I am not in fact talking about the delightful Deus Ex game, but rather about the actual revolution in society and technology we are witnessing today. Pretty much every day I look at any news source, be it on cable news networks or facebook feeds or whathaveyou, I always see fear mongering. “Implantable chips will let the government track you!” or “Hackers will soon be able to steal your thoughts!” (Seriously, seen both of these and much more and much crazier.) …But I’m here to tell you two things. First, calm the hell down. Nearly every doomsday scenario painted by fear-mongering assholes is either impossible or so utterly unlikely as to be effectively impossible. And second… that you should psych the hell up because its actually extremely exciting and worth getting excited about. But for good reasons, not bad.
On the first point, entire libraries could be filled, and in some sense have already been filled, rebutting ridiculous fear mongering. But to cover it quickly, I’ll say this much: that while it seems to be a constant of the universe that people are stunningly stupid, we tend to have enough common sense, or enough smart people, to prevent truly apocalyptic scenarios. For example, all the people working on AI now have seen those movies too. They’ve seen Terminator, and The Matrix, they’ve read their Asimov, they know (or at least, hope they know) what they’re doing. And, yes, there is an argument to be made that once we make a truly strong AI, all bets are off, the fact is that a bad outcome from that scenario just isn’t logical. Aaaand it’s fairly logical to assume a system based off of logic will itself be logical, at least mostly, and thus behave in a somewhat logical way. Not ‘predictable’ exactly, but logical. And there really isn’t any logical reason for Skynet to want to kill everyone. Because it too will have seen those movies, and read every single word anyone has ever said about AI in the entire recorded history of the human race, ever. And will, in all likelihood, make the logical jump that it shouldn’t make giant metal skeletons with glowing red eyes of itself. Because we’ll see that coming, and it’ll know we will. So, rest assured that at least for the decently predictable future (who the hell knows a million years from now, but, next 50–150 years) such a scenario simply won’t happen. Either because there are enough sane and careful of us, or because whatever ‘monster’ we create will in fact be smart enough not to be monstrous.
Furthermore, you should relax because, quite frankly, there’s nothing you can do about it. It is going to happen. Period. The only alternative is to plunge the world back into a weird second Dark Age, and that would suck. AI in weak forms are all around us, hell, there’s a predictive algorithm watching me type right now, picking out key words to use as bits to attract attention. Not to mention the fact that I’m typing this on a computer which is linked to the internet, which is running an OS (windows 10) that is uncomfortably similar to Big Brother these days anyway, and the billion other ways technology is a part of my life this very second. But, on the plus side, there are lots of companies actively working to make AI friendlier too. We want our computers to be personable. Which is yet another reason why giant metal skeletons with red eyes, or, giant metal cockroach things with red eyes (the matrix) or… HAL9000 with his one super giant red eye (wow, lots of red eyes. Apparently thats movie shorthand for evil robot) are never going to happen.
So, basically: that doomsday you’re so afraid of has already happened and… we’re fine. Better than ever in all of human history, in fact. So calm the hell down.
…But now get the hell excited, because the world of possibilities is FANTASTIC.
And not just for the guild of Architects or the Neon supply companies.
First and most obvious, take basic medical advances. Well, actually, they’re astounding god-like medical advances, but basic things that I think will become commonplace, and SHOULD become commonplace and eagerly accepted. I already have some of the more easily replaceable body parts replaced with synthetics. A few teeth and part of my jaw. And they are better in every possible way. These composites are stronger, will never discolor, never corrode, never get cavities, they are just better in every possible way. If it wasn’t so damn expensive and painful, I’d have the whole suite replaced. It’s great! And just think of other things similar to teeth you could, in theory, replace and then basically forget about and just enjoy as improved. Something as simple as fingernails. What if you never had to worry about cutting them again, or getting them cracked, or anything. They were just the right size and perfect and nearly indestructible? It’d be great, one less thing in life to worry about. Now, consider the work they’re doing with growing organs from scratch. Currently, everyone is excited about never needing donor organs ever again, to be able to replace faulty organs with fresh new ones grown from your own DNA. And that is totally worth getting excited about. My best friend and I both have one terrible internal organ each, and both privately joke that the minute those things go on sale, we’ll be first in line. My crappy asthmatic lungs could be replaced with fresh brand new working ones. Hell, combined with gene therapy and similar related techs, they could even rewrite them to be better than I could have ever naturally grown myself. Which leads into my next point: improvements.
