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.

3 comments

  1. MIss Robson i just like to say your quantum Gravity books literally made my time fly whilst i was incarcerated. I instantly Fell in love with Lila Amanda Black, Zal and Co,it was like i was watching a movie in my head in 4K HD. Iv only read the 1st two Books and am going to start the 3rd. And again your amazing and a rare Gem in the sci-fi community i seriously think you should make them into movies( with all the shitty re-creations and boring plots hollywood comes up with) it would really stand out. So….you gave me immense inspiration to write my own novel. Its Called “Proxima Centuri” And i would Really Love to get your opinion on it. Would love to hear from you.

    I would consider myself to be a creative. I make beats and write lyrics, edit picturs and 8yrs ago i did mange to start a novel i was going to turn into an anime ( i watch alot of anime :)) but you seriously showed me something thit i wouldnt find in comic books. cant wait to finish the Quantum gravity books.

    love.

  2. Thank you very much for taking the time to write. I am so happy to know that my books were of use to you.

    A movie would be wonderful, I do agree!

    Meanwhile I am busy writing on a contract (which is my only one at the moment and hopefully not the last!) and I don’t have time to pause and read a long work of someone else’s but, once you have finished your book, or finished a part of it, pop me a tweet or a note and I would be glad to look at some of it.

    However, I know without seeing it that I would definitely say that if you have tuned into some part of yourself that sings when you work on your story then ignore what anyone else has to say, including me, and keep listening to the inner music and working on the story until it’s done. The point is not how the finished item ends up, it’s the journey and the practice of tuning into the bit of yourself that is alive. Eventually you’ll churn out a load of words and they might be great or they might suck but if you keep on going they’ll start adding up to better and better and you will realise that story onto the page.

    Once it’s done then you can take advice about how to make the story better. Then you can work on it or start a new one or do something else. But it’s a dangerous business taking advice before it’s done, because any negativity can crush your creative impulse. Only ask for advice once you’ve done the major work on it so that you can’t be stopped mid-flow.

    Until then keep a lookout for local writers’ groups or online forums with friendly people on them (rare, I know!) to give you some encouragement on the way. Maybe through the British Science Fiction Association or British Fantasy Society, depending on the kind of thing you are making.

    The book with writing help that I’ve really found most useful is Stephen King’s “On Writing”. There are others too, like “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott which is about creativity in general and helps enormously when projects get tough.

    best wishes, J

  3. Thanks for the feedback Justina. I’ll definitely take what you’ve said on board. It does make sense to actually finish the book before getting feed back. I am currently looking in the Sci-Fi community for assistance but apart of me thinks i can do with out it. With creativity i work best in solitude.

    Also i noticed a lot of Nordic references in the quantum gravity series.

    I hope your contract goes well and thanks a bunch. Hopefully ill see you at a Sci-fi award.

    Stay Bless Justina..

    Love

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