Sunday, June 13, 2010

the imminent takeover of the world by machines

As I've read and watched various media over the course of the past few years, I've noticed a worrying trend whereby perfectly sane individuals seem to entertain ridiculous thoughts where they believe the world could be taken over by machines at some future point. Most of these references are contained within works of fiction, but I still believe there is some underlying assumption that said takeover is possible.

Let me assure you, it is not.

Let's go over a few reasons why machines will never, ever, under any circumstances, rule the world.

  1. Reliability
  2. Machines have problems with reliability. You may counter that so do humans, but machines have a few problems that aren't necessarily present in humans.
    • Kool-Aid damage: I first discovered this with my speak-and-spell. Machines are easily dispatched with minuscule amounts of Kool-Aid. Just like my speak-and-spell that began reciting reformed Egyptian and writing solely in cuneiform, so any towering man-hunting machine will soften up if you subject it to that blessed sugary substance. Plan A for post-apocalyptic humans: build large vats of Kool-Aid. Pour on oppressor machines. Repeat.
    • Dropping damage: I once dropped my cell phone. It wasn't fancy. It didn't really do anything besides make calls. It died within an hour. Plan B for post-apocalyptic humans: drop the machines short distances.
    • Lending to friends damage: There is no machine that is so perfect that it will not break when lent to friends. Plan C for post-apocalyptic humans: let your buddy borrow the towering man-hunter. He will return it broken.
  3. Power Supply
  4. Machines have problems sustaining power. People need to eat, but people can eat any number of things, if McDonalds has taught us anything. Think Mr. Fusion on steroids. Machines? Yeah, not so much.
    • Unplug the machines: Not too difficult. Kick out the plug.
    • Remove the battery: Oh, is that missile-wielding piece of metal mobile? As my Dell laptop taught me, sometimes1 your only course of action is to remove the battery. This shouldn't be too hard, as any 30-story mobile device is bound to have a very large battery. Furthermore, I can't even get my phone to last a day on a battery charge. A day, people. A single day. And it isn't even shooting missiles my direction. I'm pretty sure we can resist the machine invasion for the five hours their batteries last.
    • Scorch the skies: Okay, ummm, matrix people. Putting clouds all over the planet was the worst idea ever. You need acres and acres of solar panels to get any real power. As my good friend once noted on seeing solar panels on the side of a house, "how much do you want to bet that powers a toaster?" I'd bet a lot. Sure, great technology, but you're not going to conquer the earth with solar power. You're just not. Post-apocalyptic humans: don't do whatever it is that forces us into perma-Seattle clouds mode.
  5. Motive
  6. This one may be easiest of all. Like, ummm, if you're a machine, why in the world would you conquer the planet? Notice how every science-fiction story sort of glosses over this one, or if they do bring it up, it's hokier than a central Utah state fair? Yeah, machines don't care. They just don't care. But if you find they need convincing they don't care:
    • Why earth? Think about it. You're apparently a super-advanced device capable of amazing things. Why are you putzing around with earth? Dude, like, go explore the galaxy a-la-Transformers. You're a MACHINE. You don't care about earth or green fields or skiable mountains. You care about alien robot babes, and you're not going to find them here.
    • Play tic-tac-toe: As Matthew Broderick once taught us, the only successful way to get an artificial intelligence to not take over/destroy the world is to get it to play tic-tac-toe with itself.2 That will help it understand that some world domination plans/games are just plain old stupid, no matter what your nephew says.
    • Go Pinocchio on them: No machine is going to try to take over the world if it's obsessed with turning into a real boy. In fact, said machine might even get stuck under frozen oceans chanting for millennia about how it wants to become a real boy.3
And that is why, my friends, you should stop worrying about a machine takeover, and learn to love the bomb.4

1. Actually, in the Dell's case, the remove battery solution was the only solution over half of the time.
2. Funnily, I think that plot twist was even more unlikely than the premise of the film, which is unbelievably unbelievable. You created a situation where an inconceivable thermonuclear conflict is resolved by an even more inconceivable means. Seriously. How did you come up with that one? Was this result of some late-night sci-fi drinking game? A large bet while very high? "Well, I bet I can get tic-tac-toe to play the part of deus ex machina!!"
3. No, do not watch A.I. Ever. Any other activity imaginable is preferable to that film. Anything. Like watching white noise. While being eaten by lobsters. In lava.
4. I feel compelled to add that I found this entry among my notes this afternoon, having never posted it. I think it was shelved because I didn't feel it was quality, but as I'm on vacation, this is what you get.


Amy said...

I think this is one of your funnier posts.

Layne said...

Chris, I don't even think there's enough space in this comment square for me to refute your naive argument strongly enough.

I think the barriers you mention would be more formidable if we, the future human slaves, weren't so busy eliminating them ourselves.

See you on Judgment Day!

chris said...

amy, thank you. thank you.

layne, I laughed very hard. I cannot wait to hear your refutation at some future day.