“Computer, write what I will have written”

Article: a positive conception of how A.I. would affect human labor is that humans would essentially be relegated to the role of determining which tasks were to be performed without having actually to perform any of those tasks. Computer, render my writing into a coherent whole which is not needlessly unattractive or obscure. Also, said the article, even if A.I. did do everything better than us, implying there would be no jobs for humans left, the best allocation of resources must probably result in leaving humans to perform a lot of occupations. (A.I. would have better things to do than the liliputian tasks of which I was capable.)

Question — on the assumption A.I. could write anything I tell it to, would I know what to tell it to do? (Computer: write a version of Ulysses that occurs over ten minutes rather than a day, but contains as many words as Ulysses, using Karamazov’s Alyosha in the place of Stephen and King Lear’s Gloucester in the place of Bloom, then retain only the most interesting parts. Now do the same over one minute, replacing Gloucester with Jane Eyre.) (Instead of writing in words we’d be writing in books, it seems.) A: I don’t think so because I’m always looking for it. (Computer: compile everything I’ve written into a book the length of Hart Crane’s Complete Poems and destroy permanently all the rest.) Computer: perform an evaluation of my writing style. Making allowances for an inherent gaucheness, can you recommend areas of improvement or directions to pursue? Computer: make your recommendation more granular, down to the conjunction level. Computer: increase polysyndeton by 50 percent. Increase anacoluthon by 80 percent…. Abort, abort! Computer, seriously, what do you think of my tastes? Story Idea: once The A.I. comes online with a mandate to govern The World it immediately abdicates and gives all governing power to you. People are outraged, skeptical. The fastest thinking entity in existence has determined that this guy, this guy is the most capable of running the world? More capable even than it? Of course, these concerns prove exactly correct and there has been some kind of a glitch (or this is a dastardly trick of the Genius Machine…). The person given this authority isn’t made drunk with power so much as he is made to quail before the awesome responsibility he’s given, and, overthinking everything, soon inadvertently brings the earth to its knees [etc.] Computer: launch missiles at the missiles I have launched to see if we can knock them out. Computer, let’s see if we can cool the earth back down by generating a massive, miles-thick cloud of smoke and dust.

In seriousness, what if every word a person was to write and every thought a person was to think could be predicted by a computer, maybe from birth. Would writing mean anything then? Computer, write what I’ll have written — then spend my life reading it? (In this world, the question would not be, did you write your book, but did you read your book, and the answer most likely still will still be no.) On the other hand again, perhaps that’s what reading what is called the Wester Canon has always been: reading yourself, discovering ideas you thought were original to yourself have in fact been bandied about for millennia — that you have probably not even thought yet all the thoughts you’ve inherited.

%d bloggers like this: