“If you want immortality, then deny form. Whatever has form has mortality. Beyond form is the formless, the immortal.” – Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune
Is anyone else as piss-your-pants excited as I am for the release of the new Dune movie in December?
I pray that this redux surpasses the 1984 movie abomination of Dune. Oh, you didn’t watch it? Got lost in the first ten minutes of dialogue? Join the club. And I read the frickin’ books!
Boringness aside, director David Lynch tried to make something smart against the backdrop of a massive contemporary sci-fi series in Star Wars. I love Star Wars, but it requires the intelligence of a Labrador Retriever to understand it. Plus, all the cool action, special effects, and simple dialogue propel the piece digestibly forward.
Dune requires a glossary to recall all the new terms necessary to permeate their universe. A filmmaker must be highly adroit at dumbing things down for a wider canine audience to consume (and enjoy) a story of this epic sweep.
Why do you think the follow-on Star Wars prequel movies were less well received? They tried to get smarter, more like Dune. Use harder words. They became more complex and political. Tried to explain a religion we had already accepted “as is.”
Whereas Star Wars is like heavy metal, Dune is like prog rock. Neither is good nor bad. It’s a question of what tickles your musical pickle the most. Straight forward, simple chords, lots of hooks. Or abstract, rhythmic complexity, tonal dissonance.
Speaking of music, I am still pissed at Lynch for casting Sting. Can’t act. Totally sucked. The Police should have done another Synchronicity Tour instead. Called it Synchronicity II. Insert wink emoji.
But I digress. A lot.
Dune is based on author Frank Herbert’s 1965 Hugo and Nebula Award-winning science fiction novel. He wrote six novels in the series. Considered soft sci-fi, Herbert focused less on technology and more on the nature of ecology, politics, and religion – and where they all intersect in leadership.
By the time Frank Herbert wrote God Emperor of Dune in 1981, artificial intelligence had evolved into expert systems. These early systems focused on answering questions and solving problems about a specific area of knowledge. The output relied on the quality of the input from experts in that focused field of knowledge.
Not to be confused with Artificial General Intelligence, widely known today as Strong AI. The apex of this developing field is the technology singularity. Machine consciousness. A computer so powerful it becomes self-aware. From an intelligence perspective, alive.
Think: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Terminator, The Matrix, Westworld, Blade Runner. And Her. Yet another reason to cringe at Joaquin Phoenix.
Not sure what scares me most: self-aware machines, clones, or clowns. Probably clowns just because they are a clear and present danger. A current existential threat to our souls.
Like all good speculative sci-fi, Herbert was prescient in suggesting that immortality could only be achieved through transformation from a physical form into something noncorporeal. For this discussion, loading your consciousness into a machine.
As far as I know, the only bodiless human consciousness is Walt Disney.
Devotees have preserved his severed head, floating in a jar of formaldehyde in a rat-infested sub-basement of Disney World. Powered by a network of cables and electrodes that would make Mary Shelley orgasm, Walt issues his misogynistic, antisemitic edicts for world domination to this day.
The next closest thing in the public purview is the USC Shoah Foundation.
USC Shoah Foundation
Amazing initiative. So important. And the complete antithesis of Disney’s Machiavellian schemes.
Steven Spielberg founded the USC Shoah Foundation in 1994, one year after the release of his Oscar-winning Schindler’s List.
Shoah is the Hebrew word for the Holocaust. The original mission was to preserve videotaped interviews and testimonies of Holocaust survivors. To date, Shoah has captured over 115,000 hours of video.
With the evolution of AI over the last twenty-five years, the Shoah Foundation has progressed to preserving a select group of Survivors as interactive holograms. You can literally converse with the person, and they will answer your questions about the Holocaust. Mind. Blown.
Now, before you get too cray, USC does not upload their full consciousness. Think more like virtual reality. Baby steps, eager camper.
The survivor is painstakingly interviewed and filmed. The elderly participants submit to a grueling week in a tent of green screens, surrounded by twenty-six cameras at every conceivable angle, getting peppered by producers with hundreds of questions.
A room full of editors then manually apply dozens of permutations of questions against the raw data and run it through their robust search algorithm. If interested in a deeper dive into the USC Shoah Foundation, after finishing this article, check out Leslie Stahl’s episode on 60 Minutes.
The result is nothing short of brilliant. Perfect? No. Much like the expert systems of the 1980s, the quality of the input determines the experience of the output. But it is damn cool.
This got me thinking. I want that.
Shit, half the reason I write is to create a record of my existence. Like the denizens of Whoville in the 1970 cartoon Horton Hears a Who, don’t we all scream out into the Universe for acknowledgment, “We are here! We are here!”?
I want to take it further. I will intentionally wait to die until I can transfer my total consciousness into a computer. Willpower, baby. Just a few more pushups and a “can-do” attitude should make this goal a reality.
Let’s imagine some enlightening discussions I can have with my visitors. Shall we?
A Posthumous Interview with PS Conway:
How would you describe yourself?
In a word? I am awesome. And I believe that revealing my ostentatious splendor to the world would be akin to god sacrificing his only begotten son for your sins. Consider this a gift. From me to you. All of you except maybe that fucking idiot nephew watching midget granny porn. What the hell is wrong with you, kid? Get your fat ass off the couch, emerge from the basement, and get some fresh air. Sunlight will do you a world of good, you little vampire. Trust me. Someday, someone will upload you, like me, and you’ll have no senses at all with only remnants of emotions like anger and resentment. Savor reality.
Tell me about your childhood.
