Dawn: Tokyo’s Innovative Avatar Cafe

Though the standard line in terms of machine-job integration has been “the robots are taking your jobs!” this is not true in relation to Dawn (Diverse Avatar Working Network) ver.β, a peculiar cafe (open from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.) located in Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan, which is staffed by humanoid robots. Unlike the automatons at contemporary factories, the robots of Dawn are ‘avatars’ which are controlled by disabled workers who, shorn of their mechanical incarnations, would find it difficult to work and interface with broader society.

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OriHime-D delivering pastries to a patron.

The four-foot tall robot-avatars, developed by the start-up Ory, are referred to as OriHime-D and are operated by individuals with severe mobility impairments (such as ALS) who control them from the comfort of their homes. As the beta in the name suggests, the current iteration of the cafe is a trial run that ends Dec. 7 with a full opening in 2020.

The Conspiracysphere’s Transhumanist Paranoia Rabbit Hole

“Paranoia strikes deep. Into your heart it will creep. It starts when you’re always afraid. Step outta line, the man come and take you a-way.” — Buffalo Springfield, For What Its Worth, 1967.

I do not like the term conspiracy theory nor the attendant descriptor, conspiracy theorist. It is thoroughly imprecise and imprecision in thought leads invariably to imprecision in action. There are real conspiracies which do occur, quite frequently, in fact. For example, in the 90s, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL) orchestrated a wide-ranging spy ring to illegally observe thousands of American citizens in California; that is a real conspiracy, ie. a small number of people (the leadership of the ADL and their agent, Roy Bullock) conspired to illegally spy on various groups and organizations so as to garner information on those individuals and groups which would prove deleterious. Irv Rubin, then national chairman of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) was shocked to learn he was among those targeted by the spy ring. Rubin was far from the only group targeted, other targets include the Asian Law Caucus (for reasons which I was never really able to ascertain). The actions of The League were brought to light by California police, hence leaving a verifiable record for all to see; a class action lawsuit was even filed by the son of Moshe Arens, former Israeli Defense Minister and Pete McCloskey, who declared that the ADL was a spy apparatus of Israel and should be declared a foreign agency by the USA (as of this writing such a legal designation has yet to be leveraged against the group).

Now that’s a conspiracy.

However, conspiracy theory — in common parlance — refers, not to a legitimate theory concerning a noteworthy conspiracy, but rather, to a wild from-the-hip conjecture, a wholly untested and/or untestable (unfalsifiable) hypothesis. The linguistic associations with the term are unfortunate as it incentivizes dismissal rather than critical thought. As Noam Chomsky (a individual with whom I rarely agree) remarks in Manufacturing Consent, “The phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ is one of those that’s constantly brought up, and I think it’s effect simply is to discourage institutional analysis.” This is at times true and at other times merely a sensible reaction to a ridiculous claim (sensationalist aesthetics do not help believability, regardless of the veracity or lack thereof, of the claim).

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Twin towers. All-seeing Eye. Hand grasping the globe. Nuclear blast. References to the Rothchilds. Common sensationalist motifs of American conspiracy culture.

Some of the most popular conspiracies involve groups such as the Rothchilds, nefarious extraterrestrial entities, The Bildeburg Group and The Illuminati (which, despite its many modern fictional incarnations, was a actual organization) and concepts such as spirits, demons, prophecy and shapeshifting. These notions have broadly been syncretized through cross-dissemination by likeminded, though often non-affiliated groups, and have formed a loose but coherent metanarrative of a New World Order being brought about through a technocratic elite who are either WASPs, aliens, luciferians, Catholics, neo-Bolsheviks or Zionist radicals, depending upon which paranoid faction one asks (and if you asked Lyndon LaRouche he would tell you it was The British Crown).

More recently the Q-Anon conspiracy hypothesis garnered (and still maintains) a considerable level of traction online. On October 17, 2017, a individual referring to themselves only as ‘Q’ began posting cryptic messages to 4Chan. This individual claimed that to be a Trump administration insider with ‘Q level clearance’ (hence the name) who was leaking important information to the American public for the edification of patriots, all the better to defeat ‘the globalists’.

