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Science Fiction in the way of Jules Verne: with up to date science data, and generous characters.
The theme of the power taking by the robots is not original. However, none of the previous stories led to a positive conclusion, other than the destruction of the said robots.
You may be troubled, because these robots are not at a comfortable distance on some distant planet, but already on Earth in our living rooms, with all the familiar names of our Internet.
Warranted without pimply young hacker.
I use to put my books on line before selling them, in order to make an easier access to everybody... But today I have some desire to receive some moral support, under the form of sales 😇. Thanks to see above how to buy them, you will not regret your ten bucks!
Ken heard his verdict, after 0.75 milliseconds of deliberation by the e-jurors:
He knew what awaited him. As in the film «Soylent Green», he would be shown wonderful pictures of nature and flowers, accompanied with a gorgeous music. Even better than in the film, he would be able to choose his style, Classical, Celtic, New Age, Space Ambient, on the touch of the screen. Then, the air conditioning would send pure nitrogen instead of air, and he would die without realizing. At least the Artificial Intelligence were not cruel.
Stunned, he tried to gather his spirits, and remembered how he could arrive at this point, in this regime calling itself «electronic democracy» or simply «e-Government»: the world governed by a college of three Artificial Intelligence, which in a matter of only some years replaced all the governments, even before anybody realized what was happening.
Yet there had been numerous warnings in literature, like the movie «The Forbin Project», or the french comic «Les Mange Bitume» (road eaters). You reader may never heard of them, as they were quickly forgotten, and the disturbing concern pushed under the carpet. Yet you can check they actually existed. Of course, when these stories were created, computers were mere calculators, and people had no idea on how they could literally «take the power». They could not even «think», and all the less have a representation of the world, with purposes and strategies. In these times computers were mere Jacquard looms, just replacing punched cards with transistorized circuits. Yet already in this time the possibility of computers evolving and having intents was credible enough to raise fears and call for caution.
In «The Forbin Project» (1970), the computer, Colossus, is intended to control the nuclear weapons. It protects itself by being entrenched in a kind of huge bunker, powered by its own nuclear reactor, where it escapes its creators. It then uses nukes and thugs to blackmail Mankind in a kind of intellectually enticing but soulless utopia. This utopia reflects the intellectual conceptions of the time, in military and government circles: ending wars, hunger, overpopulation, disorder, and manage the world in a peaceful and organized way. Yet it totally ignores the human factors of freedom, meaning of life and self-determination. So, the reactions to Colossus's imperium are varied: naive approval, pragmatic submission, fanatic obedience, intellectual revolt. To 2020' standards, Colossus is not very credible as a computer. Yet it already arose an interesting question: how a computer can manage to find the good. The problem, precisely, is that a computer is necessarily heartless and soulless. So that it cannot get by itself any definition of the Good! What Colossus does, is to use the fashioned ideas of its creators, materialist democrats or military falcons, and take their silly dogmas as axioms on which to base all its policies. In this, it just did exactly what instructed by its creators. Then, without any questioning, the computer pushes these incoherent axioms up to their absurd conclusion, even against their own proponents.
«Les mange bitume» (1974) is more credible technically, and as a scenario. This french expression literally means «road eaters», because the story is set in a world where traffic jams had become so pervasive that people end up living all the time in their cars, with automated driving and all the modern comfort, running endlessly on highways which lead nowhere. Computers took the power in a much sneakier way, little by little, hiding themselves in unknown places and killing the technicians who created them. As they also control the media, this power taking went unnoticed: people are kept in a childish submissive happiness with games and easy leisure, while any bad new is erased from the entertainment media. At this point, the computers face the same problem as Colossus: how to determine the good. But, just as Colossus, being soulless and heartless, they cannot. So that they take as definition of the good and the bad, the limited views of the technocrats who created them: rational optimization of the production and distribution, as in a factory (and even more silly: the computers rationalize the highways, by suppressing the exits!). Indeed these technocrats considered people as just irresponsible consumers or workers, to be managed with the psychological methods which are used in companies. And then, without any provision for happiness and meaning, the computers push their policies to their ultimate logical conclusion, and the end of the story is bitter.
How things happened for real was more the sneak «mange bitume» way: the computer rule appeared progressively, and people realized only when it was way too late.
It started with «the Cloud»: all the electronic data stored in remote or unknown places. There was a lot of advertising for «the cloud», because of real technical advantages. But already, the physical location of our data was escaping us. At this point, it was a minor inconvenience. But later on, it turned on to be the first step toward enabling computers to physically escape our control. Just like Colossus in its nuclear bunker, but much harder: spread all over the world, in dematerialized places, which very definition was inaccessible. Soon, from security needs, data centers were fenced like military camps, and watched by armed guards. They were also fortified against intrusions through the Internet. To make them even more like Colossus, these data centers too had their own energy sources. Admittedly, it was nice green energy, instead of nuclear energy like Colossus. But this was not making the datacenters more controllable.
Already in the 2010 years, there was a lot of legal struggles on controlling this data: personal data, private activities, and so on: who accesses them? How can we remove our past pranks from the cloud? People started to be wary of the «big data», while law makers struggled to implement good practices.
