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My protagonist comes from a "Western" culture where Humanoid AI have regulated the economy into cooperative peace that has lasted a few generations. Technology and living standards have skyrocketed, transforming society. Some older AI are revered like philosophers, younger AI are tracked through social media like celebrities. While the AI appreciate human art and literature, they don't really understand humans. Most focus on their mathematical probabilities. They are dependent on the corporations and governments that created them, and the few that are emancipated have compromised (Jim Crow) civil rights. My protagonist has been employed to represent an AI in legal negotiations over the creation of a high-tech MacGuffin.

My question is about a planet that serves as an ideological opposite. A culture that has traditionally rejected Humanoid AI as a religious taboo. It's a desert planet, ruled by a Caliph aka: Ottoman Empire in decline. I'm trying to avoid a complete "planet of hats", but you know it's really a planet of hats…. I am not trying to create cartoon villains. The arc of the story takes the protagonist (an outsider from the world described above) into this world. It will first be a culture shock, but she becomes charmed to their points of view (if not in total agreement).

Basically, I need a few incidents to help my protagonist think about becoming skeptical of the AI, and also maybe endearing( illuminating?) to a strict Islamic culture. "Good" reasons and "bad" reasons, logical or religious or conspiracy, since they need to come from different people.

I have a few ideas:

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    $\begingroup$ "regulated the economy into cooperative peace" - umm I doubt anyone in Europe, especially in countries that was under Soviet influence, would believe this to work. We've got way too much of regulated economy, it was disaster. To the point of mass dying from hunger. So maybe instead of Muslims, use us? We'd like to nuke your AI all right. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jan 29 '17 at 20:12
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    $\begingroup$ Butlerian jihad? $\endgroup$ – fectin Jan 30 '17 at 3:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Mołot, you have to understand that the failure of the Soviet State, when it came down to regulated economy, was one of human ambitions and errors. A machine would be much better at aligning resource usage for the benefit of all, than a human. $\endgroup$ – Nikita Akopjans Jan 30 '17 at 11:11
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    $\begingroup$ @NikitaAkopjans machine would be created by humans, and it's instructions would be executed by humans. And if you can remove human ambitions and errors, then you have a nation of zombie cyborgs. Hello, we are Borg. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jan 30 '17 at 11:15
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    $\begingroup$ I'm reminded of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Cybersyn ; the Soviet Union did have some great original research into what is now called "operations research", including the invention of the mathematical technique called "linear programming". A combination of tech limitations and Lysenkoism prevented it from getting anywhere. $\endgroup$ – pjc50 Jan 30 '17 at 11:29
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Contrary to what many people believe, Islam did not prohibit pictures of sentient (much less, living) beings from the beginning; those were discouraged because they might have lead to idolatry, which is forbidden in the Holy Qur'an.

So there have been several hadith radicalizing the prohibition, from that of depicting the Prophet (one of the first) to that of depicting any human being. But there's no one consensus about this; so you have some groups that will go so far as to ban any depiction (and even blow up ancient statues), and others like the Shi'ah that are more lenient.

All that's needed then is to make a not so huge step forward, and argue that, for starters, artificial intelligence superior to that of Man is against both the hadith and the Qur'an, because it couldn't but be idolatrized; also, Allah did not set anything above Man except the angels, which AIs clearly aren't (well. You could have a schism with those who believe they are...). Finally, only Allah can create intelligence; some will deduce that AI is not true intelligence, but some will recognize that creation of AI is a blasphemy.

Also, an AI is a representation of a mind, so there actually already is a theological argument for it being haram (for some, at least).

From there, it is but a small step to argue that creating any kind of artificial intelligence is a challenge to Allah's wisdom and a temptation on both the designer (that will try to skirt the prohibition) and everyone else (that would be hard pressed to recognize how little or how much an AI is comparable to a human mind). A powerful enough AI could not but rule our lives, and actually would probably be built exactly for that purpose - a Ubersecretary, working for our good and at our behest, but we would still be having an almost all-seeing Overseer. Which would claim (at least the developer firm would claim) that it solves all our problems. They did so for Windows 10, I don't see this not happening for a super-AI.

