The unfinished Fable of the Sparrows
It was the nest-building season, but after days of long hard work, the sparrows sat in the evening glow, relaxing and chirping away.
“We are all so small and weak. Imagine how easy life would be if we had an owl who could help us build our nests!”
“Yes!” said another. “And we could use it to look after our elderly and our young.”
“It could give us advice and keep an eye out for the neighborhood cat,” added a third.
Then Pastus, the elder-bird, spoke: “Let us send out scouts in all directions and try to find an abandoned owlet somewhere, or maybe an egg. A crow chick might also do, or a baby weasel. This could be the best thing that ever happened to us, at least since the opening of the Pavilion of Unlimited Grain in yonder backyard.”
The flock was exhilarated, and sparrows everywhere started chirping at the top of their lungs.
Only Scronkfinkle, a one-eyed sparrow with a fretful temperament, was unconvinced of the wisdom of the endeavor. Quoth he: “This will surely be our undoing. Should we not give some thought to the art of owl-domestication and owl-taming first, before we bring such a creature into our midst?”
Replied Pastus: “Taming an owl sounds like an exceedingly difficult thing to do. It will be difficult enough to find an owl egg. So let us start there. After we have succeeded in raising an owl, then we can think about taking on this other challenge.”
“There is a flaw in that plan!” squeaked Scronkfinkle; but his protests were in vain as the flock had already lifted off to start implementing the directives set out by Pastus.
Just two or three sparrows remained behind. Together they began to try to work out how owls might be tamed or domesticated. They soon realized that Pastus had been right: this was an exceedingly difficult challenge, especially in the absence of an actual owl to practice on. Nevertheless they pressed on as best they could, constantly fearing that the flock might return with an owl egg before a solution to the control problem had been found.
(the fable ends here)
-Superintelligence, Bostrom, Nick, Oxford University Press, 2017
In all honesty, I haven’t given AI (and its potential consequences) a lot of thought. The limited cognitive capacity bequeathed to me is used predominantly for relatively mundane tasks. Like remembering to pick my knuckles up off the floor when shuffling around the domicile and querying my limbic system as to whether it has any notion as to why I just walked to other end of the house.
The cerebral-coke that remains is usually used for stoking the furnace of existential angst and/or squashing the nihilism back into its container (with one hand while rummaging around in the detritus to find something heavy to keep the lid on with the other).
We run quite a tight ship.
But explaining something to me in fables gets me moist. Pretty much every time. Unless its the Bible, because Jesus (for all his good points) and the various authors of that weighty tome were rubbish at allegory. (I give it one star. Zero talking animals)
Except for the snake near the beginning, I decide, after several moments of consideration. I don’t know if that invalidates my review though.
In any event. Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom is great.
I watched The secret of Nimh at an impressionable age. So I know stuff. Owls are scary A/F. Have these sparrows completely and utterly lost their minds?
Why aren’t you listening to Scronkfinkle! He seems shrewd. And only has ONE eye. Throughout history single ocular’d beings have been known to have great wisdom and foresight. From the one-eyed All-Father who gave up his depth perception to ‘see everything’ to a certain congressmen from Texas with almost an omniscient skill for picking stocks. These supreme beings are exceptionally sagacious. Despite their disabilities. And… eh… ethical flexibility.
I feel like we should all take a step back.
This may have been our evolutionary peak as a species. Smashing Pumpkins had just released Mellon Collie and the infinite Sadness. Bill Clinton was too busy getting sucked off in the Oval office to start any major conflicts. No one had a smartphone. The following year Deep Blue would beat Gary Kasparov at chess and the untergang of mankind would begin.
Seems like a good point in time to hit pause.
On VHS. Obviously.