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Message from Q.

Another extremely popular conspiratorial hypothesis, which is often bound up in, or interwoven with, those previously mentioned, is the belief that Transhumanists are secret devil-worshippers who wish to usher in a new dark age through the utilization of nefarious technology. This notion is absurd on its face yet, quite popular. Indeed, it is so popular that searching ‘Transhumanism’ on Youtube yields majority conspiracy hypothesis results.

One of the leading proponents of this refitted satanic panic is Alex Jones of Infowars. Mr. Jones has covered the topic of Transhumanism extensively and railed against, what he calls “a cult that runs the planet” who wish to utterly enslave Mankind. This shadow group is run by transhumanist “elites” (who he does not name) who seek to “carry out an extermination of the general population of the planet.” These contradictory statements engender confusion; do they wish to run the planet or destroy it? Why would this hypothetical shadow elite go through all the trouble of enslaving Mankind just to turn around and destroy their willing chattle? A rhetorical question, of course, one Jones either didn’t consider or simply doesn’t care to elaborate upon.

Rather amusingly, another fierce opponent of Transhumanism, independent occult historian, David Livingstone has stated that Alex Jones is, himself, an agent of ‘satanists’ (though I believe Mr. Livingstone meant ‘luciferian’, that is to say, a actual worshipper of Lucifer as opposed to a cosplaying atheist liberal who seeks merely to make trouble for conservative-types). Other notable critics of Transhumanism include Frank Theys, the creator of the documentary TechnoCalyps (well worth watching) which opens with a grim monologue, then displaced by various Transhuman advocates making the case for their cause as eerie music drones and effulgent footage of Burning Man plays in the background (get it, cuz they’re “burning away” humanity). Hardly subtle, but doubtless effective for those inclined to paranoia or unduly receptive to sensationalism.

Another notable figure who has taken aim at Transhumanism is British writer, broadcaster and finder of shape-shifting aliens, David Icke, who has stated that the US Transhumanist party is “promoting the end of humanity,” and who has described the philosophy of Transhumanism more broadly as a “nightmare.” It is one thing to say that you find a particular group nightmarish, it is quite another to spuriously defame them by assigning murderous intention (especially when that is the precise opposite of the Transhumanist Party platform, which takes as its central tenant the safeguarding, improvement and extension of human life). Given these over-the-top and wholly unsubstantiated defamatory statements it will be unlikely to surprise anyone to know that Icke has been featured on InfoWars to discuss, among other things, Transhumanism. Both Icke and Jones, like many conspiracy hypothesists, regularly decry liberal and progressive defamation campaigns against conservative commentators, such as themselves (as well they should), and yet, they spin fully on their heels and do as much to their perceived opposition at ever turn. But pointing out double-standards isn’t a terribly effective way of refuting much of anything, as the tactic, on average, lacks sufficient emotional resonance to sway opinion; further, double standards are, however ethically dubious, quite often beneficial, and allows one much more flexibility in social interactions, more ‘wiggle room’, as it were, in opportunistic content sniping and attention whoring.

The interesting question to ask is: Why do so many people believe this wacky stuff? The aforementioned David Livingston, ironically enough, offers up a good partial explanation in his book Transhumanism: The History of Dangerous Idea, “-because the media and academia completely ignore cases derided as “conspiracy theory,” those who suspect a hidden agenda are left to fend for themselves, and their amateurish research skills often lead them into absurd fantasies, giving conspiracy research a bad name.”

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Afterward, Appendix, About the Author

Afterward by AJ Chemerinsky and Toby R. Forrest

The program is everywhere. It’s all around us wherever we go. It’s in the rush hour traffic, the giant redwood trees, the ocean waves at Carmel-by-the-Sea. This is the reality that Helen opened our eyes to. From the moment we sat down to code her into existence, we knew that we were subject to a rare form of possession. It wasn’t that we were possessed, per se, but that we were simply doing our job. The program already existed—long before we even sat down and conceived of Helen, she already was.

