The Destructive Wrath of the General Purpose Computer

The core elegant explanation at the heart of Computer Science is known as the Church-Turing hypothesis, which is that all models of computing are equivalent to each other in that they are able to run all the same programs. The lemmas are that a fixed piece of hardware can change its personality with a different code, and that there really is no fundamental difference between a Mac and a PC, despite the actors who portray them on TV.

One thing we didn't warn you about was that, in the limit, the general purpose computer is God, whose destructive wrath, following Sodom, Gomorrah, and Katrina, is finally dawning upon us.

The computer is the destroyer of occupations. Every job has become equivalent: sitting in front of a monitor and keyboard, entering or editing information. Doctor, Dentist, CEO, Banker, Broker, Teller, Lawyer, Engineer: Today, they are all sitting in front of their console, with ever more decisions becoming automated.

The computer has destroyed the rewards of art, digitizing all copyrighted work into underground networks of anonymous file-sharing.

The computer has destroyed all gadgets. I remember owning and loving my calculators, radios, walkie-talkies, voice recorders, phones, text pagers, calendars, cameras, walkmen, gameboys, remote controls, and GPS systems. I bought the first pocket computer in Japan in 1984 with a 12 character screen and 4k of memory. Today's pocket computers, misnamed as smartphones, are so powerful that they have destroyed the consumer electronics business by absorbing every unique product as just another app.

The computer is on a path to destroy money. What started as gold and coin has evolved beyond paper and plastic into pure bits. The only essential difference in wealth between the 1% and the 99% is what is recorded in institutional databases, which unfortunately can be easily manipulated by insiders.

Finally—and those in AI have held this thought for a long time—that which makes us uniquely human is also just computable. While the advent of true AI is still far off, as general purpose computers continue to shrink, and the biological interface is perfected, we will become one with our new god. Choose your new religion wisely—Transhumanist, Singulartarian, or the new file-sharing cult recognized in Sweden, Kopimism.