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To Be a Finisher

Life is too short to do things you don’t enjoy. This is a fact, and it is motive enough to change your career, relationship, and any other ongoing commitments in our life.

But there is value in finishing that which has a visible end. A project, a book, a video game. Leaving things half-done is bad for the soul, it creates the vice of jumping from thing to thing, of experimenting and never mastering.

When we bring something to a close, even something that we are no longer doing with the initial enthusiasm – and perhaps in such a case, most of all  – we fortify an inner narrative about ourselves, a narrative that says “I am a person who takes things to the end. I am a finisher.“

Is it more helpful to be that person, or to be the person who jumps to the next thing at the least sign of resistance, of boredom?

Painting: “Sloth and Work” by Michele Cammarano

Artificial Intelligence Scares Me

The scenario described below is philosophy; it is not meant to be computer science. I am not a computer scientist. If someone with experience in this area wants to point to some scientific fact that renders impossible the proposed scenario, comments are open.

My computer shuts off when it encounters a situation in which, according to predefined parameters, it is more beneficial for its mission to turn off. For example, when the fan fails and the processor overheats.

When I turn it back on, the computer has a fundamental “memory.” The settings remain as they are recorded on a lithium battery. But this, to the computer, is irrelevant – its “memory” is not a factor when deciding what is best or not. If I remove the lithium battery, it will proceed in the same way, if necessary.

Imagine that we have created a supreme Artificial Intelligence, capable of reasoning and self-determination. Able to process and equate advanced philosophical and physiological concepts. Its function is to control the world, and its purpose is – just like my computer – to make the best possible decisions for the benefit of all.

Now the serious part: what is best for us is not necessarily what we want. Unlike my computer, we have an evolutionary bias; we have a bias in regard to life, to survival.

It seems very likely to me that, free of this bias – like my computer – the Supreme Artificial Intelligence notes two objective facts:

  1. Human suffering affects our experience much more than happiness; that is, when we suffer, we feel this suffering much more intensely, and it becomes more marked in our memory, than we feel and remember experiences of ecstasy.
  2. An entity that does not exist does not suffer. (I.E., we suffer because of existence, of being alive. Before birth, our non-existence did not cause us any kind of suffering.)

Faced with this, and having the ultimate goal of making decisions for us, for our benefit, to minimize our suffering…

Is it not natural for the AI to pull the plug?

Painting: “The Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli near Assisi,” by Henri-Edmond Cross

Gateway

It is very difficult to persuade people to try video games because entry into the world requires a lot more effort and expense than other types of art / entertainment.

You can cultivate interest in movies by watching the classics on cable TV before making the decision to invest in a Blu-Ray player and home theatre system. It is possible to listen to the classics of any genre of music on the radio or Youtube, before investing in a hi-fi system or a vinyl player. And literature? Books are cheap and convenient.

In the case of games, it’s much more complicated. Popular games are always recent ones, requiring powerful computers or specific consoles that are almost always over €200 in cost. Older games, the equivalent to movie classics, are mostly inseparable from proprietary platforms that either are no longer made, or are as expensive as new ones, or work poorly with today’s televisions.

The best way for someone to get started in video games is through the platforms that are looked at with disdain by connoisseurs – the phone. There are some reasons for such disdain: most mobile phone games are terrible, absolutely lacking in quality. And even when a classic is available on the phone, it is presented in a way that takes away much of its quality.

(Imagine if the only introductory way to see The Godfather was through a cell phone camera video shot during a cinema screening of the film.)

I’m thinking of a way to introduce people to the medium of videogames. I would like to formulate a list of 10 high-quality games (representative of a variety of genres) that are available to play (legally) on medium-range mobile phones and/or low-performance laptops.

Any suggestions? Leave them in the comments.