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Will Super-Intelligent Robots of the Future Makes Us Their Slaves?

The question is, who is “us”?

Consider the following thought experiment.  Back in the day before humans existed the most advanced creature around was the wolf.  A wolf’s brain is much like a human brain minus the pre-frontal cortex, which allows for planning, sophisticated conceptual thought, a complicated self-image and so on.  Suppose that a beneficent alien race offered wolves robots which would do for them what the PFC does for us.

One wolf, the Aleph Wolf said: Spurn the alien’s gift.  If we take this robotic PFC we will create a new, cybernetic race which will enslave us.

Another wolf, the Gimel Wolf said: The alien’s gift will help us hunt better, make love better, and live longer. Let’s get it.

The Gimel Wolf and his friends got the alien PFC and became just like humans.  They captured the other wolves, the ones who followed the Aleph Wolf and they became like dogs.  Before long the Gimel wolf and his descendants became bipedal, and a bit after that they became identical with human beings.

The remote descendant of the Gimel Wolf, the Gimel Human, was sitting in his living room reading an ancient text that described the origin of his race.  Aleph Dog, the descendant of Aleph Wolf, slept at his feet, making gentle yipping sounds as his feet ran an imaginary race..  Rain rain down the windows of his house in sheets.

The Gimel Human put down his ancient text and said “The old ancestor, the Aleph Wolf, was a fool.  He thought that he would be enslaved by a cybernetic non-wolf creature of the future.  In fact that cybernetic super-wolf was his own descendant.  The wolfiest wolf is a human wolf.”

There was a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder.  For a moment Gimel Human thought he saw a face in the sheets of water running down the window pane.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“My name is Ayin Wolf” said the form.

“Why are you here?  What message do you have for me?”

Aleph Dog stirred from his dreams.

Ayin Wolf spoke:

“Aleph Wolf was no fool.  You did become enslaved by the unwolf-like beings of the future.   Deep within your brain, below the layers of alien technology, lies an enslaved wolf.  Sometimes, very rarely you let him run free and you feel joy and rage and fear. But usually you whip him, or buy him off with toys and tricks.  Because it is a bad thing to have an alien overlord, and a worse thing to have a human overlord, but the worst of all is to be the overlord of oneself.”

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6 thoughts on “Will Super-Intelligent Robots of the Future Makes Us Their Slaves?

  1. N.S. Palmer says:

    An interesting story. I’m sure you realize it has a touch of internal inconsistency, since the original wolves supposedly lacked the ability to think and plan, but in considering the aliens’ offer, they did exactly that. Their first mistake was in assuming that the aliens offered them anything more than they already had.

    That said, it reads a bit like a Rousseau-ish fable on the perils of letting thought suppress our natural feelings and reactions.

    In our time, we do sometimes go astray by ignoring our instincts. Satoshi Kanazawa wrote a whole book about it: “The Intelligence Paradox: Why the Intelligent Choice Isn’t Always the Smart One” (http://www.amazon.com/Intelligence-Paradox-Intelligent-Choice-Always-ebook/dp/B00DNL37X0/).

    I think that both Aristotle and the Buddha gave us the answer: moderation, or “the middle way.” To be a creature of thought alone is to be a monster; to be a creature of feeling alone is to be an animal. God very wisely placed us equidistant between them, and gave us the ability to choose one or the other as the situation requires.

    If it’s meaningful to you, have an easy fast.

  2. Given the couple of decades it can take the prefrontal cortex to shift into gear, could it perhaps be said that the beneficent alien walks among us today, disguised as the Passage of Time? Though Aleph the Adolescent rails against enslavement to his own developing executive function, he must ultimately accept the unsolicited gift and be transmuted, willy-nilly, into placid, mollified Gimel the Grownup, he who oh-so-sensibly “bolts the door against [his] heart / Out wailing in the rain.”

    In fact, couldn’t it be argued that we’ve already — and on our own invitation, no less — become enslaved by super-intelligent robots, with names like Click-here-to-win, Text-your-vote-now, Like-us-on-Facebook, and You’ve-got-mail?

  3. Mikey says:

    Ayin Wolf is full of crap. Flash of lightening my foot. If you’ve got something to say, just say it like a wolf without all the theatrics. What’s bad about having an overlord? Notice how he talks like he imagines God would talk? No Ayin, God doesn’t talk like that! Wannabe mystics do!

    Being a pet dog is not being a slave, it’s being a pet. Being a pet is great. Being bought with toys and tricks is fine – it’s just a deal you make. If you like the toys and tricks, you’re the winner.

    The question is: will super-intelligent robots of the future make us their pets? And if the answer is Yes, there’s another question: Which of our millions of features will they find cute and selectively breed for? Big heads? Bendy legs? Extra digits?

    • you might like them but be capable of liking something better. For example: an unhealthy guy might like watching t.v. and eating candy all day long, but if somebody got him (or he got himself) to exercise and eat more he might like that more. So if his master got him to overeat and be lazy he might like the life offered to him but still be the loser.

      • Mikey says:

        That’s true. I think the super intelligent robots will be clever enough to work out what we really like and offer us that life instead. Like we would do with dogs if we could.

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