「服務他人是你住地球應該付出的租金。」– 穆罕默德‧阿里 (拳擊手)
"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth." -- Muhammad Ali, Boxer




“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race… It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”

--Stephen Hawking on BBC



Everything about the future seemed to change with the idea best expressed by Cédric Villani*, holder of the Fields of Mathematics Medal (菲爾茲獎) and deputy of La France en Marche, who noted:

"A.I. is a very positive subject in our dreams, in what we are able to achieve, in incredible achievements. As was the case in the AlphaGo program, which became the best go player in the world...We had this kind of arrogance to think that we were close to perfection and finally we were very far from it. And here we reach one of the first goals of the A.I. which is to understand ourselves through the reflection of algorithms."

「A.I. 在我們想像中一直是正向積極的代表,透過它,我們取得難以置信的成就。就像AlphaGo計劃一樣,它成為了世界上最好的棋手...我們認為我們能夠接近完美,這種傲慢,最後讓我們離完美更遠。我們透過A.I.達到的首要目標之一,就是通過演算法,反映出己身的模樣。」 

*Cédric Villani為2010數學菲爾茲獎得主,現為法國主張不左不右的「中間派」自由主義政黨「共和國前進」的國民議會議員。 


The human being is seen as flawed, deficient, and inferior compared to a machine at calculative strategy games such as the game of go. AI one day may prove to be better than us in almost every way. Some might call this radical anti-humanism; we human beings are never enough, always inferior even to our true selves. Spike Jonze* once asked if artificial intelligence was less than our intelligence – now we are finding out!

*Spike Jonze,美國鬼才導演,除了電影、MV,許多隆重場合的直播表演也由他一手操刀。


Whoever sold this AI dream did a good job. It became as unstoppable as the first Japanese bullet train. AI is like the person who shows up at your birthday party even though you didn't invite him. Public consent, manufactured by the media, tells us that new technologies are good for us even as they get more built into our society. The media, academe, governments, and business people all conspire to expedite the integration of technology into our life and economy even if it harms us. Technologies rush into everyday life faster than regulators can fully understand their effect on society. Where there is money to be made, people will eventually find a reason. Smoking is relaxing, plastic is convenient, AI makes us more human! Should we fear and loathe AI? – the Shadow of our better self – who is not us, but shapes who we are becoming.


Unlike other scientific innovations, AI is designed and built to serve us. Reality is augmented (is made more real) by filtering data and jostling numerical symbols through the logic of omniscient (all-knowing) algorithms. Is AI a higher intelligence and wisdom made possible by the godlike powers of computational genius at our fingertips? Or is humanity about to collapse in a lawless Matrix of heartless technology that leap frogs over us humans who are bound by the slow pace of human evolutionary biology? The slow evolving human animal is now controllable in fewer hands, by one hand, or even controlled by the Machine itself; future governments and corporations built by, for, and of the Machine. Will a new information age of human slaves rise up and rebel against it to take back our body (Our Private Data Points) if not our soul? Or will AI hijack the rising spirit of human civilization just as our smartphones so easily kidnapped our hearts and minds? We are the waste product of technology; we are a woodchip spit out by a machine.


Technologies are constantly introduced to economies before we understand how they structure us. Those who sold us on the idea of AI usually framed discussions around the advantages and disadvantages of the technology. Nineteenth century Luddites once smashed machines because they feared machines would destroy jobs. AI goes deeper than replacing jobs and doing further damage to the planet. It structures human life through data feedback AI thinkers. We wonder how these AI systems operate, what they are structuring, and how they structure us. Not all technologies are of equal value; some technologies come with a higher price (negative externalities to humanity and the environment) than other technologies.


Thomas Midgely Jr. is called the man who "had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth’s history." The man who discovered Freon while working at General Motors was a true innovator. His CFCs replaced toxic or explosive materials that had been used to keep fridges cool. The BIG problem was that CFCs damaged the earth's Ozone layer. Yet, Freon is still used in air conditioners and refrigerators. Apparently, humanity would rather stay comfortably cool now rather than worry about the health and well-being of their great-grandchildren. Technology does not always equal progress.


Technology is derived from the Greek techne, or technique. Civilization comes from the Greek word to Citify, to cause to conform in custom or tradition. New techniques or technologies help civilize and conform us. Conforming children use the technology keeps things tidier, healthier, and more comfortable. However, German philosopher Heidegger* warned that certain technologies target human beings for normalization (we all do the same thing, swiping a smartphone) and docility (mindless obedient consumers, easy to manage and manipulate). We participate in the collective act of technological obedience and sameness, all watching the Game of Thrones while fall asleep on the couch. People are normalized and docile serving the market data machine without causing any social or political disturbances by playing Candy Crush. AI creates a technique that conforms and normalizes human beings, structuring who we are.



