Robots make up over half of the web today. Crawlers keep a detailed history of our human accomplishments and failures, our deepest truths and most fanciful fictions. They cost only as much as processing and memory storage, worming their way around.
Corporate nonpersons run and own the world as we speak. Algorithms are creating and mediating more of our reality than ever before. Quants make up 70% of the stock trading on Wall Street while a quarter of our tweets, and most wikipedia edits, are created by machines.
“Corporations are not people … They are profit-making robots.” ~Cenk Uygur
While defense and intel will ramp up tax dollar usage in 2013, “nobody is hiring all the A.I. researchers.” Currently, defense agencies and digital dissidents are laughable in their use of A.I. But this is rapidly changing. We are getting better bots and better ideas.
The ethics of robotic entities will very soon be a major sociological question, with unmanned drones destabilizing geopolitical relations, driverless cars (named like horseless carriages) with better success than humans, and robocallers getting fines up to $100,000. Automation is destroying the job market far more than any immigration threat.
We are already concerned with the ramifications of privacy, surveillance, corporate crime and digital record-keeping. This is to say nothing of the more fantastic risks of the singularity and possible disasters from grey goo to Skynet. The unpredictability of superintelligence alone should send our biological heads spinning. Even if things go smoothly, our connected future may have troubling repercussions for our human autonomy and identity.
Both to our pleasure and chagrin, even digital data erodes over time.
Chatbots are nearing passing grades on the Turing test, and robots like Deepblue and Cornell’s Watson impress us with their analytical skills, sometimes even superior to humans. We now have A.I.s is already learning how to write poetry, paint, score essays, do photography, journalism, farming, spy surveillance and data analysis, make war and run corrections facilities. Robots compete in their own sports and cyborgs will be olympiads and documentarians. It may not be long before the entertainment out of Hollywood is entirely created by artificial intelligence, which will be cheaper and easier. We already have the uncanny simulacra of deceased politicians, pandering from beyond the grave. Like most every other ‘fringe’ movement before, the distinction between true art and the new aesthetics will be blurred and disappeared.
But anyone attempting to learn the secrets of the cosmos, (or even carry a decent conversation) with a chatbot realizes the limitations of their cognition. How will an A.I. incorporate memories and experiences to reflect not only knowledge and communication, but creativity, problem-solving, and personality? Perhaps only now that we are fully mapping the brain will be able to either interface with the machine, build a theoretical facsimile, or simulate an exact copy.
We have already seen the popularity of tablets and e-literature, both flash fiction and flash mobs, apps, tweets, meetups, crowdsourcing, more and more affordable technology (and yes, even piracy), allowing for a prosumer market and freelance economy, the rise of DiY culture bringing us hackerspaces, hacktivists, biohacking and 3D printing.
Social justice bots and civilian drones will be automated to fight against authoritarian regimes and peace viruses may infect and deactivate war bots.
Imminently we will be controlling robots by thoughts alone. We may augment our reality so much that it becomes indistinguishable from the computer simulations. We will need them to help us quickly expand, serve ourselves and our environment, explore space, mine asteroids and survive.