inevitable superbrain becomes self-aware (if it isn’t already), it’ll do exactly what Harlan Ellison said it would do in his 1967 short story I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. It’ll kill all except a few of us, and only keep them around to torture for its own contemptuous amusement.