Writing Against*

Saw a movie recently about a modern mad scientist who creates an AI with built-in sexuality. The young understudy asks, “Why give it sexuality? You don’t need sexuality for intelligence.” Because, the scientist replied, sexuality provides a motive for communication. Intelligence without desire or curiosity or some other kind of motivation would do nothing. A gray box full of data and algorithms that would just sit there.

I’ve always wondered about the reasons we do what we do and how much control we really have. I sat down with a friend recently, a humorist and satirist, and we talked about how crazy the world seems these days, what with climate change deniers and mad-dog terrorists and other extremists shaping headlines and politics and policies. The scary influence of partisan ideologues and religious zealots who choose faith or anger or “alternative facts” over rational thinking. We wondered whether the right message, delivered the right way, might slip past their defenses. Of course not, he said, citing the power of confirmation bias.

So why do you write, I asked. I don’t remember his answer. We had another beer and promised to stay in touch. And not be gray boxes. Eek out a few words now and then. Question authority. Embrace reason. March for science. Binge on old Star Trek episodes. As futures go, we could do worse.

*Apologies to Ronald Hayman for hijacking the title of his biography of Jean-Paul Sartre