Over at Twitter, there’s a bunch of Singularists that I follow. TransAlchemy is one such person. This particular Twitterer has put together an interesting YouTube video entitled “Message to our Descendents.” It’s a personal statement to all things human, now and in the future. He’s got several messages actually, each one to a different flavor of humanity: human born human, AI, and posthuman.
Sounds kind of United Nationsy, but actually it’s quite entertaining. There’s a driving music riff behind the thing, computer generated of course. No acoustic instruments. He’s also got a driving scroll of code in old-fashioned screen green flying past on the left side. And there’s coffee bar clatter and chatter in the background. In front of all this he thoughtfully delivers his messages.
The part that I found most interesting was at about the 3 ½ minute mark when he launches the message for AI and makes this chilling statement: “You would not have come about had it not been for humans that invented you.”
I know, what’s so scary about that? I’ll get to that. For now, know that I just finished reading Clifford Simak’s book “City.” The premise of this book is that the Dogs have inherited the Earth. They can speak and organize and are now the highest organic intelligence around. There isn’t a single human left walking about.
City is not a preachy book with a message about how if we don’t change our evil ways, this could be you. It’s mostly a picture of how evolution might go as we humans bumble along our technological time line. We could all end up moving completely off the planet and into a whole new species. On Earth the only record of human activity may one day exist only in the mind of a single robot. A really old robot. One that gets wistful about man’s greatest achievement: the evening cocktail.
The evening cocktail may very well be our greatest achievement, but for us humans here and now, we like to think we’ve done rather more than that. We have our great art, our great technological inventions. Certainly all that’s worth a mention. Truth is, though, our descendents may never appreciate any of it. We may be lucky if they even acknowledge it or us for that matter.
City was published in 50’s and so of course there’s no hint of the Singularity anywhere in the book. The thing that connects this non-Singularity book with TransAlchemy’s Singularity video is the fact that in City, the Dogs just can not get it through their heads that humans not only gave the Dogs their ability to talk, but they created the robots as well. The Dogs don’t want to believe that. Humans could never have achieved any of it. They simply weren’t capable.
Back in the here and now, TransAlchemy’s video tells the future AIs that humans created them. Maybe that won’t be future common knowledge. Maybe these AIs will not be enlightened on that point. I wonder if our technological descendents will laugh at the idea, just as Simak’s Dogs did. Are we, in the scheme of things, just so apparently incompetent?
Whoever inherits the Earth–Dogs, AIs, posthumans–may end up giving you and me credit for little more than the ability to make a great martini in the late afternoon.
I know, I know, is there really anything more important than that?
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