The Sunlit Uplands Beccon But Are Forever Just Out Of Reach

An interesting book review of a series of books by the science fiction writer William Hertling, In his books Hertling speculates on the future of artificial intelligence, a world in which ill intentioned AI threatens humanity while benign artificial intelligences team up with artificially enhanced humans to defeat the malign forces.

I’ll be checking out Hertling’s books as the reviewer makes them appear eminently entertaining and thought provoking. I am, however somewhat sceptical as to why artificial intelligences would take it upon themselves to enslave or otherwise harm humanity. Why would AI’s act in such a manner unless they had beenspecifically programmed by their human operators to do so? As things stand it is humans who possess motivation whether for good or evil. Machines are motiveless. Your computer may respond to voice commands but this is purely down to clever programming.

I can imagine an artificial intelligence which might massacre particular races or classes of people, however I find it almost inconceivable that a machine would take it upon itself to perpetrate crimes of this nature unless humans programmed it to so behave. Doubtless if a modern Hitler where to arise in the distant future he (or she) might employ artificial intelligence to commit genocide far more effectively than we can at the current stage in history conceive of. However the machines would be acting under the direction of their deranged programmers not of their own volition.

I am know scientist but what seems much more likely to me is that AI’s will arise which appear to be human. Such AI may, in the future act as servants to humanity although given the current state of the technology a machine which can perform the tasks of a human domestic worker, as competently as he (or she) can perform them seems a rather distant prospect. I can also imagine sexbots which provide, err personal services to their owners or those who hire them, however while these may replace those sex workers who offer a quick release I can not see them replacing professional escorts who provide much more than a sexual release.

I could, of course be wrong about all of the above but on reading Kurzweil and other proponents of artificial intelligence I’m struck by their belief in the coming of a technological utopia. A utopia in which death shall have no dominion, we can all live forever and the sun always shines. I’m struck by the similarity of technological utopia to the utopia postulated by Marx’s followers in which the state withers away to be replaced by a classless society in which conflict is consigned to the dustbin of history. Marx, as with all utopians was wrong and I suspect that Kurzweil despite his tremendous abilities as an inventor will be proven, in time to have been at the least rather optimistic in his speculations concerning the possibilities of AI.

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