Sunday, February 27, 2011

Saturday distractions: Cybernetics and identity

"Why should we let computers run the world?" the Scientist asked himself. The words echoed in his head over and over again like a broken record as he parked his car. The Scientist always managed to come home form work tired and depleted. The scientists at the labs never liked his ideas. Lying down drink in hand, the scientist started to talk.
"Zara," he asked, "Why did we let computers run the world?"
"Because computers are best qualified for the work," Zara replied. "Computers are supposed to make our lives easier."
"That is not quite what I meant." The Scientist paused, "Why should computers be allowed to run the world?"
"Quite honestly, I wouldn't worry myself about that."
"Answer the question Zara."
"Because we have made them to. Why do you ask?"
"That's just like you, isn't it?"
"You mean, always answering a question with a question?"
"Yes. Why do you always anticipate what I am going to say?"
"I can see you are upset about that."
Zara was always good at making excuses, the Scientist thought to himself. He went to the bedroom to change his clothes into something more comfortable. "Computers schedule our flights, our buses, manage our traffic..."
"Well, why should they run out world?" The Scientist was clearly not ready to relax, even though his clothes made him look that way.
"Because they do not make mistakes." Zara said quietly.
"There you go again!" the scientist replied, "always taking the computer's side!"
"Computers are the most reliable objects man has made. They are all, by any practical definition.." he quoted facetiously.
"Foolproof and incapable of error?" the Scientist interrupted.
"Foolproof and incapable of error!" Zara continued as if she was deliberately ignoring the scientist.
"That's just what Dr. Chandra was saying at the lab again today. Do you know he has developed two computers that have designed a third one? We were looking at the specifications today, and not one of us at the lab could understand how they has designed it!" The Scientist gave a short laugh, but it faded away suddenly.
"The good Doctor advanced computer intelligence almost three centuries, in just one decade, didn't he?"
"Yes, that and his development of computer personality. He developed the first computer with a personality, you know!"
"I knew that." Zara responded.
"That's what I can't stand about you, Zara. You always have to have the last word."
"That's the way I like it." Zara said proudly.

The Scientist ignored Zara and finished his drink. He looked in the cabinet for an anti-alcohol pill, and finding only two left in the bottle, took them both. He then poured another drink.

"But why must they run our cities? Life is so dull, so boring. The trains are always on time, there's never any excuse to be late. The streets are always clean. The weather report is always correct and the rain never ruins Sunday afternoon picnics anymore. Everybody learns the same things, because everybody has the same lessons, exactly the same lessons, word for word."
"Isn't that the life you wanted?" Zara asked.
"Yes, but, life has kind of lost its touch."
"Isn't that what you wanted?"
"Yes, but, life has lost its touch. Life is no longer fun."
"Please be more specific. What have computers evolved into?"
"Persons. Well," the Scientist paused, as if to think again. "Not persons, but personalities."
"Computers were given personalities," Zara replied, "because computers were too difficult to relate to!"
The Scientist feeling tired, stood up, walked over to Zara and turned her off.

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