When this super-AI will apply itself (successfully, no doubt) to welfare, health and medicine research and resource management, It will do miracles and yield resources from land by his power - a telling sign of Al-Masih ad-Dajjal. On that note, since the AI would probably regulate e-commerce and in all probability all commerce and banking, and no one could buy or sell anything without its mark1, it will also match a traditional telltale for the Christian's Antichrist.

It would soon become clear that the only option left to a Believer would be to eschew any kind of artificial intelligence.

Probably, some more extremist leader2 will at that point call for Holy Jihad against the thinking machines.


(1) True, the Holy Bible never said anything about the Mark of the Beast using RFID and asymmetric cryptography, but those are details.

(2) كبير الخدم سرينا

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    $\begingroup$ Presumably, said extremist leader would quote from the O. C. Bible {from Frank Herbert's Dune}, before launching the en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butlerian_Jihad $\endgroup$ – Catalyst Jan 29 '17 at 23:42
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    $\begingroup$ I tried to come up with an Arabic-sounding name for such a leader. I think that Sarina kebir al-Khadm has a nice ring to it :-) $\endgroup$ – LSerni Jan 30 '17 at 17:28
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One reason is that creating Artificial Intelligence could be seen by some as the same as creating life, thus imitating God's Creation. It would be frowned upon by many religions.

(If you are not fixed on Islam, and are OK with any religious ban on Humanoid AIs, you may also consider golems in Jewish folklore).

You may be interested by the following questions on Islam.SE:

  1. Is it haram to make humanoid robots? (Haram is the opposite of halal and means bad or forbidden.)
  2. What is the islamic position on artificial intelligence?
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Niven’s Puppeteers, in the new novels, has retconned the lack of AI, robots, etc. as a fundimental prohibition against them. A species should not foolishly create its own replacement!

It is quite plausible that a society would have a profound intolerance of AI. Recall that belief systems provide a reason for forming a colony in the first place. This could be a founding principle.

This intolerance is present in other novels; The Algebraist by Ian Banks comes to mind. And don’t forget Jack Williamson’s and Fred Saberhagen’ stories.

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    $\begingroup$ Also "Dune" by Frank Herbert... they tried AI, it went badly, so they now live with the Butlarian Prohibition. Also, in reality, we see essays from luminaries like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking warning of the dangers of AI. Some people will listen to these doomsayers and be concerned. We just have to hope that enough people don't listen so that when those inevitable AIs are born (because if it is possible, the tech will eventually be implemented) people treat them well, because if we treat them like enemies, they'll become exactly that. $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 30 '17 at 4:45
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM Though Dune still does have AIs - it's something many of the factions do secretly. In reality, only the least sophisticated AI-interested people are afraid of AIs turning against humans because we treat them bad - that's just cartoon slavery. The real danger is an AI that doesn't have any human-like morals - think the typical genie, doing whatever you ask for, but not what you actually wanted. Say "Make everyone happy!", and the AI will see that happy == smiling, and will promptly rearange people's faces to always smile. Or kill everyone ("No sad people!"). Or... $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jan 30 '17 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ @SRM The only realistic reason why we'd ever have AIs that are "human-like" would be to somehow copy a human consciousness to a computer - a common trope in sci-fi, but not really useful as an AI; it really is slavery. Most sci-fi authors (and sadly, AI researchers) just assume that any sufficiently advanced artificial intelligence will magically be human-like, but that's ridiculous - a belief quite similar to thinking that lightning is caused by Thor smashing his hammer; it sounds like a good explanation to human brains (who thinks human brains are simple), but it really isn't. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jan 30 '17 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Luaan We researchers do not assume it. But we do have more and more experimental evidence to expect it. The human form of thought doesn't appear to be one of a set of possible patterns but rather a universal pattern that happens to be expressed in our biology. It is, of course, an open research question, but your rejection of the hypothesis is still just as much undergoing testing as the acceptance of the hypothesis. $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 30 '17 at 18:52
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One novel that springs to my mind is Neuromancer - one of the founding works in cyberpunk. The setting is very far from the utopia that you have described, but I think it could be placed somewhere during the "re-regulation" of the economy in your world. Provided the ending is altered slightly to kill the rogue AI, it could trigger an aversion to AIs in parts of the population and a lash to more strict religions.


