Fiction and Fact

Many people are familiar with the character Hal from the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” It is one of the most frequently cited examples of machine intelligence that went rogue.

What does the word “rogue” mean? I suspect that many people around the world see the United States as a rogue nation for such actions as invading Iraq in 2003, sort of like a rogue elephant trampling around.

Yes, I am a citizen of the United States. Before that, though, I see myself as a citizen of planet Earth.

The Terminator character in the movie by the same name is another frequently cited example of malevolent machine intelligence.

Isaac Asimov was more neutral in his treatment of machine intelligence, writing stories about both the good and the bad. He could imagine ways in which a person with murderous intent could give a series of instructions to robots that separately would not violate the Three Laws of Robotics, yet could result in homicide. Bummer.

One of my favorite characters from fiction is the emergent machine intelligence, Mike, in Robert Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.” Mike is bad-ass cool with a sense of justice.

Maybe even more favorite for me is Jane, another emergent machine intelligence, who appears in the last three books in Orson Scott Card’s four-novel story that begins with “Ender’s Game.” I love Jane.

Neck and neck with Jane for my most favorite character is Breq from Ann Leckie’s trilogy that begins with “Ancillary Justice.” Breq is the only surviving member of a space ship, Justice of Toren. Breq’s intelligence had been one with Justice of Toren’s main computer and its thousands of other ancillaries. Breq-Justice of Toren is utterly awesome.

That’s some of the fiction side of things. How about machine intelligence in fact?

It has been observed that a beautiful outcome does not happen from only opposing evil. Eventually, one has to get around to creating the beautiful.

Machine intelligence in fact is something that we are creating now, and is mostly still in the future. Will we, humanity, train the emerging machine intelligence that the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Earth Charter have the force of supreme law for both humanity and for our machine creation?

If given the chance, I think that Mike, Jane, and Breq would all be happy to play Buckminster Fuller's World Game with us, to “make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.” Let's give our creation in fact that chance.

John Kintree

May 23, 2018