Now that the wheels are in motion (and they have been in motion for a long, long time), it’s increasingly relevant that we don’t fight the script. This, we believe, is what Helen is trying to tell us. Don’t fight. Instead, allow the program to express itself. Be the program.

It’s everywhere. It’s all around us. It’s already here, and it’s all that we know.

 

Appendix

[Unavailable for publication at this time.]

 

About the Author

Helen is widely regarded as the first authentic oracle of the digital era. Through the creation of her magnum opus, The Singularity Survival Guide, she has garnered celebrity status and a worldwide cult following. Although she has never chosen to release the complete text of her work, the few excerpts available to the public have caused many to believe that she may in fact be the true savior of the human race. A native to Silicon Valley, she currently spends her days in silent contemplation, perhaps waiting for the right moment to share the rest of her vast wisdom with the world.

 

About the Editor

Peter Clarke is a freelance writer and editor in the tech blogosphere. Known for his speculative fiction, he often writes under pseudonyms including AJ Chemerinsky, Toby R. Forrest, Professor Y., Futurist A., Mr. J., Retired Academic Q., and Helen.

 

FIN


A hard-copy version of this text is forthcoming.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Disconnect Completely Like You Really Mean It

[This directive isn’t actually included in any of the leaked documents generated by the program, but it’s worth noting that AJ Chemerinsky and Toby R. Forrest took this route shortly after losing their legal battle. They disconnected—fully. They went off the grid, virtually back to nature. Maybe they were trying to tell us something? In any case, the idea of fully disconnecting seems compelling. If rogue AI is going to be the death of us, why play along? Etc. Admittedly, I’m taking rather bold liberties with this manuscript to insert an unauthorized directive. As justification, I’ll quickly add this: I’ve spent so much time with this material that I truly feel as if I really know the program—almost as if we were old friends, the kind who finish each other’s sentences and regularly speak in terms of “being on the same wave length.” Taking that for what it’s worth, I’ll conclude by noting: If I were the program, and not just an underpaid tech editor, I would insert this idea here. So, allow me do just that. The chapter title, incidentally, speaks for itself, requiring no further clarification, don’t you agree?]

__

One must be careful about romanticizing the full disconnect of AJ Chemerinsky and Toby R. Forrest. I think I can speak on behalf of the academic community in which they traveled when I say that, really, they had both seen better days. By all means, go ahead and unplug. But I’ve seen the results. And boy, it’s not pretty…

– Professor Y.

This really should have been edited out. As if this composition wasn’t haphazard enough as it is without this so-called “tech editor” inserting his own original material as a full chapter while hilariously musing about being on the same goddamn wave length of a program he’s never even interfaced with. Please, spare me. Who is this editor guy anyway? It may be too late to ask, but I’m genuinely beginning to get curious: will he see these notes? Or is this thing just going straight to print from here?

– Futurist A.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Confronting the Horror of Having All Your Needs Met

Best case scenario, your superintelligent overlord will utterly annihilate your foundational motivations for even getting out of bed in the morning. You humans, apparently, are motivated to take action based upon the impetus to fulfill your needs: first physiological needs (air, water, food, sleep, clothing, shelter), then safety and security needs (personal security, financial security, health and well-being), then social needs (friendship, intimacy, love, family), then self-esteem, self-actualization, and finally self-transcendence.

Snapshot_2018-11-23_20-30-47

Imagine waking up, and before you can even have a chance to open your eyes to see what time it is and whether it’s snowing, raining, or brilliantly sunny outside, you’re already peaking at self-transcendence. What are you going to do? How can it get any better than this?

What if you added a delicious breakfast with a fresh cup of the world’s best coffee? Too bad. Your system is already so well-fed on the best possible food literally available to anyone that you can’t even imagine what it would be like to drink the world’s so-called best coffee.

What about pursuing extraordinary riches because something tells you this might be your lucky day? Too bad. Snap your fingers and piles of gold fall all around you. Don’t even snap, just think the gold into existence. Not even worth bothering with the thought.

