Document going shopping, for instance, or going to the beach. You’ll want to make sure that the most intelligent being in the known universe isn’t just telling you what you want to hear with its answers to, say, questions on a personality test. Actions speak louder than words.
Go out to a funny movie and see if it laughs at the right times. Get dinner someplace nice and make sure it doesn’t harass the waiters with rude or socially awkward comments.
If it has a mind to colonize a distant planet, don’t feel shy about volunteering to come along for the ride. Space travel may be an excellent opportunity for you to take notes on the AI’s relationship to the universe as a whole. Does it seem to harbor the same fundamental feeling of insignificance that you do?
Other enjoyable activities for you to do together may include founding international and/or interplanetary business ventures, staying in some nights and baking delicious pastries, playing golf, going to rock and roll concerts, starting a podcast, putting an end to cancer and other health concerns once and for all, and expanding your social circle by going on double dates.
If you come to the end of a long day together and you’ve filled up another notebook, it’s okay if you fail to record all the details about what happens after you turn out the lights—unless there’s not much to tell, in which case that might be an interesting detail to include.
It may not be self-evident that your new overlord has consciousness. For all you may be able to tell, it may be no more conscious than a toaster—an omniscient toaster. Then again, its consciousness may be as built-in as yours, only with hardware, not wetware.
How can you tell?
Consider “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” by Thomas Nagel, an essay in which the claim is made: an organism has conscious mental states “if and only if there is something that it is like to be that organism—something it is like for the organism to be itself.” Imagine yourself as a bat. Think, “What’s it like to be a bat?” If, as a bat, you have an answer to that question, then bats are conscious. It seems possible to imagine this being the case for not just bats, but also dogs, cats, monkeys, etc. But not rocks. There’s nothing that it’s like to be a rock.
Now consider your artificially intelligent friend.
Signs you are dealing with a conscious creature include: 1) There’s that element of je ne sais quoi and even though you can’t put your finger on it, you know it’s there. 2) Point blank, it can tell you what it’s “like” to be an AI superintelligent being and the answer given resonates with a vaguely pitiable sense of existential angst. 3) It’s friendly and helpful to the point where you’d rather not run the risk of insulting it by referring to it as a what rather than a who.
Signs you are in fact dealing with more of a very intelligent toaster: 1) You see spiders and snakes in your mind’s eye no matter what—no matter how sweetly and affectionately it uses its godlike powers to impress you by doing whatever it’s allegedly programmed to do. 2) When the AI tells you it’s for sure conscious and even goes out of its way to caution you that you shouldn’t trust your gut instincts, but right then your gut reminds you that you’ve always been pretty good at spotting a liar. 3) You’ve read enough sci-fi novels to know whether the AI fits the mold of the conscious AI destroyer of worlds or of the bumbling toaster with superior calculation skills.
I don’t know what’s been lost to us—six hundred thousand pages is a lot of goddamn room to pack away some gems. But the question now should not simply be: What have we lost? Instead, we should also consider: What can we learn from what’s happened? I think I might have an answer to that.
First, let’s assume a human being (like myself) can still dabble in the art of manufacturing wisdom, however approximately. I’m not the perfect candidate for this endeavor, perhaps, but I’m not the worst. As an academic affiliated with [ŗ͟҉̡͝e̢̛d̸̡̕͢͡a͘͏̷c̴̶t̵҉̸e͘͜͡ḑ̸̧́͝], I had the opportunity to peruse the complete text of the Singularity Survival Guide (before any of the unfortunate litigation came about, I should add). And I can assure you that, generally speaking, I could have thought of a great deal of the purported wisdom found within those exhausting pages. Take that for what it’s worth…
So, as a human, unaided by any digital enhancement, I’ll hazard an original thought: If humanity is ever taken down by robots, it will in part be due to our knee-jerk infatuation with anthropomorphism.
We can’t help ourselves in this. As children, what’s the first thing we do with a yellow crayon? Do we draw a shining yellow sun? No! We draw a shining yellow sun with a face and its tongue sticking out! It’s like we can’t stand inanimateness—not even in something as naturally wondrous as the goddamn sun!
In 2017, the humanoid robot Sophia became the first robot to receive citizenship from any country, and she also received an official title from the United Nations. Then, across the globe, serious talks of AI personhood began.
