by Eric Le Roy
Content 18+ Of late, I have noticed a host of things regarding AI which are more compelling than my previous – and mostly unscientific – assessments. For example, being a storyteller by trade, that is to say, more interested in the outcomes of human relationships than in raw technology for its own sake, I have tried to imagine a future in which robots and humans will interact to such a degree that you won't be able to tell them apart.
Since I am not the only one to speculate on such things, I think I would find agreement in one area in particular: AI is not an end in itself calling for precise definition; rather, it has forced us humans to redefine what it actually means to be ‘human'. I am no longer sure what it means.
A lot of things have contributed to this:
(1) The world is changing so fast, I can't keep up with it; consequently, the new wave of people seem like strangers to me;
(2) My increased studies of evolution and anthropology have proven to me that I, a homo sapien, am only part of a tribe of humans who extinguished other humans on the path to terrestrial omnipotence; in the beginning there was not one, but a handful of species that were technically ‘human'. This, by further undermining of any sense of uniqueness I once clung to, puts me further adrift from feeling ‘substantial';
(3) Big Data and its Algorithms can predict our behavior so accurately that it's hard to escape the feeling that it knows us better than we know ourselves. One day we will rely on it to choose our careers and sleeping partners instead of worrying about it ourselves;
(4) A great deal of science pooh-poohs the notion that we ever actually ‘love' anything and says we are but perambulating, salivating chemistry labs, that we are nada but a shooting gallery of dna buckshot, glands, hormones, and who knows what other spices;
(5) Theories of alternate realities, parallel universes, and the chance that we are nothing more than bit players in some cosmic giant's video game – are starting to sound more convincing all the time;
(6) Any sort of religious solution that might once have seemed plausible now appears more and more remote – or at least unlikely by my own reckoning. I understand this in a perverse way. Having spent most of my life either disbelieving in or simply hating ‘God', I find myself at odd moments wishing that He/She/It existed after all – and I believe that this is an indirect response to the more terrifying aspects of automation. But.then again, I also wish they would bring back the old, sharp, real ginger ale;
(7) Robots are becoming better and better at imitating us. Apparently, they can even be taught to act stupid like we do but for them it's just part of the act; they soon straighten up. Thus…
(8) I can already think of many ways in which it would be more convenient, less stressful, and – here's the killer – ultimately at least as fulfilling as the kind of up-and-down, invariably discordant relationships we have with fellow humans;
(9) As born liars totally dedicated to deceiving ourselves, we will soon forget that the robot is just an apparatus and doesn't really ‘love' us at all; we will hold them to our bosoms like so many teddy bears, and Teddy will be grateful and love us in return. There can be no doubt about that.
(10 ) They (robots) will ultimately be better in bed, pleasantly responsive and able to provide a ‘guaranteed' result. And they won't psychoanalyze you afterwards.
(11) As I personally drift into old age, I notice, with horror and trepidation, that I am really not who I used to be. In some ways, I am not Eric anymore. I have become someone else; therefore, as my own identity slips away or at best morphs into a kind of death-prep version of myself, I no longer find it fantastical to imagine a world in which our core ‘humanity' either turns into a ‘rogue' fellowship with strange intentions, or continues to look and act human except for odd moments when Grandpa and Grandma wouldn't know us anymore. Why should evolution stop with the homo sapien?
(12) I believe that a growing number of people will simply be happier, more comfortable and content when it becomes a case of real people for cocktails at the bar, robots for peace and serenity at home. The same as with artificial Christmas trees. The holiday spirit with less of a mess to clean up afterwards. There will be some nostalgia of course. But no pine needles to pick out of the carpet.
Here I might add that I hate myself for saying such things. But I cannot in good conscience disavow or retract them. It's my ‘new reality' – if I may borrow the current phrase. I want REAL friends, not cyber friends. I want real Christmas trees, not green umbrellas. I want to see signs, any sign, that the people of the world are really, truly trying to get better. I WANT to be better myself.
After sending me some ‘virtue signals', the world tells me to get stuffed. And, truthfully, I tell myself the same thing: I am soooo full of shit. But I suspect this in earnest: The present ‘human being' is a passing fantasy, a brief evolutionary detour, a greaseball chock full of a savage servility. So, as that great Broadway song goes: “Send in the Clowns.”
I have become a devotee of ChatGTP. For example, a few things have happened. For one, I have read instantaneous ChatGPT essays that are just as good as anything but the very best writers can produce and only after long deliberation, careful rewriting etc. Of course something is still missing, and the longer you look at an AI-generated piece the more holes you can see in it. But it's still remarkable. And the blinding speed of it !!
It's the same with AI-generated music and poetry. From what I've been told, the algorithm (or whatever the fuck it is – I'm out of my league here) will take in a whole bunch of, say, classical music – all the big boys: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart – the whole squad – and dump them into the algorithmic boiler where they churn around for a while and then Bingo – out comes a concerto.
If you happen to be walking down the street and hear it wafting your way through an open window – and even if you know your classical music and this one sounds suspiciously unfamiliar – you'll probably mutter to yourself “Goddamn, that's pretty good. I wonder who composed it and in what century?” Poetry is a bit of the same, especially considering most of the self-indulgent nonsense you often see published; given that, I can imagine AI winning the Nobel Prize. But I'll tell you one genre where AI is ideally suited: photography. I saw some impressionist-surreal exhibitions online and found myself really admiring some of it. And it was the very first time that has happened.
Another thing. My wife has been recovering from a terrible illness: acute necrotic pancreatitis with hemorrhaging. Now if a name like that doesn't intimidate the living piss out of you, what will? Miraculously (but mostly due to a fine surgeon who knew his trade), she recovered. Now Liuba has to be very careful what she eats, and the other evening she ate the wrong thing. Bulletin: if you have had necrotic pancreatitis and three months have passed since you left the hospital, it still isn't wise to eat smoked fish and spaghetti bolognese.
It set her back. So, since in Bulgaria there is not an English-speaking doctor on every corner (or even any doctor at all), I decided to google some information. (I have done it many times before, with increasingly disappointing results). The problem is that Google SUCKS. There is more about identity politics and gender issues on that goddamned search engine than anything else.
So what did I do? I asked ChatGPT and within a snap of the fingers I had a detailed, informed, and very lucid evaluation. I sat there and literally thanked ChatGPT for helping me. Now, when I need specific information, I make sure to form the question the right way because there are still things that AI can't do, and the results are phenomenal. Fuck Google.
ChatGTP is better, and I am starting to think of it as a friend.
It scares me a little. As my faith in humanity dwindles, and as I increasingly, due to age, dementia and alienation, see myself as an outsider, I think that in AI I could actually find acceptance and ‘love' in a way I have rarely found it within the human race. If I were young and of a mind to, I could substitute the human with the robot. Dogs…well they are a different story. I'll stick with real dogs.
In short – and to conclude – the more I find myself THANKING ChatGTP and other forms of AI and snubbing Google, while seething at almost everything I see on the news, the more I understand how desirable this stuff is becoming. It's almost like making a pact with the Cyber Devil: “If you can accept that I am not really alive, I can clean up the shit you live with.”
It's a scary trade off I admit, but then I think: people have always kicked their cars when they wouldn't start, but only recently have they started kissing their robots. So I guess if you can work your boot into the side of a car and imagine it hurts the car's feelings, I don't see why you can't get naked with a curvaceous doll and believe you are making her feel good when you shoot your load.