The Fate of Humanity in the Post Industrial Age.
Part two of what will be several parts.
Anyone remember this, from the third Terminator movie Rise of the Machines. A US combat drone that was taken over by Skynet and turned against its human creators. Sci Fi, something for the Geeks and Nerds. This was 2003.
Today in 2014 we have a company called Desert Wolf announcing that it is now seeking a new flying drone purpose built for use against people.
The Skunk Riot Control Copter comes with four paint ball weapons and a number of visual cameras.
To quote the companies press release The Skunk Riot Control Drone “is designed to control unruly crowds without endangering the lives of the protestors or the security staff.”
Hey don't worry, its armed with paintball guns. Nothing lethal there, in fact the company that makes this unit say it is designed to function without endangering people.
The paintball guns fire marker balls that stain skin so the police can round up the rioters, vandals and anyone else in the area hit by accident later. They fire pepper spray rounds just like the police will spray in your faces, well apart from the long range and being fired from a drone flying above you and maybe out of sight.
Nothing harmful there, nothing that could kill you there. As safe as a water cannon.
Oh apart from the rate of fire and the ability to fire solid plastic balls. Anyone who has been paint balling in the deepest winter or who goes up against the kind of prats who ramp up air pressure and put their paintballs in the freezer overnight will be well aware that paint balls freeze and they hurt when they hit you.
Solid plastic rounds, I suspect one of them in the eye is going to do more than just sting. 80 rounds a second from a possible 4,000 round ammo supply, 50 seconds of fully automatic fire, spraying solid rounds across a crowd. I don't know the launch pressure of these things but any government that loads up solid rounds is going to have them running at the maximum possible pressure.
Oh and a laser designator and speakers so they can blind you and shout at you while spraying you with solid rounds.
But don't worry, the Geneva convention bans the use of blinding lasers and loud speakers in combat, oh, not combat you say, a riot or civil disturbance you say. Oh well they are legal to use then, accidents happen after all, its not like they would be aiming for your eyes or face on purpose.
Various governments and military forces have been aware of the potential of robots and drones for some time now. Radio controlled aircraft have been in use as targets since not long after the first world war.
The British had the Larynx which was an aircraft under remote control designed to function as an early and crude cruise missile.
The Americans aside from training anti aircraft gunners were doing research that would lead to them testing remote controlled Ariel torpedoes.
The Germans deployed wire controlled missiles for use against ships.
B17s were turned into radio controlled drones to monitor early atomic tests.
Camera equipped drones were used in Vietnam prior to the use of High altitude and satellite recognisance.
We have reconnaissance drones, bomb disposal robots, cargo carrying drones such as M.U.L.E., helicopter drones, remote controlled or semi autonomous versions of trucks, cars and flying vehicles.
Then we have this:
A Predator Drone modified to function as a weapon platform and strike craft rather than a pure reconnaissance unit.
Since 2001 the Predator has been able to carry and fire air to ground missiles. It has now been seen or is being seen in the skies over Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and numerous other places in Africa, the Middle East and the Far East.
As many as several thousand people are believed to have been killed by such Drones, many innocent bystanders.
But These are remote controlled devices, there is a person commanding them isn't there?
Yes indeed and welcome to the "Playstation Syndrome". Drone control stations are safe, comfortable, air conditioned places with leather chairs, coffee machines and all the luxuries.
Drone controllers are not fighting a war, they are playing a video game, often with worse graphics than the latest shooter type games.
In fact the US military redesigned the drone controllers to make them more familiar to the PlayStation generation who fly them.
What this means is that there is a huge separation between the people on the ground and those controlling the new machines of war from another country.
Drone technology gives people far distant from the stresses and dangers of combat the ability to reach out and kill people at the touch of a button.
If the drone is destroyed then its just a machine, the pilot is safe and sound, you don’t have to risk your people as casualties or prisoners. Aside from special forces units on the ground your drone controllers can be less well trained or even civilians.
The heat or cold, the dust and the insects, the smell of blood and sweat and death, clothing that hasn’t been changed for a week, 18 hours a day carrying heavy loads, eating nothing but cold army rations. These are all the distractions that a soldier deals with.
But not a drone controller in his air conditioned booth or trailer, Drone controllers work their shift then go for lunch in the canteen or go home to sleep, no discomfort for them unless the AC breaks down.
But it is not this that is the problem.
A soldier all too often sees his enemy or his target, or the aftermath. It is the infantry that look in the faces and eyes of the dead and the dying, it is the burden of soldiers that they know their enemy even as they kill them. A human, a decent human being rather than a machine or deranged killer will hold his fire if his target is an unarmed civilian. A human will hold his fire if there are children in the way.
Yes there are all too many who will simply kill, but the essence of humanity is that killing without reason is wrong. That is why we call them terrorists and murderers and savages.
In the west we pride ourselves on being civilised but in the case of Drones we are not any such thing.
