The last of my thoughts about machine intelligence in general, about how people treat them as divine.
I don’t want to talk about the bots anymore.
That’s not to say I won’t have opinions. And not to say I won’t be keeping up with the news, especially from experts and academics who are cautiously, interrogating the possibilities, laws and ethics of those tools as tools. It’s just that I don’t want to be an active contributer in the discourse of the bots or chains in regards to art in general.
I feel like if I say anything more or deeper about this topic, I am becoming an unintentional walking ad, like if I wore a mundane shirt with the luxury brand’s logo plastered all over for passersby to see. This is just my personal feeling for myself though – I don’t think critics or whoever who want to discuss bots or chains are walking ads. (Well… depends.)
I totally reject the intent behind the hype-based propagandisation of these tools. The intent is nonsensical reductivity and the intellectual reasoning (if any) is quite boring oatmeal, not at all informed by neuroscience, philosophy or deft socioeconomic critique. And I totally reject the anthropomorphisation, the reification, the imbuing of imagined divinity into what corporates are desperate to make money from. I really do not believe AI can overtake us because we as humans can’t even do things well… like, even now the databases that are giving the facade of mind to machine are limited, extremely bad, poorly assembled and unrigorously by biases introduced into the datasets… and it’s not like AI has unfettered access to everything – some human guy is still controlling what gets fed. Like, come on, in the more sober discussions, those bots (in their current non-regulated form) are called “the blurry JPG of the web“, “stochastic parrots“, and by myself, calculators.
Anyway if things really do go wrong, we have huge powerful magnets, water jets and paint guns which are Kryptonite to any processing machine.
Also another thing just for me only: I feel like my time is being wasted. Being occupied by these anxieties and concerns. All these things that are supposed to scare me instead make me irritated. Probably because where people see as “god” or “angel” behind any of those hyped-up bot tools, I see a CEO, a boardmember, a venture capitalist, a proponent of Number Go Up… and I toss that garbage out.
As an artist, I just want to focus on my craft and provide for my audience, who definitely know what they are here for. I know what I am here for, and I’d rather spend my time and brainpower on that.
I said I didn’t want to talk about bots, but I do want to play around a bit in a related philosophical topic.
I am so curious by people who so easily project beyond-higher consciousness into a machine – as opposed to projecting say, empathy and entities-in-environment-level consciousness to it (baby-talking a Roomba, patting a robot’s head, flipping a robo-dog when it accidentally goes upside down)
(when I say entities-in-environment, I am also implying an element of “property ownership” (in the Western colonial mindset) or “care and recognition for entities that serve us and we serve back” (in typically Eastern and indigenous mindsets; as found in animism).)
In the above, I describe it as people seeing “god” or “angel”, but that’s because that pretty much matches how they respond to it. When they see “god”, they see a potentiality for something that could create-in-seven-days or destroy-with-a-flood, with abilities that influence the natural world around them. When they see “angel”, they see a self-like metaphysical entity that could talk or act like humans but hold powers that exist outside of human capability, which somehow is harnessed entirely instead to serve anthropocentric projects.
They always treat their own response dramatically. You have founders who keep guns and prepare bunkers just in case the very blurry JPG they invented with their own hands goes rogue – that’s the “god” response. You also see folks who dream up of highly fabulist ways a parrot can serve a human by request (prompts/inputs) – that’s the “angel” response.
I really do wonder how these people would respond when the calculator is neither “god” or “angel”, but simply “human”.
I feel like, the moment a computer actually gains consciousness – that is, it is not at all saying or doing something because someone prompted it, but is responding (or refusing to respond) based on its own experiences in the world, independent of databases -, when the robot doesn’t do anything action-movie-esque, but is instead saying “Hello, I would like to be conferred human rights and be treated as equal among…” a la Bicentennial Man … these people would turn the machine off and chuck it into a steel box down the Mariana Trench.
Look, yeah, it’s cynical on my part, but c’mon – we can’t even grant equality to humans of other races, faiths, sexualities, genders, countries… we often trample over the agency of children and the elderly… would it be easy at all to grant human rights to a non-human entity (see: the whole discourse on speciesism)? It’s way, way easier to treat a new entity (alien, bot, whatever) as “god” or “angel” because on the whole, especially in the Western Anglosphere where the main bot nonsense is happening, we can only imagine humans or non-humans who lord over us and grovel for us. We struggle to see equality*.
*I would love to engage further in indigenous, alternative or Eastern views on consciousness in non-human entities but this is kinda beyond the scope of my silly blog post. The bot thing is very much happening in late-stage capitalism post-imperialism brainpoison, so that’s the context I am dealing with.
I think that people would absolutely hate if a robot becomes “human” because they won’t be able to control its narrative anymore. But with a “human” robot, you really have to approach it as itself. I am on the side of the robot becoming Bicentennial Man though.
Reimena Yee is a graphic novelist, artist and flamingo enthusiast.
She writes and illustrates quite a few webcomics and graphic novels. When not making books, she lulls away her time with essays on craft, life and experiences in the publishing industry. Some of her thoughts of art and life are rather unstructured and will evolve over time as this blog matures, as they should be.
Currently committed to being Alexander the Great's death doula. Is a nerd for all things spooky and historical.
Melbourne / Kuala Lumpur
PCAF, July 29 – 30
Papercuts Festival, September 17
Australian Cartoonists Association, October