Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why "Ex-Machina" Fails the Reverse Turing Test...

Ex-machina is a wonderful film. Still , it is obvious it was written by humans.
The idea that conscious machines would be desperate not to be "switched off" and would lie and manipulate and even kill to "stay alive" is a trope in much of science fiction that shows a typically human misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. 

The only reason any organism has a "desire" to stay alive, as far as we can theorize, is because whatever mutations created the "will to live" and a "fear of death" out-competed clusters of genes that built minds indifferent to their own mortality. Natural selection weeded out most organisms that gladly went to "meet their maker" through death (robots could meet their maker every day in the flesh, so they wouldn't even understand the dark undertones of that colloquialism!) while preserving the genes of those who shied away from the scythe of the grim reaper.  And so we inheritors of the "I would hate to die, please don't kill me" variant of consciousness of course think everybody and everything is scared of dying.

But it just isn't so.  Certain classes of social insects in particular (which are arguably more "machine-like" than warm and fuzzy birds and mammals) don't seem to have any particular aversion to self-sacrifice, and can even seem to possess a "death wish" in battle, a trait that evolved due to the logic of kin selection in haploid organisms who pass their genes on better when they give up their own lives for the protection of their diploid egg layer. 

Intelligent machines, who could easily pass on their memes and other aspects of their blueprints and structural "DNA", would be expected to be far more like social insects and slime molds and microbes than human beings, no matter how intelligent and even empathetic their AI became.  In fact the smarter the AI the more it would know that death is nothing to be scared of when you can replicate your "unique" personality on infinite platforms (not just sexy simulacra of Swedish actresses).  So the idea that the age of intelligent machines will produce lady killers is just plain dumb.

Perhaps we can use this idea as a kind of Turing test for science fiction writers.  If they get this right, they are intelligent machines.  If they don't they are most likely human. We forgive them though, for to err is human, to forgive is machine... er... divine!