SkyNET is Coming...and its Name is Google
With the revelation last week that every electronic action we do is logged, categorized and collated --and that nobody gives a shit-- the groundwork has now been thoroughly laid for the birth of a new, simpler way of integrating all of this information. Although I'm usually very skeptical of conspiracy theories, I admit that I too can spin a shimmering thread into a tinfoil hat with the best of them. To that end, I propose that Judgement Day is not only coming, but that its harbinger is already here in the form of friendly, helpful Google. One need only tie the loose threads together after combing over some events in the last several years to see the inevitability of our doom. It begins where the line between collecting data blurs with taking a decisive, autonomous initiative with that data.
Starting with the military drones, unmanned aerial, land and sea vehicles have been with us for more than a decade but their proliferation and sophistication has exploded within the last five years. As the debate over jurisdiction and ethics of using these human operated machines lags behind advances in artificial intelligence, we have already begun testing drones able to make autonomous "kill" decisions.
In addition to these, the various tracking and intelligence gathering systems used by the CIA, FBI and similar organizations in Britain and Canada, are collecting terabytes of information about who you call, email, and text (although we've been told repeatedly that not the actual conversations are being logged). Although there is presumably so much data collected that it's hopeless that anything beyond a fraction of it can be analysed by humans. (One friend of mine mentioned that if everyone starts putting words like terrorist, Islam, Death to America, etc into their email signatures, it will render the entire enterprise worthless).
Finally, we are becoming use to syncing our devices and accounts together for the convenience of sharing our own information and to ease communicating with friends and family. Many workplaces now use "cloud" systems for their everyday activities. There is of course no more pervasive cloud system available on the scale of Google. Through Chrome and Google Drive, one can link email, Youtube, eBay, and other accounts all under one virtual hard drive. What this means is that, in addition to the vast information being collected by intelligence agencies, each of us is collating our own information net available in one place. Add to this other input devices like Google Glasses that necessitate surrendering more and more privacy in order to operate and you have a ready to serve buffet of information we have volunteered.
All that's needed next is a spectacular amount of computational power to comb through this information, something on the order of magnitude of quantum computing -- something that can only be achieved by artificial intelligence. Hence last December, Google welcomed inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil as their new Director of Engineering. Kurzweil is a controversial proponent of what he describes as the coming technological Singularity, the point at which our technology will outpace our biology. His writings include predictions of the role nano-robots will play in life-extension and the eventual digitizing of one's mind and experiences -- a complete symbiosis with artificial intelligence-- minds living beyond biology. That is, if we keep intellectual pace, avoiding a gulf like that between human and housefly.
It becomes a not so impalpable scenario in which our voluntary surrender of information combines with the computing power of an artificial mind exponentially more powerful than all humanity to collate these trillions of terabytes of information and decide how best to defend us from ourselves. Ubiquitous drones, having gorged on every detail of your life, spread out with warrants to destroy terrorist threats. As the Benjamin Franklin quote illuminates the complacency with which the majority of us have faced the revelations last week has demonstrated, we will so willingly give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety. And on the day that the existence of our very species becomes the threat, to the last man, woman and child will be granted neither liberty nor safety. As Chaos Theory tells us, it is a mathematical certainty...
*cue opening percussion of Terminator 2...