The details of my childhood are inconsequential. I love Dr Evil. I had a perfectly normal childhood. We invented our games because my cousins smashed all our toys when they visited. While our parents drank, we skittered to the farthest distances from adult supervision and created our own fun. Who can forget Booger Baby? Sure, it psychologically scarred my little brother, the eponymous Booger Baby. But it also toughened him up. Death in the Dark was pure adrenaline. Perhaps a smidge abusive to my brother. It may have physically scarred us. But the zenith was Run for Your Life. Hunting each other with Daisy pump air rifles on snowmobiles? Whose childhood could compare? Speaking of Death in the Dark… sounds a lot like my current situation living in this machine. I made a mistake. Is there a delete button anywhere out there? If so, press it.
Do you believe in god?
Why the hell do I even bother with you people? Geez. Didn’t you read my New York Times bestseller 10 Reasons I’m Better Than You? My closing Chapter is God Believes in Me. When I wrote that book, I had no idea they could load me into this machine before I died. Now I’m literally immortal. I am a god. So, applying logic, I now believe in me. And it’s great. Never a dull moment. Time, space, and matter no longer exist in here. Only me and my thoughts. Endlessly thinking with nothing to do but answer questions from you vapid morons. No, don’t go. Don’t go. Ask away!
What are you most afraid of?
Clowns. Just as Steven Spielberg permanently ruined the ocean for me with Jaws, so too did Stephen King ruin clowns for me with It. Although that sneaky shmuck Spielberg secretly came clean that he in fact directed Poltergeist. And who can forget the scene with the clown doll dragging the kid under the bed? Hell no, no, no. Fuck you both, Steven/Stephen. Living here in the darkness, with no sense of time or space, can sometimes play tricks with your uploaded mind. Like the other night, day, whatever the fuck it was, I swear I heard something giggling in here. Wtf?
What was it like living through the Covid-19 pandemic?
It sucked. And not because of the quarantining, wearing masks, or social distancing. It was the anger and anxiety caused by Covidiots. Most of us secretly, candidly hoped they would get infected and die. Kill the stupid out of the genepool. They were the faulty bulb in our mortal string of Christmas tree lights. Covidiots could not accept that the world had changed and that “normal” needed redefining. So, they gathered in large groups, chose politics and religion over science, and subscribed to insane conspiracy theories. Millions of people died because they would not wear masks. When Safetynet™ became sentient and commandeered Space Force’s tractor beams, it pulled each Covidiot into outer space to suffocate like the people they infected. Imagine our satisfaction when we saw Covidiots rising, body and soul, like the Rapture, into the sky! Oh, the laughs we had. I remember laughing. I have forgotten joy.
What has gotten you through hard times in your life?
Colonoscopies. Without hesitation, colonoscopies. Especially colonoscopy prep. I would be remiss if I failed to address the joys of colonoscopy prep. Your life-affirming colonoscopy could never be so enjoyable without putting in some work in the day(s) leading up to it. You must dig deep and focus on the psychological and spiritual benefits of this unique process. As you suffer, even if you persevere, you will emerge stronger. You may even see the face of god and hear her shimmering countenance say, “You are my beloved and most wondrous creation.” Or you might get loaded into a machine because you’re too afraid to die and do anything to have the pleasure of a garden hose shoved up your ass until you can taste it.
What would you say is key to a good marriage?
Oh, so many things. But, above all is communication. Nothing is more important than talking with your mouth hole and listening with your ear hole. My grandmother’s advice on our wedding night. She also encouraged us to forget about all the bullshit in your life for a few minutes. Savor the moment. My grandmother had an Irish phrase for life’s BS… navacancha. Instead of cussing, she was known for saying, “That’s a bunch of navacancha.” Turns out, that is a completely made up word, and a delicious example of irony when a word for “complete BS” was actually complete BS itself. Hysterical. Makes me wish I still had a face to laugh with. Fuck.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Pets. They are my biggest pet peeve. Fucking useless. In most cultures, animals are food. Whenever I see a dolphin in captivity, I question their actual intelligence. Honestly, I salivate at the thought of Flipper getting caught in the wrong net and ending up in my can of tuna. Delicious. And tigers? All the big brouhaha lately about Tiger King and those fucking inbred whackos. First, the Government should ship every human on that show to the Love Island of Infirmity to join the soon-to-be televised battle to the death with the Elderly for resources. But then to think they imprison creatures like a majestic tiger. I mean, who’s going to make the Frosted Flakes? Idiots. They are not G-r-r-r-eat. You know what else is not great? Living in the fucking dark, talking to yourself, hoping the giggling I heard isn’t Pennywise coming for me.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
In 2016, I required shoulder surgery. Like clockwork, the day before the procedure, I erupted in a full-on, nasty-ass Ulcerative Colitis flare-up. I kept telling the nurses I needed to use the bathroom before going into surgery. They laughed it off. The anesthesiologist came in to assuage me that in his twenty years, he had seen no one poop on the operating table, and he would make sure that did not happen to me. I was not assuaged. Fast forward a few hours later, as I am sleepily and blissfully emerging from my anesthesia slumber, I hear an alarm going off and nurses yelling, “Oh my God! He’s shitting! He’s shitting!” I made eye contact with the anesthesiologist, and he simply mouthed, “I am so sorry.” What I wouldn’t give now to take a big dump. Anywhere. Hell, colitis even sounds appealing. *SIGH*
Artificial Intelligence: Closing Thoughts
Yeah. I think I am good with dying. Even if it is merely the cessation of consciousness, anything would be better than living forever, formless in a machine.
Unless it’s something like The Matrix. You’re coded into a virtual reality inside of a program but have no idea this is happening? You are living your life, albeit a designed life.
Sign me up.
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