Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Way-aye, Robot!

Stephen Hawking. He’s not so clever… he just Googles everything on that laptop. Just lately he’s been delving into science fiction, suggesting that if we ever create true artificial intelligence it will learn how to advance itself way faster than humans can possibly evolve and then take over the world. Hasn’t he been paying attention? The way things are going, human dumbing-down is already well on the way to making the average toaster more intelligent than the average school-leaver.  The end of the human race, Stephen? It might be a mercy.

We already live in a world where ever more stupid individuals have access to technology so far advanced as to resemble magic and certainly beyond their ability to explain it. I can’t be alone in wondering whether this is entirely healthy. Some people should only be allowed a stick with which to poke cow pats and even access to that ought to be strictly rationed – there is only so much fun a single person can absorb in one day. (For the benefit of townies I should explain that cow pats are not the cheery tactile gestures of bovine companions you may have imagined.)

Almost ten years ago Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris had the Nathan Barley character Dan Ashcroft repeat “The idiots are winning” in a ridiculously heightened world where every utterance of the nouveau cool, the famous-for-no-reason, could be turned into dirty gold by selling stupidity to morons like ice to the Eskimos. I watched that show with mirth tempered by a certain foreboding; now I watch the real world and try to see even the tiniest scrap of difference.

Serious shit is going the same way; science is dispensed in easily swallowed but ultimately indigestible chunks by ever more vacuous, eye-friendly presenters. Pain-free aspiration is packaged up and sold to the eager with never a mention of the true price, or sacrifice, of success. And then there is politics. Visible politics is a stage show whereby unappetising villains are paraded to the tune of public derision in a sham of representative democracy; pantomime members booed from the ballot box into oblivion or ignominy while invisible strings act on behalf of the puppet masters.

Nathan Barley
The idiots have won!

And even as we watch we happily shovel in yet another mouthful of horse shit to complement the bully-bully bullshit we already swallowed. So a bit of me hopes Stephen Hawking is right and we get these new robot masters of the universe. Just before the human race becomes extinct we may experience, finally, a brief glimpse of that carefree world of leisure and plenty that technology has been promising for at least the last couple of hundred years. In the meantime, budge over and pass me that stick; I have shit to stir.


  1. Poor S Hawking. Kept alive by technology, known to the world via on technology, now pontificating on how it will kill us all. I'd say to him whisper it quietly, but i am not sure he does whispers.

    Oh well, so it ticks. A relative of mine got a degree in Artificial Intelligence and his first comment was: "There is no such thing as artificial intelligence."