In Theory Only
Dad once told me many years ago to live by one rule: “People are stupid.” Hmmm, an interesting if cynical theory, but it has proven exceptionally accurate. And that was several decades before there was a sub-mental Trump in office, or a cadre of sub-human scum denying Sandyhook and the Holocaust, or before a shitty excuse for recumbent DNA murdered people in a Pittsburgh synagogue. (It’s been a tough week.)
I thought way back then, very briefly, like I’m talking 30 or 40 seconds, “Now that is no way to tar and feather all of humanity. What about the benefit of the doubt?”
Artificial Lack of Intelligence
Not long ago, the IT geeks who dominate the planet decided that artificial intelligence would save us all. Human ingenuity and the sharpest minds on the planet would teach computers how to “learn” and make unbiased decisions. But as has been shown time and time again, humans and their biases — mostly stupid, stupid, stupid biases — screw things up.
Just look at how Amazon couldn’t fix the AI in their hiring software that clearly discriminated against female job applicants. You know, for having breasts and other heinous crimes. The uber-geniuses at Amazon, who sell you everything from aglets (look it up) to Zymox (see previous parentheses for guidance) and can figure out how to predict the next thing you NEED to buy, could not fix the problem after years of trying and throwing big brains and money at it. The built-in human biases were just too deep. So they canned it.
Yet with all the AI and computer power we have today, we still have biases, even when so called ‘neutral’ systems try to recognize human faces. Built-in bias and racism galore. Is this flaw even fixable? Or are we as a species a few pairs of chromosomes shy of a full deck to get past this?
Too Dumb For Words
Are humans — in theory — teachable so they can actually not be consistently and criminally stupid? Do humans have the capacity to actually not devolve into hatred underlined by fact-less idiocy? I’m having my doubts. And not just because it’s legal to purchase a Smokehouse Bacon Triple Cheese Big Mouth Burger with Jalapeno Ranch Dressing. Sadly, I betray my inherent stupidity because there’s a part of me that says “Bacon? Yummy! Gotta have it!” I know better, I am keenly aware of the catastrophic arterial damage that would ensue if I just stared at that burger for more than 5 seconds. But there’s bacon in it!
Now the optimists among us (read: frequent cannabis abusers) feel this is merely a step on the road to a better future. We just need more data, more experiences to learn from and teach the machine. We need more lateral thought, more contact and more cross-cultural, cross-geographic, cross-linguistic and cross-chocolate danish experiences. (I could be wrong about the ‘danish‘ thing.) Is this cross-disciplinary combination the way forward?
Who knows. And what about the not-so-stupid humans, all 7 of them (if you count that socially awkward kid with the glasses and limp that can figure out the Rubik’s cube in less than a minute)? Can they be trusted to not screw things up any worse than they are now? Do we have the seeds of hope germinating in the fertile minds of current and future bi-pedal bags of sentient and usually hairy flesh?
If my dad’s theory is anything to go by — and it’s 99.99999999999999999999999% accuracy — call your doctor and/or pharmacist and make a Costco-sized order for medical marijuana and watch re-runs of the Simpsons while eating gooey danish.
Lovingly addicted to the Internet,
Sascha ‘The Lion Cub’ Druker
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