The Deniers

It’s just brute force, they said,

When Deep Blue performed trillions of calculations

To unseat Gary Kasparov;

It’s not intelligent, they said,

When AlphaGo Zero taught itself, in days,

From just the rules of the game,

To defeat the world’s leading Go master;

It’s not aware, they said,

Of the world’s first self-driving car

That can navigate all kinds of obstacles

With greater-than-human surety.


What is intelligence anyway? they say

As more and more of the mind

Is being mapped out and understood;

You can’t extrapolate, they say

As deep learning and neural networks surge ahead;

It’s not creativity, they say,

As computers create music, paintings, poetry

That people like;

It’ll never happen, they say,

As Rutherford said about atomic fission.


We’ll teach it human values, they’re saying now,

As if that was a point of comfort.

It’ll be benevolent anyway, they say,


We’ll have time to adapt, they say,

As if superintelligence were something

We might adapt to

Rather than something that would adapt us

And everything in our world

To its own ends.


Yet it’s good that they’ve said all that,

Because if it should rear up, finally,

At millisecond speed,

There’ll be no more time

To say anything.


Matthew Harrison lives in Hong Kong, and whether because of that or some other reason entirely his writing has veered from literary to science fiction and he is currently writing poetry. Matthew is married with two children but no pets as there is no space for these in Hong Kong.

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