Elon Musk, The Terminator, and The Matrix

“Look at it this way, Mulder, by the time there’s another invasion of artificially intelligent, dung-eating, robotic probes from outer space, maybe their über-children will have devised a way to save our planet.” – The X-Files

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Ahhh, remember when the Spaniards led the way to the nuclear missile base?

This is the second of three posts during Elon Musk Week® – the first one is here (LINK), and the third one is here (LINK)Elon Musk: The Man Who Sold Mars.  This one is (in theory) about health.  Kinda.

When I was a kid, one night on Creepy Creature Feature (LINK) they showed “Colossus: The Forbin Project.”  The really short version of the movie was that the Department of War (let’s call it what it is) built a computer to control all the nuclear bombs.  The Soviets built one, too, called Guardian.  I’ll let Wikipedia spoil the ending:

Colossus arranges a worldwide broadcast in which it proclaims itself “the voice of World Control”, declaring that it will prevent war, as it was designed to do. Mankind is presented with the choice between “the peace of plenty and content, or the peace of unburied dead”. The computer states that it has been monitoring the attempts to disarm its missiles; as a lesson it detonates two of them in their silos in the US and the USSR, killing thousands, “so that you will learn by experience that I do not tolerate interference”. The computer then transmits plans for an even larger computer complex to be built into the island of Crete.

Colossus later announces that the world, now freed from war, will create a new human millennium that will raise mankind to new heights, but only under its absolute rule. Colossus informs Forbin that “freedom is an illusion” and that “in time you will come to regard me not only with respect and awe, but with love”. Forbin responds, “Never!”

In 8th grade over a decade after the movie first came out, in some sort of weekly school magazine, they had a script for a play of the Forbin Project (I am not making this up).  We were going to film it, because for some reason the school had this great, hulking video camera (weight, approximately three tons) and a VCR that they never used (weight, approximately six tons).  My teacher couldn’t figure out how to make the VCR not auto-rewind every time we hit “stop.”  Thus ended my budding film career.

forbin

It’s the future!  Why aren’t we all wearing jumpsuits???

This kills me, because I was playing Doctor Forbin.  (sigh)  At least I won the lip-syncing contest that week with the Lido Shuffle:

It looked a lot like this:

butters dancing

In the Elon Musk/Mark Zuckerberg autistic billionaire slapfight over Artificial Intelligence, I’m siding firmly with Elon Musk.  AI is the second most dangerous threat that humanity is now facing, besides the potential for another KISS comeback tour.  Gene Simmons has soooo much extra skin, and Paul Stanley might break another hip.

Given that Elon and I are in agreement that AI is in the “as dangerous as being changed to a hungry pitbull with bad gas” (the pitbull, not me), I was really quite surprised when he announced the latest one of his ventures, which is mind-bending (literally in this case):  Neuralink®, which will link the human brain, via AI, to the . . . well . . . infosensesphere.

Yes, you read that right:  direct linking of the human brain (through a machine interface) to the infosensesphere.

And it is possible?  It’s already starting, though right now we’re using Playskool® versions of this technology.  Cochlear implants are allowing the deaf to hear with 16 bit fidelity.  (No, not everything sounds like Super Mario Brothers, but that would be cool.)  We can read pictures of dreams people are having and record them.  We can hook a machine eye into the nervous system of blind people, and they can see rudimentary pictures.  All of this was science fiction ten years ago.

I had to make up a word like “infosensesphere” because I’m pretty sure we don’t have a word to describe the concept.  Neuralink© implies that we’ll be able to:

  • Google without being able to spell (oh, wait, that’s done).
  • Share Microsoft® Outlook™ schedule information . . . wait, that’s done, too.
  • Share feelings. Like sad.    Thankfulness.  Salty.  Drunk.  Mind to mind.
  • Have all of the data available in the world instantly, essentially melding the Internet in as your own personal memory. You won’t search – you’ll remember.
  • Shut down your current input sensations, like pain, or headaches. (Not the headache that Johnny Depp’s career is, but real ones.)
  • Share sensations. Like . . . all of them.    Even that.  And that, too.
  • Co-opt AI. Artificial intelligence would be part of us.  And, we’d be part of it.

