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shades of grey

25 November 201009:54AMfiction

Once we'd pretty much cracked AI, it seemed logical to start emailing them to the stars. An AI could cope better than any human, could be written from the base code up to execute on anything which knew the difference between a one and a zero, and didn't need convincing, just programming. It could know everything it needed to know, and extrapolate anything it didn't. The perfect representative.

That was the problem. Ones and zeroes. I don't know how much you know about neuroscience, but the human brain- despite what you hear about brainwaves and shock therapy and having enough electrical energy to light a light bulb- the human brain is fundamentally chemical. We don't think at the speed of light, with bouncing electrons and carefully modulated photons. Our thoughts drift lazily across their synapses in a cloud of chemical neurotransmitters and hormones. Your mind, every thought, is a chemical reaction, the chemical reaction, a perfect chemical storm swirling up there in your skull.

At first we tried to emulate it. We built models, and layers of abstraction. "Good enough", we thought, and sent it off. But there are countless chemicals involved, and all we had were ones and zeroes. It was like trying to replicate a Van Gogh, but using only black and white and the shades of grey that makes, from ten metres away, wearing somebody else's glasses, and the Van Gogh isn't just indigo and gold but expands to fill the entire spectrum of light, invisibly electrically blue x-rays to the incomprehensible almost-black-red of the radio spectrum, and goes fifteen layers deep in three dimensions and is the size of a building with almost fractal complexity. How can you model that?

Do you see the problem with an AIstronaut now? The entirety of human experience, and all they could see was black and white and grey. 'GOOD', and 'BAD', they might feel- if you could call it feeling- but the awe of looking up at the night sky? No. The gut-wrenching terror of talking to a room full of strangers? Nope. The ecstatic fizz of joy of a five-year-old at Christmas? Negatori. It's not just that they can't experience it, they can't even comprehend it. The very idea of emotion is utterly alien to them.

And yet we send them to represent us. I hope to god there's nobody out there to receive it.


2 things:

  1. Wiki-assisted storytelling! I don't know if its been done before (on this big wide internet, it probably has) but I found myself thinking as I was writing it, "Man, I wish I could put a bibliography in here, or like a required reading list, so people get all the references." And then I was like, "Oh wait, hyperlinks." So yeah.
  2. Can you tell this is another one that originated pretty late at night? Like, considerably-after-midnight late. I left it for a day or two and reread it instead of posting it straight away though, cause that hasn't worked out so well in the past.
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