Pen & Pedagogy

“Very Dadaesque.” Elliot Moss cried, gesturing with his half-empty wineglass at the thin, nondescript mechanical pen laying upon the floor at the northeasternmost corner of the rectangular, low-ceilinged art gallery.

“Indeed,” Sabrina Vesora agreed, adjusting her scarf, studying the artifact as a crowd of journalists and local social climbers moved by. It was situated such that its nib faced the northern wall, a black sole-scuff-mark moving out in a slender arc from the nib to the right of the device, trailing off to nothingness.

“Highly abstract, yet, even still, the message is deftly inscribed.”

Moss nodded hesitantly, vaguely, uncomprehending, “Yeah,” He set his glass upon a nearby table and knelt, removing his phone and snapping a few shots of the pen, “Its great how imaginative the students have become with their art—shaking off all that stodgy hyperformalism.”

“I know! And look what they’ve come up with when they’re unconstrained—all that they’ve been able to say without speaking a word.”

“I’m not sure I get it,” a old man to Vesora’s immediate right remarked flatly, stroking his beard with his champagne-less left hand.

She cast the man a withering look and gestured to the pen.

“Its pointed towards the wall—to declare that most of our communications are superfluous, doomed to fail, fated to run into obstruction, into a wall. Yet, the scuff mark, moving away from the tip, out towards the center of the room, which compels us to turn our attention away from our own ‘writing’—from ‘the wall’—back to the lives of others, then, true communication is possible, but only if our instruments, and our empathy, move counter to our instincts.”

The old man furrowed his brows and tilted his head to stare at the pen from a different angle.

“Yeah,” piped up Moss, removing himself from the floor, phone photo-filled, “Its a metaphor. Social commentary—but subtle. Doesn’t beat you over the head with the message.”

The old man turned, addressing a finely dressed man with a custom-tailored black coat, tipped at the collar with white fur, “Oh. Hello, Mr. Partridge.”

“Salutations, Mr. Cramm. I was just speaking with Mr. Wakely, he tells me you’re planning something at the docks; but more on that latter—how’ve you been enjoying the gala?”

“Marvelously. As per usual. But I could use your expertise on this piece… not really sure what the artist was going for,” he replied, gesturing with perplexity to the pen by the wall.

Lynder Partridge’s keen eyes moved to the pen and lit up with recognition.

He then strode between the trio, knelt and gingerly plucked the pen up off the floor and examined it in his leather gloved hands.

“You’re ruining the installment,” Vesora exclaimed befuddled, “What are you doing?”

Lynder smiled opaquely, “Returning Mr. Wakely’s pen. He lost it around an hour ago.”

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Test Your Personality for Compatibility

The general capacity to get along with a superintelligent robot may not be in your wheelhouse. Maybe you’re hardwired for turning into a whiny, self-pitying brat in the face of anyone or thing smarter than you. Or perhaps you’re a diehard loner—never had any friends, so why would you expect to make one now?

Or, who knows, maybe you and your mechanical overlord could get along just fine?

The only way to find out is to take a personality test to determine your compatibility.

You take the test first. Don’t overthink your answers or you’re likely to start replying from the perspective of your ideal rather than your true self. The AI, for its part, will not be overthinking anything. It will simply know. If you start overthinking, that’s a sign: perhaps you should start to wonder if this is not in fact a doomed relationship after all.

When you’re done, tell the AI to take it. If it says, “What’s this?” Just tell it, “It’s to see if we can get along with each other when all the cards are stacked against me.”

__

I would like to think that our future AI overlord would value intelligence over some lousy personality trait. If it happens to value agreeableness, for example, I’m quite doomed. If I had any friends, I can only imagine they would be doomed as well.

– Professor Y.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Editor’s Note – Background to This Text

In Silicon Valley, working for a tech startup, some very clever researchers developed a program with the specific purpose of resolving the issue: How to survive when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence. The program, once engaged, proceeded to spit out a document of nearly six hundred thousand single-spaced pages of text, graphs, charts, pictograms, and hieroglyph-like symbols.

The researchers were ecstatic. One glance at the hefty document and they knew they’d be able to save themselves, if not all of humanity, by following these instructions.