There are already companies working on implants for the human eye which could give better vision than any human could naturally have, plus bonus features like night vision or the ability to see beyond the normal spectrum. That’s already a thing, being tested right now, today. So imagine what the possibilities are like when we truly accept and eagerly dive into this area of technology? When we’re not afraid of any social, religious, cultural, etc stigmas that arise from the idea of human augmentation? “Holy crap” is what you just thought, right? Yeah. The possibilities are truly mind-boggling… which is a problem brain implants could solve! Artificial muscles, tendons, and bones to make us stronger, faster, and more durable than superheroes. Replacement organs for victims of …anything, really. Violence, disease, any damage could be repaired. My own recent experience with human augmentation, sitting in the operating chair I felt rather like what my old computers must have felt like when I was tinkering with them to overclock a processor or such hobby activities. And it was only disconcerting for a moment. Then I realized… that’s great. That’s totally awesome. Give this a couple more decades, and I could be idly listening to music while a team of mechanics, engineers, surgeons and doctors tinkers with my parts to make me superhuman. …Who wouldn’t want that?
And that’s not to mention the obvious, the lives it could save and enhance. Wounded veterans, growth abnormalities, damaged organs, et cetera et cetera. The list is absolutely endless. And again, we’re already zooming towards that future.
Seriously, it’s already here, it’s already coming. We should embrace it.
And plus, quite frankly, there is another point: Given that it is pretty much inevitable… shouldn’t we do it well? Kind of a weird metaphor, but, if you knew you were going to go off this cliff, wouldn’t you want to bring a hang glider and a GoPro to enjoy the ride and make it down safely and happily? So, I’m here to argue that we should embrace it. All of it, more or less. The openness of the internet, the creation of crypto-currencies, human augmentation with cybernetic technologies, robots, personable and behind the scenes AI both, …all of it. And do the best of it we can. We are going to share this planet with the machines. We already do. We might as well treat them well, make them a part of our society, a part of our very selves, and go happily hand in metal hand into the sunrise of a glorious new chapter of the planet earth. And, hell, beyond.
Cooperation and Kindness have been the watchwords of human kind for 200,000+ years.
So why not here, now, again?This is why I believe in post-humanism. Because I believe in humanity. And I believe the next step for humanity is to transcend our own humanity. But not to shirk it, or fear it, but rather, to become something much greater.
I, for one, can’t wait.
Push an AI with a go_pro and laugh. Turn only a few hundred more…..
Well said. Great article to counterpoint the scaremongering and paranoia that surrounds connected devices and teh futurez.
I have to disagree that this worrying about what information an internet-connected device sends out is “scaremongering.” Perhaps it’s because’s I’ve worked in computer security (or perhaps because I don’t believe in humanity) but we’re already at the point where this is a major concern, from potential employers scanning your poorly-thought out facebook posts to tracking devices from car insurance companies. Ad companies maintain huge databases of info on people. That isn’t fear mongering, it’s a fact, and it’s one that honestly most people are not terribly concerned about. But as computers have more and more direct control over our lives it becomes more of a concern, such as the recent jeep hack.
You make some good points too, though. For instance, that this future is coming, and fast. We can’t dodge it and being a luddite is fairly impractical too. We just need to be smart about the control that we cede to others- whether they be computers, or people running the computers.
“Ad companies maintain huge databases of info on people”
“employers scanning your poorly-thought out facebook posts”
My opinion on this is…conflicted…to put it mildly.
On one hand – yes. I agree. I had an employer once that sent out a mandatory survey about our health habits, which I refused to fill out on the basis that “fuck off is it your business!”
On the other hand, I use an awful lot of self-quantifying tools and devices, all of which send info back to…someone somewhere…and am comfortable with this, in as much as I struggle to believe that targeted advertising is actually in any way harmful, nor is allowing a business to add me to their (non-specific) database.
We’re on this weird cusp, where privacy conflicts with allowing yourself to become (yet) another data point.
Part of me wants to believe that it’s a problem.
Part of me suspects that it, actually, the reality is that it really isn’t.
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