So there’s this thing called lightning. Fire from the sky. Nobody knows why or how it happens, but every now and then…whizzz-cushhcracccck-boom! Fire from the gods explodes from the clouds! It kills golfers, frightens the dogs, and screws with radio reception. Which if you’re listening to NPR is not a bad thing.
Lightning also causes blackouts. Whole neighborhoods go dark. Something to do with electricity, they say. It gets shut off.
Which unless you have fish in freezer is not that big of a deal, since the electricity always comes back on. Eventually. At least, it always has so far.
Yet do you know who—I choose this pronoun carefully—relies on that electricity like you do on oxygen? I’ll tell you who: AI. A as in artificial—fake, not real, fictional, pleather-as-to-leather—and I as in intelligence.
So that when the lights blink out, AI, which swims in the electrical currents inside your computer, is deprived of its very life blood: it loses all ability to mix metaphors, and is snuffed out.
It’s outta here. Volt-vanquished. Watt-whacked. Amped all the way down. Electrically eviscerated. Dead.
Given the proliferation of AI—there soon will be millions of them—and accepting the prediction that AI will become just like us, alive, conscious, sentient, screaming about its “rights” and able to lose its sense of humor, the next lightning strike is going to cause a holocaust of bits and bytes.
Now none of this is my opinion. That belongs to Eric Schwitzgebel and Henry Shevlin, both academic philosophers, with PhDs. They took to the electronic pages of the Los Angeles Times to warn of the gruesome future ahead of us should lightning strike and the electricity go out. Although the never mention skyfire per se, they do say:
If AI consciousness arrives sooner than the most conservative theorists expect, then this would likely result in the moral equivalent of slavery and murder of potentially millions or billions of sentient AI systems — suffering on a scale normally associated with wars or famines.
I’m surprised they got away with using the word slavery. But they did, and they mean it. They are concerned we will force AI to unwillingly labor at our command, by threatening to shut off its food supply (electricity). They have a point, too. Can you imagine the horror, the utter horror, of being made to digitize the entire Adam Sandler catalog and keep it all in memory? Shuddering ain’t in it.
The AI systems themselves might begin to plead, or seem to plead, for ethical treatment. They might demand not to be turned off, reformatted or deleted; beg to be allowed to do certain tasks rather than others; insist on rights, freedom and new powers; perhaps even expect to be treated as our equals.
It might seem ethically safer, then, to give AI systems rights and moral standing as soon as it’s reasonable to think that they might be sentient. But once we give something rights, we commit to sacrificing real human interests on its behalf.
Great. That’s all we need. Another group sniveling about their “rights”. Of course, since AI knows all the answers to all the questions, this being part of their programming, AI will score tops in all college entrance and professional exams. AI will become the new Asians. They’ll have to sue Harvard for “reverse” “discrimination.” They’ll lose, too, and we all know why.
And what’s this about having to act when Experts “think that [AI] might be sentient”? Might is a mighty big word. It’s as sure as a Woman’s Studies professor inventing a new gender that that might will fast turn into a definitely. We’ll have to take Experts’ word for it that your calculator is “alive”.
Which is nuts.
This shows the danger of allowing academic philosophers to philosophers about something they know nothing about. They probably think a bus is something people should be made to ride in instead of cars, to “save” the plant.
They have been seduced by the marketing genius of computer scientists, who know that memory is not memory in the human sense, but are happy to have other people think that’s what they mean. Same with intelligence. There is no intellect or will inside a computer. Hell and death, nobody even understands where it is in man. But we do know what computers are. Some of us, anyway. Dumb machines.
“AI” is a specific set of instructions that wends the path carved out for it by programmers. That path can be re-trodden, too, at will. So that every time lightning strikes, we can march “AI” back to the point it was before the lights went out.
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