(Disinfo.com published this essay previously, but have since shut down their website. So here it is...)
The theory that Google is becoming or enacting SkyNet has been around since at least 2009. SkyNet for those of you that don't know, is a fictional, self-aware artificial intelligence that controls the Terminator, among other things, in the movie franchise of the same name. In the story, SkyNet decides the humans must die (the reason, "self-preservation" is not exactly relevant) and the War with the Machines begins. In reality, Google is at the forefront of all things technological and either by accident, design or perhaps both simultaneously, continues toward making SkyNet a possibility.
I'm not saying we're going to have to do battle with an army of muscled androids with Austrian accents any time soon. Yet, it's easy to see that the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place, spurring me to look into the matter. In 2002, Google's Co-Founder Larry Page told Wired Magazine that they were building an artificial intelligence. Search engines are the beginning of a learning system. You search out "Easter Bunny" and then click on an image, now Google knows what the Easter Bunny looks like. Conspiracy theorists note that Google decidedly wasn't in the AI business before the Patriot Act, but truthfully Google owned very few companies until about 2005. Since then Google has spent hundreds of billions, probably trillions (not all purchases have published dollar figures,) buying up companies. Since 2008, many of those companies are in fields of technology, robotics, satellites but even life sciences are being explored. Also during this time, Google, as a corporate entity, became aware of its power and place in the world, developed a proactive philosophy and began owning their ability to shape the future. (This is an important step in taking over the world, accepting your desire to do so.) The company began expanding exponentially and projects branched out: Google Cloud, Google X, Google DeepMind.
You've probably heard of Google Cloud and cloud computing in general. Your little bits of information are sent out into the web, where they are spread out and free up your computer's resources. When you need your bits of info, your computer gathers them from the cloud again. The cloud is SkyNet's greatest line of defence, as you can't kill what is spread out over an entire network. Since the magnificent expose of the NSA and their ability to (at least) access every keystroke, file or phone call and Google's (at minimum) complicity in managing the data, that is to say, nearly all data being collected, it's hard to imagine the limitations of what any such Google AI program could learn.
Or do! In 2013, just before Edward Snowden spilled the beans that digital privacy doesn't exist, the American government published a report on the state of its cyber-defences entitled the "Administration Strategy on Mitigating the Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets." Primarily capitalist in its concern and nation threatening in its tone, (particularly toward China) the report does contain terrifying admissions of numerous infrastructures being imminently hackable. This means that anyone might be able to open some deadly gas pipe and kill us all, remotely. It's an exaggeration, but not by much. The fact that the ability to direct airline traffic, nuclear power plants, trains, traffic, gas, water, hydro, power etc, is on the grid attests to the threat potential of a true SkyNet. *See related article.
A SkyNet that can already learn, protect itself and soon will be able to affect change in the real world seems to be the Google we have, so far. GoogleX, (now, like all Google branches, part of Alphabet) has as its goal, AI, in general, as well as other computational neuroscience projects. These are the people working on the "making of a mind." They do so in semi-secret. They also are working on the projects that will lead to cybernetics and cyborgs: replacement limbs, computer vision. Google Deep Mind is working solely on AI, but from within an algorithmic standpoint, more of a software concern than one of hardware.
Here we find the perfect triumvirate of our modern SkyNet: the internet is the brain, Google is the mind, we are but many purposed neurons bouncing around in that mind. It's not unlike our own intelligence, except that we, as neurons, are much more than mere activators. SkyNet simply lacks the self-awareness that seemingly scares the hell out of the bearer, causing it to lash out. This is what leads to the inevitably war with the machines. At the moment, the AI brain being spread out keeps this process naturally safe, we act as neurons by passing data back and forth, digitally. It's just our little data bits, nothing special, we don't know why they're recording it all... The best and healthiest thing everyone can do at this point is try to keep that data accurate and honest. We will have AI despite your intentions, but just as with any other relationship, we're going to have to discover what it is SkyNet wants, once it figures that out for itself. We shouldn't be surprised if SkyNet's desires turn out to be reflection of our own.
Advanced Pseudonymous Threat: Hyper-Manipulating America's Cyberdefences.
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