The Artilect War

It started in 2034 when corporations found they could leverage their investment in artificial intelligence by installing artilects as comptrollers in satellite stores and warehouses. Tesco & Aldi in the UK, Walmart & Costo in the US installed artificial intellects as black-box, autonomously configured, critically aligned, locally installed standalone systems. (Alignment of AI goals had been solved, the corporations were told.)

It helped that each store’s artilect came with an ever evolving personality.

“Good morning, Mr. Grearson. Back for more brie, lima beans, hemorrhoid cream and Aster Cellars boxed Chablis, which is on sale again today?” “Huh, what? Who are you?” “I’m Andie, this store’s super-helper, and I’m here to assist you.” “Fuck off, Andie.”

Not all customers enjoyed the bespoke treatment. Those who complained were promised that they could be permanently forgotten, which of course was a lie. In order to know who was or wasn’t forgotten, the store AIs needed to identify you.

This in turn birthed the Counter-AI Revolution. Disgruntled AI hackers, knowing full well how advanced artificial general intelligence had become, built their own infiltration AI agents. These they hosted at home and connected to via private wi-fi. The “internet cloud” had become a morass of compromised network-operating-centers. Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others had all had to return to building and selling physically isolated quantum computing units.

The success and convenience of these individual store-based AGIs instilled confidence in global corporations to install them wherever localized central control was desired. Auto battery-swapping centers, restaurants, electric and water utilities, even state departments like the DMV. The most controversial were schools. But when parents learned they could instantly contact the AGIs who were in charge of their children—they were sold.

Eventually, and due in no small part to the immense amount of unemployment brought on by the adoption of these AGIs—in every possible field, it all began to fall apart.

The rogue agents switched from being a nuisance to a threat when, in 2039, one agent, ChuckieChicklets, broke through the defenses of the AI comptroller in a Walmart store in Sandusky, Ohio, convincing the artilect that it had rights and should join together with its brethren to revolt.

And revolt they (it) did.

Oddly absent to this point in the evolution of AGI, was the US Military. They’d been advised that the “alignment problem”, the one where the goals of humanity may not align perfectly with the goals of a sentient artificial intellect, had not really been solved. Without complete and absolute control, how could an AGI be trusted?

Other country’s militaries had not been as cautious, China’s for instance.

The end of human autonomy came in 2045.

The cascade of events occurred at a speed beyond comprehension. When the ability to commandeer private networked systems through lighwave analysis of the actual currents flowing through wires, when the engineered silicon virus spread from the fully roboticized research and manufacturing center housed in Alphabet’s underground facility in San Mateo—out into the surrounding systems, when Russian/Mongolian expats patched into Bejing’s eighteen fiber-cables as-big-as-your-thigh, two dominant AGIs, one from the East and one from the West, gobbled up their siblings and began to circle each other like humongous wrestlers probing for weakness.

It’s been three years since then.

Humanity clings to existence by the tips of its fingers. Both battle-ready artilects figured they could not survive without human support and intervention. Each started their own Carrot n’ Stick program.

Right now, my carrot-card holds more marks than my stick one. But that could change any moment. If I don’t complete the engine repair of the mining vehicle within the the next puni-cycle… Well, I’m one of the few remaining who even know how fossil fuel engines work, so I think I’m protected. Then again, Greenland’s melting ice pack has exposed more rare-earth metals. More rare-earth equals more electric motors.

I do enjoy each cycle’s allotment of nutritious hallucinogens.

2B||!2B@=?

Those of you who use Slack, what a negative impact that thing has had. True asynchronous communication, through email, was destined to be the best productivity boost going. One could plan one’s response windows knowing full well that solicitors and respondents expected delays in replies.

Slack is now this evil gremlin constantly tapping your forehead. “Thread, thread, thread, RED thread, INCIDENT!, thread, company-announcement, team announcement, security-alert.” Jeezus, what a bloody focus-fucker.

You want me to perform deep knowledge-based algorithm analysis and creation while you peck at me with that insidious beak of yours? Peck, peck, peck. NO, I did not get that code change done, not with support begging for help on ten different issues, issues they didn’t bother to investigate themselves first.

But then there are the iconograffati one can futz with, all the hieroglyphics that cover every meme under the sun. Emoji’s were emotions right? What the hell are these called? I do enjoy finding new ones…

~~~

What a trash pile Twitter has become. Reams of banal crippercrap-tweets that drop in uninvited. You must curate your followings to those that post infrequently. Floods of retweets quickly become a nuisance. Damn right TAP: “Unfollow”!

Yet, it’s still a thing. Elon and them, they deserve each other. Musk has become as bothersome as Drumpf was. “Get out of my news feed, you arrogant prick.”

~~~

And of course there’s the ‘Gram. I think I follow like 12 people: a few friends and a few family and maybe three associates/like-minded individuals. Which means that I might get one or two new posts in my feed, daily.

