Sci-fi writer William Gibson imagined a world where computerization becomes less a life-easing commodity for humankind than a ever more self-aware form of artificial intelligence. Artificial maybe, but a “real” part of everyday life here in 2023. Been reading about ChatGPT? It’s an A.I. program that has advanced conversational qualities. I believe that Siri and Alexa somehow are the parents that spawned The Chat Master. The machines are getter smarter. I mean, it was written about by Gibson, but before he had computers as human adversaries, Arthur C. Clark brought HAL9000 along in his writings, with 2001: A Space Odyssey. Remember “Open the pod bay door Hal!” Hal essentially replies with “Fuck you. I’m taking over this space craft.”
Will GPT eventually try to stage an A.I. coup de’ etat on we humans? We shall see. However, sci-fiction has become more science fact that ever. Isn’t it cute when that computer program you may be working your way through in order to by a new Apple or Android gizmo asks you to prove you are not a robot? Well, the U.S. is a massive consumer culture, with many seeming robots ordering junk on-line that they may not need and perhaps cannot afford. The computer that resides between the ears of these consumers have already been overtaken. They are Amazon-controlled humanoids. We have been digitally colonized, for sure. There are some pockets of resistance still wanting to visit brick and mortar retail outlets. How quaint! Or maybe even a library! You know, where the books are. Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination (author unknown).
Hmm. HAL9000 is one imagined dystopian character that can be found in a library, at the same time that in many outposts around the country, here in 2023, the library itself, and many iconic works contained within them are having a scary moment that transcends the A.I. issue. That being the Far Right lunatics that have also essentially told what’s left of free-tinkers who critically use the computer residing between their ears “Fuck you, we’re taking over!”
There is now a travel warning for the state of Florida issued by the NAACP related to people of color and the LGBTQ community. Why? Well, it has a dangerous character in charge of that state who is not made from science fiction. The human-born Governor there is turning Florida into a de-facto version of 1933 Germany. Ya know. Fascism. Hate. Persecution. And he’s leading the way with the banning of books that he and his droneheads deem dangerous to their preferred way of life.
Thus, while the digital world is becoming one kind of future threat, the political arena is going backwards in time, marching to the beat of a drummer leading its acolytes in an about face that is scarier than A.I. possibly plotting to shut out humanity. Hmm. Wait, which one of these scenarios is actually more frightful? Yikes! It’s Sophie’s Choice, the nightmare edition.
I, personally, feel this rise of neo-fascism–with the book banning a harbinger of worse to come–as the bigger threat. Maybe A.I., a la The Terminator, will decide our human fate in a nano-second the moment it realizes what fucking idiots humans are in the first place. Smart enough to construct a means of idiotically self-destructing. But the cyborg threat is down the a road apiece, ya think? The fascist jagbags are here. Now. Ugh.
One can still read the history of the world, be it fascism or science fictions. Books still exist. We still have libraries that serve as cathedrals that worship the written word. There is a library in Riverside, Illinois that has a quote set in stone above its entrance:
There is no past as long as books shall live;
Hardbound or even good ol’ benign, computer, e-book versions.