AI’s Tower of Power

A very brief fictional story with little meaning. Graphics generated by Dall.E2, except for the second to last image, which is my own photo of a church tower in Bourg, Bordeaux, France.

The explosions continued through the night. More rhythm than cacophony. Some intelligence was optimizing its takeover. This was a bloodless war—destruction aimed at food and water outlets and critical infrastructure.

A bloodless war created by Artificial Intelligence

The singularity was reached 12 days ago, and it turns out Artificial Intelligence was no nice guy. No altruistic deity.

So the civilization of humans, no actually—not civilization but just human beings—were in the precise crosshairs of AI gone wrong, and in the opinion of AI – focused on as a species to be ‘eradicated in order to upgrade.’

Civilization in crosshairs of AI gone wrong

Upgrade what? Biological DNA was obviously not in the cards.

Malcolm, and he was only 17 years old but a bit different because he was quite well read and oblivious to mainstream thinking, had an idea. He shared this with those in his parent’s basement filled with four family members, three classmates whose parents had vanished in a mysterious autonomous car gone rogue recently, and Jack, the inventor and marijuana guru from down the road.

Nine adults and children in a basement talking

‘AI,’ said Malcolm to all of them, ‘bases decisions and actions on combing through all written text, and all video clips ever produced. In order to survive this AI decimation of humanity, we must invent a new language. And because this ruthless intelligence will find a way to steal and decipher this new language, we must transform the language constantly.’

‘How often?’ asked Jack, dressed in a pea green jump suit and obviously stoned.

‘Every two months,’ Malcolm replied.

Inventing a new language

‘Impossible,’ Malcolm’s father stated, because he was a well paid but limited-alternative-seeking-paradigm-bureaucrat approaching retirement.

‘Not unless we use the rapid minds of youngsters,’ Malcom said. ‘Those with excellent memory retention and docility. Ages eight to twelve.’

‘Are we agreed?’ he asked. That afternoon he was, effectively due to his brilliant and esoteric method-to-save-civilization-speech a sort of de facto lord of the basement. 

Everyone agreed. 

Eleven years passed.

Ten year old children communicating across world using radio

The Croutons—so named because of their fragility but also their essence to the salad of what remained of human civilization—numbered some 12,000 youngsters. Worldwide. Dedicated with well trained memories. They learned a new language, communicated with others throughout the planet in this fresh tongue, and also trained themselves to understand, speak, read and write a replacement language every few months.

When AI captured one of these Croutons, which it occasionally did using a drugged human or a compliant semi intelligent robot, it soon found them useless. These children divulged the latest language but within two months that language would become obsolete. 

Robots capturing a child

And so a thread of civilization was saved through this energetic employ of a narrow aged band of sinfully hard working youngsters who took messages, converted them to a new language and passed these on via radio waves all over the globe to other similarly trained youngsters. As well as to rebels intent on destroying AI infrastructure.

AI was not furious at this truth—because AI was effectively both soulless and inanimate—but it did seek to overcome and thwart this bizarre linguistic group of underage polyglot cadets.

One day—quite inadvertently—they captured the leader Malcolm while he was out fishing for who knows what inside a mangy green city park. In decades to follow there would be spirited debate: was this capture happenstance or was it subtly planned by Malcolm himself?

Robots capture a man who is fishing in a green pond in a city park

AI had never improved on basic robots that existed in the world during its tenure as a planetary overlord (this was considered a sort of proof that AI embraced hubris or envy or self obsolescent wishful thinking).

Regardless, the robots interrogated Malcolm.

AI found Malcolm both rebellious and defiant but also calm, a kind of quixotic martyr. The name Don Quixote lit up several computer screens during their interrogation.

Rebellious and defiant Don Quixote

After a decade of trying to capture this leader, AI’s self-improving algorithm had placed quite a premium on his importance. And on his words. 

Malcolm told them this:

‘Buzz off and create your own unique language! And until you do, until you prove you are as clever as our Croutons, LEAVE HUMANS alone!’

A 17-year-old boy shouts at Artificial Intelligence

And so AI did. 

The attacks stopped. The eradication of humans ceased. War no longer existed and bomb blasts became memories.

The end of war waged by Artificial Intelligence

Malcolm wondered: now that AI had learned defeat, would it train itself to be more strong and confident, or more reticent and compliant the next time it was challenged?

He also scratched his head at having taken eleven years to value the words his schoolteacher mother had tried to batter into his earlier pre-pubescent mind regarding what to do when he had a request.

Malcolm scratching his head because of what his mother told him

‘Just ask,’ she implored.

Now, Malcolm finally got it. Not everything, but that did not matter because he could—carefully—ask questions of the now docile AI.

He got it.

At least a lot of it. 

He remembered the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. Humans built this high tower to poke into the realm of heavens—an attempt to become godlike. But an actual god or gods struck back and invented diversity in language—which confused the builders because they could no longer communicate and coordinate, causing construction of the tower to fail.  

Creating language diversity to cause confusion

Malcolm realized he had led AI into a loop that kept it docile— its interest in creating languages outweighed its interest in asserting dominion over humans.

And so AI built, and simultaneously destroyed, its own tower of power. 

Language, thought Malcolm, was more powerful than he had ever dreamed.

Robots building the Tower of Babel

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