My celebrities crushes are Jaime Oliver and Elon Musk. I live to eat and Jaime Oliver’s the cutest TV Chef*, hands down (*runner up is Chef Ben from Below deck). As for Musk, well, it seems I have a thing for bad boy tech entrepreneurs who want to save humankind; as also evidenced by my love for my partner, Kory (who, in addition to creating internet-connected indoor farming systems, also lets me cook for him, which requires a sense of adventure and lack of risk aversion in and of itself).
Only days after gossiping about the Canadian music scene with my music video director sister* (*e.g., me, trying to impress her by saying things like ‘I think I once met Grimes’ lawyer,’ and ‘My ex-boss went to law school with the head of 604 Records’, while she politely nods), Elon Musk showed up to the Met Gala with Grimes as his date! Apparently they bonded over a joke about artificial intelligence taking over the world!! Robo’s Basilisk, to be exact!!!
Boiled down, Robo’s Basilisk is a thought experiment that posits ‘if you do not dedicate your life to bringing artificial intelligence (“AI”) into existence, then you will be eternally tortured when AI becomes a super-powered species.’ Sounds nutso, or logical, depending on whom you ask, while it may launch others spiraling down a rabbit hole, questioning the makeup of our existence and whether anything is real.
I didn’t understand what an existential crisis was until I was 25 years old. Sure, I had studied existential philosophy in university. I thought it was really cool when we watched The Matrix in Philosophy in Film, though I chalked the idea we’re living in a computer stimulation to a zany movie idea rather than anything rooted in ration.
Jump to 2011, and I’m at the end of my articled year after slugging through ten months of torturous legal internship* (*maybe a sign I failed Robo Basilisk, but more on that later). The only thing between me and my license to practice law was the Law Society bar admission course, an eight-ish week program of lectures, comfy pants, and best of all, dismissal from class at two pm. With the extra time off, I wanted to give my mind a break. Let it float through non-legal books and wander in other subjects.
If I had picked up a gardening book, or perhaps something uplifting from Oprah’s Book Club, my life may have ended up very differently.
Instead, I chewed into The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil, after seeing the author on the Colbert Report.
Kurzweil argues the inevitable consequence of technology advancing exponentially is soon computers will possess more intelligence than humankind, kickstarting a new evolution, a new species: AI. And that, my friends, is when shit hits the fan. We can’t even imagine what will be possible post-singularity, because our dinky human brains just aren’t smart enough.
What’s more: All matter is data, simply zeros and ones, and all data can be made intelligent, and there is nothing in the universe that isn’t matter; therefore, the whole universe will become an intelligent operating system.
Given how long the universe has existed, and given humankind has only been around for a speck on the timeline of said existence, what are the chances we’re really living in the first generation that brings rise to AI? Chances are (according to Kurzweil), it’s happened before. Chances are, we’re simply trapped in The Matrix, a computer simulation for scientific* or entertainment* purposes (*maybe an experiment to see if we reach singularity before self-destructing) (*or maybe we’re just the Bravo TV of the AI world).
It was a bit hard to focus on legal studies with my unfinished The Singularity is Near crying from my bedside table. And while, unlike Kurzweil, I’m not entirely sold on simulation theory, I was definitely experiencing my first existential crisis. What was the point of studying for the bar exam when AI would take over the job of lawyers anyhow? More so, what’s the point of anything if we’re just Sims?!* (*more so, more so, what is the point of the Sims? Keeping your Sim safe from microwave fires? Building a dope house with the cheat code “rosebud”? Torturing your Sims by building walls around them without doors so they’d be trapped and have to pee on the lawn before getting dragged off by the Grim Reaper?)
Robo’s Basilisk says our robot overlords will bestow kindness to those who brought them into existence, while those who simply lived charitable, selfless lives are Shit Out of Luck* (*Mother Theresa and Gandhi were in the wrong business). Fortunately, I’m no longer a lawyer, but now a startup co-founder, creating in the AI space*. So, I guess this absolves me of everything else? Time to run more red lights, cheat on taxes, throw pop cans in the trash, and other morally ambiguous acts. Game on?
(*In a strangely synchronic event, when I went into my HR manager’s office to quit my last “traditional” law job, I noticed a copy of Time Magazine on her desk. On its cover, was D-Wave’s Quantum Computer. I pointed it out, and she casually mentioned its her husband’s company (!!), like no big deal, my husband has created the world’s first quantum computer which, you know, could bring about singularity, or at least make it a lot harder to come up with a secure password. I told her about simulation theory and she exasperated, “Oh, I know! Gordie (her husband) talks about that all time! It really ruins dinner parties.”)