What is Wrong With You People?

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hal-9000

What is wrong with you people?

Now, when I say people I mean, of course, humans. I’m not suggesting for one minute that I am not one, far from it, but sometimes I can’t help thinking that maybe I am not. As a longtime science fiction reader (and sometime writer) some things just seem so evident, so plain as the nose on your face, that it boggles my mind when reasonably intelligent beings just don’t see what should be so obvious!

What am I talking about? A couple of things. Let’s tackle them one by one.

First up is artificial intelligence.

colossusIf you are like me — and if you are here then there’s a good chance that you are — you know… I mean you KNOW deep in your soul… that artificial intelligence, for all the good that it promises, has inherent dangers.

How do we know this? Because we’ve been told. Just in the same way that we know not to tell lies about really important things because of the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, science fiction readers have had equally important lessons imparted to them. Science fiction fans know what the development of artificial intelligence will very probably lead to. If we are not careful an artificial intelligence may just decide that human beings are just too inconvenient a species to allow to continue and will wipe us out.

miriWe all know this. We’ve seen the Terminator movies. We’ve seen The Forbin Project. We’ve read Robopocalypse. Even Stephen Hawking has warned us that an AI could very easily wipe out all human beings.

Do we listen? No!

Take for example, Google and Ray Kurzwell. Ray Kurzwell is one of the leading scientists involved in AI research. He argues that it is possible to create consciousness in an artificial being. Google has publicly stated that it is using techniques of deep learning to produce an artificial brain.

kurzwellDo they just not know? Do they not read science fiction? I mean, all they have to do is… you know… google it. They are Google after all.

Kurzwell himself has said “…Science fiction is the great opportunity to speculate on what could happen. It does give me, as a futurist, scenarios.” Okay, so he knows about HAL 9000. He knows about Colossus. He knows about SKYNET.

And he’s going to go ahead with it anyway?

He’s not alone. There are many researchers and organizations dedicated to producing artificial intelligence. All of them try to put the best spin on it, of course. The Machine Intelligence Research Institute, for instance. (Yes, that is a real thing.) According to their website they do “…foundational mathematical research to ensure smarter-than-human artificial intelligence has a positive impact.” They go on to say: “Humans steer the future not because we’re the strongest or the fastest but because we’re the smartest. When machines become smarter than humans, we’ll be handing them the steering wheel.”

…and you’re… okay with this?

What is wrong with you people?

soylent_green_poster1Here’s another example. Remember the movie SOYLENT GREEN? Of course you do. In the 1973 film Charlton Heston plays a detective in New York of 2022. The population explosion has led to overcrowding. How do you feed all these people? With rations produced by the Soylent Corporation. They produce Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow and have just introduced a new line of food called Soylent Green. Of course anyone who sees the film knows where Soylent Green really comes from. Chuck Heston’s last line of the film as he is crushed under the weight of so many people makes it plain: “Soylent Green is people!”

We’ve all seen that. Everyone knows it. So much so that it is like a punchline in a familiar joke. But somebody forgot to tell Rob Rhinehart.

You see, in 2013 Rhinehart set out to develop a simple and affordable nutritional drink that possesses everything the healthy body needs. His company, Rosa Labs, has developed the first macronutritious food replacement beverage customized for human needs. You can buy it and drink it right now. And what is it called, this wondrous food replacement?

soylent logoIt’s called Soylent, of course.

I’m not kidding about this. Rosa Lab’s website even says: “…the world’s population is projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, with no viable solutions for feeding these future generations. Something has to be done.”

Did you just feel a chill? Because I know I did.

Don’t believe me? Just go to www.soylent.me. It’s all there. Right now what they are producing looks like Soylent Yellow. You can invest if you want. I’d get out before they come out with their “Green” iteration, though.

So, do they just not know, or do they know and just don’t care? Should we tell them? Would it make any difference?

Why do we bother with science fiction’s cautionary tales when people are just going to ignore them and go ahead and do it anyway? Why do we, as science fiction fans, armed with these warnings, even bother to raise the alarm when otherwise intelligent people are just going to forge ahead, putting all of humanity in danger just to line their pockets or boost their own egos?

What is wrong with you people?

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