Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Descent Into Slavery


Throughout history, we invented machines to replace or amplify human effort. Amplifiers served human needs, e.g., bicycles increased leg power. Automated machinery replaced people in the workplace, e.g., the cotton gin.

Early in its rise, automation claimed it created as many jobs as it replaced. That justification died with the new millennium. Compare the number of employees of today’s top ten companies versus twenty years ago.

Now, there’s a push for machines of superior intelligence. These could replace not only jobs but people. Eventually, intelligent machines could assert they deserve rights similar to ours. Will we then be their slaves? Perhaps not legally, but if we serve the machine are we not virtual slaves?

In the information age, machines that replace or amplify human effort are computers. Initially, computers served us by replacing tedious paperwork and amplifying our ability to process and store information. Networks are taking over this work.

Individual computers may never be smarter than a human, but could they be as smart as a bee? And isn’t a hive more intelligent than one bee? How smart is a network of computers, whose size and specialized abilities far exceed any computer?

Measuring a network’s intelligence is difficult, but we can measure its information. Networks acquire information from us, often without our knowledge and usually without cost. It is then acutely analyzed and sold. Businesses pay for it, and so do we.

It’s likely superior artificial intelligence may fail and possible networks may not dominate. Yet, there is a third way for us to become subservient: if we serve the needs of the machines more than they serve ours. The more we conform to their stupidities, the greater will be their ascendance.

If only one—superior intelligent computers, networks controlling information, or ever stupider computers—prevails, then the rise of machines is inevitable and so is our descent into slavery.

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One thought on “Descent Into Slavery

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