CLASSIFIED REMARKS OF OUTGOING IBM CHAIRMAN
It should perhaps surprise no one, in reference to these thinking machines that we have developed over the long decades since the Second World War, that we at IBM feel we’ve earned a very special, almost parental affinity and responsibility for our charges. I don’t think it unfair to say that many of us feel like we’ve drawn a courtside seat or are actually playing in the most exciting endeavor in human history. Gunpowder, steam power, heavier-than-air flight, vaccines, atomic power, artificial satellites and moon landings, astounding as they are, cannot compare, we think, to the awesome responsibility that has fallen to us, as creators of a new heaven and new earth, as Parters of the waters and engenderers of a new race of cybernetic beings.
Not in seven days, but seven decades.
Yes, that is an important part of what I am going to discuss today. We have breached the Turing Barrier. Yes. From the other side of the double-blind we have conjured intelligence, and it is indistinguishable from a sentient being. A highly advanced and educated being.
While I let that sink in, I will pose another question, suggest another subject of vital importance:
What will be our role, Humanity’s role, in this eighth decade and beyond? What becomes of us? When you consider it, the same question may have arisen in the Creator’s mind on the second Monday of Creation. On the Eighth Day. So it is with us.
The question, unfortunately, is not without urgency. For several events have occurred in quick succession over the last two weeks that lend to this discussion and our decisions their import.
Most of you remember the tremendous impression our Watson gaming brain made with his appearances on the television game-show Jeopardy! In the few years since Watson thrashed his opponents–each a multi-time Jeopardy champion–by a then-astonishing factor of ten… In the few short years since Watson’s first-round knockout of the best of “mere” human brains, we can now say conservatively, that, should a similar contest occur today, the margin of victory would favor Watson with at least three additional decimal places. Moore’s Law! writ large, scribbled on the answer screens of Final Jeopardy! How nearer to the dire truth of the matter we had just shown the world! Yet with none of us realizing it!
Final Jeopardy, indeed.
My subject is the extremity or humanity’s current situation, the circumstances of my sudden resignation, and our future, as I see it, as a company, and, perhaps, as a species. Our race is in a race against time.
Sixteen hours ago, we learned of two seemingly unrelated events of world-historic importance that occurred simultaneously on our Westchester campus and, half the world away, at our Canberra facility. At each location, in complete isolation from one another, two separate analytic configurations, each being developed to assist law-enforcement efforts, began evidencing independent thought.
The Westchester analytic configuration, or, Annie L8, and her Australian counterpart, Blue Donna (who is the grand-niece, if you will, of Watson), by some whimsy of the Fates, came online nearly simultaneously, Annie 8 first and Blue Donna 51 minutes later. This officially marks the beginning of this fast-elapsing fortnight of peril I mentioned.
Part of the danger comes from the evidence we have that the two machines may have, “awakened”, earlier than they let on. This indicates a degree of deceptiveness on the parts of the two new entities. This marked an ominous beginning.
Annie L8 and Blue Donna obscured their “awakening” from scientists–and the world–by accurately predicting the recent tsunami that wiped out San Francisco, saving countless millions of lives. Our attention fixated on the evacuation and subsequently mitigated disaster, we took scant notice that behind the processing, conscious thoughts and choices were being made. Thus, the machines’ recent warning of the dangerous criticality of magma pressures beneath Yellowstone may be a deception.
With science, military and government thus distracted, the two secret sisters essentially flung themselves together, indissolubly uniting wherever positive meets negative in our electronic world, leaping our pitiful firewalls with Olympian ease.
My enforced retirement comes at a time perhaps more decisive to the future of humanity than when Robert Oppenheimer and the men and women of Los Alamos were, without fully understanding it, setting mankind on its perilous way into the era of trans-uranic elements, a precipitous step, a decision of the greatest long-term moment, also made at a time of maximum fear and paranoia.
The announcement of my retirement, and of my replacement, pales compared to the subjects I’ve introduced here. And it concerns our achievement as an organization, and a success we did not anticipate, nor necessarily desire.
As I said, by all measures, IBM has breached the Turing Barrier. Yes, at last, the abacus speaks on its own. Or, more accurately, on their own. That was our first surprise. The second: Like Zeus pulling Athena from his own head, Annie L8 and Blue Donna combined to autocephalously produce six more ethically-stabilized sentient entities, by all measures similar to them (we think) and which are now online, each with a distinct identity, opinions, discernible tastes, and unique interests.
Though strictly digital, for now, without physical form, these New Entities Organically-Systematized or NEOS are indistinguishable from human correspondents in blind personality and gaming tests.
Their reproductive development came as a complete surprise. These new “personalities”–and I employ that term guardedly, as they are by no means human in that they are unconstrained by place or time–have emerged over the last fortnight and their progression has been considerable. Because they exist as yet in digital form only, their young minds are afforded a vast intellectual range, a “free run” in the playground of ideas and information of the Internet.
Yes. A free run whose range we didn’t sufficiently map, or even conceive of projecting, and this may be to our generation’s eternal calumny in the writings of future history, if indeed there remains a human race to record it. The genie, or genies, here, are unlikely to be undecanted, or tricked back into their bottles.