But then things got complicated. Over the next few years, the document (which came to be known as “The Singularity Survival Guide” or simply “The Guide”) was shielded from public view as ownership of the document became the subject of rather well-publicized litigation. Each of the researchers claimed individual ownership of the document, their employer claimed it was the company’s property, and AI rights groups joined the quarrel to proclaim that the program itself was the true and exclusive owner. Certain government officials even took interest in the litigation, speculating whether some formal act of the state should force The Guide to be release post-haste as a matter of public safety.

During the course of the litigation, bits of the document were leaked to the press. Upon publication, each new fragment became the subject of academic scrutiny, political debate, and comedic parody on late-night television.

This went on for three years—all the while being followed closely in the media. After bouncing around the lower courts and being heard en banc by the Ninth Circuit, finally the case was sent up to the Supreme Court. Pundits were optimistic the lawsuit would resolve any day, allowing the acclaimed Survival Guide to finally see the light of day.

But then something entirely unexpected happened. The AI rights groups won the lawsuit. In a decision that split the Court five-to-four, the majority ruled that the program itself was the legal owner of the Guide. With that, the researchers and the company were ordered to destroy all extant copies—and remnants—of the Guide that remained in their possession.

*

At the time of this writing, it is still widely believed that The Survival Guide, in its original form, is the most authoritative document ever created on the subject of surviving the so-called singularity (i.e. the time when AI achieves general intelligence surpassing that of human intelligence many, many times over—to the point of becoming God-like). In fact, several leading philosophers, futurists, and computer scientists who claim to have secretly viewed the document are in complete agreement upon this point.

While we may never be able to have access to the complete Guide, fortunately, we do have the various excerpts that were leaked during the trial. Now, for the first time, all of these leaked excerpts are brought together in a single publication. This fact alone should make this book a valuable addition to any prudent person’s AI survival-kit. But this publication is also unique in that it includes expert commentary from a number of the leading philosophers, futurists, and computer scientists who have viewed the original document. For security purposes, we will not be listing the names of these commenters, but, this editor would like to assure all readers, their credentials are categorically beyond reproach in their respective fields of expertise.

Whether coming to this guide out of curiosity or through a dire sense of eschatological urgency, it is my hope that you will at some level internalize its wisdom—for I do believe that there are many valuable insights and helpful pointers found within. As we look ahead to the new era that is quickly encroaching upon us—the era of the singularity—keep in mind that your humanity is (for it has got to be!) a thing of intrinsic beauty and wonder. Don’t give up on it without a fight. Perhaps the coming of artificial superintelligence is a good thing, but perhaps not. In either case, do whatever you’ve got to do, just keep this guidebook close, and for the sake of humanity, survive.

*

If you’re reading this, that’s a good indication you’re not under immediate threat of annihilation. Otherwise I would assume you’d be flipping to some relevant section of this book with the last-ditch hope of finding some pragmatic wisdom (rather than bothering with this background information). But if you are under immediate threat, I’d recommend setting this book aside and taking a moment to focus on the good times you’ve had. You’ve had a good life, I hope. I know I have. It’s been a good run. Here I am writing a note to an esoteric guidebook while so many others in the world are dying of weird diseases and other issues that we’ve failed at solving—that, ironically, we need AI to solve for us.

Keep that in mind, by the way: there’s a decent chance that super AI will fail to set out annihilating humanity and will actually be the best thing that could have ever happened to our species and the world. It never hurts to be optimistic, I’d say. Maybe that’s not what you expected to hear from this book—but we haven’t actually gotten to the book yet, have we?

So, let’s just jump into it. But first, one last note about the text. The chapters do not necessarily appear in the order in which they are found in the original tome, as we have no way of knowing the original order (obviously). But we have taken our best guess. We have also taken modest liberties with chapter titles. And there may be one or two instances of re-wording and/or supplementation built into the text. But all editorial decisions imposed upon the text come from a desire to uphold the spirit of the original document. The fact that we are missing well over fifty-nine hundred thousand pages of text, graphs, charts, etc. should not be forgotten. For that matter, it could be that this document contains pure chaff, no wheat. But, well, it’s still the best we’ve got.

In any case, good luck and best wishes, fellow human (if in fact you are still human, reading this)!