Matt Perryman

Worrying about AI when bridges are falling over

By Matt Perryman

I bet you saw that video of the bridge falling down after the container ship hit it a few days ago.

I found a perceptive comment on the Xitter that made me laugh, in that “yep, that’s right” way.

There’s two kinds of people.

One kind is familiar with what it takes to design, build, and maintain all our technology. That’s everything from the big infrastructure to the pipes that bring running water into and out of our homes. They get it on a “blood and dirt” level.

The other kind is astonished that an accident could ever happen in our perfect world of stuff that always works. These are the people that don’t know where their food comes from.

This second type believes that “the internet” is all information. Like your Youtube addiction doesn’t rely on a vast, complex, and expensive infrastructure with multiple points of failure.

We’ve got people out here talking about AI and robots taking over while the roads and the power grid are falling apart. Imagine Skynet’s shock when it goes to fire up the Terminator factory only to discover that a nest of beavers chewed through all the ethernet wires and nobody knows how to repair them.

Information has a body. That magical virtual world of the internet lives in real data centers, powered by real electricity, accessed through real cables.

You can’t run a virtual civilization without the material basics. And that’s more than a metaphor about rotting infrastructure.

It goes for you, personally.

You can’t just cut away your body for a “life of the mind”. It won’t work. It’s an illusion.

Neglecting your bodily infrastructure has real consequences for your intangible parts and pieces.

If you want everything to work, then everything’s got to work.

It helps if “everything” is simple, streamlined, with few moving parts.

Matt Perryman

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