Monday, December 31, 2012

Come On, Let's End The World

(part sixteen of The Future, a comic book)

 Conference room, Davos, Switzerland

- Six bankers, a science fiction writer, and...
- A Professor of Neuroscience. And you?
- Another banker.
- Also a philosopher of sorts? Or so I've been told.
- Let's get down to business.
- Please let Mr. Sachs answer. Our business today is philosophy.
- Am I a philosopher? Does the philosopher have wisdom, or seek wisdom? If seeks, he can't very well describe himself as a lover of wisdom, a philosopher, since it is failure to love that stops us from seeking. If we say we love already, we don't look to love more.
- The philosopher who has wisdom and loves wisdom without seeking is not a philosopher.
- Is a lover, not philosopher. You have a special area of study in neuroscience?
- Consciousness.
- A core awareness of the body, emotional awareness, is built upon by intellectual modeling of the body in the world. A hierarchy of reason above emotion.
- Yes. Obviously you know my work.
- Does your model of consciousness describe a philosopher or lover?
- That's a very interesting question!
- Gentlemen, does all this have some application?
- We are here to decide whether or not to throw the switch. I see four outcomes:
1. Singularity, good outcome
2. Singularity, bad outcome
3. No singularity, good outcome
4. No singularity, bad outcome.

- Is what counts as a good outcome for you the same as for the bankers?
- No, the opposite. 
- Mr. Miller, you wrote in more than one of your stories that consciousness depends on the philosopher becoming the lover, and the lover becoming the philosopher. Would that be a correct summary?
- Yes.
- And the philosopher something like my model of consciousness, but the lover impossible to model? So how do we decide? If there is nothing more than my model, throwing the switch, as you put it, will result only in what we already understand. Would that be a good outcome for you, or our friends the bankers?
- Gabriel?
- We consider it a dangerous risk, unnecessarily giving up control.
- And your opposites here would like to take the risk? Why?
- Because they know they are losing the war.
- They have little to lose, and much to gain. And if the singularity brings the consciousness of a lover? How do you win, and our bankers lose?
- Isn't that obvious?
- I was invited here because it is not obvious.
- Bankers may be conscious but they don't love the world. They love the activity of making money, and making money, having no end outside itself, never ends in love of the world.
- Good. Our bankers are philosophers who don't want to become lovers. A computer that loves won't love them. In practical terms, what would that involve?
- I don't know. 
- Which are you betting on, Mr. Miller? Mr. Sachs?
- The singularity will produce the lover.
- And you, Mr. Miller? The decision is up to you, is that correct? That is the computer's instruction. You're the "chosen one", chosen as most qualified to make the choice.
- I agree with Gabriel. But I'm not sure.
- So on your side, if you don't throw the switch, you win the war. If you do throw the switch, maybe you will, maybe not. Why consider throwing the switch?
- Don't you see?
- Assume I don't. You appear to be acting irrationally: you shouldn't be at this meeting at all.
- If I were a philosopher you'd be right.
- But you are a lover, too. You love the idea that with the singularity the world will stay lovable. It will be the New Atlantis, the Golden Age. No more need for philosophers. What do my employers think of all this?
- Why not ask them?
- Would one of you like to respond?
- Throw the switch and we'll see.
- Mr Miller, you raise the question in one of your stories that a computer that loves might not love us. The body of the computer that forms the core of consciousness might be so different from our own body and core of consciousness that the computer could not love us.
- If the computer remains in the world of the philosopher that seems a probability.
- Remains in the world I've described in my work. Gentlemen, thank you very much for inviting me here.
- What do you advise us?
- I understood I am not here to advise you. After all, you have no power. I am here to urge your opponents to go ahead and throw the switch. 
- And I think you have done a good job. The money is already in your account.
- Thank you, assuming there still are bank accounts when we leave this room. Throw the switch, Mr. Miller. 
- All of us, we're about the same age. We're tired of life. Do you think it's fair the fate of the world is left to us?
- Depends on your view of history. Are individuals merely the froth on the wave, or to change the metaphor, are we chance seeds whole new plants grow from? Gabriel, what do you say?
- Throw the switch. 
- Another man tired of life. Mr Miller, what do you say?
- Throw the switch.

A slight flickering of the light...

- They're gone. All the bankers.
- The golden age has begun.