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Wake Up

I recently read an article in Time Magazine about a robot that tells jokes. So the research and development of artificial intelligence is alive and well. What I found intriguing was at the robot was able to learn how to use its preprogrammed material, based on the audience’s laughter. Innocuous, right? But it got me thinking.

 The whole Terminator or the Matrix level AI would be cool, but the problem of that is manifest within those movies. The AI, the machines, deal with us harshly. Although it’s sci-fi today, AI is going to happen. The machine will be able to learn. 

So, the real question is not how, if, or when it will happen, it’s:

Will it learn from us?

 We, as a species, are a nasty breed and we, as a country, have pioneered new ways of being nasty. Now I can’t control what China or France does. I can’t control what California or Delaware does. And I can’t control what my neighbors do either. Hell, I can barely control myself sometimes. But what I can do is make us all aware. Our past, our trajectory is going to land us in some real trouble soon.

 I previously wrote that a good measure of people is in how they deal with their “undesirables.” The enemy, infirm, criminal elements. The populace for one reason or another it’s an issue.

I think that it is a really good idea for every one of us to take a hard look at that. Now we have been taught by our elders and they, in turn, were taught by there’s and we will teach our next generation. It’s the way of things. But what are we teaching them? Are we really helping ourselves with all of our expedient solutions?

Immorality, as a people, is questionable. I see this as a victim of that morality and as a perpetrator of the same morality. It’s like a sickness that we all have, but are unaware of. I will try to define it, though I find it very difficult to explain clearly. In plain words, we are quick to throw away people, like our TVs or our shoes. We treat people as though they are disposable and not worth keeping around if they require effort.

 Our elderly are living in “homes.” Our troubled are imprisoned, our children are sent to daycares and preschools. As a society, we have willingly, some even eagerly, thrown out our human obligation to other humans. I’m no less guilty. No less than anyone else. But I refuse to do that anymore. Not because I am particularly “good,” but because I’m smart. I am not going to continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. It’s not okay.

 Now fish don’t take care of their young. Most cold-blooded creatures don’t and most animals don’t take care of their sick or elderly. We are unique in that we care for our own from birth until death. Those daycares in rest homes I complain about are the result of our desire to ensure that care. The prisons island mental hospitals were intended to keep people safe. These are all good motivations. Good intentions.

Of course, we all know about roads and good intentions, right?

 If a machine, an AI, we to observe us, what would they see? What would they learn about how we treat one another? Not as individuals, but as a society. Things like letting someone else take care of our children or eld Neo wakes up? He finds tubes running into him that have been feeding him and removing waste. He is sleeping in a womb-like tank. All of his physical needs have been met. Even the Matrix has been created to provide his mind with some sense of well-being. All of his needs were met. In a clinical, dispassionate way. And as soon as he became an issue? They pulled the plug and flushed him.

 No one wants to change a diaper. No one wants to clean up after someone after they’ve messed themselves. No one wants to wake up at all hours of the night for a crying baby or dementia-stricken parents. But we do it because we love them. And if our society has become so screwed up that our jobs and careers have become more important than love? If people must work 80 hours a week to survive? If success is more important than our family,  what then? 

People are not commodities to be managed. They are us! We are people! Someone had to change my diaper once, probably more than once. And when I’m old and may need to happen again. But I hope it’s not a stranger doing it. In fact, I hope it’s the ones whose diaper I changed. That’s the cycle I raise you up and take care of you when you are too young to do it yourself and then many years later you care for me when I can no longer do it for myself.

 Our society is much like our body. Medication can be used to substitute and fill in the gaps in an unhealthy body but, the body always prefers its own functionality over an artificial one. Sooner, not later, the body will die from some kind of system failure. Kidney, heart, pancreas what-have-you. Medication can fill in a gap but it is not a healthy body.

 Our teeth are another good example leave a bad tooth, we try to fix it right? I mean, of course, we should have been taking good care of them our whole lives and avoided a “bad” tooth. But life happens. So at the dentist, we get a filling, a crown, a root canal, or some other such thing to save the tooth. We don’t just yank it out and toss it why?

 Because it makes us look bad, that’s why. So why do we toss our humans away? Over 2 million people are in American jails and prisons. The prison system is overfilled, and with all the social misconceptions and fear-driven laws, those numbers will only rise. So we are a country, a people, with a gap-toothed grin because we failed to take care of ourselves and at the first sign of trouble, we throw the problem in the garbage.

 If machines were learning from us?

 Oh boy. We’re screwed. Because we are all flawed and troubled compared to the sleek efficiency of a computer. We would all be tossed out, ala the Terminator, baby, or we will be “cared for” with all the dispassionate efficiency of the Matrix, Mr. Anderson. 

What are we doing to ourselves? Why do we tolerate this? Why do we accept this? Our “herd mentality” is gone from the compassion and self-preservation of the elephant to the suicidal run of the Lemmings! I hate to be the gal with the big sign that says “THE END IS NEAR” but hey guys, the end is near.

Lao Tzu said that if you are not careful you could end up where you were headed. 

I think he might be right. 

Gregory LaVallee

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