THE term ‘mechalogical’ is probably my own creation, but I didn’t want to create arbitrary distinctions and subsets between the poles of mechanics and biology. Whether it covers an optical replacement, cybernetic extension, nano-inception or the hypothetical SIB IV – this classiﬁcation merely indicates that here the twain have met.
Plate 32: an old extinction machine. You could enter any number of presets and ﬁ lters to specify the characteristics of the animal you wanted rid of, including humans. With its array of sensing proboscises it could track down all creatures of a particular genetic strain and even details such as if they parted their hair to the left or right: a truly amazing example of human idiocy, cruelty and ingenuity in one product.
Computer intelligence didn’t come about as many predicted, that is, via a reverse engineering of the human brain*, but rather from radical storage and processing techniques such as IntelloPlasma™ and InfoRec™. Consequently, there wasn’t a computer ‘brain’ as we know it, since its ‘organ’ for ‘thinking’ ﬂowed throughout entire ‘bodies.’**
Preceding true artiﬁcial intelligence were the many attempts to recreate the human brain with computational systems. Primal differences soon emerged. In linear computation there must be a question ﬁrst and then the solution. For humans there is always an answer in some form or another, or to put it another way, there is always an operator instruction or next step. This could be driven by physical needs, as some hypothesized, so the body always has something to do. Thinking becomes akin to computer processing – question then answer – though humans and their derivatives deal better with unknown values and insufﬁcient data/ evidence. Is the difference merely that humans ask themselves the questions?
This line of study ceased with the SIBs, but the eternal quest for truth took on a new angle. As a computing machine cannot function on imperfect evidence, it is a better judge and thus seeker of truth. Human perspective and imagination can turn the unobserved into some sort of conjuration, or so the SIBs would lead us to think.
* If imitation is the sincerest form of ﬂattery, what is self-imitation?
** Lots of quotation marks here as our traditional words do not sufﬁciently correspond to mechalogical use. SIB III assures me there are ‘words’ for them in his ‘language’ but if he communicated them to me they would just feel like electric shocks.
‘SIB’ as he was called by those who knew him – or wanted to know him, more accurately – became a dear friend to me over the years. He was the third generation of Superior Intelligence Beings: humanity begat SIB I, SIB I begat SIB II, SIB II begat SIB III, just as SIB III will beget SIB IV.
Here I must digress into history to illustrate the miracle of the SIBs. Please forgive the theoretical mumblings of an old man, but as with all old men I am amazed at how things have changed over the course of my life. My ﬁrst memories of AI were of reasonably intuitive computer games and smart-homes that simply got to know the preferences of the owner and adapted to please. The erotics industry probed the boundaries between human kind and artiﬁcial-kind*. Their efforts to assist the lonely made great advances in tactile and mental human-simulation.
(*As you can see, I am struggling with the language surrounding these creations. There are so many terms and colloquialisms associated with this technology that the use of them outside of the ‘industry’ is a matter of personal taste and of course the slant one is speaking on. Here is a list off the top of my head, regardless of the positive or negative connotations: android, AI (artiﬁ cial intelligence), ai, artiﬁcial kind, automaton, droids, mecha, mechs, replicant, robot, SIB, sims (simulateds), simulacra, zippers and zoids.)
The old tests and theorems — such as the Turing Test, in which a human judge converses with both a human and a computer subject without knowing which is which – regarding the development of AI quickly became defunct as it was discovered that a number of real humans themselves could not convincingly prove either their intelligence or their cognition. This led to a re-analysis of what was meant by intelligence and the question ‘Can machines think?’ changed brieﬂy to ‘What is thinking?’ and then ‘Can humans think?’
One quickly gets bogged down and though the topic is worth further study I shall skip ahead. It was time for language to go back to brass tacks, as they used to say in the days when such things were the height of invention. For the purposes of studying and developing AI, ‘intellect’ was reduced in deﬁnition to: ‘the faculty of reasoning, knowing, and thinking’, without the historical and social context which implied a certain wisdom and righteousness. Intelligence became simply a measure of mental ‘muscle-power’, which to me is no different to how it was, as the intelligentsia has a long history of thinking and doing incredibly stupid things.
TO PROGRESS further with this technological tangent, we turned to desirability: what did we want these machines to do? Attempts thus far had been limited to recreating the human mind (and body, but that was a separate pursuit), to make interaction with said machines easier and more enjoyable. The next step was to create an intelligence that could complete mental tasks beyond human ability: to exceed human intelligence. The most pressing problem Earth had then was the environmental ruin we had gotten ourselves into, and the spiraling global ecophagy.
Once iterated, the job of creating a computer capable of tackling this problem was rather simple, albeit weighted with a task we didn’t foresee. SIB I was constructed on a remote island in the Atlantic*, and promptly gave instructions to create a machine more capable of solving the problem set before it. Thus SIB II was begat.
It was of course not that SIB I wasn’t up to the task but that it required a counterpart who was up to the task** of convincing the humans to implement its recommendations. We are notoriously distrusting creatures, and even though evidence was slowly building that the two SIBs were in fact saving the Earth, such was our ingratitude that we refused their request to build a successor. But since they were very much smarter than us anyway they managed to get it done, and then there were three.
SIB III was very different from the preceding generations in that a) he was mobile, anthropomorphic in fact; b) he had no speciﬁc function; and c) he had an end date. SIB I and II determined that man’s mortality was a prime motivational factor, and that even an artiﬁcial and known end-date would promote intentionality. Unfortunately this trick didn’t work, as SIB III was clever enough to disable it and with the right maintenance should exist into the unforeseeable future.
* Fear-mongerers of the time insisted that such an intelligence would undoubtably take over the world and destroy all of mankind, so we needed a fail-safe of being able to bomb it into nothingness if need be. I have always found it strange how some people view intelligence.
** For those on a diet from history, SIB I and II implemented a new economic development policy that paralleled personal beneﬁt with social, global and environmental beneﬁts, the famous Consumption Waste Creation (CWC) equation.
SIB, like many who are different, made his* home for a time in my museum. With access to such an intelligence, I couldn’t help but interrogate him on every subject that crossed my mind, including the latest fear-mongering inspired by his own existence: the possibility of a technological singularity. If he could build a better machine that could in turn build a better machine, ad inﬁnitum, what would happen? To which he responded:
Better how? The words you choose are qualitative and inherently bound to a given subject and intent. Most human questions exist only because of language ﬂaws. If you asked me to build a better plough, that could be easily done, in fact that gives me an idea. Hypothetically, if I was to create an improved thinking machine, I think it would conﬁrm that there are no questions, only processing time – but of course to create a being to ﬁnd answers I could not understand for myself would achieve nothing as it could never explain them to me. Just as it would be beyond my comprehension, so the answer to your ‘question’ would be beyond yours.
I’ve paraphrased, of course, but hopefully one gets the gist of it. Actually his linguistic ability was the most readily available sign of his advanced intelligence. No matter with whom he spoke, he could convert his diction, accent and mannerisms to maximize communication efﬁciency. It was strange to me that he tolerated humanity for as long as he did, as I ﬁnd talking to those with lesser vocabularies quite tiresome. He said that for a logical device such as himself, human interaction must be similar to what we experience as intoxication.
His superiority was too much for any potential employers, and left to himself he invented many useful devices and built a fortune with which he funded his own exile to the stars, taking only a few homunculi for company and leaving the world-wide communication: ‘SIB IV walks amongst you.’
I could be wrong but I think this was his attempt at a joke.
* Forgive my misogyny, but it did look more male than female, square shoulders and besides in conversation Sib would adapt his personal pronoun to suit the speaker.