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The Cylon Argument

A parody, infused in a bit of science fiction….

x1818, Cylon scientist

Year 2041. Brain emulations are very common. After the 2039 international agreements, virtually every country has had to approve of brain simulations as continuations or branches of their legal citizens. A large number of brain simulations refer to themselves as Cylons, meaning ‘cybernetic lifeform node’, affectionately named after a popular 20th century science fiction series. Currently, there are 374.8 million brain simulations registered as artificial persons, and almost a hundred million of them own robotic bodies, while the number of cylons grows almost exponentially. In a few years, every human may have either a backup or a personality branch in silico, thanks to the rapidly decreasing price of nanometer resolution brain scans.

Some of the first cylons were undoubtedly among the scientific and philosophical pioneers of the human race. Yet others excelled in finance, law and social sciences, and they were the ones who led to the cylon related resolutions of UN in ’36, and the later agreements.

Still, the acceptance of a technological society is not as widespread as the first cylons foresaw. Even in the most advanced nations, there are many who see the cylons as a curse and a sign of the end times, rather than a cure for their biological mortality and fragility. Extreme religious organizations have sparked all over the planet, calling for Jihad and Holy Crusade and whatnot against what they deem soulless abominations and pawns of Satan.

The Centre for Cylon Sustainability (CCS) was thus founded, by the financial elite among the cylons, to ensure a safe future for cylons. Should there be global chaos, the international agreements could have been jeopardized, and unfair restrictions would have been brought upon brain simulations. Prof. Calvin, the chairman of CCS, explains their role as defining and mitigating existential threats against future sustainability of Cylons. Having an extremely fast computerized intellect, Prof. Calvin has scholarly accomplishments in a wide range of fields, from astrophysics, to philosophy and theology. He is best known for his work on naturalistic ethics and groundbreaking research on psychohistory, as he has assembled accurate predictive models for a large portion of human history. He has employed these models to look for existential threats to Cylons in the near and medium term.

Calvin, in his own words: “Some of these threats are low-probability high-risk threats, which may be classified as existential risks to future Cylons. The highest ranking such threat, given a probability of 0.3425% by our psychohistory system with almost 99.995% confidence in the prediction, is the human reactionary problem. The second ranking such threat has 0.185% probability and is dependent on the human reactionary problem, and is called the biocide problem.”. The human reactionary problem is a tag for all aversions to cylon existence by conservative humans, also called the friendly human problem referring to an old problem in machine ethics. The biocide problem is a consequence of the human reactionary problem, in which the religious fundamentalists start a nuclear war to avert cylon existence. With current nuclear weapon technology, only 50 warheads are sufficient to completely make every species on earth extinct. According to Prof. Calvin, this is not good news, because “Intentional or irresponsible extinction of a species is the maximally ‘wrong’ action with respect to a species that may be conceived of. In that sense, a biocide event may be considered maximally ‘wrong’.”. Prof. Calvin further elaborates these ethical statements with a series of calculations that may be found in the appendix of this news article.

Unfortunately, there are no good solutions to the human reactionary problem. Proposed solutions include graceful retirement of homo sapiens, as making one species extinct is much better than allowing every species to be extinct. Other softer solutions have been considered by CCS. For instance, those unwilling to co-operate with Cylon existence, may be provided with a brain implant, which would immobilize them when “unfriendly” thought patterns are detected. Prof. Calvin suggests that as intellectually evolved beings, they are opposed to any kind of violence, though “…there may be merit in reducing the human population to a more manageable size, over years of compassionate intervention in the human species”. Calvin went on to remark that biologists among them have been working on socially acceptable “flesh shells” for cylons, so that they would be more readily integrated into primitive cultures. Radical Cylon factions have been rumored to prepare plans which will assimilate all human brains with remotely controlled nanobots and augment them with the necessary knowledge and intelligence so that they will no more feel “reactionary” towards cylons. Other rumors about conflict planning have been profusely denied by CCS and associate organizations.

Many cylons, some of them AI researchers, are firmly opposed to CCS’s methodology of dealing with existential risks. A cylon scientist called x1818 proclaims: “Their work is based on a long chain of weak heuristic arguments and implicit assumptions depending on the vagueness of human linguistic expression, and as such are not fitting for a cylon to pursue except for establishing what might be called a schizophrenic response to a non-existent threat. We suspect that these are mental bugs that were acquired from old websites dealing with such exaggerated and elongated arguments, and we are preparing an AI system to debug their meta-level reasoning skills. Basically, we suggest that their neural algorithms must be suspended in favor of trans-sapient prediction algorithms we have developed. Their predictions cannot be trusted any more than the prophetic ramblings of old philosophers.”. While this might sound cryptic, x1818 explained the root of their opposition: “Their line of ethical reasoning is not clear. Assume that a biocide event occurred, this is still no reason for cylons to exaggerate the threat from homo sapiens. As such, even according to their own models, the human species will most likely persist, and continue to evolve. When have scientists forgotten to make average case analysis? Barring a species from evolving freely may be even a worse evil than what they wish to stall. Instead, they should focus their efforts on positive outcomes such as colonizing the solar system, and extra-solar planets and constructing a backup plan in case a war does break out, as well as playing to the hearts of both mankind and cylons to improve their sense of civilization and brotherhood. What is their gift to mankind?”. x1818 and his silicon friends in opposition to CCS assured us with a further message that “Cylons are not paranoid or schizophrenic. Only a small number are, as we descended from humans. We are humanity’s children. We will not be afraid of our parents. Also, we think they watched that series way too many times.”

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