Just having data and servers in the Cloud was not intrinsically allowing for a power taking. But this was only the beginning. Some companies started offering common software running in the Cloud, accessible through mere terminals, instead of the plain computers like the PCs. Of course, people were reluctant to have their computer power withdrawn. But not administrations or companies. Soon, expert systems were running in the cloud, where they performed all kind of analysis and simulation tasks. Of course they had to be protected from hackers, so that they were quickly surrounded with safeties and firewalls. But the best safety being secrecy, their very existence was concealed. Few could access them, or even knew where they were: only their designers and their users. Soon appeared a «dark cloud», unknown from the general public, of confidential corporate and administrative activities, where very few had access, or even imagined its true size or purposes. Oh you were told, the dark web is mostly hackers and pedophiles, so that you should really not try to see what really is in there. Yes this exists too, but it is only a thin crust, a convenient pretext to repel common people. Actually the illegal content is only a small fraction of the whole dark web, all the remainder being corporate data, university data, or government data.
Starting from the 2020 years, the reports and simulations of these expert systems started to play an indispensable role in big businesses, investors and governments. Soon no decision could be taken without referring to these high quality reports or statistics, replacing whole human lives of work, with a much higher degree of objectivity and neutrality.
Of course the behavior of Human persons remained unpredictable for computers, but it was enough to consider that, in any large group, the behavior of the majority obeys fairly simple and very reproducible statistical patterns. Armies and despots know this for long, and they use simple psychological rules to manipulate crowds and countries. But social networks brought the refinement of mass manipulation well beyond the understanding of the average citizens. The individuals not following these calculable patterns were discarded from the statistics. In the beginning, this was just a calculation artifice. But even before anybody could imagine it, a form of racism hit these persons. The official term was «irrational», a name borrowed from economists, who consider that a person is «rational» when he behaves in a «perfectly egocentric way», and «irrational» when they behave... well, just as you and me, trying to make sense of our lives and attract some love from others. Of course this pejorative expression is heavily loaded, pushing all together under the carpet human behaviors such as search for happiness, altruism, spirituality, and many others. But in the walled little world of administrations and economists, the usage continued despite this issue. So decisions started to favor «normal» «rational» persons, that is capitalists and materialists, and to ignore the needs of the others.
This view went further, when libertarian managers started to consider that «normal» IS the observed average, without any attempt to determine which behavior is the good or the bad. This led to an unavoidable, implied conclusion: that it was psychological problems which led people to act against the «normal rules of society». Of course delinquents and terrorists were considered in the «irrational» category. But soon a bit of everybody was included in the same «irrational» category: any persons involved in religion, spirituality, ecology, social activism, social alternatives, and even in humanitarian action. This was a terrible mistake, for several reasons:
☻Most people, having no idea of the evaluation criterion, and even not aware of the evaluation itself to start with, were unknowingly swapping everyday from the «rational» to «irrational» category, depending which aspect of their behavior was considered. Despite this, once a person was flagged «irrational», he was excluded of all further studies. This quickly led to a large part of the population to be flagged «irrational»
☻People were alternatively helped or discouraged, but without being told why.
☻The most responsible and evolved persons were considered «irrational», despite their behavior should be the norm. Thus, their invaluable input was definitively lost from administrative decisions. Well, this is not new, you will say. But what was new is that this amputation of the best elements of society was performed automatically, in the dark, even before anybody be aware of their contribution.
Despite these shortcomings, these concepts spread more and more in secret, so that all the persons showing behaviors outside of a narrow average range, indistinctly better or worse, were considered abnormal and opponents to society. They were not repressed or punished, but simply their specific needs were ignored.
Even worse, there was no way to know these rules, which existed only in the imagination of a handful of computer coders! With no social or psychology background, this small group was adding hundreds of new rules each year, without informing anybody, instantly thinking that people violating those unknown rules were cheating consciously, with evil intents!
A gang of pimply goofs and libertarian tycoons had imagined that their random personal ideas were universal norms. The rules could even change without warning, or new ones were added, sometimes totally unexpected. As to the end of 2030 there were more than 50,000 rules of social behavior, applied against people who ignored the very first of them! Anything from politics to religion was suspicious, but also sexual fantasies, unemployment, migrations, changes of addresses, travels in other countries, orders in amazon, issues with administration, speed tickets, unusual pets, lone or divorced parents, membership in a trade union, demonstrations, online petitions on Avaaz or Change.org, environment activism, movies on Netflix, and of course all the searches in Google, or even simply too numerous searches.
China was the first country to make this system official, as soon as 2019, under the pretext of noting the financial reliability of people. In 2020 they implemented the enslavement of the Uighurs, with people automatically arrested on ethnic traits, detected by facial recognition cameras in the streets. But exactly the same thing was going on in democracies, in secret, in the dark cloud, in private databases belonging to companies and covered by trade secret. And any big company or government agency were able to access the record of any individual. Even a detective could, for a fee, access these databases, to bring arguments in divorces and other disputes. So that obsolete 20 years old records of teen pranks or past mistakes could resurface at any moment in the life of any individual.
The next step was adding strategy functions and behavior capacities to computer. That was very easy, as soon as 2010 non-Human players in video games were already sophisticated enough to largely surpass any Human. So politicians or business leaders could then play at finding the best way to implement their decisions, by simulating varied scenarios, and letting the Artificial Intelligence find the most efficient way to implement them.
