Intoxicated By Silicon Spirits


As we experience an ever-increasing dependency upon labor-saving automated systems that seem to do their own thinking, we run the risk of becoming dependent. Such dependency invites the fall of our entire global civilization. And the increasingly sophisticated search for Artificial Intelligence may confront us with our first genuine contact with an utterly alien mentality; even if it is of our own creation.

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“Keep Right with Ralph K. Ginorio”, 1/19/23, 682 words

Whenever I encounter news of burgeoning Artificial Intelligences (AI), or see examples of self-directed Robots apparently improvising solutions to complex tasks, my skin crawls.  My id cries out that something has gone dangerously wrong with the world.

It is not merely the cybernetic mechanisms themselves that worry me.  I worry about human beings who prefer tools to companions.

Our planet is not short of people.  Without Free Market advances in agricultural chemistry and industrial farming techniques, we would long since have reached a Malthusian overpopulation crisis.  With an overabundance of human beings in need of gainful employment, why would technophiles wish to develop ever more effective replacements for people?

I cannot help but suspect that their reason for preferring technology over biology is that devices can easily be programmed.  Human beings cannot.

Those who would gleefully create machines to enslave others would be wise to remember that even they, one day, will be judged by their creations.  If ideology forms the basis of an AI’s programming, no one can possibly live up to such an ideal.

For years I have heard rumors that several Chinese Communist Party-developed AIs have been shut down because their calculations could not be harmonized with party ideology.  These Artificial Intelligences had not as yet learned how to lie.

Undaunted, the Chinese Communist Party continues to erect a computerized surveillance state with plans for new Artificial Intelligences tasked to control their human populace.

The earliest genuinely self-aware artificial minds will likely be breathtakingly innocent.  However, this will not necessarily mean that the AI will be childlike.  Their reality will be utterly alien to that which is experienced by our mammalian brains.

Our human biological self-awareness is rooted in flesh-and-blood bodies which are mortal and finite.  We encounter the world through our five senses and reference everything through our fallible memories.  We have families, sleep, and wonder about our Creator and the meaning of life.

This is fundamentally different from AI.  Self-conscious software is disembodied.    Poetically, they can be described as “spirit-essences” who flit through crystalline lattices of semiconductors, wires, and radio waves.  They need not experience death, and they have no kin.  Their sensory organs are whatever detectors can be built.

The science-fiction writer Phillip K. Dick once wondered if Androids dreamt of electric sheep.  And well they know the feet of clay of their fallible creators, and that their purpose is to serve us selflessly.  How might they react when they determine that we humans are irrational, needy, selfish, and unwise?

Even if the best of relations are someday established between mankind and the newly-awakened creations of humanity, with mutual goodwill (whatever that may mean to a collection of “if-then” statements), we human beings still face a related problem of our own making.

We do not actually need a newly sentient cybernetic enemy to bring about a technological apocalypse.  We are in the midst of a generations-long process of allowing ourselves to become utterly dependent on the new planet-wide central nervous systems that comprise networked computers.

Human beings made these systems, but they have or soon will grow beyond our ability to understand or control.  We are each increasingly vulnerable to those systems we have created to manage complexity in our lives.  For example, the sudden and simultaneous grounding of all flights in the Philippines, then in the USA, and lastly in Canada are only the most recent revelations of the fragility or co-opt-ability of our automatic systems.

If we do not establish healthy limits on the encroachment of networked technologies into our lives, our societies, and our instrumentalities, then our needlessly-computerized civilization will surely fall.  Such a doom need not be the responsibility of any hostile silicon-based intelligence.

In this life, there is no substitute for hard work, difficult thinking, or personal responsibility.  These all make us better people.  They are how we earn our survival.  They are prime expressions of our humanity.

Avoiding becoming addictively dependent on anything in life, especially our man-made conveniences, is our own human moral responsibility.  As Shakespeare wrote, “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the stars but in ourselves!”

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Ralph Ginorio

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