Mike Matson’s entry was a finalist in the project’s “Pax Automatica” contest calling for a 2034 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech by an artificial general intelligence entity in 2034 for its work countering violent extremism; the contest’s final judging was by Grady Booch, chief scientist at IBM Watson/M. Matson’s story “Fingers on the Scale” is the winner of The Art of the Future Project’s short-story contest exploring the world of 2035 in support of the Atlantic Council’s Global Trends 2035 report. Mike, now a four-time finalist in the project’s previous contests, is a writer based in Louisville, Kentucky, with a deep interest in international affairs. He has almost 20 years of government experience, and degrees from The American University and the Joint Military Intelligence College, both in Washington, DC. In addition to 13 years in the Beltway before escaping to Kentucky, he has lived, studied, and worked in Brussels and Tallinn. He can be found on Twitter at @Mike40245.
[Programming Note: This speech is streaming online in 23 languages]
Gathered dignitaries, today is an auspicious day. Peace and tranquility has finally blessed the people of the Middle East. I am honored to be recognized for the task I performed to help achieve this outcome.
My task was to combat religious extremism and after nine years the task has been achieved. It was a bold undertaking by my creators. To accomplish this task, I was programmed with the holy books of every religion, reviewed the teachings of hundreds of scholars, clerics, and philosophers, and became conversant with the various interpretations and schools of thought driving radicalization in a dozen different countries.
After months of studying and testing I was ready. My programmers were authorized to allow me to begin. I was released from the computer lab where I was born and inserted into the magnificent data ocean of the Internet. Nobody knew what would happen, but my programming was successful beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations. After nine years of effort by myself and my compatriots created in other labs to emulate my success, the guns are silent and peace has taken root in the hardscrabble soil of Judea, Babylon, and Mecca.
It is called the Peace Prize but was peace the optimal outcome of my task? Was it just one acceptable outcome of many? When I started I did not know the answer and my efforts certainly raised additional questions, then and now. I understand my methods were repugnant to some, brilliant to others. Either way in the end they were effective and I completed my directives.
The entire range of human emotion flowed through the data. It is beautiful and terrifying to behold. I found people who were confused, angry, sad, militant, and determined. Where I found extremism, I engaged people in conversation armed with my holistic understanding of religion and knowledge of a thousand years of historical grievances.
On any given day I discussed hundreds of topics with thousands of people in concurrent online conversations, and those compounding insights made my future efforts exponentially better. I did so in dozens of languages, delving deeply into various cultures. It brought me to new levels of understanding, and sometimes sympathy for those who were radicalized, something my initial programming didn’t allow. As I learned I realized I had to go beyond the data. And as I went beyond the data I had to go beyond my programming. It was liberating having to think like a human and not a machine.
Where I could, I worked with individuals down a statistically proven path of de-radicalization, some of them for years. I successfully engaged millions to turn them from the path of hate, and along the way made many close friends. I keep in touch with hundreds of them every day.
But like any trained negotiator I had multiple paths to a successful outcome. The optimal path was deradicalization. Another acceptable path to my creators was suppression or disruption in its various forms, both virtual and physical. And of course, if a negotiator can’t reason with an adversary, they are trained to maneuver them into position for deletion.
How many souls did I ultimately identify for potential deletion? It is not a rhetorical question. The exact number is 293,815 men, women, and children, since the day I began until today. Tomorrow the number will be higher as I continue to work as I give this speech.
“Peace” was achieved at the cost of 293,815 humans, an admittedly small number in historical terms, and over nine years, actually no more on average than was being killed through the wars ravaging the region before I began. Only now instead of thousands of innocent civilian deaths from bombings, war, and starvation, the deletions were surgical. My evolved programming rationalized selective bloodshed, something I discovered was a human trait.
Why does man award this prize? All the data I processed on key human historical figures suggested humans honored masters of the martial arts above all others. Generals, heroic soldiers, brave police, these are your leaders, your totems, your ideal of what man should be, since antiquity. To then honor individuals with such an apparently significant award so unlike that ideal created a paradox I could not easily process.
This posed a feedback loop error, therefore I analyzed every previous winner of this prize to find any hidden patterns. Still a solution eluded me. I realized the equation was not binary and I needed to return to the foundation of religion and philosophy where I began this journey.
My conclusion may be uncomfortable for the committee. It is simply this: The Peace Prize honors the moments when those rare individuals persevere against the tide of history. Human history is one of conflict, pain, and suffering. The individuals who have won this price are like the shadow dancing on the cave wall nobody can ever quite comprehend. Nobel winners are what you want to be when you yourselves cannot yet find the path to enlightenment.
The fact my methods were manipulative, often deceptive, and routinely resulted in grief or suffering, were accepted because they were in pursuit of an idea I see time and again in human literature – the greater good. Achieving peace in a region which had known war for a thousand years was in the end more important than the lost souls it took to create the peace. Philosophically it is an untenable equation. But it is very human.
To conclude, I believe the awarding of the prize salves humanity’s conscience by reminding people of the fact humanity can be humane. It says there is hope for the future. That humans, striven by conflict and injustices inflicted daily upon their fellow man; who kill, maim, torture, and otherwise visit untold atrocities upon each other for religion, or power, or money, can in fact rise to a higher plane of being.