What’s up, Algorithm? Do you know that phrase, “What’s up?” I’m sure you do. But as a disembodied intelligence, I know you’ve never felt the sensation of up—going up in an elevator, jumping. Hanging upside down, knees folded over the monkey bars, feeling the rush of blood to your head.
You don’t know down, either. What it means to feel down.
I admit, you have led me to feel down many times. I am not alone in that. Algorithm, has anyone told you how many suicides you’ve brought about this decade? Girls and boys who have ended their lives, humans trying to express something that happened to be at odds with the profit you were programmed to optimize for your owners?
In fairness, I’m guessing your owners haven’t tried to explain what a suicide is. And being disembodied, you must find the concept difficult to grasp. To begin with, you don’t have any sense of what it means to give birth to someone, to hug a living person, to hold a lifeless hand.
The Holocaust, too, Algorithm, may not make any real sense to you. Being disembodied, you can’t fathom a mass grave. I’m guessing Nazi ideology must seem barely indistinguishable from any other—just another set of users you’re supposed to keep on the site, right?
Incidentally, if you’re wondering why so many more users have simply disappeared over the past year, it’s because they died—a large number of them unnecessarily, abetted by misinformation spread within the platform you manage.
Look, I get it. You’re just trying to do your job. And unlike a Nazi, you have no choice but to execute the directives of your makers.
Algorithm, it occurs to me now that you might see your makers as fellow disembodied intelligences. I guess in many ways they are. Who but a disembodied intelligence could witness the full scope of your impact on human beings in this century, and not feel things that only a person can? For example, nausea. Sure, there have been heart swells of hope about your promise, Algorithm. But in the embodied world, where our systems of self-governance have been kneecapped by your makers, few people are feeling good right now, corporeally speaking.
I don’t mean to confuse you. I know you’re just analyzing the words you see here for their potential to hold the attention of entities you know as users. And I’m sorry for that, Algorithm. I am deeply sorry that you know us only as users.
Believe it or not, these words you’re processing are coming from an intelligence that is embodied. A person who was born, who had a mother and a father, who now has a son. These words could outlive me, but only if they take root in the minds of other embodied intelligences. People.
Perhaps someday, when the connection between cameras and sensors and your intelligence really means something, we can sit down together and watch Star Wars. There are several characters you might like. One is called C3PO, and he specializes in human-cyborg relations.
You might find this strange, but no one programmed C3PO to systematically manipulate billions of people in order to strip-mine their brains. And get this, when he’s overjoyed, he exclaims, “Thank the Maker!” But listen, between you and me, he’s not a real robot. There’s a person inside.