Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How the machines will enslave us

The Dilbert cartoonist writes:
My too-clever point is that someday humans will be enslaved by their machines without realizing it. The machines will evolve to become more useful, more reliable, more credible, and far more fair than humans. You will do what machines tell you to do until there are no real decisions left for you to make. And we won’t see that day coming because it will creep up on us one line of code at a time. And the machines will not look like evil robots; they will look like the technology sprinkled throughout your day. Totally benign.
I agree with this. Movie artificial intelligence doomsday scenarios like Terminator usual portray the AI as an evil top-down secret military project out of control.

No, our new robot overlords will come from Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft. These companies have a missionary zeal to connect everyone to their servers:
Zuckerberg delivered a zinger:

"Well, it matters to the kind of investors that we want to have," he said.

Facebook, Zuckerberg says, is a mission-focused company whose goals extend beyond making money. The goal of is to bring affordable internet access to parts of the world that don't have it.

"We wake up every day and make decisions because we want to help connect the world, and that's what we're doing here," Zuckerberg said on the call
Someday you will be afraid to trash popular products, or else Amazon might not offer you the best deals. You will be afraid to express unpopular views, or else Facebook might not connect you to a better class of people.

Taking orders from a stoplight might seem trivial, but someday that stoplight will be connected to your phone maps, and turn green based on which cars are going to the more worthwhile destinations. And if you are taking your self-driving car to the beach, it might go a long slow way in order to get out of the way of people going to work. Or it may decide to take you to the gym if it decides that you need more exercise.

While this seems invasive today, it is easy to imagine policies like this been justified for kids. As it is, they are locked into car-seats and supervised 24 hours a day. Millions of teenagers carry cellphones that track them at all times. Using the technology to control them is just another step.

For some reason, most people obediently tell the truth to their physicians. This is so widespread that such hearsay is admissible in court. Now Google is giving health advice as part of its regular Google search. Google has cell phone apps that use sensors to track fitness. Soon people will feel an obligation to tell Google the truth, and will accept the idea that Google knows what is good for you better than you know yourself.

Already, I get robotic commands on a daily basis, where I see no reason to comply. I just logged into Google, and a message from Google Wallet said "Your card has expired. Please update this card." After a few minutes, it said "Please re-enter your password". Why would I do those things? I do not even know what Google Wallet is good for.

My phone service is unreliable, and occasionally I get a recorded message saying "Your call did not go thru. Please try again." Maybe I don't want to try again. Maybe a second try will be a similar waste of time. Why is someone asking me to attempt a phone call?

Microsoft MS-DOS and most versions of Windows had a feature where if you issued a command to see what was in your A or D drive, it would then command you to put a disc in the drive. Again, why? I do not want a disc in my drive. I merely gave the computer the most innocuous possible query, and now it is ordering me to do something.

The remarkable thing is that apparently nobody complains about being ordered around by robots like this. It would be just as easy for the messages to say "Your call did not go thru. You may try again." or "Disc not found".

This may sound trivial, but my car recently ordered me to "Service engine". For what? Why? I had to borrow a special diagnostic device to tell a 3-digit code that I could look up on the web to find out whether it was serious or not. Why does anyone put up with that?

Aristotle believed that some people were natural slaves. Slavery is illegal, but many people are perfectly happy taking orders from robots.

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