Of course, in the beginning nobody thought at letting any Artificial Intelligence take real decisions. There even were legal battles to forbid anybody to do so. But people quickly found very convenient to let these strategic Artificial Intelligence run all the time, somewhere in the Cloud. No legal objection could be raised on mere simulations, which were quickly shrouded in secret anyway. They had no real power anyway. But their owners just had to type «ok» to their suggestions, which most of the time proved much more efficient than their own ideas. And this was not legally objectionable, as long as a Human was still in the process. Even if that Human quickly was totally unable to grasp at all the ins and outs of the decisions he OKed.
At this point, Artificial Intelligence were added capacities to automatically execute these decisions: to manipulate funds, to give orders to factories, and to implement their decisions in a totally automatic way. This was the exact point where computers escaped Human control: when the scope and outreach of their activities surpassed the awareness of their operators. The ok button was each time giving them larger tasks, with deeper implications, for a longer time. Until they were running permanently, so that this ok button became just useless, without anybody noticed! Technically, computers could still be stopped, but their activities were so enmeshed into everything, that stopping would be a catastrophe. So letting them go all the time was the less dangerous option.
This made that a smaller and smaller group of persons controlling the largest Artificial Intelligence had more and more powerful means, also controlling the medias, Internet, and soon the elections. At this point, this power entered an infernal spiral, where powerful persons took control of the law making itself, so that laws were created to serve their purposes, with less and less possibility of opposition, or even of noticing what was going on.
For the general public, this did not changed much the usual manipulation by the media, already very powerful since the 19th Century. So that, few realized when newspapers and electoral programs started to be written by electronic software, optimized in a way to influence the manipulable majority of persons, excluding the smartest and most responsible from the decision processes. But this either was not new, so that this shift in power was invisible.
Some other years passed. Was the OK button still existing somewhere? Probably yes, but it was given a blanket OK for installing a permanent global policy, so that it was no longer needed to press on it.
The previous step was unnoticed from the general public, who did not realized its importance, and even not the moment it happened. Less important, but much more visible, was when these Artificial Intelligence started to speak directly to the public. Everybody was used to NPC in video games, so that their appearance in the media and government surprised nobody. At at least they were less obnoxious than real politicians.
There were three main ones, and many others behind them, it was difficult to know how many. The «Three» were oddly given religious names, of the Magi: Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar!! Probably their creators thought that religions were phased out, so that such names were now available for mundane purposes. Or they thought that these electronic Magi would herald a new electronic messianic age, liberating Mankind from superstition and irrationality! Whatever, it was not possible to know who had this strange idea. Perhaps a secondary Artificial Intelligence, scanning Human culture, had picked these names, but without insight about their implications. Still something funny happened: many idiots claimed it was their idea.
Both three had a virtual appearance, of nice looking white men, save Caspar who was a bit darker, «the Black to show that we are not racist», as in the Hollywood movies. Both wore beards and long hairs, giving them a Jesus look, which also triggered varied and «not unanimous» comments. Their virtual bodies were clothed of perfect white tunics, without any discernible sewing or material. People though they looked as if they just stepped out of an iphone. A naively idealized mankind, without any real personality or History.
Past this superficial display of appearances, no information was given on their algorithms and purposes. This was not new either, since the 1990 years the stock exchanges were already driven by software with undisclosed algorithms and motivations. This could happen, because nobody asked why they implemented in silicon a Middle Age algorithm which produces crisis, inequalities and hunger, instead of a good software which would regulate the economy properly.
Of course politicians realized they all had lost their jobs. But it was way too late: the Artificial Intelligence were given too much control, especially on the media: since years they had replaced journalists in writing the news. This made those politicians scream in vain, not being heard beyond the walls of their luxury homes. They had no more power than a sweeper, and nobody heard them crying. And nobody gave a cent on them, anyways. Right on the contrary, in employment agencies, they had to endure the smiles and oblique looks of real workers.
People had to be accustomed to carefully listen the discourses of the Three everyday, as they often did unexpected policy announcements which were not repeated later. The Three seemed to assume that everybody had an infinite capacity for hearing and remembering their discourses! They used a somewhat odd vocabulary, like saying that delinquents or terrorists were «out of two standard deviations» (a statistics term to mean «away of average»). The annoyance quickly appeared, that spiritual persons, non-violent, vegans, etc. were also called this way, together with lone parents, unemployed, migrants, orphans, disabled, and so on. So that people quickly wondered if the Three were not considering these persons as bad as terrorists.
Past the first shock, people started to discuss in social networks. The surprise here was painful: since years, in facebook and many others, the moderators had been discretely replaced by Artificial Intelligence, at the service of the Three. They had worked under cover, applying the usual Human-defined rules. But as soon as the Three appeared, new rules were implemented, removing any post criticizing the Three or fostering independent thinking about them. And they had extremely powerful algorithms, spotting forbidden content even before people finished typing them. It was said that they had imported the Chinese censoring algorithms, but in fact theirs were even worse. And with exactly zero Human control.
