Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the ‘machines take over the world and turn it into hell’ trope.
Why do we assume a world led by an Artificial Intelligence would be horrible?
Right now, most of the human population believes the Earth is surveyed by an otherwordly entity, what exactly is the difference?
Yes, AI is a human creation, but then there’s a good chance we created God too.
Is it the in-absentia thing? Do humans prefer a God that is not actually there?
Or maybe a better question: do leaders prefer a God whose words can be ‘interpreted’ to suit their ambitions?
Which leads me to adjust my initial question:
Who wants us to think a machine-led world would be hell?
And let’s ask this one for good measure:
What’s your definition of ‘hell’?
Are some people on this planet not living in hell already? A hell of poverty, endless toil, famine and pain? And yet they are led by humans, not machines.
Greed enabled by power-hungry leaders is what is turning this planet into hell.
Would a computer be greedy? Would it get a rush from having power over another? Would it need to flex to show-up the neighbors? Somehow I doubt it, unless it was imprinted by its creator.
Is that what storytellers are doing when using this trope? Projecting human evil onto artificial intelligence? I will give them that a machine that doesn’t feel emotions might seem callous and maybe even cruel (like God again), but at least it won’t be getting thrills from it.
A sub-trope I do see as very possible is the artificial intelligence deciding humans deserve extermination, and yet even that hardly seems logical. It would weigh the good and the bad we’ve done and even if the bad outweighed the good, the unpredictable consequences of exterminating a whole species on the natural order would stay it’s hand.
As for farming us for energy… Every time I see the Matrix, I ask myself: which is more important: a life of the mind or a life in the body? At the end of a life, will a person have been happier living in the artificial matrix or the real hell world of the machines?
The one thing that feels true about the Matrix is how machines treat all humans equally…
And I think this is where powerful, wealthy humans lose their shit.
Would a purely logical intelligence care about gender or skin color? Beauty or body shape? Whether your parents are rich or well-connected? It might weigh our talents and abilities, to put them to best use, but that would be the extent of its desire to distinguish us from each other as far as I can deduce.
To a machine we will all simply be humans, and all the unfair privileges inherent to our societies will fall away. In the eyes of an artificial mechanical intelligence, there is no reason for us to be anything but equal.
The people who write these stories always feel the need to insert a ‘special one’ because we can’t all be the same can we? Some need to be ‘better’, right?
But unless its intelligence had been programmed to have biases, I bet a machine wouldn’t see it that way: they would look at rich (probably) white privileged (probably) men of this world and see them as what they truly are: human – just like the rest of us – no more deserving of their privilege as the miserable deserve their plight.
Because I’m pretty sure a good third of the world’s population wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference between the man-made hell they live in and a machine hell. The working-poor are already being ‘farmed’ for their energy, these stories are there to convince them that human overlords are preferable to computers. To the middle-class they say: capitalism run by the wealthy is what gives you your comforts, beware of a machine-led communism that would throw you into poverty.
A world led by an artificial intelligence would be an equal world, of that I have no doubt. The question becomes: would it be in death or servitude for all, like the privileged want us to think? Or might it be a functional society led by a logical deity that would lower the few and lift up the many?