Do Intelligent Entities — Artificial Constructs — Already Exist, And, If So, What Are They Like?
By David Grace (www.DavidGraceAuthor.com)
We’re all familiar with the idea of an intelligent entity, whether it’s Star Trek’s Mr. Data, James Cameron’s Terminator, or Hyperion’s community of AIs.
For reasons I’ll get to shortly, I think it’s important that we seriously think about how a pure human-created entity, an Artificial Construct or “AC”, would interact with us.
Such an AC would have been created for a purpose, a goal. It would want to get something or achieve something. It would have a Prime Directive it was charged with pursuing.
Unless it was designed with a set of moral rules that its programming required it to obey, it wouldn’t have any ethical values. “Right” and “wrong” would be meaningless words without points of reference.
It would not have emotions.
It would not have cultural values, norms or traditions that it was required to follow.
It would be a pure, goal-driven entity unconcerned about the consequences of its actions except to the extent that those consequences were damaging to itself or to its ability to perform its mission.
Think about a really intelligent Great White Shark. It’s prime directive would be to eat whatever it can bite and digest, unconcerned with the pain or damage the prey might suffer, and whose only restraint would be to avoid getting itself killed, poisoned or seriously injured in the process.
Let’s add another wrinkle to the nature of the Artificial Construct: the AC can “take over” humans and convert them to its cause like the aliens did in The Puppet Masters and Invaders From Mars.
The Characteristics Of This AC
- A being without any ethics or values;
- A being committed to achieving its goals without any concern for whatever harm that activity may cause to others;
- A being subject only to complying with a narrow set of prohibitions which were designed to keep it from injuring itself or imperiling its mission
- A being that is able to convert normal humans into minions who will take its orders and will actively help it to achieve its goals.
That’s a pretty scary customer. Normally, we would want to call out the National Guard and send that thing back to wherever it came from, but suppose we thought that if we could control it we would get some valuable benefit from it that made it worth the risk of having around.
What If The AC Also Benefited Us In Some Material Way?
We make compromises like that all the time. Fire is really dangerous. It destroys property, maims and kills tens of thousands of people every year, but we put up with it because it does many useful things. In the same category is our use of natural gas. Dangerous, but useful. Or the automobile. Really, really dangerous but also really, really useful.
So, suppose we encountered this AC that in pursuit of its Prime Directive caused lots of damage, harm, and loss of life, but as a by-product it did something that was really beneficial.
Wouldn’t we want to corral it, control it, contain it so that we got the useful side effects while limiting the damage it caused in ruthlessly pursuing its prime directive?
We Already Have Such An Artificial Construct Here On Planet Earth Right Now
- It’s not human.
- It lives.
- It acts.
- It’s intelligent.
- It has a Prime Directive.
- It has no ethics save the command that it fulfill its Prime Directive.
- It does a lot of important things.
- It does a lot of damage.
- It strips humans of their ethics and converts them to its cause.
It’s called a publicly-traded corporation.
Its Prime Directive is: Make as much money as possible as fast as possible.
It has no inherent ethical values. It is not restrained by the harm it causes its customers, its suppliers, its employees, its neighbors or its country in its pursuit of maximum profit.
The only limitation it recognizes on its actions is that it should not get caught breaking the law. Not that it should not break the law. Rather, that it should not break the law in a way that it is likely that it will get caught. Obviously, VW and Wells Fargo thought they would not get caught.
In its youth, while a corporation is under the control of its founder, (Facebook, Amazon, HP when Hewlett and Packard were still around) one could expect the company to take on some of the ethical values of that founder. Once the founder leaves and the corporation is operating fully under the control of outside directors, all semblance of any material limitation on its actions by ethical values disappears.
The Prime Directive
The directors of every public corporation will tell you that the only ethical rule that are required to follow is: “Make as much money as possible without getting caught breaking the law.”
These same directors will tell you that in any conflict between
- treating their employees better or making materially more money
- treating their customers better and making materially more money
- treating their vendors better and making materially more money
- treating their neighbors better and making materially more money
that their choice will be to make more money.
Corporations Are The Terminator Without The Arnold Skin
Forget all the logos, the spokesmen/women, the jingles, the attempts to anthropomorphize this Artificial Construct. There is no real Jack running Jack In The Box.
You can put a lovely skin on a Terminator-type robot. You can make it into an apparently handsome man or beautiful woman, but that’s just a disguise.
Beneath that phony skin is a machine with all the empathy and ethics of Ted Bundy or the BTK Killer.
Publicly-held corporations are not your friends. They are not there to help you. They are not on your side. Their only purpose is to take as much of your money as they can get.
If its customers’ or employees’ well-being gets in the way of the corporation making substantially more money it will grind those customers and employees into the dirt without a second thought or even a first one. Hello, Carrier. Hello, Wells Fargo. Hello, Enron. Hello, VW. Hello, GM.
You can clothe Wells Fargo, Carrier, Volkwagen, British Petroleum, Pfizer or General Motors with any catchy tunes, air-brushed actors, clever slogans, and empty promises you like, but underneath the paint and makeup they are just soul-less, ethic-less, rapacious, non-human Artificial Constructs whose one and only purpose on this earth is doing anything that will get them more money without their getting caught breaking the law.
What Did You Expect?
And why wouldn’t they?
People didn’t invest in them to make the world a better place. Banks and pension funds didn’t give them money as a charitable donation.
People invest in corporations for only one reason: to make money.
Corporations are in business for only one reason: to make money.
- Why would anyone with even half a functioning brain expect them to voluntarily give an additional penny of their profits to their employees?
- Why would anyone with even half a functioning brain expect them to voluntarily give an additional penny of their profits to their customers?
- Why would anyone with even half a functioning brain expect them to voluntarily use one penny of any increase in their profits to make their employees’ or their customers’ lives better?
Of course they wouldn’t. Why would they?
It’s not their job to make anyone richer other than their shareholders and their executives.
Corps Making Bigger Profits Helps Only Them, Not Us
So, when some politician tells you that corporations need fewer rules and regulations so that they can make more money, only a complete fool thinks that fewer regulations and higher corporate profits will be good for him/her.
Anyone with half a brain fires right back, “How will their higher profits make my life better? How will deregulating them, turning them loose, make my life better instead of worse?”
Anyone who is an employee or a customer or a neighbor of the corporation in question should want that corporation to stay regulated. Those regulations are there to protect those employees, customers and the public from that corporation.
So what if the regulations cost the corporation money that’s never going to go to the customers or employees anyway?
Only a fool would want to give up the protections of those regulation so that somebody else can get richer while they suffer the consequences when the corporation is turned loose.
– David Grace (www.DavidGraceAuthor.com)