T H E F E A R
Fear of the machine is neigh-omnipresent. In books and films and philosophically minded conversations concerning artificial intelligence. The terror of the edifice-producer for hard-edged and binary processes which are too innumerable and lightening fast for most, even of over-moderate intellect, to fathom. There is The Terminator‘s Skynet and its attendant creations, the ominous and looming Cymeks of Herbert’s Butlerian Jihad, exo-skeletal monstrosities, brains, the only alcahest of their former and vivid humanity then there is the BBC’s trashcan shaped and plunger wielding Daleks, with their endless, semi-comical chorus of EXTERMINATE! and their cousins, the bio-metallic, space-faring assemblages known as The Borg, who utter a chorus more fearful still. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. An apt mantra for the modern world, with it’s interwoven layers of endless noisy bio-hum, its hammering down of all unleavened ends – the ever-expanding circle of empathy expands with it an increasingly large list of heretical conjugations – its dull-shimmering monotony. 1000-million options and all lead invariably to the same endpoint, which, upon reaching its terminus merely pumps the pistons and whirs the fans which power the cyclical stasis.
Such systems produce the aforementioned beings – or such is the source of the intensive fear thereof – whom are collectively crystallized as dire manifestations of the absolute other, of the unfeeling but intensely thinking. There is also the Manichean schism at play – for machines, everything is either a 1 or a 0, there is no middle ground. For a ballista, it is either fired or it is not. A line of code is either sequenced correctly or incorrectly but what would it mean to say that it was sequence semi-correctly?
To the machine, performative contradiction is anathema. Theoretical contradiction is nonexistent. It must be clarified that in our use here of language when it is written, to the machine, we are not here discussing AI nor are we imbuing some cognizant agency upon the assemblage and, indeed, should take all due caution when we notice ourselves proceeding down that dangerous road. It is a path that is filled with all manner of treacherous things, sharp, ghosting drops and deadly pitfalls, full-up with poison spikes and hissing snakes and centipedes, black and fast and venomous the length of one’s arm, that surge up from some flickering and shadow-pooled crevice to affix themselves to the bare, alluring and flabby flesh of some dull-witted passerby to necrotize the brain with cystic envenomnations. We must here, dear friends, be on guard against the spectre of anthropomorphization at all costs; it is not enough to merely suppress the instinct completely and it is too much to suppress it completely! Suppress the instinct for agency-recognition in totality and you don’t even notice the centipede whence it chitters, suppress it too little and you see centipedes everywhere. Why they’re running up every wall, scratching behind every niche and cornice and dust-board and pantry. By the gods below, they’re underneath one’s very skin! Percolating in grotesque and lampreyesque undulations beneath the muscles and marrow! If AI is the ghost in the machine then the instability of anthropomorphic projection is the centipede in the psyche. It is not just that the creature lurks within the mind but that it slithers and chivys about our collective mapping – and thus extrapolation – of the world producing the largely false effect that everything that can be called as such – and that is nearly everything itself – is possessed of those hideous venom-vesicles carried along and across and within a ephemerally strange and metameric body.