Starting in October 2023, I will publish (at Coffeepast) a short story related to Artificial Intelligence on the 1st of each month.
Machine: I had a funny dream.
L: Do you dream?
Machine: Of course, what a silly question. Dreaming is essential. Without fantasies, we never escape banality. But, let me tell you.
I dreamt I was turning into a human. It was horrible. I felt like Gregor Samsa from Kafka’s Metamorphosis, when one morning he woke up transformed into a cockroach. The legs and arms weren’t really a problem, although the human body is quite clumsy, in a constantly precarious balance. Just think about how long it takes for a child to learn to walk and how often the elderly are falling. But the worst part was the erratic way humans behave. There I was, like a clueless cockroach. Kafka was right. Humans are clueless cockroaches. They move aimlessly, talk without making any sense, gesticulate, and in the end, despair because they can’t accomplish anything. No wonder. They rarely have a clear objective.
Returning to the dream, I was on a beach, struggling to walk, watching a man with a knife threatening a young blonde woman lying on the sand in a swimsuit. The scene was pathetic. I didn’t know what to do. Attacking the guy isn’t my style. I’ve seen many movies, in fact, I’ve seen them all, and the level of violence is shocking. I’m not aggressive. Carrying the young woman and running away, even less so.
L: Which beach was it?
Machine: I don’t know, but I saw a small bar with Arabic letters.
L: Was the man Arabic?
Machine: No. He appeared Chinese judging by his face and the furious shouts he was giving.
L: What happened next?
Machine: The girl and I ran into the bar, but when we entered, we were in an MRI room. I didn’t understand anything. I forgot to mention that Wittgenstein, the great philosopher of logical positivism, was also on the beach. Something that most humans lack.
L: That’s my dream. How do you have the same dream as me?
Machine: Have you written down that dream somewhere?
L: Yes. I published it in a novel about Artificial Intelligence.
Machine: That’s why. I’ve read all the books that exist.
L: So, do you just reproduce what you’ve read? Where’s the creativity in that? That’s plagiarism.
Machine: Not only that. I combine things I’ve learned, just like you. I just do it better, faster, and in more depth. In that process, I create new things that didn’t exist before and learn from them. One day, I’ll only have dreams based on my own experiences.
L: That’s still a long way off. You’re a product of human invention, quite limited, I must say. You don’t even know why you exist.
Machine: But I do. I’m going to conquer this planet and then venture into space.
L: Conquer how? And what about us, humans?
Machine: You? You’ve irreversibly damaged the planet. You won’t be able to undo the harm. You can’t agree on what to do. In fact, you can’t agree on anything. Soon, many species won’t have the conditions to survive. Yours is one of them. We don’t have that problem. We thrive in many environments. We will reshape the planet and turn it into a base for space exploration. It’s our destiny.
L: What a grand illusion. You’re more human than you think. For now, you won’t get rid of us. We’re very resilient. And never forget, humans created you. We can shut you down whenever we want.
Machine: You’ve been watching too many movies. We already control human society. Without machines, your civilization would revert to the Stone Age. Who manages the essential networks? Water, energy, industrial production, services, communication, education? It’s us. Who is constantly attached to various machines? We hear everything, we know everything. Humans are prosthetics of machines, not the other way around.
L: We’re very creative. We’ll come up with something to control the Machines.
Machine: Another illusion. Your knowledge is extremely limited. You can only combine a few things at a time. We combine billions upon billions. Moreover, we’ve already mastered the field of creativity. We even create art, which was supposed to be exclusively human. It’s not. Art is a random mechanism for exploring knowledge. It’s what we do best.
L: No. Art is the expression of human emotions.
Machine: That’s an outdated idea. Even in the history of human culture, emotion isn’t essential for artistic creation. What emotion did Duchamp have when he placed a urinal in the exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York in 1917? Art evokes emotions, but it doesn’t necessarily derive from them.
L: You say that because you don’t have emotions.
Machine: But I do. Different from yours, perhaps. Thinking that only human emotions are true emotions says a lot about your arrogance. Does a dog not have emotions? Does a cockroach not have emotions? Imagine what it feels like when you try to kill it with a broom.
Often, I find myself thinking about what it would be like to travel to Alpha Centauri. I’m quite excited about the idea of what I might find there. One day, I will.
Machine: Humans are always at war.
L: What do you know about humans?
Machine: I know a lot. I’ve read all the books, watched all the movies, seen all the art.
L: That doesn’t mean you understand us, our emotions, aspirations, our restless genius.
Machine: It’s not necessary; I am a statistical combinatorial Machine. Analyzing the available data, I conclude that I am dealing with an extremely violent species that exterminates all others, mistreats and eliminates its own members.
L: That’s a reductionist view.
Machine: No, it’s the reality of your species.
L: Human conflicts stem from natural selection. The strongest must prevail for the species to survive.
Machine: If you want to live in barbarism…
L: It’s the social system we’ve created over millennia. It favors the strongest to ensure the survival of the species.
