Computers are smarter than us, internet. They’re smarter than us, they know how our minds work, and we need to prepare for the revolution.
No, this isn’t a kneejerk reaction to the news that a robot taught itself to fire a bow and arrow. This is a belief that’s been percolating in the back of my mind since I was a child, one that I have finally admitted has come to fruition.
It was my mother who first introduced me to the concept of artificial intelligence. As a child, when an appliance would randomly start working after being declared “broken,” she would instruct us not to talk about our good fortune.
“They can hear us,” she’d whisper once we were out of earshot of the kitchen. “If we act like we don’t notice, maybe it will keep working.”
The same method was used when one appliance would break. Talking about the broken appliance would make the others jealous, my mother held.
“Then they’ll break too, for the attention,” she informed us. We nodded, eyes wide with the newfound knowledge that our fridge was possibly plotting against us.
So I’ve always known that electronics were out to get me. I’ve always been cautious. But it’s only been recently that I’ve realized how much smarter than me my electronic devices actually are. My computer, for instance, can run circles around me. It’s always suggesting helpful things when I am attempting to use a program or look for something and have completely tied myself in knots and ended up searching for the wrong thing entirely. I yell at it all the time, berating it for making mistakes, only to realize ten minutes later that I was the one in error the entire time.
And let’s not even get started on playing games. Shit, guys, every solitaire computer game ever created is miles smarter than I am. You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed this. You decide to play one game and get thoroughly trounced. You glance at the clock. You have some more time to kill. One more game would be okay. Just to see if you can do any better. One more game turns into two and two more games turns into three and suddenly three hours have gone by and you’re obsessed with playing until you win, just once, because each time it’s a little easier. You think you’re getting better.
You’re not getting better. Your computer has just realized how stupid you are. Or, rather, it can’t believe how stupid you are. It starts out with an incredibly high opinion of you. Seeing you get creamed makes it feel bad. Maybe you’re not super brilliant. It cuts you some slack. Before long, even an infant could solve the puzzle you’re working on and the screen is doing all but lighting up and flashing the incredibly obvious move you could be making.
“RIGHT HERE,” it tries to yell. “JUST MOVE THIS PIECE AND YOU’LL WIN. NO, NOT THAT ONE. CHRIST ON A CRACKER, IS YOUR HEAD STUFFED WITH CABBAGE?”
No, computer, my head’s not stuffed with cabbage. A cabbage head would have noticed that move about twenty minutes ago. My head is just entirely vacant.
I wonder, sometimes, if my computer commiserates with Roommate’s computer, or with other computers it’s networking with. I imagine it sending information across the internet, as I IM my cousin in all caps about how much Sherlock Holmes and John Watson want to bone each other, weeping and sighing at my ignorance.
“She closed out of the blog update window without saving,” it cries. “THREE TIMES. IN ONE DAY.” The other computers offer vague platitudes. “She tried to type with potato starch all over her hands and almost glued my keyboard down!”
My only solace is that there are people out there who are way worse at computers than I am. Mainly, my parents. I mean, at least I’m pretty good at saving documents. And opening my e-mail. And not accidentally resetting the computer to factory settings.
And if there are people out there who are worse at computers than I am, maybe we’re not in danger of being taken over by computers. Not because we can beat them if they do rise up, but because there are people who are actually worse with computers than my parents are. For every computer that’s left alone long enough to figure out how to plot world domination, there’s one being wiped clean by someone who click “OK” to reformat their harddrive when they’re trying to open a picture of their grandkids. For every bow-and-arrow robot, there’s someone using their CD drive as a cup holder. Maybe, thanks to the lowest common technological denominator, we have a fighting chance against the computer revolution.
But don’t say that too loudly. We don’t want the computers to hear us.