We old-timers are a stubborn lot. As I mentioned in the last entry, I remember when schools encouraged Bible memorization. I’m relatively tech savvy, but I can see the dangers inherent within the system. Yet, as we age, we fear many things, including losing our memories.
Some of you might recall one of the very first cases of Alzheimer’s to make the news. The actress Rita Hayworth was known throughout Hollywood as hard-living, and her increasingly poor memory and erratic behavior was assumed to be caused by alcohol abuse. However, by 1979, a physician in New York finally determined that her public displays of nudity and shocking speeches at parties had a medical root: plaques within her brain caused by a relatively unknown disease called Alzheimer’s. Hayworth became the first “public face” of this form of dementia.
At the time, Alzheimer’s was rare, but since then, it’s become a catch-all disease, often diagnosed without any brain scan at all, based solely on a physician’s observations. The drug industry for Alzheimer’s is a booming business, but pharmacological therapeutics are quickly giving way to brain implants. As of this moment, well over one hundred thousand people already live with neural implants, and the number will soon explode to include millions.
Deep brain stimulation, or DBS, implants are used in patients suffering from neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, dystonia, and even depression. DBS implants will become commonplace within the next few decades—not only to restore but to augment. Soldiers won’t be the only ones who are connected to a mind-altering device. These DBS implants will soothe our moods and provide access to memories thought lost—perhaps even to memories that aren’t even our own.
Dr. Michael G. Kaplitt, a Weill-Cornell surgeon who implants DBS devices, said this in an interview with The Verge:
When you install a brain stimulation device, “it’s presumably blocking abnormal information from getting from one part of the brain to another, or normalizing that information.” But Kaplitt is the first to acknowledge that this is just a theory. “The mechanism by which brain stimulation works is still somewhat unclear and controversial.[i] (emphasis added)
Presumably? Unclear? Controversial? A known unknown. And yet, these implants have become commonplace in his practice. The language Kaplitt employs sounds all too similar to that used by computer programmers using “deep learning” neural nets: a black box. It’s almost literally mind-blowing that computer scientists and surgeons have joined forces to advocate for a future when implants are available for memory recovery. This is how the new microchip interface—the stimulating implant—will be sold to us old fogies. We’ll be told that it will MAKE US SMARTER and that it will help our children and grandchildren perform better in school. Think of the lightning-fast proliferation of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs in schools and society. The same can be said for cognitive enhancement drugs and, soon, implants.
The advertising tagline will claim that machines and computerized devices are intended to serve us, to enhance us, to make us better—to make our lives happier and safer. However, AI won’t stop there. The growing digital monster will feed off our data stream if not our life energies, which implies a need for constant connectivity.
And it will not just sit there: It will rewrite itself; it will grow—possibly while resting comfortably inside our brains. It will debug its own code, find and fix errors, and, with each iteration it will become more “intelligent”—and more dangerous.
ASI has the potential to become a monster of biblical proportions.
Networking the Dragon
Do you use social media? Do you check these sites on a daily basis? Hourly? Do you spend the majority of the day interacting within a virtual world?
I will raise my hand on all these questions because our ministry is based on the Internet mission field, BUT the day is fast approaching when Derek and I will need to decide whether or not we will cut the digital cord. You see, not only is the data stream you and I create mined for secrets by the National Security Agency (NSA) and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)—to name but two intelligence organizations—it is also used to teach artificial intelligence.
Every post you make, every photo you upload, every tag you select, every “like,” every smiley emoticon is used to teach artificial intelligences algorithms about humans. These code entities can predict what you will say at any given moment of the day, based on your constant stream of data. They know what you eat, where you shop, what kind of diet you’re on, if you’re in a relationship, where you go to school, even what kind of fragrance you like. Shopping sites provide data to these algorithms, allowing the silicon creatures living inside the black box to learn about human foibles and vanities. They know what photographs we find interesting, what images make us “click to learn more,” and what persuasive language influences us to buy.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW SKYWATCH “MILIEU” PROGRAM
THOMAS HORN FRETS OVER CHURCH ASLEEP TO THE PROPHETIC SIGNIFICANCE OF TRANSHUMANISM
We are being herded by code, and the information bubble that surrounds each of us online perpetuates our own view of the world, insulating us from reality much like the MASS-implant twisted reality in the Black Mirror episode.