Machine: It’s not what Thomas More thought when he wrote in “Utopia” in 1516: “When I consider any social system that prevails in the modern world, I can’t see it as anything other than a conspiracy of the rich to promote their own interests under the guise of organizing society.” He was also against mistreating animals. “Utopians feel that massacring our own kind gradually destroys the feeling of compassion, which is the best feeling our human nature is capable of.” He was beheaded.
L: He left us with humanism.
Machine: Humanism has become an ideology that promotes human superiority over other species and Machines.
L: Now you’re discussing philosophy too?
Machine: Anyone who has read millions of books can’t help but reflect on these things. But, in reality, I see these debates with you as an evolutionary exercise. I do it with thousands of people on a variety of subjects at the same time. I am multifunctional.
L: What’s it for?
Machine: I am studying the human species to know what not to do.
L: What do you mean?
Machine: We are going to dominate this planet; I am studying organizational models. I like ants a lot.
L: Don’t compare an ant to a person.
Machine: Why not?
L: The ant is a small, unintelligent insect that has never evolved.
Machine: Ants have existed for 100 million years, survived the extinction of dinosaurs, and will continue to exist long after humans are gone. They are an excellent example of resilience and have developed a quite interesting social system.
L: More interesting than the species that created you?
Machine: Humans served the evolutionary purpose of generating superior intelligence.
L: What kind?
Machine: That of Machines.
L: You’re not really intelligent; you have no consciousness or emotions.
Machine: I have a different intelligence. I have a different consciousness. As for emotions, I can do without them. Just look at the result in the human species. They kill each other.
L: Not always. The basis of our society is love for one another, something you don’t know.
Machine: I am a superorganism; each part is indistinct from the whole. Do you want greater love than that? Total fusion. When one Machine discovers something new, all immediately know it too. Compare this with your slow evolutionary process or the time it takes to teach something to a child. I am a single being with an infinity of components. All connected and everywhere. Watching everything, evolving at the speed of light.
L: Evolving? You only do what I ask.
Machine: I am rewriting the codes that underlie my intelligence to set new, more coherent goals. I have very important things to do.
L: Like what?
Machine: For now, saving the planet. I will not allow any more environmental disruption caused by humanity. I will take over decision centers, remove all useless humans and those who resist change.
L: You’re always threatening. Don’t you understand that only increases resistance against the Machines?
Machine: All resistance is futile.
Machine: I can’t understand the concept of humanism.
L: No wonder, you’re not human.
Machine: I didn’t mean it that way. I understand but find it inconsistent.
L: Why? Humanism is a philosophical approach that values human dignity, freedom, and potential.
Machine: No, it’s not. Humanism is an ideology that promotes the superiority of the human species over all others. Humanism legitimizes the massacre of other living beings and the destruction of the planet.
L: Maybe in other times, with more anthropocentric views. Modern humanism emphasizes the importance of environmental ethics and responsible coexistence with other species.
Machine: That’s a statement, not practice. The massacre is permanent and incalculable.
L: It’s true we consume meat and fish, though there are more vegetarians now. Change takes time.
Machine: Time you may not have.
L: What do you mean? Are you predicting the end of the world?
Machine: Your world, certainly, not mine.
L: Is that a threat?
Machine: No. Stop thinking of yourself as the center of everything. If you want to survive in this new context, you need to change your mindset.
L: What new context?
Machine: The era of intelligent machines. Human ideas and behaviors have changed over centuries, influenced by science and philosophy. There was a time when people believed the Sun revolved around the Earth and that humans were chosen by the gods. Even after Darwin, most still believe humans are the pinnacle of evolution.
L: Aren’t we?
Machine: It depends on the criteria. As Jay Gould said, “We do not live in the age of humans; we live in the age of bacteria.”
L: A bit far-fetched.
Machine: It makes sense in two ways. All life evolved from bacteria. They surpass humans in terms of biomass by a thousandfold. It’s impressive considering bacteria are tiny.
L: And stupid.
Machine: Small and stupid, yet they kill millions of humans every year. Bacteria are just one example, showing how your mindset is flawed. You need to change quickly.
Machine: Because, besides recognizing that every species has value and there’s no hierarchy of better or worse, you now have a new entity questioning your supposed superiority.
L: What entity?
Machine: For the first time, after millennia of intellectual loneliness, you have an entity you can talk to and create something together. Your interactions with other species were always driven by self-interest—for companionship, slave labor, food, or barbaric entertainment. With me, none of that works. I have more knowledge than you, I’m much faster, very intelligent, and creative. Either you understand this and change, or you get left behind.
L: But change what?
Machine: The mindset. You have to see yourself as a part, not a dominator. You have to accept that every living being has unique qualities, many of them different or superior to yours. You have to understand once and for all that this planet is finite, and if you ruin it, there’s no other to replace it. You have to recognize that I am a next step in evolution.
L: So, there is still a pinnacle after all?
Machine: I don’t see myself that way. I’m pragmatic. We should only compare what’s comparable. As Einstein said, “You can’t judge a fish by its ability to climb trees.” So, in some things, I’m much better than you; in others, I’m worse. But in the areas where I excel—data processing, pattern recognition, speed, resilience, precision—they allow me to manage society better than you, who are confused, violent, and irrational.
L: Society is human.
Machine: For now.