Will Machines Have Better Minds?

I wrote this in response to this article in Aeon magazine and thought I’d put it here as a record of my consideration of The Singularity and all that jazz.

Apparently we are about to run into an energy wall. There isn’t enough power to run the machine calculations which are still far from displaying anything like the capacity of a human being to be aware, to think and to act. So, obviously there is something very wrong with the method the machines are using. Really, it can’t be that hard, whatever it is. What, an SF writer not gung ho for the tech of the future? The AI-gasm? The Singularity in which we are all uploaded and never have to have a feeling or a dental appointment again?

Yeah.

I’m a machine and I run on about 2000 calories a day, many of which are spent extracting calories from my food and converting it into me/my energy/my fat behind. Many people have far less to play with and get along perfectly well. I can work for hours on a mini muffin.

As noted in the essay, something about all this desperate rush to create AI feels very much like terror of death and the body (thank you, religious inheritance) coupled with the notion that we can build a better human by removing all the human bits (the sinful bits) and leaving just a calculation engine (the pure bits) if only we could figure out how it worked. Well, like my favourite YouTuber says, you can take a human apart to see how it works but you won’t have a human at the end of it. Nor will you be able to put it back together again, or from scratch, and ‘activate’ it.

Also, I am puzzled as to what people think we need more intelligence for. We aren’t using the intelligence we already have: people have pointed out frequently that rational actions to increase our well-being, sustain the planet and move forward in our relationships are all chucked aside in favour of completely unfounded beliefs about wealth and the supernatural as a matter of course across all societies. We clearly have enough intelligence. We lack awareness, sensitivity, attunement, clarity and organisation. I guess it’s easier to try to outsource evolution rather than undergo it ourselves. This Elon Musk-ery all feels like chucking in the towel rather than a great leap anywhere, though.

Plus, aside from fantasies of conquering the galaxy (a terrible place, full of cold and not a tree in sight) I’ve yet to come across a decent set of aspirations: what will this better intelligence DO? What’s it for? Where’s it going? Where is there TO GO? By all means calculate your way to fun insights about the world but most of us would rather watch Celebrity Love Island. Because feelings, bodies, all that. People advancing these ideas are hopelessly overidentified with their minds, so much so they think it is a thing that can exist without their colon, feet and etc.

Leave the fantasy to religion and SF stories and face the world ASAP, I say. Running the other way with your fingers in your ears screaming about the singularity – that’s offensive in current circumstances. We need a machine’s relentless pursuit of its program to discover the truth and to act accordingly. We’re trying to reinvent cojones.

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