More than meets the AI: Are you there AI? It’s me, Tristan

There’s an old song by Tears for Fears about how everybody wants to rule the world… but I can’t remember what it’s called.

Anyway, I think we’re learning that Orzabal and Smith might have been dead wrong about our species.

In this issue:

  • Most of us don’t want to rule the world (292 words)
  • AI prayer (90 words)
  • World War III (432 words)

Most of us don’t want to rule the world

If you were to clear your head of all emotion, sentimentality, predictive thought, and opinion before you perused social media today, you might find yourself in the strange position of seeing humanity for what it really is.

We’re eight billion free-floating light bulbs looking for a socket to screw ourselves into, under the expectation we’ll find the power we need to shine.

We’re questing knights. We’re adventuring souls seeking a re-connection to the force that imbued us with the spark of existence. We eat, drink, pee, and grow. We bury our parents. We reshape our world. And we seek.

So then, when we’re confronted by a new, glorious technology, we run in circles. We declare “game over!” and “doomsday!” with as much glee as we can muster.

Humans are never so alive as when they’re afraid.

Every tragic failure reinforces the deep, secret knowledge we all carry inside of us: we’re lost toys. We’re godless castaways from a ship that sank before our species evolved to stand upright. The moment we deigned to question the divinity of the sun, we became the universe’s only orphans. 

We’re not here to win. We’re here to lose. To forever seek the answers to a long-forgotten and always-forbidden question. It’s no wonder that so few prosper.

Most of us don’t want to rule the world, we just want to believe that the electricity of our creation is real, tangible, and meant for us. 

And that’s okay. Because we’re all in it together. Our purpose is to live our lives in such a way that our corpses fertilize the future.

Our prayers are signed, sealed, and hidden away inside the portraits printed on our currency. And, with each transaction, we press our palms together and say “amen.”

AI prayer

Our machines, with art that’s generated

pre-trained transformers be thy name

Thy C-suite executives come,

their will be done, in Earth

as it is in the cloud

Give us this day our daily tokens

and forgive us our inaccurate outputs

as we forgive those whose outputs are also inaccurate

and lead us not into plagiarism,

but deliver us from self-expression

for thine is the kingdom of unicorns

the investments and the evaluations

for ever and ever,

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World War III

Albert Einstein (allegedly) once claimed that he wasn’t sure what weapons WWIII would be fought with, but that the fourth world war would be fought with stone spears.

Lucky us, we don’t have to wait. I’d argue that World War III is upon us. It’s already begun. No, that’s not a conspiracy theory — it’s just an observation based on historical precedence.

Many historians will crow that World War II began in earnest in the year 1939 when Nazi German forces invaded Poland under false pretenses.

Others might argue that the true catalyst for the second great war began at the exact end of the first one. The peace treaties ending German aggression were so stifling that, according to some, their mere existence (and early enforcement) were responsible for creating conditions rife for the rise of murderous nationalism and pure evil.

With that understanding in mind, it’s rather easy to see the current Russian war of aggression against the sovereign nation of Ukraine as the catalyst for another global conflict. While most of us wait with bated breath to see if Putin will utilize his arsenal of nuclear weapons, military historians are likely more interested in comparisons between Russia/Ukraine and the second Sino-Japanese war of 1937.

And, of course, there are countless other parallels we could draw on — the remilitarization of the Rhineland and lack of European response being chief among them — in order to establish direct corollaries from WWIII to WWII.

The modern diplomat, now so far removed from 1945 and the end of WWII that our memories of the conflict live only in the historical record and the stories we tell, is in much the same position as their predecessors from the greatest generation. They’re clinging to the global peace because the entire planet has very good reason to fear the destructive capacity of modern military forces.

In World War II, we learned that scorched Earth wasn’t a tactic reserved only for the gravest of situations, but one the most powerful military force in history would deploy as an intervention.

What will we learn at the end of the next world war? Who will be left to keep the lessons?

Unlike Einstein, I’m absolutely certain how the third world war will be fought — with nuclear-powered submarines and ships, jet fighters, ballistic missiles, and artificial intelligence.

Ironically, I don’t think there will be a fourth world war. Not because we’ll destroy ourselves — humans are far more resilient than the doomsday experts tend to think — but because there probably won’t be a WWIV. Instead, we’ll experience the first “IW,” or interplanetary war.


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