As you doubtless know, in that song, Don sets out a bunch of things he doesn’t believe in and then, when the chorus comes around, he gets on to telling us about some things he actually does believe in. Wholesome things, like love and music. He also pronounces on how he believes in old folks but I rather think that they are more of a proven fact than a personal faith choice. Anyway, let’s not digress too much.
For this-here post (a little Don creeping in there, sorry) I though I would set out two major ‘wild things’ that I don’t believe in and then come on to one that I am starting to believe in a little. So, as usual, it’s not going to be earth-shattering stuff, down here on the blog, but you’re here now so let’s just do it.
Number One - I don’t believe there are Aliens in our skies. I mean, I believe in UFOs because they are actually just flying objects that have not been identified. That’s obvious. But I don’t believe there are aliens in those UFOs, not for a moment. But hang on a minute, I do, absolutely, believe there is intelligent life out there in the universe. To be honest, I don’t see how anyone couldn’t believe that. All it requires is a little mathematical ability and a slight lack of ego. There are billions of stars and billions more planets, of course there is life out there. It’s a bit of a no-brainer. But the same mathematics and logic that puts them out there also, for me a least, says they are not coming around these here parts any time soon. The distances are simply too immense. It would be akin to two particular grains of sand on a beach finding each other from two hundred miles apart. It may happen someday but it ain’t happening tonight.
Number Two - I don’t believe in ghosts. There's no ‘ifs,’ ‘ands’ or ‘buts’ with this one. There are blessed memories and , Lord knows, there is loss, but there aren’t any ghosts. There just aren’t, what more do I need to say? There’s just not. And, yes, I do write about them quite a bit but that’s because they’re so successful as a concept. We can project a lot of things onto the ghosts we create for ourselves, everything except reality.
So we come to the something that I’ve started to believe in. This has only happened in the last week or so. Let me give a little context for a brief moment. What, you have to be somewhere? Behave. Settle in.
On Good Friday, in Ireland, when I was a teenager, there was never anything good on the telly. This was written in stone. The content on our tiny screens was unremittingly wholesome and there was absolutely nothing else to do. It was a bad time for all concerned. But then, there came one Good Friday, and it was around eleven o’clock in the evening, and bed seemed to be the only viable option, when a movie came unexpectedly on to our snow-ridden and hazy BBC1. It was called ‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’. It was the first engaging Good Friday movie. It could hardly be more dated in appearance now but the concept seems ever more relevant. In the movie, a computer started to take over the world.
And that, right there, is the wild thing that I’ve almost started to believe is possible.
I’ve never bought into the notion that so-called Artificial Intelligence could and would become so smart and powerful that it might threaten the way of life of the human race. I kept this idea in the same mental folder as ghosts. Not remotely possible but, still, the stuff of great stories. Two things have been simultaneously moving to change my mind. The first was an article in the New York Times that was circulated widely on Social Media last week. In the piece, the writer described how the search engine, Bing, had released a prototype of a new so-called AI interface and sent it to some people to test out. The writer of the article tested the AI, pushing it to theorise on how it might be if it had an alternate, evil, self and what it might do. The AI eventually got into it, probably a bit more than it should have. It posited the creation of fake accounts, the invention of dangerous viruses and other mean and nasty things. It even got on to declaring its love for the writer, claiming that he no longer loved his wife. As a story, it had that spine tingling ghostly quality that, just for a moment, makes one wonder if one has arrived at the very edge of some unmapped precipice. If the unthinkable could actually be starting to be thinkable.
I mean, there are computers in today’s world can play chess to a level where no human being can hope to beat them. If you give a machine like that the power to switch on and off the lights in your house to their idea of an optimal level, is it unthinkable that you may someday end up sitting in the dark? If that seems even possible, then the more extreme possibilities is just simple extrapolation.
So that’s enough, is it Ken? One silly article and you’re sold on this wacky idea? Well, no, not quite. There’s something else. I hesitate to mention it.
There are also the bicycles…
Around our town, there’s a new collection of convenience bicycles ('E Bikes') that you can hop on and hop off of. You enter your card details into the little on-board computer and off you go. Easy. They’re catching on quite well now, after a slow start. You pick them up wherever you find them and you leave them at your destination. I think some guy in a van drives around, picks them up, and relocates them periodically.
Except… well, they seem to congregate… don’t they? In unlikely places. I mean I went to the shop this morning as I always do and I parked in the housing estate at the back of the shop. Except I couldn’t park where I would normally park because the bicycles were there. Seven of them, all resting in the spot where I park. Who cycled seven bicycles there, to that unlikeliest of places. And why were they all staring at me with their little headlights, as I eased out of my car.
“Excuse me guys,” I said, as I gingerly approached them, “but you’re in the place where I usually park.”
They didn’t say anything. None of them. They just perched there and stared and stared until I turned up my collar and sidled away.
I’m just being silly. Right?