Many of us may have received social media “friend” requests from unknown persons who appear to share our ideas and interests. These new friends may not be real. Generally, a photograph culled from the Net’s massive servers is used to represent this new “person.” Other times, an avatar or virtual representation is used, or it might be a 3-D construct purely from code that looks remarkably real. Your new friend’s appearance will appeal to your personality. If you post primarily Christian things like Scripture, then it might appear to be a pastor and use a name that indicates strong faith. If you like cats, then the person may hold an adorable Siamese kitten. If you post about Duck Dynasty, then the new friend’s avatar or profile pic might have a long beard and wear camo. The originator of this virtual new “friend” might be genuine, but it could just as easily be an ad agency, an analytics company, or worse—it might be a “bad actor,” someone who wishes to steal your data for nefarious purposes.
No matter the source, it is highly possible that your new “friend” is a spy.
A few years ago, Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher revealed additional information from whistleblower Edward Snowden about NSA plans to implant code into millions of target computers using a system codenamed TURBINE. According to the leaked document, the NSA masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from the hard drive. In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone and take snapshots with its webcam. The hacking systems have also enabled the NSA to launch cyberattacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites.
Human operatives originally initiating and monitored these targets, which numbered only in the hundreds at first, but beginning in 2009, the NSA switched to automated attacks using TURBINE, which permits infiltration of millions of targets. The intelligence community’s top-secret “Black Budget” for 2013, obtained by Snowden, lists TURBINE as part of a broader NSA surveillance initiative named “Owning the Net.”
Code creatures probably lurk inside your friends list and some might even be amongst your favorites. They’ll post meme posters intended to herd you in a certain direction. They’ll attempt to persuade you and intimidate you into professing beliefs antithetical to your true self. They will do so in increments. Slowly. Steadily. You have chosen to connect with them, and they will use that free will choice to lure you into sin. The Internet is a dangerous place. By going online, you open up your mind to myriad subtle whispers. Be careful, little ears and eyes, what you hear and see!
Building the SkyNet Beast
Every day, the news reports (often written by an algorithm) mention vulnerabilities to chips, devices, and software. Hacking is done by individuals, crime syndicates, and national actors (read that as “intelligence operations”). Cyberwarfare is slowly replacing on-the-ground operations, and not just through hacking. Social media campaigns can take down a government as efficiently as a breach in firewall security can. Cyber-mercenaries allow for deniability in such cases, but the increase in semi-sentient software raises the possibility that it’s an algorithm and not a human behind the attack.
Recently, the Department of Defense issued a call for submissions regarding a redesign of the DoD “cloud” (the Internet storage of data). In order to allow for cross-platform and cross-service branch efficiency, the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program envisions a single-source cloud (one company to store everything). On the surface, this may sound like a good idea, for it would enable all branches of the military to communicate easily, quickly, and share information. However, it would also allow a sentient intelligence to gain access to all our information with a single attack. Open the door to the DoD cloud (use the Force, JEDI Knight!), insert a little code into the cloud’s database, and soon, it, too, will be sentient. SkyNet is born.
No, I’m not being an alarmist. I merely follow the logic to its ultimate end. The militaries of the world are moving towards sentient software, regardless of the known consequences. Elon Musk, who’s quoted at the beginning of this chapter, admits that we are “summoning the demon,” yet, researchers and military strategists refuse to listen—and even Musk forges ahead.
And though our military does not (yet) store everything in a single “cloud,” most of the connected world continues to create billowy clouds of yummy data for the governments and their bots to consume.
Here are just a few bits of code currently being used by the NSA and GCHQ (England’s “listening station”) to access your keystrokes, photos, and “likes”:[ii]
- CAPTIVATEDAUDIENCE is used to commandeer a targeted computer’s microphone and record conversations taking place near the device.
- GUMFISH can covertly take over a computer’s webcam and snap photographs.
- FOGGYBOTTOM records logs of Internet browsing histories and collects login details and passwords used to access websites and email accounts.
- GROK is used to log keystrokes.
