When I was born, Australia had lots of wilderness and very few computers. I didn’t like this arrangement. But now that we have less wilderness and more computers every day, I’m starting to relax. My side is winning the war.
The years keep coming, and we need all of the computers we can get. They’re under our control. Predictable. Every single one of them has a known state, known behavior, and a known purpose. No more of them exist than we desire to exist. Nobody ever woke up and had to weed unwanted computers from their front lawn.
The world’s getting too big, too complex, and too interconnected for unpredictability. I want every idea, thought, and entity to either submit itself to humanity’s control or die. The big killer in the modern world isn’t technology, it’s wildness – by which I mean chaos, and unpredictability.
Cars are big stupid blocks of metal, exerting only a few hundred thousand joules of kinetic energy on impact. Meanwhile, the United States has thousands of nuclear warheads, each of which would release dozens of petajoules of energy on detonation. Yet cars massacre hundreds of thousands annually, while nuclear explosions have killed nobody in years not ending with “4” and “5”. You know why? Because are nukes are domesticated and cars are wild.
You could invent a disease par excellence, such as an airborn variant of Ebola, and so long as it stayed in a test tube or petri dish it would infect nobody. Meanwhile, 36,000 die per year thanks to the flu. It’s like having a foolproof plan to beat Mike Tyson/Mr Dream and instead you get knocked out by Glass Joe.
There’s a prayer that goes “God, don’t give me a lighter load, give me a stronger back.” Safety follows a similar precept: we don’t need a less dangerous world, we need a better control on that danger. And anyway, the world will keep getting more dangerous anyway, so what choice do we have?
I like the idea of a more mechanized world. Roads with perfect right angle intersections. Hills graded flat, so nobody has to switch gears. Maybe there’s a point where someone recognises me as wildness, but so far the domestication of our autonomous bodies has produced good fruit (glasses, artificial limbs, “Vote for Pedro” shirts for the continuation of one’s virginity, etc) and I’m interested in what happens next..
But there’s a risk: what happens when computers start to become wild? In September 2016, a malware called Mirai spread across the internet, brute-forcing unsecured devices using a table of common default usernames and passwords. The resultant effect was very wild: a large botnet of thousands of devices, capable of crashing web servers with a massive 1Tb/s influx of traffic. At the moment, such chaotic effects are only possible through human mismanagement. At the interface of the computers themselves, a transistor can only be on or off. Not much room for stochasm between those two points.
Maybe one day, we’ll have quantum computers that are capable of spontaneous wildness. They’d be machines par excellence, the highest echelon of computerhood. I’ve always been impressed by how the education of computers the same as the education of humans, just with the direction arrow reverse. They start out sane, and have to learn to be mad.