October 27th, 2015


Battle of the Gods

The fundamental question of politics is, Which is scarier, the government or the people? (For one thing, governments are made of people.) Gun control is an obvious example. Everyone armed, or just the cops and crooks: Choose your poison.

One supposed answer is to turn it over to God, assuming we can decide which one. Choosing the elderly Caucasian gaseous vertebrate of the Bible has unsurprisingly been fairly disastrous, and the Dialectic and the Market have likewise failed.

Another possible deity was the Computer. Much sf has been devoted to this possibility, from Asimovian robots programmed to love us to the fear that computers will have goals totally unintelligible to us and turn us into gray goo.

Charles Stross says that there are vast unsympathetic intelligences even now gaining more and more power and grinding us up for campaigns and conflicts utterly opaque to us. They are known as corporations. I find that alarmingly plausible.

Perhaps there are people who share that analysis and have decided that gray goo may not be all that bad, and so they have begun a crash program to bring computers to full sentience by giving them ever more complex Turing tests. They dare not admit openly what they are doing, so they have disguised it as a form of service to the god Security. They call it Captchas.