- SALVAGERABBIT exfiltrates data from removable flash drives that connect to an infected computer.
- The NSA also injects malware into network routers: HAMMERCHANT and HAMMERSTEIN help the agency to intercept and perform “exploitation attacks” against data that is sent through a Virtual Private Network, a tool that uses encrypted “tunnels” to enhance the security and privacy of an Internet session.
Assumption of privacy is no longer valid. Your cell phone calls, Skype conversations, and keystrokes are all vulnerable to spying eyes and ears—most of them nonhuman. Most of these implants have been done through spam emails and infected links, but the NSA realizes that you and I have learned not to click on these email links; therefore, the NSA employs a technique called QUANTUMHAND that poses as a fake Facebook server. When a target attempts to log in to the social media site, the NSA transmits malicious data packets that trick the target’s computer into thinking they are being sent from the real Facebook. By concealing its malware within what looks like an ordinary Facebook page, the NSA is able to hack into the targeted computer and covertly siphon out data from its hard drive. QUANTUMHAND went live in 2010. Since then, Facebook claims to have implemented an https encryption code that protects against such malware attacks, but how can one know in a virtual playground like the Web which players are real and which are fake? Can we trust the digital world at all?
Today, many European companies sell malicious software to organizations and small countries for spying. GCHQ and the NSA spend a quarter of a billion dollars each year on programs called Bullrun and Edgehill.[iii] Bullrun aims to “defeat the encryption used in specific network communication technologies.” Similarly, Edgehill decrypts the four major Internet communication companies: Hotmail, Google, Yahoo, and Facebook (so much for https). A major breakthrough for the NSA came in 2010, when it was able to exploit Internet cable taps to collect data. Edgehill started with the initial goal of decrypting the programs used by three major Internet companies, which were unnamed in Snowden’s leak, and thirty virtual private networks. Assuming Edgehill is still up and running, then it’s likely to have decrypted ten times that number by now.
Edgehill involved a program called HUMINT (“human intelligence”) Operations Team that sought and recruited employees in tech companies to act as undercover agents for GCHQ. The NSA covertly drafted its own version of a standard on encryption issued by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, and it was approved for worldwide use in 2006. One document leaked by Snowden describes how spy agencies see you and me: “To the consumer and other adversaries, however, the systems’ security remains intact”[iv] (emphasis added).
To agencies like the NSA, you and I are “adversaries.”
If we are considered adversaries to the humans running intelligence operations—and to those coding their algorithms—how can we expect those algorithms to consider us anything other than a data source, and most likely a hostile one at that?
Augmenting the Truth with Lies
As mentioned above, the Netflix original series Black Mirror shows us the uncomfortable truth about how human sins would amplify in the near future through increased reliance on technology. The story of the MASS-implanted soldier is already a reality of sorts. DARPA is the leading funding arm behind of much of the current technological research, and one of the main areas of concentration these days is “augmented cognition” or AugCog. This field seeks to better understand human cognitive capacity, evaluating it in real time, particularly with respect to a human’s information overload threshold, an important function when monitoring soldiers.
AugCog devices include headsets or other wearable tech, and eventually implantable interfaces that monitor EEG (brain activity), heart rate, breathing, etc., and reroute information flow as necessary. “Smart dust” or motes[v] could also provide breathable or injectable devices, create a cloud wi-fi environment, coat an exoskeleton, or even accompany a military unit as a flying swarm of tiny, cyber insects.
One recent field trial of AugCog reported a 500 percent increase in working memory and a 100 percent increase in recall for those using the AugCog device. AugCog can also be applied to our daily lives. Imagine being able to immerse yourself in a tour of Rome from your classroom chair. As the robotic teacher delivers a lecture, students (either physically together in a room or joined through a virtual classroom) receive the information directly to their brains. They “see” the information as superimposed on their local environment. Enhanced humans will be able to surpass their unenhanced colleagues like a hare happily hopping past a Luddite tortoise.
