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No, not a story about a Legion of French Foreign Robots on an asteroid in Alpha Centauri (though I must admit that is a compelling idea), but a bewilderment about what the Internet is becoming as a conduit of communication, (or the telephone for that matter, or any modern system where we humans find ourselves interacting with machine-generated messages).  When I first joined LJ, I imagined it would be "literary facebook" in some ennobling sense, an on-going interactive novel of the scope of artistic enterprise, the pot of gold at the end of a non-commercial rainbow.  And now, as if in some bizarre subset of Orwellian machination, we are forced to decide whether we are receiving communications from other humans, or the mindless analogs of communications derived from machines.  So far, it is not too hard to tell them apart, though it seems we are on a path where they might evolve to become impossible to rule out as being human-based messages.  Further, since the production of human-based messages takes a good deal (when done correctly) of thought and consideration, the bot-messages can easily overwhelm the human ones. All one has to do is initiate some way to define and track the survival rate of robot posts, so that they can adapt, self-improve, and be accepted by our culture.  Then crafty folk who want to imbed their own subversive message can pretend to be sending bot-messages, and like grafitti artists, through their bot-identities obtain a cultural status as influential artists. Or at least I hope it will get that interesting, and not just be a mindless slog through a wilderness of random ASCII gibberish!

I fear this will be the final predictable form of message inflation, the death blow to our already challenged ability to communicate in a deeply-needed human way-- already challenged by advertising slogans, buzzwords, facebook statuses, and even Derrida.  It tears us away from our primary and profound experience of life, and drags us into a bargain-basement warehouse where "parts is parts," and boxes of random words are as marketable as the works of Dickens.


Cydonia photo: ESA

This is the journal of David Ross
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