AI: Friend or Foe?
A.L.I.A.S – Artificial Lifeform – Intelligence Articulation System
Theme: Humans replaced by technology
In the very distant future human consciousness has been uploaded into a machine overseen by a “benevolent AI” which is used like a hive mind to power everything. Inside the machine you’re living out your perfect paradise. However, this AI’s key operative is to use resources effectively and always look for increasing optimisation.
You are rudely “woken” from your digital paradise by A.L.I.A.S (A.L) for a nightmare “job interview” in which you must argue why your digital self must not be deleted and replaced by a more efficient operating process. In this scenario you must answer a series of questions to prove your worth. However, as you speak with A.L you are really presented with the facts that the world has become a much better place since human’s stopped running it. Your final choice really becomes about asking yourself “Just how altruistic am I?”
The final twist is that our audience will not realise they are conversing with a human who “plays” A.L.
It’s been interesting to drill down and imagine how you would argue the case for humans. Simon and I carried out a few interviews and a recurring argument that humans make in this “scenario” is that we are uniquely creative. But is that true?
Some stand out quotes and food for thought from others exploring this argument:
“Humans are not original. We only reinvent, make connections between things we have seen. While humans can only build on what we have learned and what others have done before us, machines can create from scratch…Ultimately, humans are mere biological machines, and conversely, a thinking, dreaming computer could be considered a silicon life-form. If we can be creative, why not computers? Computers may even become more creative than us, as Klingemann proposes. By trawling the web, they will have access, potentially, to all knowledge. Our human brains are too limited to imagine how powerful machine creativity may become.” – The Guardian, Can Machines be more creative than humans?
Marcus Du Sautoy has written an entire book, The Creativity Code on this subject exploring the nature of creativity and how long it may be before machines even overtake humans in their imagination. I’m currently about half way through but can definitely recommend it!
The other argument often used against machines is that we are inherently empathetic. But again, this appears to be a false argument:
“These things are already better at empathy than we are,” he says. “AI is able to recognise a false smile as opposed to a genuine smile better than a human can.” – The Guardian, Could robots make us better humans?
As I’ve been researching this idea, I’ve found myself asking myself just how much do humans deserve to exist these days? How would I justify myself? How do I quantify my worth?
This has lead me down quite a millennial train of thought by tying my worth to my productivity. This seems to be a unique quantifier for my generation and brings up it’s own issues.
“Many millennials feel starved of meaning, lacking purpose, and desperate for some sense of identity that can ground them.” Inspiring Interns, The Rise of Hustle Culture “Welcome to hustle culture. It is obsessed with striving, relentlessly positive, devoid of humor, and — once you notice it — impossible to escape. “Rise and Grind”…This is toil glamour” – New York Times, Why are young people pretending to love work? “What made millennials the way they are? Why are they so burned out? Why are they having fewer kids? Why are they getting married later? Why are they obsessed with efficiency and technology…Our entire lives are framed around becoming cheaper and more efficient economic instruments for capital. That, taken to an extreme, has pretty corrosive effects on society, particularly young people… “ Vox, Why are millennials burned out? Capitalism
What I’ve realised is that, just as my main character A.L is obsessed with optimisation, conversely my own generation is just as obsessed! Productivity and optimisation has become the be all and end all of life! We seem to be working harder than ever before, and yet, like proverbial hamsters on a wheel, we never seem to reach an end point where we stop running and find satisfaction.
I also wonder if there’s something here about the fear of death in the digital age, as a society. I think it’s why we all secretly want to publish a book (which feels solid, like it may last down the generations). A desire within ourselves to leave a mark on this world – and perhaps a fear that as things have become more digitised, everything feels less permanent.
We have stone tablets with the first writing from thousands of years ago in the British Library, but there is no guarantee that any of our cleverly wrought blog posts/ tweets/digital media will last into the future. Digital in its very essence is fleeting. And yet…we are on this endless treadmill of creating output, as though sheer volume will ensure we are never forgotten…
So how have other generations rated their worth in society? What markets have they used? In general this search lead me to a lot of religious debate about human “intrinsic worth” until I stumbled across the rather controversial George Bernard Shaw and found some fascinating quotes from his writing:
“You must all know half a dozen people at least who are no use in this world, who are more trouble than they are worth. Just put them there and say Sir, or Madam, now will you be kind enough to justify your existence? If you can’t justify your existence, if you’re not pulling your weight in the social boat, if you’re not producing as much as you consume or perhaps a little more, then, clearly, we cannot use the organizations of our society for the purpose of keeping you alive, because your life does not benefit us and it can’t be of very much use to yourself.” ― George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw’s play The Simpleton of the Unexpected Isles (1930’s) is fairly disturbing, and the ideas behind it, even as a satire are quite controversial. However it had a brilliant quote which applies quite well to our A.L.I.A.S concept, as my closing thought:
“The lives which have no use, no meaning, no purpose, will fade out. You will have to justify your existence or perish.” ― George Bernard Shaw