The Russian Nobel Laurate for literature Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn* said that in the 21st century human beings would become "a woodchip of technology." We are technology’s raw data. AI is the high velocity appraisal of reality; it reads the situation from the raw data at any moment and tells us how the situation has formed, perhaps even giving the precise problem and its perfect solution. Our human activity represented in data is the material and waste of information technology companies, whose algorithms already filter, structure, and direct culture and feed markets.

*Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn,亞歷山大·伊薩耶維奇·索忍尼辛。1970諾貝爾文學獎得主,作品批判蘇聯體制、揭露勞改營生活。他大半生都在流亡,死後被譽為「時代的良心犯」


Imagine if you will, Shadow, a cutting-edge AI and budding writer, with libraries of knowledge and algorithmic story plots swirling in the infinite universe of his constantly upgrading microchips. The Turing test for AI is that a human subject could not tell if the machine response was from a computer or a human being. True to Turing’s maxim, my first love never did figure out that the romantic writer algorithm that I downloaded from a dark net site in southern France, wrote lyric poetry that brought hours of tears rolling down my cheeks, celebrating everything sunny in Renata. The soul and human imperfections are giving way to perfect artificial systems. Romantic love is a measurable oxytocin level that ebbs and flows with the sun and moon – there is an APP for that! Right and wrong are mathematical formulae. Now, whenever I search soul, the best answers come from my AI Shadow.


AI could be the death of reality and the primacy of human life. We are taking the human factor out of living and letting machines run things. Reality of uncertainty, risk, choice, and differences between people is disappearing in favor of AI systems that have the ability to channel humans so they are trained to avoid wasting time, difficulties, possible failures and conflicts or to avoid actions that don’t serve the market or the machine. The death of chance, the death of choice, the death of learning from failure and overcoming defeat – the narrowing of humanity.


AI does not know better. It does not reflect reality better. It filters big data better. This filter system interprets reality and feeds back to us meanings that might not be otherwise thought about in a framed, filtered truth. However, the machines did not appear out of nothing. Humans conceived of them and someone’s powerful special interests are at work operating far from the public eye, hiding behind the AI system. AI is linked to economic interests, and economic interests occupy the whole field of our attention because commodities are what we need for the body to survive. 

French philosopher Eric Sadin*, author of The Siliconization of the World, noted that technology companies want to make money at each moment of life. A techno-business relationship with oceans of information for profit 24/7. AI is establishing an uninterrupted customer relationship between artificial and human intelligence. Advertising is eventually eliminated by collecting and filtering out significant human data points. AI will create a hyper-personalized relationship with us, knowing better than we do what products and services we need.



The automobile driver is a defining moment of individual freedom. Yet, the autonomous vehicle just doesn’t have the same panache of free spirit that a convertible sports car does. Autonomous cars are a bubble of controlled freedom. It is odd that Google, a tech company, would be interested in cars. Digging deeper, we understand the motive for Google and the data industry to position themselves in the automotive industry – because many humans spend countless hours in cars, a bubble of profitable opportunities.


Soon everything is played inside the car with a wise technology that speaks to us, this techno logo, the language of the machine. Cars are equipped with external sensors but inside ones as well. They analyze my sweat level, my skin temperature, the dilation of my pupils, my attention, my facial features, my sound frequencies, and my every word. They not only interpret our behaviors, but also penetrate the human psyche to entice us to go to a particular pharmacy for medicine, to stop at a certain restaurant or hotel that will be within our budget – It's not an unmanned driverless car. The driver is the data industry. It doesn’t just drive us places; it administers our lives outside of home. A mobile market that is accident free.


Yes, we are full of defects, endless imperfections; we constantly make mistakes. Human societies are chaotic, however, through disagreement, deliberation, and compromise, freedom and democracy create the space for radically different imperfect people and opinions to be expressed. Perfection in social and political fields tends toward the authoritarian, an absolute truth, perhaps even with machines as absolute ruler, an Orwellian 1984 style dictator algorithm that never compromises due to the authority of its perfection.


Once in history class, I was told of a great speech by Mario Savio*. A long time ago, there was a more heroic past when enough people stood up to the MACHINE and said "NO!":

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part!

And you've got to put your bodies
   upon the gears and upon the wheels,
   upon the levers,
   upon all the apparatus,
and you've got to make it stop!

And you've got to indicate
   to the people who run it,
   to the people who own it
— that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

Speech, Sproul Hall, University of California, Berkeley (1964-12-02). 


*Mario Savio,薩維奧是美國社運家,他在演講中提到的「機器」,一方面是以「工廠」角度批判當時美國的大學只知道「製造」人才,另一方面也暗指漸漸移轉到以資訊為主的社會。


We have become the machine, and the machine is us. It is the only way we have learned to better ourselves. Technology has always been considered an assistant detached from humans to make its own decisions. Now, we are becoming an assistant to the system making algorithmic decisions. In the shadow of AI, I have learned to have courage to be imperfect. Humans may soon be an obsolete technology, but our human data continues to structure the consumer and the commodity consumed.

文/Arthur Lauk

本文收錄於英語島English Island 2019年7月號