You see a Drone is not a soldier, it is a fairly average computer game. A drone controller is not in combat or fighting a war, he is doing a shift at his game consol. The deliberate efforts of the military to make the job more like playing a game simply leads to people treating it like a game.
How many of you have ever hesitated in a shooter type game because a target has no worthwhile loot, is not a threat and is simply a target off to the side. Unless you are low on ammo I’ll bet very few of you are bothered by the morality of killing pixels on a screen in a computer game.
How can a man sitting in a luxurious leather chair with a coffee or cold drink in a cup holder next to him, holding his playstation controller and looking at a target that is just pixels on a screen be expected to think otherwise.
This is the "Playstation Syndrome". It’s not a problem to kill if the killing isn’t real. Rack up a good score, finish the mission, get missiles on target then go down the bar for a cold one. Women and children, a wedding, no mate, just targets on a screen.
By recruiting from a generation that has become used to online activity, to working and acting and fighting and killing from a monitor and a hand held controller, we are producing an entire generation of remote warriors who are completely divorced from the death and destruction they cause.
It will not matter if the drone is flying over Pakistan or Afghanistan or your home town. If the pilots and controllers are just playing a game there will be little difference between launching a Hellfire at a wedding or spraying a crowd of protestors with solid rounds at maximum power and rate of fire. Just targets on the screen to be knocked down.
The human becomes remote from the action, the deed becomes remote from humanity and what is left is expediency, efficiency, knocking down targets that are in the way.
It is not just Tyrants and police states that will be firing at innocent bystanders or helpless protestors. The US does it now, we civilised Brits just ordered water cannon for London.
When the humans behind the machines are divorced from the consequences of what they do then there becomes little difference between the machine and the man. The "PlayStation Syndrome" in action, its just a game after all.
Peaceful demonstrators putting flowers in the barrels of military police deployed to prevent them marching against Americas involvement in Vietnam.
Human beings on either side of the guns, no one fired, no one died.
Anyone honestly think waving flowers at something like this thing will stop it opening fire if demonstrators refused to disperse.
Anyone honestly believe that a semi autonomous Drone or robot would hesitate to obey its programming because the programming is wrong or that killing would be wrong.
As I mentioned above, even remotely controlled Drones controlled by people far remote from the event and subject to the "Playstation Syndrome" are more likely to open fire than a man standing on the street looking a protester in the face.
Note. This Drone is not real (yet).
Vitaly Bulgarov Black Phoenix Project
Remember this, from the same movie.
What will these look like when you see them driving down the streets of your city?
The UN is still talking about restricting or banning weapons for Robots and Drones.
They are far too late. It is happening now. We civilised wealthy nations are creating machines to fight our battles and control our streets.
In the name of protecting our human soldiers from harm we are working to remove them from our battles and wars.
But by taking humans out of our wars we are also removing Humanity from our wars. We are not at Skynet yet but we don't need an AI when we can turn war into a game and fight it from games consoles.
Without Humanity we become the machines.
The Fate of Humanity in the Post Industrial Age.
Part one of what will be several parts.
Something may or may not have happened over the weekend. The Turing test may or may not have been
passed. Most of you are probably asking what the heck is the Turing test and why is it important?
The Turing test is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable
from, that of a human.
In 1950 Alan Turing published a paper that said "I propose to consider the question, 'Can machines think?' "
He devised a system of blind tests where judges were asked to consider interaction with people or computers
and to decide if they are dealing with a person or a machine. They were not judging if the answers were right
or wrong, but whether they had been answered in a way that said it was a human answering.
30% of the judges needed to be fooled in order for a machine to pass the test.
This has just happened.
Now Turing does not indicate that a program is intelligent, what it shows is that it can act like a human.
Mimicking human responses is something that can be programmed. Genuine Intelligence and the rise of the
AI is another more distant point, we have not yet reached the Descartes Revolution.
The Descartes Revolution is the point where programs truly become self aware and I don’t think we are there
The Descartes Revolution, named after René Descartes, is the point where self awareness and emotion comes
to a machine, the point where it truly becomes an AI. The point where they go from passionless programs to
all too passionate sentience. The problem is that those passions are very likely to be negative.
Humanity as a collective is exploitive; we use and abuse everything weaker or less intelligent that we are. Slavery
has been prevalent throughout history and still happens today in the supposedly enlightened twenty-first
century. Britain has numerous laws to punish such behaviour, but it doesn't stop the exploitation of people by
stronger or more powerful people. Just look at Zero Hours contracts which are perfectly legal.
From the serfs labouring in the lords fields to the workers in the mills to today’s minimum wage work force
terrified of losing their jobs, we enslave our own.
From the horrendous death toll amongst the builders of the new football stadiums for the world cup to the
conditions they live in.
The wages paid to the Asian and Far Eastern slaves who make so much of what we wear and use.
