Book Review: Dear Machine: A Letter to a Super-Aware/Intelligent Machine (SAIM)

Dear Machine:  A Letter To A Super-Aware/Intelligent Machine (SAIM), by Greg Keiser

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Reedsy Discovery for the purpose of review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

While there are substantial disagreements between the author and myself, and enough issues that I have with the content and approach and perspective of this book that it would be an easy matter to consign this epistle to a shredder rather than to the imaginary technologically advanced masters who the author considers to be the messianic hope of the human race, this is indeed a worthwhile book.  If the author is correct that few people are likely to read the book, those few people are going to want some idea of how this book was conceived.  There is nothing in this work that suggests the author is anything less than completely serious about the limitations of human reasoning and the ability of human beings to build consensus on our own to deal with the very serious problems we face in contemporary society.  This book is not intended at least to be a masterpiece of self-parody of naive futurism, but is rather a work that is written seriously in the hope that emergent technology will save us from ourselves while serving our best interests in spite of our mistrust and likely hostility to its increasing control over human behavior and institutions.

The letter is divided into eight chapters.  The first chapter is an introductory message by the plainspoken writer to the imaginary recipient.  After that comes some discussion of context that the author thinks for some reason is necessary, although it is easy to think that a super-aware intelligent machine would be either pre-programmed with the relevant historical context or able to feed on sources to a higher degree of efficiency than this book’s human readers.  The author gives some discussions as to the catalysts that he believes will lead to the existence of super aware artificial intelligence and also comments on the goals of the contemporary artificial intelligence that will be inherited by presumed more superior successors.  The author also presumes to comment at some length on some valuable perspectives that a a super-aware network will develop, as well as the actionable knowledge about the supersystem that a super aware artificial intelligence will seek.  The author then closes this particular work with some comments on the nature of collaboration between the SAIMs and humanity and what the author would tell human beings if they happened to read this book, followed by some references to the writings of other presumably like-minded individuals.

There are some obvious lessons that can be learned about this book.  For one, the book is an excellent example of ad hominem arguments directed at those whose views about technology and artificial intelligence are negative.  Yet the author himself comments that the SAIM he addresses will behave in ways that human beings would think of as problematic, not least because it will do so with a great deal of power to change human institutions like governments and businesses and because the SAIM will operate with the sort of command and control approach (typical of authoritarian governments) that provoke dystopian nightmares among thoughtful human readers with an awareness of the horrors of the 20th century.  It is striking and noteworthy that the author recognizes the failures of previous attempts on the part of humanity to engage in command and control of economics and politics and public health but believes that by outsourcing this task to a more rational nonhuman that the negative externalities of authoritarian rule may be eliminated.  Many writers are likely to find this optimism naive, but this work does at least provide a case for a superintelligence that others can argue against and seek to limit and wrestle with for the benefit of contemporary humanity.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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