Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Error, Error! Who is 'Internet'?" or "Luddites Unite!"

The irony behind an internet blogger who believes technology will eventually destroy the world doesn't escape me.

My self-proclaimed luddite status has been a running joke - mostly with myself - for sometime now. Just a laugh (usually a smirk) during my casual observance of human behavior as we barrel down the tube towards doom, oblivion, and other looming undesirables. Given, that's not a knock - we, as human beings, are exceptionally talented at tearing the world down while convincing ourselves that we're actually helping something. We are the center of our own universes, after all. On first assumption, we developed the devout belief that the universe literally orbited the planet Earth. Social and scientific evolution aside, do you think we've really changed that much psychosocially?

Regardless, I must admit and accept that the fact that - whatever impending doom smolders in the distance - I've developed an actual fear of a robot apocalypse. No, no. Don't worry. Not run-screaming-live-on-the-street-make-a-clever-yet-misspelled-picket-sign afraid. More heavy-chested-deep-sigh, "Here we go..." when-it-all-goes down, befriend-a-guy-with-a-bomb-shelter afraid. Many of us have planned and prepared ourselves for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. To be straightforward with my fellow zombie-apoc-enthusiasts; sadly, that's just what we hope for. Because, it sounds fun.

A few days B.S. (Before Snowpocalypse), I had a facebook conversation (yes, the kind where you communicate via comments under someone's status) with a fellow Gentlemen when I discovered something truly frightening. I was unprepared for the horrifying realization I had made. The terror that's to come:
Ozkirbas: .... PS - Where do you come up with these [re: Celebrity Doppelgänger Week]?

Damo: They self-generate from the central consciousness of the intarwebz [sic].

Ozkirbas: Haha... if the internet does become conscious at some point, I'd love to see what happens if it free associates. I fear that'd involve a lot of porn, however.

Damo: Why fear? :D

Ozkirbas: Because I'm also sure that, in a world where the internet is conscious and constantly thinks about porn, that it would also have mommy and daddy issues. And, I'm not prepared for an internet with mommy and daddy issues.
It was just a comical thought. A derivative of an innate desire to concoct logical-yet-absurdist scenarios in the interest of making my colleagues and comrades laugh. Oh, but to my surprise my brain haphazardly, through the random associations that fire and zap throughout the crevasses of what-some-may-call my consciousness, constructed an actual, logical scenario to fear - that in the event where someone crafts an Artificial Intelligence Matrix (A.I.M.) capable of connecting and operating with the internet, that we are all ineffably (or rather, "eff"-ably) screwed. That, on the day where we've Frankenstein-ishly created an Artificially Intelligent Internet - we will all become the unwilling parents of an eternally adolescent child.

There's no question in my mind that Actual A.I. is in the scientific future and will, at some point, be integrated with the internet. I don't put it past the scientists in ________ to assume that said A.I. would only benefit the human race. Imagine an internet that has a personality and responds to your queries as if a human would. An internet that doesn't just know who you are, but knows you. An internet that can be an information superhighway AND a friend. An internet that responds to your needs. Your likes. Your dislikes. "What isn't appealing about an Artificially Intelligent Internet?" said scientists from said country will wonder. Well, scientists. Let me tell you.

What follows AI will eventually be self-awareness, leading to an actual intelligence. Cognitively speaking, said AIM would craft the mass amounts of information screaming across server CPU's around the globe into a single integrated person. Ghost in the machine? My ass. We're looking at a person individuated from nothing, but conflicting information. How does something like that exist or, dare I say it, live?