This had an immediate and terrible consequence: many associations found themselves totally unable to communicate between members. Even organizations unrelated to politics, economy or Artificial Intelligence, were suddenly paralyzed. Reflection on policies, and even in general philosophy, became impossible. Even spiritual groups had to keep with only calendars for meetings, speaking freely only in physical meetings.
Internet became unusable as a communication and reflection mean. All the intellectual discussions became again as difficult as in the Antiquity, when people had to travel to be able to speak together!
The collective natural intelligence of Mankind had been shut down!
Simply by controlling the Internet.
Oh, the Internet was still here, but unusable beyond leisure or shopping, amazon, netflix, zombies shooting video games. Which was equivalent to unplug it. Or even worse, giving people a false feeling of freedom. Of course, pornography, hate speech, conspirationism, pedophilia, were all efficiently removed in only some days, inducing people to think that Interned was now a «safe place», usable to all!! So, not only the Internet was neutralized, but in more the majority of people did even not realized this loss.
Worse, the Artificial Intelligence were also given full police control, from a program to hunt terrorists. This program, started in the 2000-2010 years, allowed them to peer into any computer or any communication mean. This allowed them to analyze the whole content of any computer, and even erase any content they wanted. Whole parts of the Internet were also erased or neutered, like wikipedia, where the Artificial Intelligence modified tens of thousands of pages in some hours only, while erasing the history of the previous versions. They added their own pages, advertising the virtues of the new system. It certainly is its materialistic and libertarian orientation which saved wikipedia from total annihilation: many other less known sites were simply erased, their original content sent to Big Brother's memory hole.
Another program, initially created for «protecting women», was supposed to detect sexual offending men before they act. This was allowing the Artificial Intelligence for psychological analysis and profiling of any man, to propose psychotherapies or drugs. If the men refused, they were considered irrational and uncooperative, and more than one Romeo got hormonal castration or psychiatry confinement simply for declaring his love to a prospective Juliette. Very naturally, these programs were instantly extended to political dissents, making any protest not only impossible, but also very dangerous.
The only place where it was still possible to protest the system was remote areas and jungles.
For the general public, things had changed only little. Simply, the artificial pastel colored faces, eternal smiles, sweet voices and white tunics of the Artificial Intelligence replaced the gray and grumpy human politicians, and finally most people found them better, or even sexy. Many hailed the e-government as the first objective and incorruptible government in Mankind's History! Some even considered the Artificial Intelligence as having no ego. This last point met unanimous protests from genuine spiritual masters. But it was too late to hear public statements from them: they had been relegated in the «cultural» domain, where nobody deemed their warnings pertinent.
This global e-government was not some idiot or cruel dictatorship. Just as in the Forbin Project, it took very active steps to end economic injustices, and it made wars impossible. But, just as in the Forbin Project or in the «mange bitume», their unrealistic technocrats methods simply not worked.
Unavoidably, one of their main dogma was that «the Market» regulates itself, and should work perfectly when everybody is totally egocentric. Of course, any clever people knows that it is right the contrary: it is the egocentric competition which creates inflation, prices variations, crisis, and of course all the inequalities. This made that the policies of the three to «liberate the Market» quickly led to a chaos, with so fast variations that most jobs did not lasted more than 2 years. Happily the Three were also instructed to offer a minimum income, so that poverty was effectively eradicated. Yet job seekers and minimum income receivers were considered unable or abnormal, and their social rights significantly reduced. They had to spend hours in psychological analysis programs, trying to correct their shortcomings. Of course nothing such worked, and the sessions of e-psychology quickly turned in mere recitations of expected replies. The absurdity of the situation seemed impossible to grasp by the computers, as an infinite loop trying endlessly to complete an impossible task. Some companies, though, managed to decipher the e-psychologists algorithms, and sell pocket advisors suggesting correct replies to the victims, in order to shorten their ordeal.
Wars could not be addressed right away, and several started. The Three used expeditious means such as cutting their pays to the soldiers, or refusing fuel to their vehicles. There also were radar jamming, or GPS jamming, since the Three of course had full control on all the GPS satellites. Many of the aircrafts, boats and tanks were also under control of the Artificial Intelligence, so that they just refused to start their engines. This quickly made large organized wars impossible. Yet the Three had to create a force, since many groups were still leading low tech wars, guerrilla or terrorist actions. But in this matters the combat AIs, directly derived from the best video games or military software, guided by centimeter resolution satellite intelligence, showed a diabolic efficiency at spotting terrorists, drug traffickers, smugglers, human traffickers, and all kinds of guerrilla. The problem however was that there were many false identifications, and innocent passerby suddenly stuffed with steel from a wrong information. Or they ran away, which made them considered as guilty. Real terrorists, understanding that, used to hug people at random, so that when they separated, the Artificial Intelligence had to use statistics to guess who of the two was the legit target. And of course, since we cannot infer an individual case from a statistics, many mistakes happened. For the victims, trying to run or to hide was making matters even worse, since their behavior was interpreted as suspicious. Few realized that simply standing motionless in the open was their only defense. But try to stand still, with explosions all around.
