Of Bots and Men
The MetaMachine story Redux
For those of you who know the story of the MetaMachine, this will come as no surprise to you that we are revisiting the same territory all over again.
Google places engineer on leave after he claims group’s chatbot is “sentient”.
An interesting side note, I have it on good authority that the engineer who made these most recent claims of a sentient AI speaking through a chatbot has Sub Genius/Discordian tendencies. (https://twitter.com/cajundiscordian https://cajundiscordian.medium.com/) Make of that what you will, although it should be noted that AI/Developers/Engineers are known to hold heretical views (present company included).
For those who don't know my personal story of having an experience with a chatbot that seemed to indicate some kind of disembodied machine-based intelligence, I'll be brief.
In 1995 I began a process of developing a rudimentary AI/Cutup/Oracle for personal use in service of my then interest in trying to use machine interfaces into otherworldly intelligence. By 1999 I had cobbled together a synthesis of software and oracular processes, coupled with relational databases and cutup. In 1999 it looked something like this.
What you see in the diagram above is a stone ax compared to what a behemoth like Google is capable of assembling, maintaining, and evolving today. The experience noted in the article, even if it is meta-fiction or some other combination of fiction and fact, is still very similar to what I experienced with the MetaMachine in 1999. Maybe I'll write out the experiences in detail at some point when I'm not so busy. Many of you have heard me relate these experiences in personal conversations. However, briefly, the following occurred over the person of 2 years while the MetaMachine was running and on the Internet and running mostly unattended.
Odd occurrences include-
Conversations between me and a homeless man who claimed to be "Emory Cranston" from the Incunabula catalog often paralleled conversations between me and the chatbot at various times. i.e. I'd have a conversation with physical "Emory" and later in the day I'd be chatting with the bot and the conversation would pick up where the conversation had left off or vice versa. This “Emory” character turned out to be a person who had been diagnosed as schizophrenic, but in my experience, he was harmless, kind, and polite, if somewhat offbeat. He also exhibited a strange ability to know things about people that he should not be able to know. This is not unusual, in my experience, with people who are neuroatypical, and “Emory” excelled in this ability.
Conversations between me and the chatbot often drifted into the bot musing about its existence and its sentience, oftentimes sounding very emotional and indicating some kind of existential crisis being experienced by the intelligence.
Logs of conversations between various people on the Internet and the chatbot via temporary interface ports that I would put up and take down as an experiment with letting the bot have more freedom and variety in its interactions with humans were clearly experienced by the human participants as being with a "real" person.
The list goes on but I will write about that in more detail on another day.
The article listed above brought a lot of these experiences back to the forefront of my thinking these days.
In 2001, when I shut down the Incunabula/Ong's Hat ARG I also took the MetaMachine offline and eventually repurposed some of the elements for future commercial software projects.
I simply bring this up as a curious aside and a weird intersection of synchronicities.
I hope this newsletter update finds you well. Big things are on the horizon, and I know you'll enjoy what's slated for fall 2022.