From the Machine: Data, Ultron, and Indominus rex

The theme of artificial intelligence keeps cropping up in things I read and watch, enough that I’m compelled to write a post about it. In the last week and a half:

  1. I saw Ex Machina. It’s a film wherein a young computer programmer goes to spend a week at the estate of an eccentric genius (the creator of the world’s most used search engine). There, he participates in a Turing test with a robot programmed to look and act like a human woman, resulting in unfortunate consequences.
  2. I saw the full preview for Jurassic World. It appears as though scientists at Jurassic Park thought it would be a good idea to create a dinosaur with an advanced level of intelligence, the Indominus rex, that goes on a rampage and starts killing for sport.
  3. I saw Age of Ultron (twice). Ultron’s goal is to save the planet by destroying human life as we know it and replacing it with intelligent metal beings—the next evolution of man!
  4. I re-read an article in which Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk were quoted as being worried about A.I. and another in which Bill Gates echoed the sentiment.
I'm sorry, Dave.

I’m sorry, Dave.

Regarding #4, Stephen Hawking said recently: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” and, “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.” Elon Musk referred to A.I. as “our biggest existential threat.” Bill Gates “[doesn’t] understand why some people are not concerned” with the threat super intelligence poses.

This all sounds an awful lot like a fear that robots will take over while human beings can still survive on Earth.[1] Sure, the human species will eventually die out. We’re already intent on creating a planetary environment that won’t be able to sustain human life. But will we be superseded by artificial beings that we create?

The thing that I can’t quite wrap my mind around is that in all of this discourse, the common theme is that advanced and artificial intelligence is somehow inherently dangerous. A.I. will be intent on harming humanity in some way— purposefully superseding it or even destroying it.

But why?

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Nothing You Can Know That Isn’t Known

[1] If you don’t know me very well, you’d think I’m exactly the type of person who would hate Valentine’s Day.

But I don’t.

Actually, I kind of like it.

I like seeing the explosion of red and pink hearts in store displays. I like the chocolate-heavy array of confections for sale. I like the idea of celebrating love for love’s sake.

Of course, I don’t think anyone should feel obligated to recognize it or acknowledge it, and I feel bad that it makes my fellow single people feel lonely.

I do take issue with the idea from popular media and advertisers and basically every movie I’ve ever seen that we aren’t fully validated as human beings unless we’re in a romantic relationship. Of course, that’s just wrong. And the fact that people don’t realize that it’s wrong is way more troubling to me than watching Savannah Guthrie interview someone on The Today Show about last minute gift ideas. (Really, I don’t have 95% of the problems that most people do because I’m happily and much better off alone.)

But I also take issue with the people who use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to rail against capitalism and commercialism. Because there are threads of capitalism in everything, and I think I mean that literally. And, yes, the economy is fake, and, yes, globalization is kind of alarming when you think about it too hard. But I like being able to eat avocados all year round and talk to people on the other side of the world through the internet, so I deal with it. And, frankly, I sleep pretty easy at night.

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A Contradiction on Wheels

The perfect car for the philosopher has to be the Chevrolet El Camino.

It’s a paradox.

Is it a truck? Is it a car? No! It’s both.

Even though it is classified as a truck and titled as such, its body type is classified as a “coupe utility.” That is, it uses a unibody automobile platform rather than a pickup truck’s body-on-frame construction. It is not built with the separate cab and body construction of a pickup truck, even though it does have a cargo bed behind the cabin.

Somewhere Aristotle’s head just exploded.

So my plan to save the General Motors is this:

Bring back the Chevy El Camino, but rename it the Chevy Paradox.

They can even turn it into a hybrid if they must.

I know I’d buy one.

Wouldn’t you?