It’s not big computer brains empowered by artificial intelligence that are going to destroy civilization as we know it.
It’s little tiny computers, even if they’re pretty dumb, that are small enough to put in the tiny hands of unsupervised children, hopped-up frat boys and shallow narcissists like the 45th president of the United States.
It’s not just that any idiot can make movie trailers that look like the real thing on his mobile phone – although by now I’m sure you’ve all seen “Destiny Pictures’” fake trailer for the big-screen remake of Pinky and the Brain.
The problem is that it’s only a matter of a little time before the Commander in Chief of the United States can target and launch multiple warhead intercontinental ballistic missiles from his iPhone – which, after all, is quite a bit more powerful than the Atari-style game computer that ran an entire Russian space station for years.
That might be OK if the iPhone was in the pocket of someone with a little more impulse control than a four-year-old on a sugar high. But Donald J. Trump? Not so much, as we Canadians have been reminded over the past couple of days.
In other words, we don’t have to worry about some network-enabled artificial intelligence deciding for its own reasons to destroy humankind as much as we need to wonder what happens when computing power falls literally into the small hands of the unstable, the immature, and the naturally unintelligent. Oh, wait … We already know.
Can you imagine the reaction of North Korea’s top leaders when they switched on the iPad and saw the former reality TV host’s step up to the big screen, which was obviously made on a “smart” phone about the size of a Vanuatu postage stamp using a free video editing app. This was done, presumably, by some Young Republican who used to be a member of a campus Ayn Rand Film Society. “A new story; a new beginning; one of peace; two men, two leaders, one destiny …” (Ein Reich; Ein Volk, etc. … never mind.)
Kim Yong-chol: “… Well, whaddya think, chief?”
Kim Jong-un: (After long pause…) “Holy cow, No. 2 … what a dotard!“
Kim Yong-chol: “What I thought …”
Kim Jong-un: (Chuckles) “Yup. Better than Team America World Police though. Man, was my dad ever pissed about that one!”
Kim Yong-chol: “No kidding. I thought we were all bound for Re-Education Camp No. 2!”
Kim Jong-un: “Could still happen … (Pauses, laughs.) Just kidding! This is creepy, though, eh?”
Kim Yong-chol: “Reminds me of the ‘How to Serve Man’ episode on the Twilight Zone.
Kim Jong-un: “Me too. I loved that show! But I really liked the way they made the condos twice as tall as the Ryugyong Hotel …”
Kim Yong-chol: Yeah, that was a nice touch, too bad most of the people who are allowed to watch it will never get it …
Exit together, laughing, stage left.
I used to have a theory that it was laptop computers, not the Internet, that wrecked the newspaper industry.
Once upon a time, cub reporters were sent out with a steno pad, a pencil and a dime. They had instructions to find a payphone when they had the story and phone it in to “Rewrite,” who was no sweetheart and would humiliate you on the spot if you forgot any of the Five Ws. Or the flippin’ H, for that matter, even though it’s so easy to forget.
Reporters learned fast just to avoid the humiliation, which had a salutary effect on the quality of news that you, dear readers, got to read.
While there may still be a couple of working payphones in Canada, those daily teaching moments ended as soon as newspapers started issuing J-school graduates with laptops, which at the time were the ultimate in portability. We all know what happened after that – even if the bosses blame the Internet. You can edit puerile drivel a hundred times and the authors will never notice because there’s no way to crush their spirit. Consequently, they never get any better.
Now things have from bad to worse. Giving a Blackberry to a President of the United States seemed to work when the guy was named Barack H. Obama. Today, though, the ship of state is headed for the rocks, even though everyone on board has an iPhone with GPS in their pocket.
Who could have known you’d still needed navigators who knew what they were doing when the children who brought you secret decoder lapel pins, red flashes from the White House windows and covfefe faked their way into the wheelhouse with tiny computers?
Talk about artificial unintelligence!
No wonder the Russians are building their own Internet!