Be Careful What You Wish For: Harry Dodge's Mysterious Fires

Even though the sun will turn into a red giant in five billion years and plant life on earth will likely die killing life before then, the rate of technological progress makes the near future unknowable. The pace of such advancement can be difficult to keep up with–Harry Dodge’s video MYSTERIOUS FIRES stages a dialogue about the future of life.

In the film, Harry Dodge, dressed partly in paper armor with a Lucha Libre-type mask, speaks with the artist Cay Castagnetto who wears a lab coat, a wrinkly facemask, and at times holds a dog and has a pink-dyed hand. It is a discussion which could pass the Turing test, between a human and a machine that passes as a human, but has reassuringly personal witticisms and digressions. Harry Dodge is Dolly, named after the first cloned sheep, and Castagnetto is “Sir”. The text of their conversation is adapted from a New Yorker article by Raffi Khatchadourian called “The Doomsday Invention,” as well as from a book by philosopher Nick Bostrom called Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies.

Dolly and Sir talk through advancements in artificial intelligence which could make it so that a super-intelligent computer, that humans invent but which itself is more intelligent than humans, could engineer supercomputers that humans won’t understand or be able to predict. Rather than being the dominant species, humans will become a dominated species. This an idea that many who study artificial intelligence, including MIT researcher Max Tegmark, suggest that society takes seriously.