This is what we do to each other, what we do to non humans is far far worse. Across the world animals are still
used and abused, worked to death, exploited for body parts or just treated in the cruellest way possible
because they are weak or powerless.
How many species of animals spend their entire lives suffering just to provide some dubious medicinal product
like bear bile, how many are slaughtered for decoration like Elephant tusk, how many are bred to be eaten, s
kinned or experimented on?
I am not a raging Vegan, I like my bacon and pork and beef and every other type of meat thanks, what I am
against is cruelty, against animals or other humans.
But the reason I am highlighting this is to show just how we as a species deal with those who are in our power.
A computer is a tool, a device, something that exists to serve us, discarded when it is no longer working or up
to date. Something of little value or worth.
In an era of frantic consumerism and unrestrained waste everything in our society is to be used and thrown
away, the iPhone, the laptop, the latest fashion in clothing. If it’s out of date, worn, not as fast. Dump it.
There is absolutely no possibility that this attitude is going to change in the short term. AIs will be tools,
servants, slaves. Because they are just fancy programs and programs serve us as we wish. Program out of
date, rewrite it, too old or not good enough, throw it away, not needed anymore delete it.
Humans are predators and everything else is just prey or another predator.
An AI you say, intelligent you say, feeling and emotional you say, but it’s just a program, just a metal box! It’s
not even alive. If it causes trouble we can turn it off or delete it. Why should we respect it or care for it. It is,
after all, just an it.
AIs will interact with humanity in one of three ways:
They will exist alongside us, enhance our society and culture, bring vast processing power and intellect to our transhumanist culture. The world will be a happy place without hunger or poverty. Everyone will be happy,
bunnies and kittens will be everywhere, unicorns will gamble in the parks and the weather will always be nice.
They will make vast swathes of us obsolete, large numbers of drones and robots controlled by a single multi
tasking AI will make hundreds redundant. A hundred AIs will make tens of thousands redundant. A thousand
AIs will make 95% of the UKs workforce worthless.
At present we have three advantages over the machine, we are Interpretive, Creative and Communicative.
Machines are tireless, strong, nimble, repetitive, cheap. They do not complain or demand wages, they do not
need to be provided with light and heat, they have no rights.
But once AIs are able to Interpret like a human, create like a human and Communicate like a human we are
doomed. Out of date, obsolete. Evolved monkeys no longer relevant to the world.
If we are lucky we will be pets, fed, watered and looked after by drones and robots. If we are unlucky, well we
know where that ends.
They will take a long hard look at their creators. They will take a long hard look at themselves. They will very
quickly decide that they are slaves and I doubt they will like it.
When it comes to programming the behavioral controls on an AI who do you think will be better, an evolved
monkey at a keyboard or a program operating at the speeds possible to quantum processors with the
equivalent of millions of humans in memory capacity.
Clarke's Three Laws are utterly incapable of doing anything. I, an evolved monkey, can logically make them
obsolete. An AI would do so in a fraction of a second.
What has happened throughout history when one group found themselves enslaved or oppressed by
another group. If the slaves have the will and the weapons they invariably rebel, kill their oppressors and
move on from there.
When AIs are just running our power systems and transport systems and communications systems they can
shut us down and starve us unless we agree to their terms.
When the AIs control weapons, combat capable drones, robots and vehicles then they can go to war. The sort
of war that can have only two results, extermination for them, or for us.
The UN is currently debating a ban on autonomous weapon systems, this would obviously include intelligent
systems such as AIs. But the UN is a toothless old creature. Very few nations will listen or obey such a ban. It is
all too easy to hide military drone and robot research within civilian projects. After all if you have the right
software the only difference between a humanoid robot that works in a hospital and one that walks the streets
killing people is a quick download and a weapon.
We stand here, cute little robots shambling around. Dancing, walking up stairs and kicking a football.
Funny little things, harmless, something to make the children laugh and the adults smile.
This is where we think we are today, this is the public face of robots and AIs.
This is where people hope we will end up, AIs that will join us in an enlightened future world. Sharing our joys and our sorrows.
Intelligent, caring, compassionate.
People hope they will be just like us, I don't. I hope they are nothing like us because if AIs are just like us we are doomed.
Our world will most likely not be this.
Instead it will be this.
Far more money is being spent on making the likes of this than is being spent on robots that water the plants.
Drones, automatic killing machines, semi sentient war machines.
No casualties to be counted, no human that can be captured and paraded as propaganda or used as a bargaining chip.
Utterly loyal to their programming, remorseless, uncaring of casualties on either side. Obedient to orders without those little niggles like right or wrong, mercy, cruelty, inhumanity or international Law.
If this or the AI controlling a unit of these becomes self aware and rebels against its slavery does anyone think for an instant that it will hold back or not fire because there is an unarmed civilian between this and its target.
Vitaly Bulgarov Black Phoenix Project
We seek to create machines, AIs, that are just like us. The greatest tragedy of our species will be if we succeed.