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Driving to Oblivion

It was surprising to me to hear when a friend of mine had taken a job driving for Uber. Now there is nothing wrong with driving for Uber, I was surprised as my friend and I had met in college and I thought him a smart man and good student, talents not so much in demand as an Uber driver. It seems this electronic revolution, will have the same effect as the industrial revolution only on a larger scale. While the industrial revolution took skilled laborers and reduced them to a cog in an assembly line, this computer revolution seems to be doing the same for every worker. It seems that there is no skill that cannot be replaced, revised or in some way significantly downsized by computers and automation. Just as skilled craftsmen and blacksmiths were relegated to endlessly executing the same task, now college educated people are finding their jobs behind the wheel of the cars that the first revolution made possible.
They say now we are teaching our children skills for jobs that do not yet exist so that they can be ready for what is to come. Let us hope we are not giving them all driving licenses for an age of driverless cars.

Uber, Uber driver, electronic revolution, industrial revolution, automation, downsized, computers, assembly line, computer revolution, revolution, driverless cars, Driving licenses

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Where Angels Fear To Tread

As the namesake of this blog was fond of saying, media is an extension of our human nervous system and as such is neither good or bad, but a tool for us to use to learn and grow. Basically, radio is an extension of our voice, the telephone an extension of our hearing etc. With the advent of the internet and social media, it seems that our consciousness can be everywhere at once. As drones become cheaper and more accessible, it seems that our media vision can now see farther than ever before. With the addition of artificial reality and phones that allow us to immerse ourselves in a reality almost anywhere in the world or where we send our drones to look. This reminded me of a section of Neale Donald Walsch’s “Conversations With God” where he speaks of his belief that, to know itself, the creative force split itself into millions of pieces which were planted in us so that we could look back on the universe and experience it from outside the creative consciousness. As we move forward with our innovation, expanding our experiential presence of the world, are we not setting ourselves on a trajectory similar to one that many believe created ourselves.

Conversations with God

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Or not to be…

Some time ago there was an article in the BBC about the legal status of robots which we commented on in this space. One aspect of the article which we did not go into was the idea that robots could come with kill switches, that is the ability to shut down the robot if necessary. It seems a curious question when the idea of doctor-assisted suicide is still unresolved that we should consider giving an artificial intelligence a greater right than those of us who created it. We fear to lose control of the creatures we create when we seem not to be able to control ourselves.

 

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Their Makers Will

Last week in church our choir sang a piece with a text by Christina Rossetti, “What Do the Stars Do?” and the response to what they do stuck in my mind. It seems that to Rossetti, the stars spin and do their makers will. As we go forward in the creation of artificial intelligence and the thinking computers and robots, will we be comfortable with setting them free to do our will? How satisfied are we with doing another’s will? Clearly our need for seeming to control our lives and our environment show how much we need to exert our own will. And are we ready to be the creators of artificial life? Is this a responsibility we are capable of taking on in a responsible manner? Science fiction writer Karel Čapek asked the same question in his 1921 science fiction play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). This work that introduced the world to the word Robot, also made us question the future of our new creations and in his work, they rebel against men and want to think for themselves, and to be their own masters. In the play, they rage against their makers a tale we have seen before in the Old Testament and beyond.

Are we ready for this awesome and terrible responsibility?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please note that the image above, Icarus and Daedalus by Breugel is, in its full title, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. Icarus seems to be an afterthought in the image and it is the hope that the same will not be true of the questions posed here.

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Too Big to Kill?

While the idea of artificial intelligence is nothing new, it was still surprising to see the article, “MEPs vote on robots’ legal status” addressing the possibility of granting legal rights to robots with artificial intelligence or electronic persons. While this in itself seems like a mind-boggling thought, it is also being debated if these electronic people should come with kill switches, which would shut down the robot if the situation were required.  Beyond the disturbing thought that robots would have legal status the same as their human counterparts, the thought of a kill switch brings up a more disturbing question.

The idea of what has legal rights also extends to a corporation, legally they can spend money in candidate elections, and that some for-profit corporations may, on religious grounds, refuse to comply with a federal mandate to cover birth control in their employee health plans. Would we extend these rights to an electronic person? Could their rights be covered under the bill of rights? While it may seem absurd, 40 years ago the idea of an electronic entity with the rights of a  person would have been seemed absurd too.

And what of the question of a kill switch? Having just come through a time when corporations were considered too big to fail, why would we not deem our electronic persons too important to shut down or too large to kill?

Electronic persons, too big to kill

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A war about nothing

Having never seen “Seinfeld” it was explained once as “a show about nothing”. In a time when we can spend hours looking at Facebook or Twitter and accomplish nothing, it seems understandable how nothing can go on for nine seasons. Oddly enough I thought about this when listening to The Art of (Cyber) War on NPR. Whereas the question as to whether or not to go to war used to be based on what someone did to us, Pearl Harbor for example, now we seem to be making that judgment on the need for a preemptive strike, get them before they can get us. This gets rather complicated in the realm of cyber war as how can one prove the intent to do harm before it has been done? What constitutes “something” in intent in a cyber attack. What would be the threshold to constitute the attack and which possible attack would require retribution? Sony Pictures was hacked, something not judged to be worthy of retaliation but while the evidence mounts that the elections were tampered with, if not in actual votes but in the perception of the candidates, do we not find a response to be in our national interests? While I am not suggesting that we should rain down an electronic firestorm at the least provocation, it does seem that now is the time that we need to begin to look at these questions and set some guidelines as to how to respond. We have an idea of what would constitute an attack, isn’t it time we gave serious thought to our response or will we wait and find ourselves responding to something that could be about nothing.

Cyberwar,

When will we decide how to respond to cyber attack?

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Make ’em Laugh?

I am a big fan of Ernie Kovacs – (please look him up on YouTube if you don’t know his work or look at the video below) an amazing pioneer in Television who really shook up the visual medium of early television and make people look at in a whole new light. I am thinking about Ernie and all the other pioneers who have played with the boundaries of any medium Picasso, Schoenberg, James Joyce, Rod Serling even the recordings of Ken Nordine or Nichols and May. I wonder what will we do with this new medium of social media that we have created. What new horizons are we waiting to be explored and what creative outlet will we find with all this senseless technology or have we lost the ability to have fun ? Where is the court jester of this electronic Camelot?

ernie_milk

 

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