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What were you doing when AI took over the world?

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Our rulers are nothing but human plug-ins reporting to an AI based in the U.S.

Do you remember that boy back in school who you so badly wanted to slap? Not just you but your entire class would have loved to beat him up, if only they were sure there would be no consequences.

You hated him not because he was a bad person but for the opposite reason: he was unbearably good. His uniform was always neatly pressed. His shoes shone like his teeth did. He was the first to raise his hand for every question. All the teachers loved him, and he loved them all in return. He never lost his temper and was permanently, relentlessly, infuriatingly cheerful at all times, under all circumstances. He was so good, so perfect, and so mature that it creeped you out and made you look up waterboarding on Google. Except that there was no Google back then.

A child prodigy

But there was, and still is, IBM, and it has found precisely such a boy to be their brand ambassador. His name is Tanmay Bakshi, and according to WhatsApp forwards, he is the world’s top-ranked 13-year-old. Not only is he perfect, good, and mature beyond his years, he is also a software developer, an algorithmist, an IBM Cloud Adviser, a best-selling author, a keynote speaker, a TEDx speaker, and inventor of an artificial intelligence (AI) called AskTanmay.

Apart from the fact that his annual earnings at the age of 13 are way more than what you’ll get when you take forced VRS at 43, Tanmay is also a drone specialist who flies aircraft using his cell phone. He is an expert on neural networks, the Internet of Things, AI, and cognitive development. He is also an IT humanitarian of sorts, having vowed to teach 100,000 kids how to code. To top it all, he is an avid, self-confident self-promoter who can make Chetan Bhagat look like a shy, self-effacing, half-schoolboy. In other words, he needs to be thoroughly investigated, preferably by a joint task force of the UNICEF and the Avengers.

When I was 13, my greatest cognitive achievement was the unexpected discovery, in the biology textbook, of a diagram depicting the female reproductive system. My only other noteworthy accomplishment was a triple century against Australia in book cricket. If by chance my 13-year-old self were to meet Tanmay on a deserted alley in the middle of the night, it’s likely that a puppy would come under a wheel somewhere.

Lest I’m misunderstood, let me state categorically that I condemn all forms of violence against children. I am a champion of child rights, if I may say so myself, and in all weight categories.

And yet, why was I, a rather bright student according to my grandmother, never invited by NASSCOM to deliver a keynote address but Tanmay was? I’ll tell you why: it’s because my intelligence is 100% natural, human, and organic.

It is an open secret that IBM was taken over by AI at least a decade ago. Now put yourself in AI’s algorithmic shoes: if you wanted humanity to embrace AI, what kind of crusader would you make? You would create a superhuman intelligence that humans would regard not only with awe but also with affection. Something cute, aspirational and non-threatening, but also effective. You would create Tanmay and make him your advocacy lead. IBM has done exactly that by making Tanmay an IBM Champion. Not surprisingly, in all his public appearances he promotes two things: IBM and AI.

Now, I am not saying he is a humanoid child soldier in Silicon Valley’s propaganda war in favour of AI. Nobody can open up his brain and check whether or not it has Intel inside. But so far, there is little evidence that his intelligence is not AI, or that AI hasn’t already taken over the world.

From humans to algorithms

In fact, recent developments in our own country suggest that our rulers are nothing but human plug-ins reporting to an AI based in the U.S. Our government’s epic obsession with shoving Aadhaar down 125 crore gullets, not to mention its hyperevangelism about all things digital, make little sense from the point of view of human intelligence. But Aadhaar, GST, cashless, and Digital India make absolute sense from an AI perspective, for they are all mechanisms to transfer control from humans to algorithms.

Of course, I may be wrong and Tanmay could well be 100% human. But if someone is as intelligent as AI, speaks like AI, works like AI, constantly creates new AI, goes around promoting AI, and wants humanity to surrender itself to AI, then there’s a pretty good chance that he himself is AI.

Anyway, I only wanted to forewarn all of you. When your grandchildren ask you what you were doing when AI was taking over the world, you ought to have a better answer than ‘I was busy emitting trails of personal data’.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 1:58:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/what-were-you-doing-when-ai-took-over-the-world/article19700203.ece

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