Klara, digital capital, Superman and me

Yesterday I listened to Adam Buxton’s interview with Kazuo Ishiguro. Last week I read his book, Klara and the Sun. Kazuo’s that is; Buxton has as far as I know only written one called Ramble Book‘.

I’ve been listening to Adam Buxton for the past couple of years – not sure how or when I discovered him in the Podcastosphere.

This interview was, perhaps after his talk with Fran Healy his best.

I won’t go into details about their discussion, you can tune-in if you like and, I won’t specifically discuss Klara and the Sun, as saying too much might give-away important aspects of the plot.

I will mention Shoshanna Zuboff. I discussed her book a couple of years ago – The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, the link to my blogs are here.

In the book, Zuboff, a Professor of Social Psychology at Harvard discussed the many systems at play in the world of digital and social media used to understand, control and manipulate us.

Sounds sinister. It is.

The Information Capital as she describes it, relates to the valuable bits and bytes of personal information we all share continuously as we either search the web or engage with others on web-based platforms.

It is all captured, analysed and fed into and out of massive super-computers the likes and size of which no one can imagine.

Suffice it to say, the computers are today, adequately large and sophisticated to know where I am, what I had for breakfast, the clothes I am wearing, the brand of coffee I am drinking, my dog, her food, and on and on.

This must make it difficult if you have paranoid schizophrenia.

Arthur C Clark said, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, and indeed, some of the abilities are so beyond our everyday experience that we assume they are impossible. In the realm of fantasy.

Whether you read Zuboff’s book or take my word for it, everything we do, say, read, like or dislike online is being monitored and processed, it makes someone somewhere money, maybe a millionth of a penny, yet, when multiplied by a million others and another million, you soon have a beach-front holiday home.

I may like or dislike The Stone Roses. If enough people click enough likes and dislikes to me who share a similar demographic, the computers will be able to statistically work out the probability of my appreciation of Ian Brown and co.

They didn’t mention Zuboff in the podcast. They talked about another element of technology that is AI. Artificial Intelligence.

When I was younger (1997), we all shared a mixture of surprise, elation and disappointment when the computer (Deep Blue) beat Gary Kasparov at chess.

Most recently, a master player of the game of Go was defeated by a souped-up 21st Century descendent of DB, AlphaGo.

The computers are gaining intelligence and ability, all day, every day.

The Turing Test is designed to establish a computer’s potential for human reasoning.

In the podcast they were playing-out this idea.

Let’s skip forward 20 years (or so).

Two decades in our world is such a long time that whatever I predict will be hopelessly inaccurate.

By that time, we will possibly have computers of adequate sophistication, ability and intelligence to be me.

When I say be me, that is, have integrated all my past memories, thoughts and ideas, my behaviours, imaginings, hopes, anxieties, abilities and failings.

The interface will likely have evolved, that is, the robot exoskeleton to the point that you look at me and you look at the computer me and we are indistinguishable. This copy has the ability to age like me. It may even experience similar aches and pains.

(Pictures for me a scene in Klara and the Sun when human Ricky is giving Klara a piggy-back).

My identical twin, matched for everything down to my love of Sport’s Mixture.

And, doh, there I go, giving the internet another piece of me, for later filing (that is, unless I hate Sport’s Mixture and have included it in this digital nugget to mislead would-be digitisers) (Wine Gums anyone?)

The scenario.

Technology has advanced. You can’t tell whether it is Rod or his replica.

Where do we go from there?

Well, how are we different beyond me saying I am me. (As happens in all such films/books – picture Superman IIII)

superman3

‘I was here first. I am the real Rod!’

This could go on indefinitely, round in circles of double-speak and conjecture.

My family might not be able to distinguish between Rod and Robo-Replica-Rod.

(I am sure my dog would know, although it is unlikely her senses will be that effective in 20 years, if she is still going herself).

IMG_3839

This does sound like science fiction and it most certainly exists within that realm.

Yet, conjuring another scenario, and, giving my family all credit for their astuteness and with the assumption that the magic of tomorrow will remain imperfect to some extent, that future replicant me will have something about them which will reveal its artificiality.

January the 1st 2041 I die.

January 2nd there is no me.

(Presupposing death is a thing in 20 years).

Hopefully. Surely.

My family are faced with the option of having no me – they might be relieved at this (my crankiness having reached an unbearable nadir by then) or they might regret my passing.

At this point, maybe the next day or the one after, what role would there be for Robo-Replica-Rod?

Would they prefer to mourn, get over me and move-on (as we have done since we became human) or would the potential of stretching me out, prolonging my existence be a consideration?

It is likely, if not probable, in two decades I will still be working.

Robo-Replica-Rod could be sent to work, continue to see patients, arrive at unexpected diagnoses and treatments.

How should my family behave towards future-me?

If they treat me like a copy or a robot or a not-Rod, my Robo-Replica-Rod feelings will be upset – the alternate me will have all the same (or very similar) emotional responses, requiring the same level of social engagement as the now deceased model.

OK.

This has gone a little far.

Yet, and this is what I was thinking.

Those of you who read my last blog will remember I mentioned my parents.

If I had the option of recreating them is this something I would choose?

If my children could spend time with the grandparents, they never really came to know.

This wouldn’t be to my mum and dad’s advantage as these would be replica-mum and dad, yet how would my children have been influenced? They joy of my son and daughter acquiring the odd Yiddish nuance or Glasgow quip. How would I have been affected if it were possible for me to sit in the kitchen and chat with my mum as we used to?

Perhaps this is all wrong.

Temporal sacrilege.

Sorry if I have upset anyone.

And, you could say, what is the point?

What is the value of this conjecture?

Why not shut up and get on with whatever it is you have to do today or tomorrow?

It is likely I haven’t captured what Kazuo was trying to say.

Maybe you should listen to the podcast and afterwards buy his book.

From Waterstones.

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