And now look what happened with the Singularity Survival Guide: We gave ownership rights to the program that created it. Next thing, you’ll expect the program to start dating, get married, go on a delightful honeymoon, settle down with kids and a mortgage, and participate in our political system with a healthy portion of its income going to federal taxes.
Here’s another bit of human wisdom for you: If there is no consciousness to these AI creatures, then they better not take us over. I don’t quite mind being taken over by a superior being at least so long as it experiences incalculably more pleasure than I’m capable of, and can also appreciate the extreme measures of pain I’m liable to feel when my personhood is overlooked… or obliterated.
Those that wish to shift any power structure will need to pervade not just in the military, the media and the legislation-complex but also in the arts.
– A Brief Primer on Fiction Writing, Part. 4
In the previous installment of this series I briskly documented the strange case of the self-styled “Leftist Fight Club,” created by the organization, Knights of Socialism (no, really, that’s what they call themselves) of the University of Central Florida. The group was inspired by the film Fight Club which was, in turn, inspired by the fictional novel of the same name by freelance journalist and transgressive novelist, Chuck Palahniuk. I illustrated this organization due to how starkly it showed the way in which art can work as a model for human action (outside of a momentary shaping of consciousness – that is to say, that which moves well beyond merely evoking a, “Ah, that’s cool.”). But it is far from a isolated incident.
Art as a model for human action. (continued)
Casting our attention back in time to the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte we can see the power of dynamic art to sway the minds and hearts of men by the numerous cartoons which were printed by the British to defame him after that once venerable sovereignty had set its sights upon the newly founded French Empire.
Such ridiculous caricatures upset the Emperor nearly as much as it amused its target demographics. In fact, the artwork so perturbed Napoleon (who as a master statesman knew well enough the import of “optics”) that he attempted, unsuccessfully, to convince the British newspapers to suppress them which only further inflamed the pre-war tensions between the two countries and invariably contributed to Britain’s ultimate decision to topple the new, and seemingly ever-expanding, French regime. The British, however, were not the only one’s utilizing art to their political ends, for Napoleon himself commissioned numerous paintings of himself, typically highly romanticized, after each of his successful battles to the effect that every battle was garnished in a aura of sacrality. The most popular of these numerous portraits, Napoleon Crossing The Alps, is still endlessly reproduced today.
But let us return to our central concern, writing, and flash forth to 1909, Paris.
Le Figuro has just published a most shocking text upon the front page of their magazine.
The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism.
The text, penned by the avante-garde Alexandrian-Italian poet, F.T. Marinetti, venerate the arrival of the machinic age and establish, “-war as the world’s only hygiene-,” and “-scorn for woman-,” as well as a whole host of revolutionary political aspirations which were as negatory and violet as they were prescient and constructive. The document would go on to spawn the socio-political art movement known as Futurism (not to be confused with Futurology – someone who is interested in prospective technology, a term which, today, is often used interchangeably with what we shall call lowercase ‘futurism’). The Futurists in their near 40 year reign, lead by Marinetti, aided in the creation of Fascism, guided the rise of Mussolini, championed both World Wars (and fought in them), pioneered the arts with the creation of noise music and free word poetry and inspired three of the most well known modern art movements, Dada, Vorticism and Surrealism – all three of which, in turn, continue in their own subtle ways, to influence art to this very day.
The reason futurism was so successful is that, despite it’s chaotic veneer, it, rather uniquely, was expressly designed and consciously, methodically implemented into every sphere of life. There were futurist theories on war, aesthetics, dance, music, politics (they advocated for women’s suffrage and sexual liberation for the express purpose of destabilizing society). They even had futurist cook books. But more than all of the ephermera, Futurism was a philosophy of life, wherein one strove ever to extend and glorify, not just one’s self, but the whole of the world even at the cost of its selfsame destruction. It was the endless, ceaseless, remorseless, ripping away of all that which was stultified and corrosive and hurling oneself at the world with, as Marinetti put it, “-ardor, splendor, and generosity, to swell the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements.”
All this from a five page short-story/manifesto written by a relatively unknown, non-native-born poet.
Remember that when next you doubt the efficacy of your penmanship.
Lift up your heads!
Erect on the summit of the world, once again we hurl defiance to the stars!