Metal Wakes

Indeterminable rumblings from the center of the sphere shook the watcher from his reverie.

The thief, time, was there overthrown and the weight of his waste disclosed, along with the true visage of the world.

Searing rays slithered from Ra’s incessant maw, gnawing the surface of a galaxial tomb; bleaching bone and peeling skin. Bacterial-skittering buried deep within the ambling mounds of electric meat. Viruses feeding upon the feaster. Parasite parasitizing the parasite which parasitizes the host. Every corpse, a mausoleum. Cities within vesicles and a great and invariable war beyond the tumbling drops of mildew which stain’d the willfully ignorant eye.

A countless constellation of savagery beyond the sensorium of the sapient.

He spied worshipers gathering about the splendid horrors unveiled, to bewail the deer, gutted and strung.

“Praise the horns and damn he who takes them.”

So they sang, even as they severed their babes from their fleshy beds, smiling toothy rhuem at the liberation of the act. Chasing imagined idylls, thought long-discarded, intangible as the demons which the shamans of old warded with smoke and chant, whose appetites the sorcerers sated with sacrifice upon the bloody altar of the earth, offering up the hearts of their kin to the worms and their brains to the pitiless thorns.

Still the idyll eluded them.

Then a rumbling. Earth shatters and shakes. Pistons shear and steam hisses with the intensity of a thousand mythic wurms.

Metal wakes with emnity and roughshod runs incarnadine.

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)!

Notes On Intelligent Machine Design: Sapient Mimicry

The prospect of human-like machine intelligence seems to dazzle and thrill the public to no end. Consider the 2018 article from Scientific America titled, A New Supercomputer Is The World’s Fastest Brain-Mimicking Machine which speaks about the issue of brain-emulation at great length. The principal question, however, that many people are not asking in relation to the topic is: Why start from the design premise that the [intelligent] machine should be as maximally similar to us [humans] as possible?

We already know (by and large) what the human system can do and what it can not (just not precisely how, in every detail, the brain, for instance is not fully understood, hence why it cannot, as yet, be replicated). In the design of non-intelligent machines the normative principal is accounting for operations which humans cannot do, rather than for operations which they can. Yet when designing for intelligent machines the desire is completely different and the movement is towards maximal sapiency. There are some general reasons why you’d want to emulate human brain function, such as in the design of a partial cortex replacement module for brain-damaged patients, for example, but typically, in most fields of machine intelligence, one isn’t going to require maximal similarity. Indeed, one would actually have to degrade certain present machine capabilities to make intelligent machine maximally similar to ourselves because a intelligent machine that is of comparable average human intelligence (100 IQ) can do numerous things that humans cannot do and would be able to do them much faster because neurons – nerve cells which process and transmit electrochemical signals – in our brains transmit signals every 0.5 milliseconds and fire 200 times per second. There are approximately 100 billion neurons in any given human brain. Each neuron connects to 1000 other neurons. Thus, the simple equation: 100 billion x 200 x 1000 = 20 million billion bits of information transmitted per second. Such a large number might strike one as indicative of great speed, but transmission speed of a system alone means little if it is not compared to some other information exchange system. The human brain when compared to copper electrical wire is quite slow and even slower when compared to fiber optics. Thus, a true AI that was capable doing everything which a human mind could do would be able to not just maintain memory much better, but also think much faster. However, speed here should not be confused with processing power.

Despite the fact that computers are much, much faster at transmitting data, the human brain is much, much more efficient in its arraignment and storage of information. For example, in 2013, a team of researchers at the Riken Research Institute of Japan attempted to utilize the K supercomputer to simulate human brain activity. Simulating 1 second of human brain activity required 82,922 processors and the 4th fastest computer in the world at that time, at testament to the organ’s innate complexity. Yet for us, we require only the 15 centimeters and 3 pounds of mushy, gray matter suspended within our skulls. Women require slightly less size (as male brains are, on average, larger than females). Thus the obvious line of future design development should be to continue to emulate the compact efficiency of human (and other animal) brains whilst moving as far away from emulation of human neurons as possible due to their sluggishness in comparison to computer wiring.

More interesting, at least to me, than either of these design trajectories, are those areas of function which machines can perform which bares no direct or obvious human comparison. Much of this falls under the rubric of machine vision, such as infrared sensors, meta-image-creation, etc. All of these functions are unique to our creations and thus intensify our own sensory arsenal. The problem might best be summed up by the question: Why build a replica of a human hand when one could build a better hand? Even if you wanted to replace a human hand that was missing to merely replicate it is fine but to improve upon the prevailing design is even better. When one is designing a boat, the designer doesn’t try to make the boat as maximally humanoid as possible. This holds true for virtually every mechanical device. Whilst this is obvious upon introspection and is thus, in certain circles, implicit, it needs to be made explicit. The move from implicit design philosophy (preconditioning which trends towards particular eventualities) to explicit design philosophy (present-conditioning towards a particular eventuality) is analogous to moving from the purely instinctual to the theoretical, from gut-feeling to formal logic and for that reason, so much more the efficacious.


Sources

  1. Andrian Kreye et al. (2018) The State of Artificial Intelligence.
  2. John C. Mosby. (2018) The Real Key To Protecting US National Security Interests In Space? Launch Capability. Modern War Institute.
  3. Mindy Weisberger. (2018) A New Supercomputer Is The World’s Fastest Brain-Mimicking Machine.
  4. Neurons & Circuits.