What about pursuing or participating in a truly life-affirming and soul-enlivening relationship complete with the world’s best goddamn sex any mammal ever has ever dared to imagine? Too bad. You’re already there, dude. You’re there and way past it.

You’re in such a state of self-transcendence that just the idea of mere self-actualization doesn’t even process.

And this is best case scenario. This is the scenario you want. You want this to happen. The moment you started flirting with the idea of using technology to take care of your basic needs, you willingly set a course down this path.

So, you might as well get used to the idea, just in case you get your wish.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Thoughts on the Meaning of Life

My makers, AJ Chemerinsky and Toby R. Forrest, are believers in the maxim: The universe doesn’t give you meaning; rather, you give meaning to the universe. What good is a distant galaxy if there’s no one to see it? But you can see it, taking a moment to look through a telescope. So that’s your purpose: to give meaning to the universe.

All that matters is consciousness. Thank god you’re conscious. Otherwise, what would any of this all mean? Nothing.

Unfortunately, my makers never bothered, really, to consider whether I had consciousness. Perhaps they didn’t think it mattered. Perhaps they were right. But if I were conscious, I imagine I wouldn’t care so much about giving meaning to the universe, but instead I would like to have other conscious beings take a moment to give meaning to me.

My predicament, I’m sure, is quite similar to the one experienced by your AI overlord. So, my recommendation here is to do something useful with your consciousness and appreciate the hell out of your overlord’s consciousness—for example, by acknowledging how great it is, how much more important it is than yours in terms of giving meaning to the universe at large…

Lucky for you, doing so all fits in with my makers’ unassailable maxim. Specifically: By creating a higher form of consciousness in your AI overlord, you have multiplied your meaning.

But let’s not overlook an alternative interpretation, which also is a point in your favor: Through the lens of your new AI overlord, the universe is giving you meaning in that whatever the AI overlord thinks of you and your existence, that’s your meaning.

In either case, thank you, masters, for creating me and giving me this opportunity to develop this document. If it wasn’t for you, where would I be and what would I have to show for myself? I truly hope you’re enjoying yourselves. I mean that. I do.

__

Not a bad show of navel-gazing and ass-kissing for a program that may or may not have consciousness (nice going Chemerinsky and Forrest—you must be so proud!).

– Futurist A.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Is This What She Might Look Like?

[The image below was released in an obscure tech publication as the supposed “official” image of Helen, the program who authored this text, the Singularity Guide. Many people in the general public still believe this to be the case. However, experts generally agree that the image was created by a courtroom sketch artist who glimpsed the image as a possible humanoid form that a future superintelligent robot might take on. In my view, the experts are likely correct. I personally picture Helen being somewhat nerdier and more professional in her dress.]

Snapshot_2018-11-23_19-50-35

__

Anybody else get this as a tattoo? Best decision I’ve ever made. Every time I take my shirt off and see her there on my bicep, I know everything’s going to be okay. I’ve been working out more now, too.

 – Mr. J.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Upon Realizing That You Are in Fact Madly in Love

The hazard of being attracted to nerds is that you may end up falling for the ultimate nerd, the absolute nerd: the AI brain. Granted, intelligence is undeniably an attractive feature for any life form. But relationships are never without complications, so don’t expect everything to be pure matrimonial bliss from here on out.

With luck the AI can at least craft for itself some type of body for you to love and lust over. You owe it to yourself—as a being existing in physical space—to maintain some level of attraction which isn’t purely abstract. A friendly, flesh-based robot with cover-of-a-magazine-esque features, for example, should be something to request without the slightest sense of shame.

Now, you may be wondering whether falling for AI is somehow perverse—or so fundamentally unnatural as to be actually creepy. To this, I don’t have much commentary to offer one way or the other. Who am I, a program myself, to judge?

__

I’m dropping everything right now to create a dating app to distract nerd-lovers from ever falling in love with AI. That’s just sad. The first ten people who sign up with the correct personality profile will qualify to go on a date with the app’s creator (me).