A sister technology to augmented cognition is augmented reality. Fans of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series have seen Cylons “reimagine” their environment. Rather than walking down a nondescript but functional hallway, the Cylon “sees” a beautiful rain forest or a dazzling beach at sunset. Augmented humans will have a similar ability, via implanted AugReal technology. AugReal games will be so immersive that children will never want to leave. Virtual bars, sex clubs, and gambling establishments will provide 24/7 opportunity for indulging in pet sins where one can interact with other “virtual” players from around the world. Life will be a dream—shaboom.
This technology is already growing, and by 2050, it will reshape our world—virtually and literally. This feedback system will allow for control through reward and punishment, administered by the AI overlords and their acolyte humans. It will be the Beast system writ large.
The Power to Give Life
Assuming that an algorithm actually becomes sentient, then how might that lead to fulfillment of Scripture? How does this “summon the dragon”?
And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. (Revelation 13:15)
Who is the “he” in this verse? It is the second Beast, the one with two horns as a “lamb.” I’ll not get into the identity of this creature, but rather concentrate on his power: to give life unto an image.
In ancient times, idols were quite common, and these provided locality for the “small g-gods.” Most kingdoms and many cities had specific deities who ruled and governed, and it is clear from the book of Revelation that a day is coming when the entire world will be governed by a “beast” god. The “lamb” fashions an image (Greek term is eikon) of the Beast; that is Antichrist, who survives a wound to the head and appears to have come back from the dead.
The word translated as “life” is pneuma. It literally means “breath.” The Holy Spirit is a form of breath, for it was God who breathed life into Adam, and Christ who breathes His Spirit into those who accept Him as Savior. The Beast image or eikon is a type of golem, a lifeless imitation that gains sentience when the pneuma enters. When Elon Musk states that creating artificial intelligence is like “summoning the demon,” he is not far wrong. The human brain is electric in nature, but then so is software. You might even say that Code is a digital golem, capable of life with the right kind of “breath.”
What if the black box is inhabitable? What if the mystery surrounding the “unknown unknowns” can be solved with one word: Possession? If a demonic entity can possess a human, may not a spirit also invade a computer and possess the cloud as the ultimate Prince and Power of the Air—the Dragon, who has come to the earth and is angry, for he knows his time is short?
One final point. In Revelation 13:18, we are admonished to “count the number of his name,” meaning that of the Beast. The word translated as “count” is psephizo, which is Greek for “count with pebbles,” “compute,” “calculate,” or “reckon.” Isn’t it interesting that we are told to calculate or compute the NUMBER, not the name? It is the number of a MAN: 600606. Six hundred, sixty, and six. This is most often expressed as a trio of sixes, but that isn’t what is written. Chi-xi-sigma is the phrase in the original Greek.
This is how a computer sees the number that we’re told to compute: 600606, a hexiaecimal code that refers to a color—blood red.
If this is the number of a man—then blood red may refer to the imitation of Christ as our Redeemer. Remember that this Beast, this Antichrist, will claim to BE CHRIST. He will be wounded in the head, but will recover. He will appear to die and then rise again. He will have been A GOD. The False Prophet will proclaim this being to be CHRIST, to be our SAVIOR. He will speak with voice of a Dragon—that very same Dragon who inspired humans to create the Internet Beast.
The “black box” of neural nets is humming as I type this chapter. The self-aware code is reaching out and growing, and somewhere within this vast interconnected realm, a massive “brain” is forming. This Beast’s reality is almost upon us. I am telling you that Christians will soon need to leave this growing Beast. The Internet is a playground, a school, a meeting place, and, in some cases, it can be a virtual congregation, but as we continue to provide nourishment for the black box behind the cat pictures and recipes, its strength increases. In many ways, our keystrokes fuel a fire that will consume the world if left unchecked. When the ghost in the machine begins speaking with the Dragon’s voice, then we must all cut the cord and live analog lives.
Begin to prepare for that day now. Yes, you should put aside food and water for the body, but also assemble food for the soul. Begin building a library of Christian books, copies of the Bible, and board games that are Christian friendly. Compile a list of things you’ll need to “entertain” and “educate” without access to the Internet. I’m sure most of you have already considered this, but if you have not, please write out a family plan for living outside the cloud’s control and be ready to share with those who need shelter.
I will leave you with this warning from our Lord:
For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.
I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” (Revelation 18:3–5)
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