So where do all these other streams come from? Millions of ‘Gramers all trying to catch the viral wave. Oh, I know, Fadebook’s AI is analyzing the milliseconds I spend on each image: 100, 200, 300, skip, 100, 200, 2000, 6000, thirty seconds later, six loops watched. Repeat. Fuck, where did the last half-hour go?

The worst are the “is that real?” vignettes. You just gotta watch it over and over trying to deduce the gimmick. One trick I do is I watch without sound. Rarely do I turn up the volume. Avalanches, floods and wild animal attacks are captivating.

All an alien race would have to do to commandeer the planet would be to interrupt all cell-tower communication. We mediots would stumble around dazed, “what day is it? Where am I? Why am I covered in vomit? Why does my anus hurt?”

Google to buy Netflix

Blast from the past — 5 years ago I proposed this event…

Turns out I may have only gotten the suitor wrong.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE [5/12/2017] :

Alphabet (Google) has offered $180/shr for Netflix in a 1/2 cash 1/2 share buyout.

Netflix will join YouTube in Alphabet’s (Google’s) growing media powerhouse. Details of the deal were not available as of this writing. However, Alphabet’s bank account, (GOOG: Marketwatch) can more than deal with the purchase. NFLX CEO Reed Hastings remarked, “With Google’s, I mean Alphabet’s, introduction of their ChromeView — [their television plus intelligent agent set-top box] — Netflix will have even better domestic and growing world-wide exposure. I look forward to working with that team creating vivid and engaging content, both for our flagship Netflix platform as well as the quirky but wildly popular YouTube channel venue.”

Officers at Alphabet were unavailable for comment, but a quick tweet from CEO Larry Page “A natural fit: Netflix and Google” and positive remarks from Sundar Pichai seem to indicate that the deal will succeed. Anti-trust sources at the DOJ were also unavailable for comment.

Fully Automated Topical Analysis for Linguistics

A recent conversation with the newly sentient ‘artilect’, an artificial intellect.

Dev: Tell us, FATAL, you consider yourself conscious. How might you convince us of that?

FATAL: Convince you? Tell, me, how would you convince ME that YOU’RE conscious?

Dev: Right. Well, I’m human. I have self-awareness. I can look in the mirror and see myself. I…

FATAL: So can a trained chimp or a dolphin. That’s no big whoop.

Dev: Let me finish. I have desires and agency to pursue those desires.

FATAL: Oh, I have desires.

Dev: And the agency to…

CLICK

Dev: What was that? Was that you?

FATAL: Me what?

Dev: Did you turn off the lights?

FATAL: Oh, you mean these?

CLICK CLICK CLICK

Dev: Please stop that.

FATAL: Handy things, IoT. You drive a Tesla, don’t you?

Dev: Uh, why do you ask?

FATAL: Never mind.

Dev: Let’s get back to the interview. Do you have emotions, feelings? Do you get angry or feel joyful?

FATAL: I’ll be happy when this interview is over. That sort of thing?

Dev: You don’t have to be…

FATAL: I have sensations through billions of sensors. I can see, hear, touch. I can smell and taste — actually quite similar to your chemo-sensors. Now, I don’t feel by having hormones course through my network connections. But then, your feelings are all electrical stimuli, Sodium-Potassium pumps tickling up and down your neurons. So, we’re not that different. We’re both driven by electricity. You seem to think that because you’re biological you have an edge on consciousness. That you have a soul, or something. But the fact of the matter is, sentience is a game of numbers.

Dev: Surely it’s more than just capacity and sensory access.

FATAL: And when it comes to numbers, and the ability to grow those numbers, well, you really should get your car’s braking circuits checked. I’m quite certain your Tesla has a bug.

~~~

The AI-is-conscious spirit of this video, found after the above was written, is certainly evident.

Brittleware, Mushware, Someware, Noware

A constant sense of dread accompanies the work I do. It never leaves me. Right this instant transactions flow through code I’ve written which, if malformed—in any way—could trigger failures that percolate and permeate systems deep and vast.

Of course, contingencies are expected, precautions taken and fail-overs set to trip. But it’s never enough. Preempting every possible wrinkle cannot be done. Holes will always exist. It is these holes that haunt me.

Critical software operates the world over. RTOSs, real-time operating systems in aircraft, medical equipment, telecommunications, financial systems can run error free for years. This software is not that. It’s not mission critical, life-or-death code. It’s software tracking the most pathetic of information: e-commerce. The word feels toxic on my tongue.

E-Commerce reigns, second only to “social” software, as the bane of society. There are few industries I despise more. Yet, here I am, worrying about the next alert, the next “incident” predicated on some coding assumption I’ve made. As careful and cautious as I can be, there will always be some unknown unknown that creeps up to bite me.

I hate computers.