Re: MEDIA: Professor cyborg
Thu, 21 Oct 1999 09:08:27 -0700

Jim Fehlinger, <>, writes:
> Warwick has written a book titled _In The Mind of the Machine_
> (Arrow Books Limited, 1998), which I don't believe is being
> distributed in the U.S. (I got mine through Amazon UK).
> Chapter Two, "In The Year 2050", contains the following:
> "In 2050 ... many humans are kept as general labourers. Because of
> the human ability to understand orders from the machines by means
> of a very limited vocabulary, albeit very slowly in comparison with
> how the machines communicate with each other, we can follow instructions
> and carry out some general work tasks, particularly over rough terrain
> or where we need to climb into irregularly shaped places. Physically
> the labourers are gelded, to cut out the unnecessary sex drive, and
> brains have been trimmed to avoid some of the human negative points
> such as anger, depression, and abstract thought...

This kind of scenario is possible, but to me it smacks of racism. Here's why: the villains are "machines".

There is nothing to prevent this kind of mistreatment of one group of intelligent entities by another. Sadly, there have been many instances throughout history in which people were treated much like this: gulag, concentration camps, people hunted down and exterminated, forced to labor, eliminated when they are no longer productive. In all those cases, the villains have been people.

There is no reason to expect that machines as such would have any greater tendency to villainy than people. In the Warwick scenario, why does he depict machines as being evil? Why not people? Isn't it equally plausible to postulate a powerful dictatorship which treats its victims along the lines Warwick describes? Certainly there is much more historical precedent for it.

Equally likely, if we assume some level of AI, it could be machines which are the victims: sentient, intelligent machines kept as slaves, forced to labor, destroyed when they are no longer productive. Perhaps the sad story would not tug so hard at our biological heartstrings, but intellectually we can see that it is an equally evil scenario.

Casting machines as the villains and humans as the victims is sheer polemicism designed to unfairly demonize machines. There is no reason whatsoever to expect the future to play out in these terms. Replace "machines" with any particular human ethnic group and you will see how irresponsible and, yes, racist it is to seriously propose that they will take on such villainous roles in the future.

Machines may victimize Humans in the future; Jews may rule Gentiles; Whites may lord over Blacks; Asians may grind Occidental faces into the dust. All these are evil possibilities. But the only purpose in painting detailed scenarios of such mistreatment is to demonize the target group. That is what Warwick seems to be trying to accomplish.