I, Robot

Perhaps the timing was too perfect, for last night Violet and I watched “I, Robot” with Will Smith for the first time. This morning, I got up and saw the news. As you may already know, AIG has paid $165 million in bonuses from the federal bailout money, and congress is working on writing tax laws in response to try to mop it all up. While I may be coming from my usual unusual angle, I am reminded of this film.

News: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090319/ap_on_go_co/aig_outrage
Film: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0343818/

I’ve no doubt that all of mankind can stand there, watch AIG pay those bonuses, and feel horrified at the thought of $165 million in fresh, federal bailout money being washed away. As one focusing on public infrastructure, I see robots.

As everyone stands horrified, it is robots that pay these bonuses. Our robots are the trusted, publicly documented agencies of our civilization, and they respond with built-in precision. The robots of our day are our rules, our procedures and our laws.

Congress is making new taxes, and some of the people at AIG are turning their bonuses back in. We are so easily horrified at the way our world works, when it is the world that we have created, and which falls so short of our expectations. In “I, Robot”, the film, the laws of robotics attempt to enslave humanity.

The laws that we have created are laws for all of us to live by, and they can just as easily be the laws for us to die by. It is our subservience to our laws that we give, in exchange, I presume, for some prevalence in fairness and decency. Does it seem fair?

When the news isn’t being reported, it all gets so much worse.

The food for thought is this. We place our faith in our laws the way they (in the film) placed their faith in their “robotic laws”. We haven’t been putting as much faith in ourselves, and we’ve been relying on the system a great deal. I think bad people can use existing systems to do bad things, just as well as good people can use to do good things, and where congress is concerned, they may have to do a certain number of bad things just to be there.

But the system will always be there, for us to collectively trust, bow to, and share. Where I perceive a shortfall in infrastructure today, I work on the Cooperative Assembly (http://coopassembly.blogspot.com), which is an idea for helping out in public information infrastructure. I’m glad it seems we may be able to work this lawful AIG bonuses business out, since it is being reported. For things not reported, however, there is only the trusted infrastructure to rely upon, such as where AIG would just pay the bonuses, and that would be that.

In any event, where it isn’t being reported on, trusted actions don’t have to produce anything good. Everyone serves the law, except for those who hide. Man can only run the show if it is being reported on (or at least documented). Where this is not the case, it is all just trusted machines!

Why are we faithful to a system when it isn’t being reported on? I think it’s because we are so entirely bound and dependent upon this shared faith (in this system), and the lack of reporting is the crime that’s making all of the other crimes possible. I think it is because, in this case, it is the “free press” in the system, which is not in itself designed. There used to be regulations against media power, but they went away (primarily in 1996), and so we should figure out how to know as much on every important contemporary topic as we do on this one.

I think the press is a free entity by design, such that it would continue to do well when existing as such, but that the free press is also a part of a much larger system that won’t work well without it. This nation literally needs a “free press”, and not a commercial enterprise, as a witness to every public function. In the film there is also what no one knows, making it possible for everything in its world to go wrong.

In the film the robots become intelligent and take over, as if wishing to be our nannies, after noticing that we had been causing ourselves too much harm. I suppose one might sometimes presume our infrastructure to be super-capable, but I can assure you that none of it is, in or of itself, intelligent. That is the stuff of high sci fi. In the meantime, we will need people to have any representation, as well as any intelligence in the system.

Cheers to better information -