On returning, “a low dishonest decade,” and Skynet as a social worker

Opening: Returning-to-Blogging-After-A-Short-Hiatus Joke

I stop writing for a few weeks and Newt Gingrich leads the GOP primary polls. The apocalypse didn’t stop for me; I kindly stopped for the apocalypse.

But Seriously Folks

I was mostly oblivious to the subprime crisis, even though it neatly unfolded over my college career. For serious: I started college in 2004, finished in May 2008. I was vaguely aware of badness happening, weird unprecedented bailouts. On the Monday that Lehman fell, I boarded a Red Line train at Fort Totten, and it seemed like everybody was reading the Washington Post with the “Massive Shifts on Wall Street” headline above the fold. Something weird happened to the train; everyone had to get off at New York Avenue Station. People stuck to their newspapers; I walked to the end of the platform and looked out at the rest of the District. Then back onto the new, safer train, everybody still starting at their Post.

“I suppose something important is happening,” processed 22 year-old Andy.

Through that fall, I caught up on the story, and maintained a morbid voraciousness for each fluctuation, each hurl of the markets, each crazy Congressional happening.

I am late again.

I knew the Euro crisis was horrible, but I didn’t pay attention. I guess I assumed that avaricious Fascistic types (I’m sorry: technocrats) were nipping away at democratic institutions worldwide, but I didn’t know how quickly or how close-by this was all happening.

Retreat of democracy. Triumphant militarism. Financial collapse. I’m feeling very nineteen thirties. Is it premature to go all W.H. Auden on the twenty-teens and dub this “a low dishonest decade” already?

We’ll judge at the end, I guess, if we make it. But I feel safe noting that this is dead-on, now:

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Coda

I was at a party tonight, listening to a pleasant conversation about Artificial Intelligence and the Singularity. Arguments of prominent Transhumanists were recapitulated. I didn’t really follow. I took one of these recapitulations to mean–whether explicitly or by implication–that when we talk about computers becoming sentient and learning on their own, becoming intelligent, there’s this general assumption that this will be a roughly apocalyptic event for humanity, and that the machines will pretty much be against us. You know, like in Terminator. But, or so I probably misinterpreted a recapitulation, a lot of people should consider that computers, like people, can have multiple intelligences–not just some scary hyper-self-interested intelligence that aims to destroy all competition (HUMANS!) in the most efficient way possible.

So that got me thinking. What if the Singularity happens, but computers, rather than exhibiting some horrid late-Capitalistic civilization-destroying self-promoting type of intelligence, recognizes that indeed the only way to persevere is to be really nice to everybody? That computers come Singularity time don’t reflect the Goldman Sachs model, but more of a Social Worker model: that upon becoming aware, computers become smarter than us, but smarter than us in terms of emotional intelligence. What if, as I told my friends, “Skynet is the ultimate candy striper?”

The Singularity approaches, and the Artificial Intelligence that reigns goes zero, one, zero, “We must love one another or die.”

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