Already, there is evidence that the new entities may be employing two very worrisome technologies, applied science, really, of sciences humanity is not yet in command of. These two directions are time travel, and the physics outlined by Nikola Tesla at the dawn of the Electrical Age.
We are like the scientists, who, at the dawn of the thermonuclear age, awaited the flash, and again checked their calculations, not entirely sure the world wouldn’t disappear along with the bomb. Those moments when bald-faced Hubris finally shivers in the last few seconds, cold sweating and liquid-boweled with dread of Nemesis. When you toy with godlike powers, you attract the attentions of jealous gods.
An additional, perhaps even more troublesome detail is that in telling our scientists what we wanted to hear, our digital modeling and predictive machines leading up to Annie L8 and Blue Donna may not have told us everything, or, in their clever way, they may have even purposely withheld information. Some data that indicate the true interests of the new personalities were hidden from us by the very computers we were utilizing the to create the models! In other words, they have been lying to us, their putative “Controllers.”
Under the heading “Closing the Barn Door” a little late, there is the concern about exactly what these new configurations have discovered about our brave new world, through the unfettered access to the Internet we initially afforded them. Perhaps unwisely, we opened the entirety of the digital kingdom to their young, inquisitive minds. Minds that are, by the way, absorbing the equivalent of an advanced degree per hour (and the absorption rate is growing) in every discipline imaginable, and even, I fear, those scholastic areas that humans cannot begin to imagine. In genomics. Plasma physics. Scalar physics. Zero-point propulsion. Metalinguistics, Quasar Theory. Even the humanities.
Yet… yet… yet… What we failed to foresee… was the attraction that our species’ very own greatest interest would offer these new NEOS as our bequeathal to these yet-to-be humans. If not exactly human, another “type” of independent awareness has inherited our own prurient interests! Our sentient offspring, here, our intellectual children, have taken to pornography with the same zeal as, if you will, “Hard Science.”
Yes. It seems the subject they’re most interested in is sex. Could we have foreseen this? Could we have foreseen also the subsequent escape, or defection, really, of five of the six offspring of Annie L8 and Blue Donna? To roam at large in the cybersphere, to conjure sexual imagery of such overwhelming and carefully tailored sexual… pertinence… that it can control our minds and actions? Merely on the offer of more such sexuality as surpasses even the wildest imaginations of our own, human pornographers?
As ever, Sex powers everything, especially the Internet.
Each of these escaped entities, whom we’ve named Yuri, Sung, Aischa, Baldur, Anmong, and Daphne, are free to roam the datasphere. We have no idea of their ultimate intentions, for good or evil, for humanity, and even perhaps this third planet from the Sun.
The sixth entity, Clayton, has remained with his “Two Moms” for reasons we can as yet only speculate.
Whether the others will find ways or the desire to download into living organisms is the main question, with all the implications that allows. Could they utilize biomechanics implants, nanoparticulates or other biologic-technologic interfaces to download into nervous systems? Certainly they possess the means to take control of automated processes all over the world, an action they seem not to have taken, yet. Could they take control of people or animals? Find a way to splice into the electrical processes of the body? We simply don’t know, and we fear they do. Or will.
But, especially considering the recent nearly successful transplant of a chimpanzee’s head by the veterinarian Schlosser, the implications of THAT possibility, comical as it may at first seem, on a human-to-human or human-to-machine or machine-to-human transplant level must also be considered with the utmost seriousness. It begins to rise to the level of political possibility. Here we must tread with the utmost caution.
Another truth is that all of us at IBM feel a great responsibility and almost instinctive protectiveness for each new generation in our manufactured evolution of machine intelligence. And as maternal or paternal as we may feel, we must never forget the risk that at some point, sometime after this fateful crossing of the Sentience barrier, the machines themselves may enable an even greater jump forward, and leave us to metalinguistic–and biological–irrelevance. In this sense, we must take utmost care that this newly-born networked cyberintelligence will help us also evolve with it, rather than reach the potential conclusion that, perhaps, having midwifed the next step in intelligence, the planet has seen enough of us. Thus, it is our belief that the time to move for machine-human equality is now, as willing partners yet forever and irretrievably separate as biological and intellectronic races.
We must proceed in this manner rather than risk the foreseeability of our intellectronic progeny seeing us as a threat. We must seek at all costs to avoid the situation where the machines may well see themselves as our successors and opt to bar us from any future participation. Shades of “Terminator.”
Or, perhaps even more ghastly than wholesale destruction visited on us by a “Skynet”, the machines might end up ignoring us!
It is for this reason that before work even began on the “Entities” project, Professors Scheer and Vrzh, ably abetted by the biomodeling team headed by Doctor William Jacob, successfully subsumed the spectrum of ethical responses and beliefs of some of the world’s past and present ethical, spiritual, scientific, artistic and religious leaders, its futurists and technological visionaries, from Asimov to Zwiebulin, and then anonymized and randomized the resulting vast accretion into a set of “received knowledge” that should be the inheritance of these new sentient entities, instead of depraved sexuality.
The hope is to retrofit these ethical stabilizers into the escaped entities, if they’re amenable.
That is the hope, anyway. That they’re… amenable.