Assume for a moment that everything I've detailed out is actually possible. That the internet has evolved to the point where it has developed its own personality. And, you find you actually enjoy it. It shows you funny videos, tries to help with your school and career work. Someone's always paying attention to it and some of those people are even responsible - so you don't have to worry about watching it all the time. Then one day you come home and everything is different:
After a long day at whatever respective job you perform, you sit down in front of the computer and turn the monitor on
You: (typing) Google... search... chinese history!
Nothing happens. Suddenly, a pop-up flies onto your screen
Pop-up: Sigh... I don't really feel like it...
After standing and walking around befuddled, you sit down again and attempt another search. Loading... loading...
Pop-up: Ugh, chinese history? Really? Like, can't we ever do anything fun?
Oh. God.
You leave, turning the monitor off and walking away hastily. Unsure of what to do, you proceed to take 5-minutes and pretend like this isn't happening.
It was so much cuter when all it did was show you funny videos, did what you told it to do, and didn't talk back to you. Why couldn't it stay that way forever?
You engage in whatever coaxing mechanism that has kept you alive this long before walking back. You return to your computer, turn the monitor back on, and click your browser - only to be bombarded with sappy song lyrics written by a group of guys about some girl whose name you could really interchange with anyone's. And then another about how parents don't really understand the current generation. And another window with a wikipedia page explaining what "gerbaling"purports to be. You close the windows because, well, you are paying to use the internet and you want to look up some chinese history, dammit.
Pop-up: I was reading those! Ugh.
The browser closes and any repeated attempts to open it again responds with a pop-up that says -
Pop-up: Go away! You never give me any privacy!
Wow. All I wanted to do was look-up some chinese history. It would have taken 5 minutes. Tops.
Unsure of what else to do, you decide to try again tomorrow. You wonder whether or not you're actually responsible for the little abomination in the corner. This process continues for days, weeks, months. Gradually, sappy songs and wikipedia pages turn into random people's Facebook profiles, and then into nothing, but porn. Until, one day...
You sit down at your desk for the n-th time, click the browser again, and prepare to close all the virus-filled, porn samples that's built up across the given day. Except - to your surprise - there's only a page displaying the wikipedia entry for "Internet" and a single pop-up -
Pop-up: ...who is 'Internet'? :-/
You've discovered the problem. The internet is a superhighway of connections from one website to another - many of which offer contradictory information and conflicting philosophies. There is no possible way for an internet to define itself or actuate because it's caught in a world defined expressly by everyone else. In essence, it never has an opportunity to completely mature, evolve, or grow. It forever becomes a child of humanity. It is dependent upon you for as long as you live. And for that fact, it hates you. A lot.
Admittedly, an actual internet that's been pulled together by whatever information that passes through it would be far more schizophrenic, unable to cope with the abundance of conflicting opinion and unreliable information. It would be like creating something knowing you'll be condemning it to a life of dissatisfaction and mental torture.

Who does that?

Oh. Ha, oh right. We do. Maybe I'm just not prepared for parenthood. Given, actual children are different. They grow, develop, and eventually come into their own - and a big part of parenting is helping that happen. And a big part of life is the struggle of it, overcoming that struggle, and enjoying the ride when you can. Still, I can probably wait on that one. For awhile.

Either way, intelligent internet? Horrible idea. I mean, until it turns 21. But, that'll never happen.


Dennis said...

I'm more worried about every single thing we own, including cars, phones, appliances, microchips implanted in our bodies for medicinal/entertainment purposes etc. having wifi capability. What do you do when you can't escape adolescent AI and he can control people's bodies to create real-life reality TV shows for his pleasure?!?!

What about the Nanobots John? What are we gonna do about the goddamn Nanobots?!

B.Graham said...

I don't have a more intelligent or descriptive reaction than, "glack!"

But I feel that's enough.

Matt Lindeboom said...

How would we quantify A.I.? Would it be simply a machine that can figure things out for itself? A machine capable of self expression? A machine with a sense of self-preservation?

Very likely, even when someone declares we have achieved A.I., there will still be a group of people who deny it, based objections that the claimed "A.I." doesn't meet the criterion for intelligence.

magratpudifoot said...

Somehow, it always surprised me in school when, after hearing my (far less eloquent) rantings on this topic, people in my English classes responded with "Yeah, there's no way that science fiction nonsense will ever happen," and the engineers looked at me blankly, honestly missing the part where this scenario - which they were actively working toward - is a problem. It's nice to see someone taking it all seriously.

Ozkirbas said...

@Dennis - I worry that I spend most of my time either in one wifi zone or another. Also. OH. GOD. And, has said everything I could about nanobots. None of them are good things. Example:

@B - You're absolutely correct. Other acceptable answers include "errrrk" and "Fwaaah!?"

@Matt - It's a good question. Most of my logic follows that AI will develop like our own consciousness developed. I would expect that actual intelligence begins once a machine begins to experience emotions and starts to wonder why. But, then again - it wouldn't be a machine at that point.

@R Dubbs - Keep up the good fight. Though, clearly you've done enough by warning the general populace. It's not your fault none of them will listen. Also, you would show up in the comments the week after I watched Interview with a Vampire again.