Those of us who are concerned with the arrival of computer AI – Artificial Intelligence – might have reason to be cautious of writings by software programs (and their programmers). I mean, do you really believe everything Alexa says? And why not? Surely there is no bias, no hidden agenda, no political skulduggery, no profiteering, no propaganda, no paranoia – okay that last one is my bad.
The point is that we have been subjected to this feeding of information and pseudo-information ever since we learned to communicate. Things only got worse as we learned to write and then read. As with recent computer technology, AI, we thought that if someone had the intelligence to write these missives, they must be more knowledgeable than we are – or have sources of information that we were not privy to. Using a bad pun, we thought this was the gospel truth.
With the present-day AI, we attributed the perceived intelligence from a gathering of pieces of information stored on clouds and computer memories, sorted, and categorized by rules or axioms designed by humans or human-created algorithms, verified by cross-checking with other programs and similar databases from other countries, languages, hackers, and 12-year-old kids – how great was this!
Back in the early days, Ancient Intelligence was attributed to the gods who spoke in babbled tongues to scribes, politicians, religious leaders, and business people (mostly men, it seems). This handing down of wisdom happened in many places around the globe, some sooner than later, which may have led to a little plagiarism, but was, as it now turns out, to be okay – with or without attribution. There were examples of things lost in translation, but as the gods changed, so did land boundaries, politics and exploiters (some called explorers or colonizers or winners and losers).
We moved from the Stone Age to the various Ages of Metals (some believe we are still in the Iron Age); we slipped a little in the Dark Ages but recovered with the Age of Reason (abetted by the Industrial Revolution); we moved onward with the Age of Enlightenment (secularism raised its head); and are now supposedly in the Age of Information. This is not to be confused with Artificial Intelligence for we ought not confuse information with intelligence.
Take a breath. The problem is with the carry-over of ideas and beliefs from one age to the next. The Stone Age did not disappear from a lack of stones but from advancements in our technology and thinking. We developed new tools, and new ways of living – sometimes in moments of security from bad neighbours. Unfortunately, we kept some of the old ideas based on bad information.
In Western so-called civilization, we had a dozen or so gods, which was actually pretty neat: one could blame or attribute good or bad luck on a god as each of the gods (most resided near Mt. Olympus in Greece) but this got narrowed down to one all-powerful God which made it easier for the business and religious people to feed misinformation to the masses. Rules were writ, usually in some language or symbols that could only be read by those in authority. King James screwed that up with the help of Gutenberg but that only affected a small segment of the Western population.
Other areas of the populated world had their own progression of ages and gods but at some time or other, there was an awakening by thinkers called philosophers. Some of these ponderers had a problem with the very idea of gods or even one omnipotent persona, and this gave rise to secularism and even humanism. However, like in the Stone Age, some things carried over.
Take the idea that some tribes still think they should rule others based on those writings and ideas writ large by the religious and business folk in far antiquity. Based on words, even clarified by King James in Olde Britain, the businesspeople (again mostly men), politicians, and supported by biblical scholars, partitioned off lands after the Ottoman empire fell, and then again after World War II, giving a place for fleeing Jewish people to live and call their own – as writ in the olden times by – you guessed it – people who had some skin in the game. It just happened that there were people already living there – by right of AI – Ancient Intelligence.
How, and here it might feel good to have a god to blame, can we still be fighting tribal wars as if we were in the Stone Age believing something fed to us as god-given truths? And this applies to more places on this earth we call home than in Gaza / Palestine. Do we not have the intelligence to get along, to toss out the past wrongs and concern ourselves with living in harmony, in this moment, with each other – and the living planet? Or is our present computer-driven Artificial Intelligence so steeped in the past that we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past ancient intelligences?