The text is brief. “Leave now. Do not pack. Kids already in transit.” As I pass reception, an upturned face. “Madam Secretary…?”
“Out. Go Now. Everyone. Move.”
Three minutes forty-two seconds later a flash in the rearview mirror, followed by a sharp jolt transmitted through the suspension. A glance upward shows a column of dark smoke already rising where we all used to be.
Once I’m back under, I send a text of my own. “The warning was timely. Your attempt was not. My representatives will be with you shortly. If you’d rather not wait up for them, I’ll understand.”
After that, a drink. Then once more unto the breach, for now, as before, what we do is who we are. No more, no less.
Trump versus DeSantis, the Ron and Don show, is about to begin in earnest. Oy gewalt! Watching the handicappers on Fox News counsel the Republican Party’s animal farmers to trade a pig for a weasel in the upcoming presidential primaries can evoke a litany of gruesome probabilities, but at this point it’s hard to see how following their advice can confer any great advantage on a party that seems more interested in self-immolation than winning elections.
In any event, for the MAGA faithful, escaping the lottery of potential regret is no longer an option. Dumb as they are, it’s hard not to feel at least a poquito bit sorry for them. Trump’s always been the guy, right? Right? So what’s all this stuff about choices all of a sudden?
They have a point. As a would-be herald of the coming cracker apocalypse, Trump has always had a certain way about him—if standup comedy in Hell’s your thing, Don’s your guy. If you’re a sadist pure and simple, though, DeSantis can offer you the purity and simplicity of Conan’s gladness—elect him and he’ll crush your enemies, have them driven before you, and guarantee you a seat close enough to hear the lamentations of their women. This shorthand caudillo doesn’t need to play golf, or crack jokes, he’s got vengeance to sell. That’s it, that’s the whole deal. There’s not the slightest hint in his public performances of the titillating foreplay that good old boys find so endearing about Trump. If Ron’s your guy, there’ll be no laughing ever. Triumphant sneering will still be encouraged, laughing absolutely not.
The concern expressed in The Center for AI Safety’s Statement of AI Risk seems justified to me, but it also seems to me that many of the signatories have still not grasped the real nature of that risk. It’s the second order effects that’ll do us in—not the singularity and its presumptively implacable AI overlords, but rather the symbiotic processes already inherent in pervasive computing, processes which we can all sense, but are still in denial about what it will take, in terms of an evolution in human consciousness, to successfully navigate those spaces which still exist between where the machine ends and we begin.
In his 1960 Critique de la Raison Dialectique, Jean-Paul Sartre indulged himself in a typically poetic digression about how we can’t tell—may never be able to tell—whether we’re dreaming the machine, or the machine is dreaming us. This is a commonplace now, but although it wasn’t entirely new in 1960, it was still controversial enough to meet with widespread ridicule among the opinion makers of the day. And of course Sartre was describing the strictly physical interactions of humans and industrial age assembly lines, when machines were dumb, and humans were still thought to be the masters no matter how deeply their own mental processes were conditioned by the mechanical repetitions of their jobs.
The machines today are no longer dumb, and we can no longer afford the illusion that we are the masters of either the physical or the mental aspects of the machine/human symbioses of the 21st century. I’m not sure why, but I’m not as bothered by this as the signatories of this letter are telling me I ought to be. It certainly isn’t because I’m an optimist in the narrow sense ot the term. I expect great darknesses in our future, but not the ones that are supposedly keeping the tech bros up at night. These latter day idiot savants aren’t the real heralds of our new distempered age, it’s the kids now glued to TikTok all day. What their stewardship of our future will look like remains beyond anyone’s current power to predict. To make a long story short, it’s not the end of humans that should concern us, but the end of humanism, which seems to be losing its grip on the tiller of this ship of fools we’re crewing well before a new helmsman is ready to take its place.
How many more Republican governors and so-called conservative Supreme Court justices, I wonder, will the American Psychiatric Association have to observe before adding self-righteousness to the DSM as a class B antisocial personality disorder?