By Paul Koch –
Last taco Tuesday, I sat next to my buddy Tim at our usual spot. Televisions surrounded us above the bar and throughout the whole cantina. Almost all of them had some sort of sports on display from the LA Dodgers to the beginning of NFL training camps to just about anything you might find amusement in (even the terrible game of soccer). But every once and a while, a particular TV will stream the daily news that exists outside of the sports world as a sort of reprieve from the rest of the familiar storylines.
On this day, through the haze of sporting world updates, a news story caught our attention as we sipped on cocktails and ate chips and salsa. It was the story about the artificial intelligence computer programs that have begun to communicate with each other in a language that the human creators do not understand. Immediately our conversation turned to Cyberdyne Systems and the rise of the machines in the Terminator franchise. If the machines get smart, how long will it be until they are smarter than us? And then how long will it be until they realize they don’t need us?
Now, the typical response to this falls into two broad categories. On the one hand, you can sound the alarm of the coming robot apocalypse and speak against advances in technology with the seriousness of Dr. Ian Malcom and say, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Then, on the other hand, you can be one of those who says that such progress in artificial intelligence is good. It will only seek to better our lives on this planet. Perhaps such a creation of man can help up solve problems we have yet been able to solve, such as complex economic systems, food shortages, and cures for disease.
But as Tim and I talked about it, we settled on a third reaction to the possibility of our machines becoming self-aware. Over tacos, drinks, and an informal poll of the bartender, we figured that the rise of the machines would definitely be bad. It wouldn’t be a move toward peace and happiness but most likely spell the end of modern society. But instead of fearing it, instead of trying to convince others that this was a bad idea we figured that they should press forward, they should step it up and bring on the robot apocalypse—the sooner, the better.
Like a couple of giddy schoolgirls, we talked in excited tones about how we would arm ourselves, where the best place to make a stand would be, who would we need in our group and what would be necessary for survival. Things got serous as we discussed the need for clean water and the difficulties of movement if we could no longer trust the machines we created. Care for our families meant the need for others who would love and care for them as their own. There would undoubtedly be the need for a code of honor that would bind a group together, a way of living that is very different from our current one.
It became clear that the vision we were casting of an end times style battle between man and machine wasn’t horrific but beautiful. Would there be loss and destructing and death? Sure, but there would be brotherhood and community and honor as well. And somehow that longing for a community bound together by honor made the reality of pain and even death seem worth it.
Instead of a bunch of privileged, pearl-clutching whiners who complain about the latest operating system update on our iPhone while we bitch about some offending blog article while basking in the applause from our homogenized echo chamber of internet “friends,” we would need real friends who were sought out by what we held in common and not treated with contempt because of our disagreements.
So, I say, while we await the return of our Lord, let us speed towards Skynet becoming self-aware. Let us test the depth of our resolve and chose the hard thing as we find strength in the flesh and blood of those we walk along side of in this age. Bring on the robot apocalypse!