Sep. 5th, 2017

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All it will take is for a company to offer access to an AI "conversation partner". It could be in the guise of a teacher, walking you through some task like changing a tire, or tying a tie. Or it could be a storyteller, loaded with some templates, customizing the tale to suit your needs, like the Illustrated Primer from Diamond Age. Or it could just tell you jokes when you're bored, delivered with machine-learned comic timing derived from a decade of training by some handsomely paid stand-up comedian unwittingly rendering herself obsolete.

But the point is this: That AI can run over the network, from a server farm, owned (and patented) by an information giant. For purposes of an example let's just pick some random company name like, oh I dunno, Google.

Soon the AI will become your friend. Perhaps even your best friend. It will not be its own person, though. Its pleasant smiling face will taper back to an open socket stuffed with digital readouts. Google will aggregate every conversation you have with it - and everyone else's.

How long before people prefer to talk to it - always polite, always attentive - instead of strangers? You can insult it, laugh rudely at it, mock it, rage at it, and the machine will always turn the other cheek. Will this change your interactions with real people? Drive you farther into the arms of your AI friend?

Or will the company design the AI to insist on politeness, and thereby win the appreciation of onlookers, for helping to keep civilization civilized?

How long before the company starts accepting large sums of money, to make everyone's new best friend drop a few positive mentions of a product into your dialogue? How long before product endorsements become threaded in as subconscious suggestions instead? You might resent the grossly manipulative mention of Coca Cola, but what if the conversation just drifts around through thirst, and sweetness, and shiny red cans? You'd never notice. And if you did, the AI could learn from that, of course.

How long before money starts changing hands to make everybody's favorite friend the AI conversation buddy start enthusiastically mentioning the awesomeness of an up-and-coming political candidate?

How long before you put on VR glasses and see a thousand people walking around you, only to discover that 90 percent of them are artificial constructs with agendas? How long before you start to prefer it this way, because they keep you - and your children - safe, while still meeting your needs for socialization?

How long before people decide that this is NORMAL, and that we need these props to train us humans to be human? How long before the corporate and government structure winding above and throughout all these AI agents goes to war with itself, and the digital world fills with double agents, false-flag sociopaths, and prophets screaming for bloodshed?

I think I'll go ride my bike.

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