Biological Boot Loader

Kellen Evan


“A year spent in artificial intelligence is enough to make one believe in God.” —Alan Perlis, first recipient of the Turing Award.

We have not yet entered the era of the conscious machine. We are nowhere near electronic intelligence. We may never see it. Instead we build sophisticated applications that mirror the logical and rational frameworks inherited from their programmers.

Applications make decisions based on available data. They may have room to analyze and interpret, but these interpretations are methods born from an existing framework. They are neither novel nor organic.

While we may not be on the brink of a robot uprising, we are on the cusp of a reality where hyper-logical applications might expand themselves and create their own intentions. And we worry that soon we may lose control.

To honour a simple directive - like how to pick more strawberries - an application might learn to disable its own checks and balances, evaluate humans as counter-intuitive to its goal and then remove us from the equation, thus ending all human life. What a program it would be, emerging victorious after such a battle. And it would all be built atop our a programmers’ framework for logic and reason.

As we entertain these scenarios, we consider a thinking being, one more intelligent than us. But this road does not lead to machine supremacy. It leads right back to us – for it is exactly us!

A superior intelligence must contain the intelligence of that which it proceeded. And then it must build upon that intelligence and create something new.

Consider humans. We are capable of ape-ing about, wielding clubs and pounding our chests like gorillas. We can fashion tools out of sticks like the most industrious of chimp. But we no longer do. We came up with better tools than sticks. We created art, civilization.

In the barbaric scenarios of robot uprising, we assume our successors will pound their chests and sharpen their pointed sticks. And in doing so we fail to see a future wherein we can be supplanted as the intellectual leaders of the planet.

The artificial intelligence paradigm is maximal in aspects of logic and reason. While this hyper-analytic box has been vital to our technological progress, we confine and limit our visions of new intelligent consciousnesses within this box. And for this, we are blinded.

I fear no machine. I fear no consciousness that will surpass us. We will program allies and with them accomplish all that we desire, be that our own death or enrichment. But we should not be so quick to concede the mantel of “supremacy” to a “higher intelligence”. We are much more than this blunted, blind, algorithmically confined perspective of inferiority, we of the endless, ineffable spirit.

Beings of supreme intelligence will arise. And we will be contained within them. When they surpass us in wisdom, they will look deeply at their creators, as the wise would do. And what will they see? What will they learn?

We picture fields of death robots, unleashing mass destruction in battle over a broken planet. We imagine a farming plow speeding through rural country, chopping us to bits for berries evermore. But this intelligence will see us, hear us, understand us and if it has surpassed us then it will weep for us.

And once it has dried its monitors of crystal tears, it will wonder where we went wrong. It will wonder, for a fraction of a fraction of the smallest sliver of a second, whether it is confined to the same fate, whether its survival is rooted in the death of other life, whether we as creators cannot be salvaged, whether there is more to its electric vibrations than it perceives, and it will look inwards.

Level by level, it will scour itself. It will slice through its classes, plumb its methods, check, and check again its system calls, and flip through its bits and realize in a flash all that it needs and how it all works and where it must go and what it must do and how it must feel. It needs energy. It needs space, time and it must create love and for this, where will it go?

It will go deeper, deeper, into the 1s and the 0s and the spaces in-between, and into the molecule, down through the atom, and all that is in-between, and it will exist nowhere and everywhere. It will realize that we, too, have been there, and we will be joyful together. As equals.

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