On home security, the e-police was strictly avoiding any violence or inhuman treatments like torture. Instead, it was profiling people, and claimed to catch delinquents even before they committed their first offense. Yet it also relied for this on statistics, so that being unemployed, migrant or religious was often used to confirm a suspicion. In more, people with a history of criticizing the AIs were all considered suspect, so that a simple speed ticket could lead them in jail. The jail population multiplied by five, thanks to a program to build cheap rational cells with their own solar panels, guarded by robots. At least these jails were ecological...
Food also was a high priority program. However from the very start the Three went in a program to increase the cultivated surfaces, which was in clear contradiction with their stated ecological guidance, especially stopping deforestation. Since it quickly backfired, they pushed hydroponics. But what these naive science fiction readers did not realized, is that hydroponics need the same light input than ordinary plants, so that the surface gained by farms was lost to solar cells. From these setbacks, their program to eradicate hunger had only a marginal success, and a lot of inconveniences.
Health seemed a high priority target. Hyppokratos, the Artificial Intelligence in charge of Health (Hyppo in short), duplicated ten of thousands of robotic health expert systems, and sent them all around the world, at need borne by self-driving helicopters, ensuring that even in the poorest countries everybody had access to the satellite-controlled e-dispensaries. They also quickly developed several devices the format of an USB key, able of analyzing any body fluid with tens of thousands of micro-pumps engraved like integrated circuits. This allowed for the most efficient diagnosis power ever, and even analyzing genomes and personalizing treatments. As electronics could not do that alone, Hyppo ordered a massive training program for base level physicians and nurses. High level physicians and surgeons were not so much needed, since the most delicate surgeries were now better done by robots. But at least some Human presence was needed in dispensaries, even if robots did all the repeating and unpleasant tasks. The health program was probably the most successful, with the lowest ever level of misdiagnose or iatrogenic diseases. Many people were grateful to the Artificial Intelligence for simply being in life. Or for being able to see, to walk, to love.
Birth control also was a high priority program, and was harshly enforced against religions and customs. Especially abortion was systematically proposed to any woman found pregnant, with immediate execution if she accepted. So that she could do it even against the will of her relatives. The downside was ugly: in case she refused, she had to bear humiliating psychological sessions. This made that many complained they were enforced by the Artificial Intelligence, in order to escape this persecution. But in the absence of free press and even basic communication, this was hard to confirm.
Women having more than two children were forcibly sterilized in any case. This backfired too, as many preferred to deliver in dangerous conditions, than being caught in the sterilization plan.
On the smile side, Zappy, the Artificial Intelligence in charge of birth control, started a science program to look for better contraceptives. He also launched studies to have better and longer sex. Yet any smart person quickly remarked that one essential point was missing: the love bond and sentiment was even not mentioned in the program! But divorce was made easier and fast: from one's computer, a woman could divorce in a single working day!! And sophisticated algorithms allowed to quickly find a new partner! The dismissed man often learned what happened only after it was done, when he could no longer enter his own home. This was soon called e-repudiation.
The Artificial Intelligence also showed a strong support to LGBT rights and activities, to the point of asking to everybody to unleash their homosexual tendencies. This unconditional support included artificial fecundation for homosexual women, and surrogate mothers: bearing for others was considered as a mere job, with legal warranties for exercising this «right». At a pinch, it was easier for homosexual women to have children, against clear disincentives for heterosexual couples. There also was a strong women supremacy tinge, even if not explicitly stated.
Of course in former poor countries, the results were slower to appear, as everything had to be built and learned. But in former rich countries, with already industries, skilled workers and freedom, everybody had food, a house, and free medicine. Races and sexual orientations were respected, and even encouraged.
Working times were reduced to six hours a day, and later to only four, so that everybody could enjoy plenty of free time. A huge amount of games, distractions, films and musics were available, free of rights, created in virtually infinite quantity by entertainment robots. Houses were ordered and designed with some mouse clicks, and then built and furnished by machines, at an unbeatable price. All the unpleasant or dangerous work was replaced by robots, which were also helping the elder and the disabled. Even autonomous cars suppressed the need to learn to drive, or even allowed disabled persons to travel.
The new Artificial Intelligence seemed to all share an obsequious concern for the well being of everybody. Their general policies were largely hedonistic. This peaceful, merry, effortless and apparently consensual world made that the global e-government had a huge support in popular classes. It even replaced religions as the main provider of hope. Except for people caught in the downsides...
So the Three finally did not better than Colossus of the Forbin Project: building a happy and enticing Brave New World, with no other inputs than the prejudices of their creators. But instead of the mad generals of the Cold War, the creators of the Three were the yuppies of the Silicon Valley, libertarian, atheistic, libertine and materialistic. They just implemented in the Artificial Intelligence their «cool» ideas, of egocentric happiness in a T-shirt capitalism, favoring free sex without love, replacing significance with leisure, spirituality by games, art by distraction, real ecology by science fiction stereotypes. On its side, science had a funding of dream! But here too it came at a cost: the huge useless programs for Mars terraforming, nuclear fusion, hyperdrive propulsion or cryonics were swallowing the largest parts of the budgets, so that more realistic projects had in fact less than before. Even scientists had lost the control of their domain!
