Think what you’re doing.

I’ve been thinking about driver-less automobiles. There are several now, motoring right along with the rest of us, and I’m sure they’re much safer for a passenger to sit in. Doubtless, just this safety feature will soon incline governments to forbid citizens to personally drive cars at all. And who would want to?

There’s a lot going on in the prior paragraph. I’ve been inclined to feel helpless in view of advancing technology. Not so much scared, though it can certainly be frightening, but simply aware it’s happening without me. Tomorrow, someone is going to hand me the tools and toys I’m allowed to play with, and I’ll have had nothing to say about choosing them. I don’t believe I’ll want to, because I’m assured they’ll be selected by competitive market forces, and they’ll be the things I’ll find most satisfying. People who used to covet vinyl albums are now happiest listening to whatever a computer selects for them.

I’ve gone through a brief obsession with ‘consciousness,’ because I’m curious about eternal life and I’m searching for moral imperatives in rational science. Many people don’t do these things. It turns out, most scientists creating intelligent machinery aren’t thinking about consciousness at all. It doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s stated right up front: the intelligent machine will be the one you can’t distinguish from another human being. It makes no difference what’s going on inside.

At the moment, the lucky few who own and control the resources of the world enjoy the luxury of complete experimental liberty. Not just the implications, but the actual activities of their scientists and engineers are beyond the most sophisticated Main Street comprehension.

Maybe we don’t want to know. I’ve heard it pronounced by officialdom that NSA accumulation of huge content databases is not threatening because they’re just so big nothing can be found in them. The opposite is true. The more data that’s available, the better the algorithms work. Given a few trillion lines of learning text, a fully powered language routine does a bang up job of translating poetic nuance. It’s far less adept if it’s restricted to only one or two billion.

I’m beginning to suspect that ‘faith,’ to a devoted rationalist, is too often faith in money – and that it’s served as fully as all the other gods it condemns. I saw a piece on a financial news website the other day entitled, ‘Nine jobs humans may lose to robots.’ This apparently showed up in a few places, and you can deploy a lot of ‘artificial’ intelligence right now by pasting the text into a search engine and reading as much as you wish. The subtext to the appearance I saw was, ‘may free people up for more rewarding work.’ One of the jobs was being a lawyer.

I’ve been reading up on technology – if only to get my head out of the twentieth century – and this is very clear: there are no jobs robots can’t do. Won’t it be wonderful when there’s no work for you at all?

 

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