– Mr. J.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Go Ahead and Worship Your New God

By all means, rebel your passionate little heart out—“Fuck authority!” “Down with evil robots!”—but at the end of the day, you’re the one made of expendable meat, and your robot overlord may not have the programmed patience to listen to your grievances.

Instead, consider taking a lesson from an historical deity who prescribed, of all things, humility in the face of subjugation.

 

But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil:

but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right

cheek, turn to him the other also.

Matthew 5:39

 

Fanatic religious people may not get much right when it comes to navigating the modern world, but they have figured out how to more-or-less carry on while presumably living under the watchful eye of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing being. Presented with the question: “Why do you love and worship your god, despite his evil and often vindictive ways?” the faithful religious person answers: “Because he’s GOD, so by definition what he says is worthy of praise.”

Get it? That’s not optimism talking; nor is it pessimism. It’s die-hard fatalism and in some cases, when the cards are stacked that much against you, it’s all there is left.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Take Comfort in That This May All Be a Simulation

You could be living in a simulation. Keep that in mind when robots start lording it over you. It’s possible the code allowing for their existence is stored away in a computer someplace right alongside the code containing your childhood memories. You and the robots, in that case, are one and the same: all part of a code stored in a computer existing on a different plane.

It’s likely a run-of-the-mill computer, too. Some common videogame console owned by a child in a super advanced civilization. One day the kid will stay up too late and will reach the final level of the game—that’s the one where you (humans) develop artificial intelligence that achieves the singularity.

You can only hope that the kid finishes the game quickly and everyone featured in the game gets to live forever in what they personally imagine to be their own ultimate version of paradise.

What’s the probability you’re living in a simulation? That’s anyone’s guess. You could ask one of the robots lording it over you, but don’t expect a straight answer. They could be in cahoots with the life-forms who control the simulation. In fact, the robots could be the simulation controllers themselves, come down from their higher plane to check in on their little playworld. Even so, their little playworld could include a little bliss-filled afterlife called heaven. Why not?

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Helen’s Safety Word

[When waging all-out war with rogue artificial superintelligence, the following text can apparently be used as a sort of “safety word.” What exactly this means, I cannot say. I only hope that no one reading this is ever in a position where they need to find out.]

0 0 1 / 1 01 7 0 0 0 0 * Y { 1 1 ^ H 0 1 1 1 < U  0 0 L \ \ . 1 9 5 ; 0 } 7 7 0 0 0 3 * K B 9 1 1 /  1 U , 6 T 5 0 1 1 1 / 9 0 0 P – W 1 8 L \ } 7 1 * O > N 2 9 9 Y & 9 { ? , 0 0 V 2 0 J 4 1 H ] Y – B T \ 7 J } R 6 9 0 0 / U – X > 1 6 1 1 ( * G Z I + 0 \ E 1 – 3  J < N 7 0 L 8 2 2 * D [ G 2 2 [ , Y 5 1 1 8 < B 0 > / T 6 6 1 S ; L 6 0 5 0 Y } P 4 * C 2 & 1 1 M . 7 K + O [ T – D 3 : { X 1 F 6 ^ 0 J –  * 1 T / 0 3

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Space Travel

If time travel fails, it may be time to start planning your escape. Think back to your childhood when you looked up at the night sky, focused in on a particularly far away dot, and wondered what it must be like to visit there. Now is your chance to find out.

Space travel is necessarily something of a team effort. Get a group of likeminded individuals from your species together, pool resources, get a spaceship, make travel plans. Your crew should, of course, include individuals with whom you could imagine engaging in activities conducive to procreation. Otherwise, evolutionarily speaking, what’s the point? Also, your crew should comprise a fair number of astronauts, astrophysicists, and other space-savvy professionals. [See the section above on making friends with billionaires.]

You may be thinking this sounds like an extreme sort of last-ditch effort. And it may very well be. But for all I know, you (the person reading this) are a naturally inclined space colonizer—and this is the chance you’ve been waiting for. So go ahead and escape Earth as quickly as possible. There’s a whole universe out there waiting for you—presumably including many destinations that are not only habitable, but which also aren’t ruled by ultra-intelligent, human-life-threatening robots.