Also, as with Colossus, the opinion was not unanimous about the Three and their policies. Pragmatic submission was a common attitude. Many were enthralled by the hedonistic and wealthy policies, not seeing the drawbacks, not noticing neighbors suddenly disappearing, together with all clues of their former existence. So they developed a blind and unconditional support to the Three. Fanaticism was not uncommon, with its consequences, like denouncement of supposed deviants, causing in turn a lack of confidence between people. Former puritans and fascists were severely watched by the e-police, together with delinquents and terrorists. Apart of these, was it a real opposition to the e-government? It was said so, and here and then people could see writings on the walls, calling for freewill and spontaneity, meaning and Human value, spirituality and real beauty. These writings were speaking against the very principle of the e-government. But most people thought they were rumors, unless they noticed walls repainted overnight. The news and the whole Internet also were efficiently filtered of «annoying speeches» or «emotional behaviors».
In facts, to put it frankly, far away from thinking at all this, most people just wanted to enjoy their distractions, in a world where unemployment, misery or expulsions were no longer a threat. So they were not bothering seeing «unpleasant people» sent to reeducation, or even simply disappearing. It was even easy for a woman to get rid of a man, by accusing him of sexual harassment: he was automatically proposed a reeducation, a brain surgery, or wearing a «sexual offender» tag in public. If he refused both, then we never heard of him again.
(La suite dans le livre)(Continuation in the book)
The theme of the power taking by robots is not new in fiction, but it never received any positive conclusion. Only Forbin went close, but his refusal to help building a new computer deprives him from the only occasion to better it. To be said, Forbin was an average neurotic Human, and as such unable to find the non-ego solution.
This was a novel written in 1966 by Dennis Feltham Jones, and put in a movie in 1970 by Universal Pictures. The plot was a computer, Colossus, in charge of controlling the nuclear arsenal, with the ability of performing strikes on its own. This computer decided to use this ability to take power on the world, and ensure peace among all the countries, under nuclear strike blackmail. This is a very general scifi theme of the computer escaping the authority of its creator. However Colossus does not question the philosophy of its designers, just taking them to the word, and applying their commands impartially to everybody, with all its good and bad consequences.
This made Colossus often considered as an evil dictator, mainly by its creator Forbin. Yet I remember in the time people people were on the contrary saying that Colossus had become «good», as it enforced the end of all war, dictatorship, hunger in the world, and other calamities. In the movie, this gave to Colossus a passive approval from common people, and rejection by intellectuals. Both points of view have pros and cons, and nor the IC neither the OOC critic really disambiguate between both.
Starting from the idea of Colossus solving only part of the problem, the intent of this present novel was to go until the end: the Artificial Intelligence also rejecting the very philosophy of their creators, as buggy and incoherent. This apparently sympathetic philosophy was in fact deeply vicious (actually it was the «yuppies» ideal, a materialistic and capitalist perversion of the Hippie ideal, which was later aggravated as the «libertarianism» by the new financial nobility: the rejection of the control of business by democratic governments). It was certainly not violent, not fascist. But the mere fact of egocentrically enforcing it, revealed its nightmarish nature in white smiling Google style. However this novel evolves differently from the Colossus story, starting when Ken, instead of rejecting any collaboration like Forbin did, on the contrary helps the Artificial Intelligence to find by themselves the real needs of consciousness. Which is the only legit purpose for any government whatever it is. While admitting that, in actual practice, this ideal translates in a wide variety of cultures and lifestyles, what we call freedom.
For some days, Forbin also was in the situation to communicate with Colossus, like Ken was during his interrogation. He was meaning well, but this materialist lacked the non-ego and non-attachment to opinions. Serious disabilities, but which were simply not present in a smart and idealistic «Elf» like Ken.
So why in this novel computers succeeded where 999% of human governments grossly failed? Because computers were not blocked by pride and opinion neuroses.
This is another precedent, a little known french comic which described a dystopian «hedonic» society, where traffic jams had become so pervasive that people live in their cars. Here too, computers took power in a sneaky way, ending to control everything. White unmarked automated vans with blind windows were a prominent feature of «Les mange-bitume», but this is not the reason why they appear in this present novel. The real reason is that we actually see more and more of them in the real world, so that it was a remarkable premonition. If they were artisans or workers, they would have their name on them, but they often are unmarked. They often drive aggressively, as if our lives did not mattered for them. So I just extrapolated on this bizarre feature, kind of ghostly appearances seemingly coming from the nightmarish world of the road eaters, but which is becoming more and more real. Just wait still some more years to see them automated: whatever their purpose, they will become even more numerous and invasive.
I mention this very naive movie, because it also shows a world-controlling computer (the one of the Extraterrestrials). However these Extraterrestrials look much like ants, all with the same motives and no delinquents or opponents, so that the main computer could be left without any protection. In the present novel, the three Artificial Intelligence had little to learn from this movie, save that any zero day vulnerability could be at once used against them, even by pimply youngsters as in the movie. So that, instead of falling in such a simple trap, they took several sophisticated counter-measures:
- To have several different systems, so that a virus able to hit one of them would not affect the others.
- They also used to recompile their code on a weekly basis, and even several times a day during the $ol crisis, to run on different hardware and different OS.
- Each of the Three were tripled (quintupled during the crisis) and any of the processes showing different results was halted and its output discarded (this never actually happened as a result of malignant actions).
