Sunday 14th February
-[Let me take you into a little secret. No, actually a big secret. You made several references to Hypercoms in your little journal. And that was how we let them be referred to. Hyper-computers – in that they were far faster and more reliable than humans, or than anything else which went before them. Hypercoms is rather a silly name in some ways, but it served a purpose, and really, what’s in a name anyway. Now, what you may not be aware of is that we have also created what was so imaginatively called in the last century, Artificial Intelligence. Our new computers are actually cleverer than humans. They do not make mistakes, or to be more precise, they actually learn from their mistakes.]-
That’s not really surprising. I did study Computer Science at Uni, I do know a little more about these things than you might think. Even back at the turn of the century they had computers that ‘learned’, but they don’t actually think. Not in the way people do, anyway.
-[Let me continue my argument please. Do you realise how many times a human baby puts one brick on top of another only to watch it fall down, before working out, eventually, that they must put at least half of it squarely on top of the base brick or it will fall down? Far too many, I am afraid, is the answer. Humans do get there. Eventually. Or some of the way, anyway. Now our new breed of Hypercoms gets there straight away, without the trial and error. You must be aware how much ‘cleverer’ the Hypercoms are than people, how they can solve the most complex of puzzles far faster than the human mind. Even the Ambivalence – mankind was flailing woefully, the Hyper-coms are coming up with solutions for us. By the time our scientists had worked it out, it would have truly been too late.]-
Tell me something I don’t know. All of this is nonsense. Computers do not think. They analyse and work through every possibility, but they aren’t capable of really thinking, of coming up with something new. And wow, big achievement; we have finally invented machines that work things out quicker than we do. They are still machines, they can’t feel, they don’t care. Anyway, what is this all leading to?
-[Let me extrapolate. So, as you almost agree, but are hesitating to admit, we have computers now which are so clever one hesitates to even call them computers anymore. And you have rightly lamented the state of affairs we are in, where all the interesting decisions are actually made by these very computers. Most human activity is at the very least monitored by, and subtly amended by computers. People no longer need to think about the big problems because we have machines to do that for us. So where does this leave us?
In our splendid new world humankind was faced with a new and dangerous dilemma. For the first time in our evolution we were faced with an intelligence greater than our own. Before that it was obvious even to cavemen that he was cleverer than the animals, and despite all the science fiction we still have discovered no life of any sort at all anywhere in the Universe, though who knows, we are still looking. So given that we now know that the Hypercoms are cleverer than us, what should we do? Carry on creating, or actually letting our computers create, better and better computers, take a back-seat, let the computers decide everything, sip our non-alcoholic Martini’s and watch the sunset. And not only on the horizon, but on mankind too, as an evolving species anyway. Where was any role for mankind if computers could do it better, and were evolving far quicker than us? These are the questions that were really facing the makers of this new world.]-
Well, I sort of saw that for myself. I may not have articulated it in quite the same way, but a lot of my dissatisfaction was that I felt people didn’t matter anymore, except as consumers. People as people didn’t seem to have a role anymore. And being a consumer is not a career; you die safe in the knowledge that you spent well, even though your life could actually have been better spent. Haha…I quite like that, should have put it on my journal somewhere. No chance of an edit, I suppose.
-[Unfortunately no. And can I please remind you of the seriousness of both your situation and this discussion. Flippancy may well be your way of dealing with that seriousness, but it is not getting us anywhere.
So, to resume; we were now in a dilemma, machines were smarter than us, but you may have assumed stupidly that we were happy with this state of affairs. You would have been wrong actually. We knew that the faster computers evolved the more they threatened our own evolution. In short, would mankind stop evolving if our machines had taken over that role from us? Of course in some ways the problem was made simpler by the fact that we couldn’t undo the technology; there was no way we could go back to an earlier time before computers, we were far too reliant on them anyway.
So, what was to be done? What could the future be for mankind, some sort of lotus-eaters with an army of computer servants answering our every whim; or would we sink into an animal state again, simply not thinking, if computers could do the thinking far better than we could. Or something else? Was there another choice, another evolutionary road we might travel?]-
Do you really think there is a solution? People are lazy, or so I have discovered. They always want to take the easy road. Given the choice inaction seems to win over action every time. Once the food problem is solved, people sink into some sort of stasis, some soporific state. They cease to care, they stop striving to improve themselves. You must know this. As your wonderful world has shown, take away the need to strive and people sleep their lives away. Once people have enough to eat, a home, and a few comforts they stop trying to make the world better. And then you lot with your Hypercoms can do what you like; which, incidentally, may have been the idea in the first place.
-[It isn’t quite like that Janek, as you well know. The system may seem uncaring, but caring for people is actually what it was created for. Every person in Gov and every Hypercom has the well-being of the human race as its main objective.
But in fact some of us were aware of the long-term consequences of mankind’s continuing reliance on computers. I am not sure if I should really tell you this, but wiser heads than mine have deemed it permissible to let you know. Personally, I did suggest a much longer period of debriefing, and interrogation, but I was overruled. I do have to ask you a question though Janek.]-
Go ahead, I’m all ears.