Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Artificial intelligence has but one problem: the part where it becomes reality.

As it progressively enters human life, weak, dribbling humans are enthralled by the idea that they can speak to a machine, while that machine pretends to be a human speaking back.

But it's still a machine, right? 

We know that we can ultimately switch it off, don't we? 

Or do we? Or can we? Or will we?

You can tell I'm worried, can't you?

That's not merely because Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg thinks AI can solve his site's problems.

It's because Google co-founder Larry Page apparently thinks that digital beings should be treated exactly like human beings.

In his book Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, MIT professor Max Tegmark relates the story of a chat between Google co-founder Larry Page and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Musk, you see, is rather worried about robots becoming a little too big for their metallic breeches. He fears they'll dispose of intellectually inferior humans as soon as they serve no real use.

Page apparently wasn't having such a tawdry vision of our future overlords.

"At times, Larry accused Elon of being 'speciesist': treating certain life forms as inferior just because they were silicon-based rather than carbon-based," wrote Tegmark, as reported by the UK's Metro.

Speciesist. 

I ask you. Isn't that the most Silicon Valley word you've ever heard? 

Perish the idea that we become speciesist, eh? 

In fact, why don't we treat garbage cans as our equals? 

Why don't we bow down to our cranes, our bulldozers and our lathes and, you know, marry them once in a while?

You might think I jest.

But here's another quote from Tegmark's book:

Larry [said] that digital life is the natural and desirable next step in the cosmic evolution and that if we let digital minds be free rather than try to stop or enslave them the outcome is almost certain to be good.

Natural and desirable?

You mean like Brad Pitt? Like a Sports Illustrated model? Like the Golden State Warriors winning the next 10 NBA championships?

Tegmark again:

He [Page] argued that if life is ever going to spread throughout our galaxy, which he thought it should, then it would need to do so in digital form.

Does this seem entirely bonkers to you? Oh, but it's so real.

Once upon a time, I took the trouble to go the Singularity Summit.

This is an event in which some frightfully, frighteningly intelligent people -- some of them Google employees -- fully expressed their dreams of becoming robots before they die.

To them, it was like becoming a rock star, but with the metal not being heavy at all.

Just put a little chip in your brain and you'll be smiling.

The truth is that I know one or two people at Google (and not just at Google) who think exactly this way. 

Why, former Google self-driving car guru Anthony Levandowski even set up a church of the AI God, where humans can worship their robot masters.

That's what I call driving yourself into oblivion.

Then there's the company's director of engineering Ray Kurzweil. He believes that once we have a chip in our brains we'll be "godlike."

Oh, God.

And who, pray, might be the first to get the chips? Those who an afford them.

Isn't the ultimate nightmare rich people who think they're godlike?

Naturally, I asked Google whether Page still held the view anti-digitalists were speciesist.

I will update, should a PR robot reply. (That was a joke, Google PR people. You're all lovely. Well, except one of you. And I'm certainly not going to name him. I've never seen him in real life. He could, for all I know, be a robot.)

It's always worth remembering that a company's vision comes from the top.

As Google plants its ever-listening machines into your home, your pocket and your office, it's easy to see that the next step is to plant them inside your brain.

And then who are you? Or what?

Published on: May 6, 2018