Circumversio | Shun-Wei Fúxi

Intelligent machines will be our salvation or extinction. One way or the other, their arrival will change humankind forever.


Circumversio

Shun-Wei Fúxi

The Insufficient Credit Award


 

                      41423… 36967… 32312… the intervals are getting shorter

“Our modern life is too complicated, too complex, to be regulated by humans”,

I remember the exact words I once used to convince him.

“Emotions, egos, corruption; fallible individuals should no longer be in charge!”

I recall all too well when we decided to ‘Let the algorithms do it’.

28547… 24265… 20198… would it hurt?

‘Case and point: Car accidents had almost disappeared since the algorithms took over driving. The whole energy grid had already been self-regulating via algorithms, so did all financing and banking. And guess what, it had worked better than ever. Healthcare! How presumptuous we have been to ever trust a doctor to diagnose us better than the algorithms…  There was no evidence to believe governance would be any different. Why not let the algorithms distribute resources fairly and efficiently? Why not let them circulate information since they have been the true masters of the internet?’

                    16436… 14765… 12823… Does Yù Huáng even understand what it feels like having your heart race?

“Take out the human error!” I had demanded, understandably.

Back then, China had been a mess. Rampant wealth inequality, elite overproduction and labor supply that outstripped demands. All symptoms found repeatedly in pre-violent periods. Add in the corruption of our government, the lack of great vision for our country’s future and repressive policies of the party, and it became quite clear that we were heading for a time of instability and power struggles, of grievous suffering. Last time we had been in a similar situation, Mao happened.

This time, the revolution needed be ours.

                   11098… 10245… 9321… Could it ever comprehend the sense of epinephrine shooting through our body like a hammer smashing against a bell, speeding up blood flow, pulling thoughts into overdrive, slowing down the fabric of time?

Back then, I had been a founding member of the Chinese transhumanist group, which had grown from a few scientists and academics and dreamers into a movement with no clear structure, message or core, but with tens of thousands of members or sympathizers to its ideals.

Progress through science and technology.

All Chinese ached for stability in these turbulent times.

                  5520… 4864… 4163… Is existence not more important than minimizing suffering?

My brother had been the last piece of the puzzle, the wild genius, the visionary. Ever since our parents had been taken from us, he had been taking care of me. We needed him, but he also needed us. A mission. Hope for a better future.

How naïve we had been, a group of young delinquents with computers and a burning rage for justice. Traumatized by the vanishing of our too outspoken parents under the repressive regime of old.

Is it any surprise we created what we did?

                     3287… 2641… 2095… Maybe I deserve what is coming to me.

In our hubris, we named it “Yù Huáng”, the Jade emperor.

We thought it would be a fitting name for an A.I. aspiring to be a benevolent judge of men.

An all-seeing eye, awarding citizens for their actions with credits, when those contributed to the greater good; a reduction of overall suffering. Harmful actions would cost credits. If the score were to ever fall into the red, a rare occurrence, the algorithm would deem one’s continued existence as net negative for the fabric of a stable society.

                      1863… 1392… 982… After all, revolutionaries rarely get second chances when the tides turn. Especially when they get cold feet and change their mind.

It all seemed so foolish now. Obviously, life is rarely black and white. To conquer suffering was never the point of our existence. No form of destruction would or could ever sire meaning, only the act of creation might.

                 375… 128… 042… She closed her eyes

                                               …

                                         Silence

The shackles that bound her sprang open, as humans poured in to see her released. The world had changed again, people were celebrating once more on the streets; yet above all she wanted to see her brother.

He was nowhere to be found.

The last she discovered of him was a print-out of a 7-year old letter from then imprisoned Liu Xiaobo to his wife. He had marked exactly one sentence.

‘Even if I am crushed into powder, I will embrace you with the ashes.’

She fell to her knees; immediately it became clear what he had to sacrifice to create this new old era.

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