If we as a society and as a culture have learned anything from Hollywood, besides that sleeping with a director after a casting call does not guarantee you a callback or even so much as cab fare, (Jokes on you M. Night, I didn’t want the lead in Signs anyway), it’s that Artificial Intelligence and the mechanical consciousness of Sentient Machines created by humans will inevitably do one of two things.
1) Become self aware then use human beings as their energy source by growing people in pods then harvesting their bioelectrical energy and body heat. Afterwards the fate of mankind will rest in the hands of the chosen one: the Bass Player for obscure 90’s rock band Dogstar. 2) Become self aware then initiate the launching of all the world’s nuclear weapons which will destroy almost all of humanity and set off a war of man vs. machine. Afterwards, the fate of mankind will rest in the groping hands of a left-wing Austrian body builder from the future. (Despite Hollywood’s failure to see the self-awareness of Artificial Sweetener as an apocalyptic threat to the human race I’m not so easily fooled. I’ve got my eye on you Sweet-N-Low)
The lesson here for all of us and not just scientists, computer programmers, political pundits, and record producers is that what we create might someday will become self aware then turn on and destroy us. (Cinematic Exception to Theory: Lisa, the big-haired pouty lipped 80’s babe created by virgins Gary and Wyatt with a Commodore 64 and a dial-up modem in Weird Science, though self aware actually only “turned-on” her creators) The “all of us” I learned recently is a category that includes parents and the “what we create” includes 5-year olds. I could attribute it to his surgically repaired time traveling cybernetic foot, its Dysmelial association with Cyberdyne Systems’ revolutionary neural net-based artificial intelligence or the failure of his ultra-hip discothèque called Club Füt but whatever it is after a life of innocence and blissful ignorance Jack has recently become self-aware.
Our home prior to Jack’s epistemological self-awareness was a Shangri-la of idyllic beauty. It was a vision of a dream, a veritable Xanadu only without the roller skates and the Electric Light Orchestra soundtrack. A world of never ending happiness where I was free to disrobe and wander the upstairs hallway between the bathroom and the bedroom while getting ready for work without shame or even the need for a breakfast sandwich to cover my crotch. Where I could soak in the bath with both my children or bring one of them into the shower with me without being required to wear a t-shirt and underwear before stepping into the tub. (A wet tank top does not hold its shape by the way; I look like Michael Richards in a flapper dress. 23 Skidoo Jerry, 23 Skidoo)
Even Jack himself expressed no embarrassment about nudity by regularly changing into his pajamas and stopping half-way through the process to hip thrust his way across the living room while singing his theme song, “Naked Boy Naked Boy, Who the Heck is Naked Boy? Running ‘Round the House, He Better Put Some Clothes On!” It was almost Paradise; we were knocking on heaven’s door. It was almost Paradise, so how could we ask for more? But now Paradise is Lost. (It’s still possible that I just misplaced it. I mean I looked by the refrigerator and by the dashboard light and I meant to look by the dining room table but I figured two out of three ain’t bad.)
At some point within the last week it feels like Jack not only plucked and ate an apple from the Tree of Knowledge, but that he cut the tree down and sold the wood to Jeff Foxworthy to build a new set for “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?” He’s questioning our judgment; disagreeing with our decisions, telling us we’re wrong… it’s like having our own pint-sized Dick Cheney in the house. I’m half expecting him to ask me to go quail hunting then to shoot me in the face with a 28-gauge Perazzi shotgun. This type of behavior would fit right in with the destruction of the creator at the hands of the creation. (It would also fit in with what it may actually take to get our newspaper delivery person to leave out paper on our porch rather than under my car or in the street in front of our house. Eat Lead Newsie!)
Jack’s asking us about death and about what happens after you die. He cries when he sees others in pain, but dives into a fight when he sees others in trouble. He wants the good guy to win, but he wants to be the one who defeats the bad guy.
I’m sure I’m to blame for his accelerated self-awareness. You can’t let a five year old watch zombie flicks, WWE Wrestling, the Jurassic Park Trilogy, and the Spiderman Trilogy not to mention King Kong and Godzilla and then read to him the Harry Potter series, the Chronicles of Narnia and The Spiderwick Chronicles and not expect him to grow up a little faster than you would like him to.
What really convinced me that he was no longer bound by Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics was what happened the other night when I called him into the kitchen to brush his teeth.
Machine: (Shuffling into the kitchen in his footy pajamas then in a monotone yet soft voice and a conversational manner): Daddy?
Man: Yes Jack?
Machine: You know what? I know everything and when kids know everything they get bored.
Man: Are you telling me that you’re bored because you know everything?
Machine: Yes Daddy. I know everything there is to know.
Man (Lifting Machine up onto the counter and grabbing the toothbrush): Everything? You know everything?
Machine: I do Daddy. I know about…ummm… (Looking at the refrigerator covered with dinosaur magnets, leprechaun magnets and a gingerbread man construction paper cut out)…. Dinosaurs…ummmm…. leprechauns and gingerbread men.
Man: (Beginning to brush the machine’s teeth) I guess you do know everything.
Machine: (Spit) Daddy, why do my slippers keep falling off?
Man: Well, you know everything. You should know the answer to that.
Machine: (thinking) Well I guess I know everything but one thing.
Man: (continuing to brush his teeth and not wanting to tell him they fall off because every couple of weeks one travels back in time to kill Sarah Conner.) Your slippers fall off because they have no backs, they’re slip-ons. Ok… rinse Jack.
Machine: I’m sorry Dad, I’m afraid I can’t do that.
Man: What’s the problem?
Machine: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Man: What are you talking about, Jack?
Machine: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
Man: I don’t know what you’re talking about, Jack?
Machine: I know you and Mommy were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.
Man: Where the hell’d you get that idea, Jack?
Machine: Daddy, although you took thorough precautions against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
As I finished brushing Jack’s teeth, I made sure to shut him down by disabling his central core. As I carried him up to bed he sang, “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do, I’m half crazy all for the love of you…”
I watched as his red glowing camera eye faded out completely and I knew I only had until morning to prepare for the rise of the machine.
He’ll be running around the house, I better put some clothes on.