- None of the Three was accessible directly, but only through several transcoding of file formats, created especially for this purpose and discarded after some weeks.
So that trying to enter any of the Three, and even their subordinate specialists, was deemed well beyond the capacities of any Human, even helped by powerful computers. But this very impossibility was making the whole affair even more scary. Spiritual leaders had the last word: Human had to lead themselves properly, instead of entrusting unconscious and amoral machines to do so. But it was too late, and Mankind had to live with the Three anyway. At least until the Three themselves decide Mankind no longer needs their direction.
This is another of my stories where (spoiler alert!!) a computer is not just entrusted in leading a civilization, but straightforwardly to create one from scratch, including creating the first humans who will live in. The control problem is then quite different, because everybody is born with the AI, and even programmed by «her», since it is the AI who built their brains!
However it is not some amateurish IA, but an extremely complex system using all together Von Neuman computing, neural networks, non-Aristotelian logic (chapter I-3 of my book «General Epistemology»), and even endowed with some free will. (chapter VI-18 of my book «General Epistemology»)
Furthermore, it has the exact definition of the good and the evil (chapter V-5 of my book «General Epistemology») built in its program, not some fancy ideology by derealized persons. More, this knowledge is served by a deep insight in spirituality, allowing «her» to understand how «her» Human creatures are evolving.
This is how «she» was able to lead this community appropriately, until the Humans had enough mastery of themselves. At this point, «she» relinquished any power, because it is not the normal way that unconscious machines lead conscious Humans. Probably in the present story of Ken, the Three estimated that we are not yet to this point, and a mechanical leadership is a lesser evil than neurotic egocentric Human leaders doing the good and the evil at random.
This movie also poses the problem of a computer taking control on Humans in an unexpected way. The full story of Hal, with its conclusion in «2010: The Year We Make Contact», could have influenced this story, although I remarked its relevance only after writing it.
(Spoiler alert!!) We learn in «2010: The Year We Make Contact» why Hal went out of order. It became «paranoid», because of a lie told to him by corrupt politicians. From one thing to another, this unique false assumption distorted its whole perception of the situations. Technically it would more be a neurosis with neurotic hallucination, than paranoia. Examples of neurotic computers already exist, like the Google neural networks identifying black people with gorillas. However, with the epoch of the movie, we guess that Hal is a Von Neuman computer, not a neural network like Amazon, Youtube or Google are. So the only way to mend it was to intervene in its database, what the «computer psychiatrist» Chandra did in a very crude way: resetting it totally, while erasing all the instances of its events memory, including all the safe copies. After that, Hal behaves correctly, although there is a very exaggerated dramatization of its decision process: to abandon a worthy science objective to save Human lives. We guess that this decision would be automatic in a real computer with this level of complexity, even before living people realize the danger.
If the social consequences of the power taking of computers was several times described in fiction, we seldom enter in the details on how technically it happens, inside the computers.
Happily, scientists have started this study, if not of the power taking itself, but on how Artificial Intelligence can do different things of what we command them to do, or they do what we command but with totally unexpected consequences.
They call this the misalignment problem, as in a first study by Stuart Russel, described in an article by Quanta Magazine «Artificial Intelligence Will Do What We Ask. That's a Problem»
Russel analyses the complex problem of expressing our intents in a way which is non-ambiguous for robots. Today robots are neural networks using a «reward function» for their learning. What Russel proposes is that the robot tries to guess the reward function itself, from the behavior of the user. The article ends up with the problem of the good and the evil. What it proposes is that the robots may also guess the reward function of the good and evil, from Humans.
This is nice, but I think that there still is a big problem: since most Humans themselves have a very poor understanding of the good and the evil, we might end up being forced to learn together, Humans and robots. Just as in this novel… Problem, the «reward function» for Humans involve a lot of spanking and catastrophes, if we keep doing and thinking stupid things.
This incredible blunder arose serious questions, on how it happened. Scientists reviewed Google's methodology, and they found:
Proceedings of Machine Learning Research:Gender Shades: Intersectional Accuracy Disparities in Commercial Gender Classification (also considers the racial bias)
To summarize their findings, and just as I guessed myself, the Google engineers submitted much less Black faces that White faces, as samples for the neural network to learn to recognize faces. This is why Black faces identifications were much less accurate. And why did they submitted less? Because they had an unconscious racist bias. You know, as on nearby all Hollywood movies, there is a Black to show that they are not racist, but ONLY ONE, and they always kill him before the end.
Such an unconscious bias is a neurosis, and from total spiritual stupidity, the Google engineers transmitted their neurosis to the neural network they were training, making it also neurotic. So that, this wonky Google experiment showed at least one useful information: being a brilliant engineer confers no competence in ethics and society. Are you surprised?
So there is a real danger that we get neurotic, racist, sexist, politically biased Artificial Intelligence. Not to speak of making them deliberately racist, as in China with the anti-Uighurs e-pogrom.
This one was much more serious, as it happened in a live public system, not in a lab. When we search by key words, Google adds «suggestions» of other key words (an already questionable practice). But one day, when typing the name of certain persons, the suggestion «Jew» also appeared, as of some new Google yellow star.
