Don’t talk in front of robots? 5-min drama from @guardian, worth a watch: Probing re. ethics, us & the end. #mscedc

In another sign of different modalities afforded by new technologies, here’s the Guardian newspaper getting in on ‘original drama’:

A link to the video is here. It’s part of a ‘Brain Waves‘ series of pieces by the Guardian. For 5:24 minutes, it packs a fair amount of thought-provoking dialogue and drama, and I can see it working well as a discussion-starter for many topics on this course. As a spoiler alert, I’d suggest watching it before reading on.

The drama plays well on fears about ‘the intelligence explosion’ (aka AI), and differing reactive strategies towards it. Gunter, the android-like robot, is constantly developing his own algorithm: repeatedly, we’re informed that this is exponential, and that means it’s going to be fast: “faster than we can imagine”.

Ethics, it seems, can’t keep up, and there aren’t “correct, unambiguous rules” any way. ‘Understanding’ is both underplayed and overplayed. The film is too short to probe the risk of a false dichotomy here for ethics, but issues are raised: a cost-benefits algorithm is not an escape from the need for ‘interpretation’.

The plot presumes, for a moment, the construction of “the data set of all human history”. (I’m reminded of the writings of Jorge Luis Borges, at this point, transposed into a digital register.) Then, a telling line for discussion comes at c.3:25:

“We can’t rely on humanity to provide a model for humanity. That goes without saying.”

Another character responds:

“Doesn’t that – in terms of the end of the world and stuff – leave us in a bit of a pickle?”

Indeed. And in this drama, even the blasphemy is telling for the plot. The climax is – wittingly or unwittingly – suggestive: a Christ-like ascension motif (albeit dematerialised, rather than material) with a promise of eschatological return:

“I had to make certain arrangements before I revealed myself.”

The response? Dismissal by the other characters, and a final banal return to ‘the normal’. “Well, it could have been worse, I suppose…” But still the over-hanging words / verdict / condemnation from Gunter remain: “you’re the ones with the free will”.

Or are we?



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