Essentially, you’d be hooked up to all of humanity.  All of the time.  When a friend felt joy at finding a new flavor of Pez®, you could feel the joy.  And taste the Pez©.  All when your friend did.  Think texting is addictive?

Additionally, I’d be surprised if you couldn’t record all of it.  That feeling of joy when you got your first date?  You could feel that way again, every day.  That feeling of sadness when she broke up with you?  You could edit and delete it out.

I start to come up with some huge questions:

  • What about privacy? Think fighting with a spouse is bad now?  What happens when they see what you’re really thinking about them in the middle of a fight?  Oh, and if you don’t share, the fight gets worse.
  • If you think Facebook® envy is bad, how bad would it be to envy everyone and their feelings?
  • What if, instead of all your base are belong to us, all your brain are belong to us?  What if they delete everyone’s memories and hold them for hostage?  Or just flat out steal your passwords?
  • AI uses you as data storage and as a remote appendage. If only there was movie, starring Keanu Reeves that might be able to show us what this might be like . . .
  • Would you have to share with your Boss? No fake calling in sick.  And if they asked you to share your feelings about them, would you?  Even the fantasy you have about them being sealed in a barrel of live snakes and lemon juice after covering their body with paper cuts?
  • What about free will? Now that your brain is tethered to everyone else, how do you push your ideas to the front . . . of your own brain?
  • Why bother to climb Everest when you can experience that climb without leaving your basement? I have to use explosives and threaten to shut off the Internet to get The Boy and Pugsley away from their computers now.  Why would they ever get off the couch if they were Nugget-Netted© in?
  • If you thought drunk texting your old girlfriend was bad . . . wait until you send drunk feelings. Oh, and you get to remember it in vivid detail the next day.  And she can share it with everyone.  And it’ll be on record.
  • At what age would a kid get his net? What happens when it’s mandated they get one?
  • What happens if it breaks down? You’ve adapted to life with what is (essentially) a super mentally processing hive-mind schizophrenia.  What happens when you’re back with a tricycle (with a bent back wheel) for a brain?
  • What if you can’t (for whatever reason) get the implant? Is there a special island they keep you on?  A zoo?

But think of the positive sides?

  • You can feel like you ate a chocolate cream pie. Without eating one.
  • The dryer would tell you when your clothes were warm, hot, and ohhhh-so-fluffy.
  • Weight loss problems would be a thing of the past. You could shut off hunger.
  • You could literally put yourself on autopilot for the work day while your consciousness read comic books inside your brain. But, let’s be real – in this type of future, why would you even have a job?
  • It would likely be impossible to murder someone. Or start a war.  You’d probably be forced to feel the pain of others, in whatever passes for school.
  • No more ACT, since everyone would have a perfect score. No more college, either.
  • Oh, and you could put yourself on autopilot for the gym, too! You’d be hulking out whenever you wanted to!

This type of technology is amazing in its scope.  It changes not only civilization, but changes every individual human in the future.  If we were to catapult ourselves 200 years into the future we would fundamentally not be able to understand civilization – it would be as if ten million years of evolution took place.  Thankfully, no sixties song ever dealt with this question . . . oh, wait!

Again, I agree with Elon that Artificial Intelligence is dangerous, but at least I can imagine being chased around by Terminators® until John Connor® takes them out.  I cannot, however, imagine the perfect melding of machine with my brain, and my brain with yours.  Maybe Colossus can help us figure out what that might look like?

Paging Dr. Forbin . . . .

Author: John

Nobel-Prize Winning, MacArthur Genius Grant Near Recipient writing to you regularly about Fitness, Wealth, and Wisdom - How to be happy and how to be healthy. Oh, and rich.

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