(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")
Dystopian Quartet 3. A Cappella: We are being Programmed
The problem is not that we are surrounded by machines. The problem is that we are asked to behave like (very stupid) machines in order to make these machines useful. My recent flight from Beijing to San Francisco is typical. From the moment i entered the airport to the moment i exited the San Francisco airport i was behaving like a machine. I had to stand in one line after the other, and there were precise rules to follow at each line. In Beijing i even had to stand in a specific position so that the security guard's camera could take a good picture of me. In San Francisco i used an incredibly stupid terminal to get my passport checked. The whole experience requires that you abandon any notion of being a human being. This is the future, which is increasingly the present: we have to follow rules and regulations so that we can be surrounded by machines.
We are being programmed as much as the machines that surround us.
There is a moment at the airport when you don’t have to follow rules and regulations: during the long journey from the security checkpoint to your gate. Before you reach your gate (no matter how late you are) they want you to shop at countless shops. Why? The money that you spend on your way to the gate helps them to pay for all those machines. That's the world we live in. Increasingly, we are asked to behave like machines (i.e. like stupid humans) when we interact with machines, so that machines can perform some useful task. We are given freedom to spend our money. That money is actually used to fund machines. Anything you do in your spare time has a cost, and that cost, ultimately, is money for machines. When you make a phone call to a friend, you are actually paying to support a chain of machines extending from your phone to your friend's phone via countless communication machines. When you watch a movie, you are paying to support machines that create, store, organize, and deliver entertainment. And so forth. You have no freedom when you interact with machines: you must obey precise rules and regulations just as if you were a machine. And during the few moments when you have freedom, you are actually spending money to pay for those machines. If your only purpose in society is to pay for the machines that surround you and to behave like a machine when you interact with those machines, the question "What is the meaning of life?" acquires a whole new dimension. Isn't it easier to replace you with machines even in your "free" moments? Why can't we just have machines building and controlling machines, and just remove you and your money from the loop? Are we slowly but steadily making humans redundant? What is the real meaning of this increasingly automated consumer society? Consuming so that we can pay for automation that helps us consume? Is the ultimate goal the "consuming" or the "automating"? What is left at the end? So far it looks like machines are expanding and humanity is retreating. Extrapolate, and you can foresee a future in which humans will be redundant, or, worse, just an annoyance.
Note that this is due to the stupidity (not intelligence) of machines. If machines were intelligent, we wouldn’t need to lower our intelligence, to behave like machines. We have to create a highly structured and regulated society (i.e. to enforce machine-like behavior on humans) because otherwise machines would not be able to deal with us humans. The process of turning us into machines is being triggered not by the intelligence of machines but by their utter and probably incurable stupidity.
(The astute reader has already been asking “Who are they, the people who want to turn us into machines?” Of course, it’s us. We are de facto committing collective suicide on a massive scale).
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