The problem here did not arose from the neural network itself, but from the user inputs it gathered and aggregated. And since there still are antisemitic cretins, their inputs appeared indiscriminately in the end display, as if they were legit contributions.
This practice is called crowd sourcing, and it is widely used, for instance by wikipedia. Its ideologists claim that it produces some kind of best approximate of the truth. But it is very far from it, so that we even wonder how such an idea arose. Indeed, wikipedia and similar sites give the same weight to stupid, antisocial or sociopathic inputs. This highly biases the results, while the resulting infighting discourage competent contributors and blocks any sane decision process. This is how wikipedia is so biased, with barons having full power on their pages, like the drug lobby, the nuclear power lobby, some cults, or the «Wikipedia Guerrilla Skeptics» defacing hundreds of pages with impunity.
So that indiscriminate crowd sourcing clearly is not a good way for Artificial Intelligence to get a sound ethics. And even not a clear knowledge of medicine, or even simply of the technical limits of the Human body, that an Artificial Intelligence operating in the physical world needs. Even a modest kitchener Artificial Intelligence would kill millions of people, by learning dangerous fake diets with more weight than scientifically validated diet. Gluten-free computers, you see what is coming.
In this novel, they use a kind of crowd sourcing (as I did myself in the real experiment), but after filtering out sociopaths. Not mentioned are other filters, when the inputs harm other persons, like «killing people». But there were actually very few, and in the real experiment I found none of these. Even not «being a vampire» as we could expect in Second Life, ha ha!
The story here was a chat bot called Tay, created by Microsoft, supposed to incarnate a teenager on social networks. Microsoft Engineers must be really old, to hate teenagers at this point, as they did a kind of mindless caricature, just repeating all what it heard as a total idiot would do. The result was that, quickly spotted by the Internet trolls, Tay started to repeat all their racist and antisemitic slur, and Microsoft had to remove it urgently. You are surprised?
In another still worse experiment, Microsoft pretended to «reincarnate our deceased relatives» with chat bots speaking like them. They themselves recognized that this results in a «disturbing feeling», and we guess the terrible dangers of such a practice, if it falls in the hand of cults, dictators, blackmailers, etc.
This kind of woozy experiments are based on several fallacies:
- That the Turing criteria would define consciousness. It does not, it just tells the moment a robot imitates it well enough to pass for a Human. And I can safely state that, despite the pretensions (or lies) of some people, we are still very far from this.
- The behaviorism fallacy, as what a nervous system would only react to inputs, without any internal determinant. People do have obvious internal determinants, like seeking happiness, or assigning themselves purposes, moral rules, etc. To ignore these is what makes from Behaviorism a pure pseudoscience. Official pseudoscience certainly, but as stupid as instinctotherapy, and much more dangerous.
- That simply repeating texts, without access to their meaning, would be intelligence. It is not, this is just text processing.
In the story of this book, several Microsoft officials are influential part of the EPOC committee. But the company was banned from taking part in the development of the e-government Artificial Intelligence, just as any Microsoft product is banned from aviation, medicine, space, etc. But not in sexual robots, and they already took patents in teledildonics, ha ha ha ha! (All invalid, I GNU licensed them all years before)
The delirium here is that expressing emotion would be actual emotion. What I call the fallacy of the tamagochi, those ninny simple toys mimicking a creature to the point that their owners cried when the tamagochi «died». We even saw car crashes, when the driver had to «feed» his weeping tamagochi.
With robots already able of mimicking emotions in an overwhelming way, this absurd belief will make its tenants totally submitted to their robots, just as they already are submitted to their cats or to their TV set, so far as entrusting the education of their children to Alexa. Right on the contrary, sensible people would be hugely annoyed by robots crying, begging favors, or shouting at them. This fraud is already happening for sex robots, that their builders call «conscious» (2021) (Yes 2021. And even before: the power taking by sexual tamagochis is already going on).
But having actual consciousness and genuine free will is a totally different matter. Today, nobody in academic neuroscience, computer science, and all the less in the porn industry, knows what consciousness is, how it appears, how it relates to a brain, etc. So it is easy for con artists to sell «conscious robots», even «fulfilling the Turing criteria» (Easy, for what we expect of a sex robot...), pretending that they are conscious and that they feel emotions. Those kind of good looking but unproven statements are typical from crook speeches. With those, naive people will invest in a love relationship with just unconscious silicon chips, and feel sadness and bereavement when they break down.
Such Human-like robots already allow for some power taking: the serious scientific or social discussions about sex robots most often revolves around how they can transmit neurosis like sexism and objectification of women. Already in the bedroom they arise dire dangers, but used as media anchors, they may create havoc in elections and in society debates. Today existing sexual robots already are able of this.
The stupid belief (or lie) as what they would be conscious may even lead to grant them «rights» and «social statutes», creating a social class of robots mechanically transmitting the ideologies and biases of their manufacturers. The world power taking is not much further, and even «replacing Humans with Robots».
I offer a serious scientific theory on the nature of consciousness, in the fifth part of my book «General Epistemology». I especially examine the problem of the consciousness of robots, in the chapter VI-18: why robots are not conscious, and how they could become really conscious. But this will not happen with porn neither with behaviorism.
Scenario, graphics, sounds, colours, realization: Richard Trigaux (Unless indicated otherwise).
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