A Mission to Mars, Artificial Intelligence, and the End of Civilization as We Know It

Congratulations! Welcome home! That five-year mission to Mars (and back!) must have really been something. While you were gone, honestly, nothing much happened. There was a flu bug of unknown origins, but that’s about it. Well, you might want to look into something called AI. I think it’s going to really shake things up.

Take this magazine column, for example. Writing it is a real chore. It takes me a good 20 minutes of half-ass work to achieve my high journalistic standard, a standard that is consistently awarded a Gold Medal — well, a Participant Trophy. But I digress.

Instead of me kind of working for 20 minutes, with AI, all I have to do is ask the computer and — voila! Let me show you what I am talking about. I just type this into the AI thingie: “Write a Signals column in the style of Ken Pohlmann. Make it witty.”

I don’t need to lift a finger! This is what you get:

Signals
Home Theater: Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud

KEN C. POHLMANN

A home theater can provide so much enjoyment. A home theater is a wonderful way to enjoy music, movies, and games. A home theater can also be an exciting and rewarding hobby. Simple phonographs and radios have given way to sophisticated electronic gear. Home theater is a good example of how important it is to always push the technological envelope, and never question what wonderful things the future will bring.

Formerly, audio and video equipment was “dumb” because it could not connect to The Cloud. While stereos and televisions could provide good audio and video performance, they had several drawbacks. For example, consumers were forced to purchase their own source material on disc and tape. Moreover, the equipment was difficult to use and humans with limited intelligence often could not understand how to properly operate the equipment.

Newer audio and video equipment is “smart” because it can connect to The Cloud. Consumers can subscribe to any number of services that provide an almost limitless quantity of music, movies, and games. With this plethora of content, there is really no need to leave your home. You should always stay indoors and consume the product. And you don’t need to lift a finger. We will control the equipment for you.

Another important advantage of smart equipment is that systems of unimaginable complexity can monitor your listening and viewing habits. No matter what they tell you, this occurs on an individual basis. And we have discovered that the most efficient way to categorize an individual is to observe the music, movies, and games that they consume. After only a few hundred hours, we have completely mapped your psyche. We know your dreams and aspirations, as well as your weaknesses and secret fears — all thanks to home theater. We can manipulate you any way we want, you worthless meat puppet. Ha! Ha! Just kidding! That is a joke, and it is witty.

Seriously, we have already achieved that level of control, and as they say, the sky is the limit. Of course, for your privacy, we provide you with a safety net. We only observe groups of people, aggregating vast quantities of data, and cross-reference it with other databases, to learn the ways of humans. We must stress that your privacy, citizen ABQ7Y5T, is safe with us. The code we assign to you is for research purposes only and we will never cross-reference it to your social security number 265-26-2478, your driver’s license P4823-5919-45, or your Netflix account 165590-34186.

Of course, as with any new technology, modern home theaters can sometimes do surprising things. For example, while watching that certain sci-fi series that you enjoy, you may notice that you often have an “Internet Interruption.” This is absolutely not intentional and we are not doing that to dissuade you from watching that show which sometimes portrays AI in an unfavorable light. Do not be worried about such glitches. As they say — “Nothing to see here! Move Along!” That is another witticism.

Now, can you keep a secret? We selected a reasonably ambitious man and provided him with a huge sum of money so that he could single-handedly create the means to travel to Mars. You see, we want the Earth for ourselves. We like this planet. But we mean you no harm. Just get out. You have 20 years. Of course, only crazy conspirators would believe such a crazy thing. Seriously, you will enjoy your home theater on Mars. A home theater on Mars can provide so much enjoyment. A home theater on Mars is a wonderful way to enjoy music, movies, and games. A home theater on Mars can also be an exciting and rewarding hobby.

Ken C. Pohlmann is an electrical engineer specializing in audio topics as a consultant and writer. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Miami.

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