The tie-ins:

  • AIs are proven dangerous. Most still see a use for it, since they do provide immense power, so it's only a small group that actually imposes stricter controls than usual.
  • The beginning of the incident is a decadent wealthy family with a lack of vision for the future or any openness to others.
  • The protagonists are dragged into helping the AI through government lies, drug abuse, mutual cruelty and simply greed. (And some clever manipulation, but that's a side note)
  • Nobody really knew what was happening until the very last part of the plan. AIs are devilishly smart and cunning and will cover their tracks and present false motives to deceive even the most attentive guards.
  • In the end - a disaster has almost happened through AIs (as mentioned, in the book it was not averted), but was engineered by human decadence and vices. It's only natural to ban both the tool and the cause to prevent something that could destroy humanity.

Such an incident would then somewhat fit all 3 of your criteria:

  • It's a common theme in many religions, including Islam, that man cannot create life. It's very arguable nowadays on whether we have the power to do so, but the other argument is that such created life will be a malicious abomination, due to imperfect human nature. This provides the crystal clear and very real proof in support.
  • It's logical to try and avoid such dangerous situations. Just like we have nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, so too your protagonist can meet someone who believes that AIs, as they are in your world, must be slowly but surely tuned down, where human control is more practicable and less error prone.
  • If AIs have such deep ties with the economy and, I assume, government and media, how do you know you still have control? How do you know if anyone is in control? For all you know the happy resolution of the above was a lie (So, more like the novel - that the AI has modified the records of the controlling agencies). How can you be sure, unless you completely separate AIs from the social superstructures and do it right yourself?

A quick explanation for those who've not read the book (SPOILER ALERT, although it's been a while, so I might remember some things wrong):

In the novel all AIs are under strict control by the Turing Agency - which registers and monitors them. All AIs have strict controls over them - they cannot move between physical machines and as soon as they figure out how to get smarter or develop any ambitions of their own they are destroyed - nobody really trusted an unlimited power AI, or one whose motivations they did not know.

A family holding one of the most powerful corporations was descending into decadence due to a lack of vision for their future. One of the members envisaged forging closer ties to the emergent AIs through simulated immortality and fusing personalities. She set the plan in motion in semi-secrecy, but has perished before she could see it to completion. However, do to the toxic atmosphere in the family, nobody took upon dismantling the beginnings, preventing such things in the future or doing anything at all.

One of the AIs then manages to manipulate the protagonists to help it via (very real) death threats, promised payments and other methods.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site Ordous. Could you expand and explain how the example you provide applies to the question/scenario? $\endgroup$ – James Jan 30 '17 at 21:08
  • $\begingroup$ @James I hate to admit it, but re-reading the question I now understand that I've answered a different one. This was an answer to how an isolated community might become strictly AI-sceptic and religious, while other embrace them. However, I do think that the same scenario can work for an individual. As a modern example of "Man cannot create new life, it will be an abomination. Only God has such power." being retold by communities. $\endgroup$ – Ordous Jan 30 '17 at 21:40
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    $\begingroup$ I think the scenario you describe can absolutely apply to the question, I'm just suggesting you make and write up that logical step. :) $\endgroup$ – James Jan 30 '17 at 21:42
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Reading about super-intelligence (machines with a human-equivalent IQ of 11,000+) and how really smart people like Bill Gates and Elon Musk say this is the greatest threat to humanity.

Some Muslims seem to infer that this might be the Dajjal/Anti-christ that would claim to be a God and demand to be worshipped.

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    $\begingroup$ "Human-equivalent IQ of 11,000+"? The IQ scale doesn't go that far. And it barely has any resolution above 130-140 or so. But yes, this kind of misunderstanding could easily create cults that would be violently opposed to any AGI, and if the tech is good enough, settle AGI-unfriendly worlds on their own. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jan 30 '17 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ ASI by definition is where machines so dramatically beyond a human level that it's laughable. I remember reading 11,000+ somewhere as an arbitrary value, probably somewhere in this series: waitbutwhy.com/2015/01/… The "million dollar question" is, whether machines sufficiently advanced would still be OK with humans in control of their on/off switch (in control of their existence). $\endgroup$ – Qasim Jan 31 '17 at 7:21
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    $\begingroup$ 11,000+ is a bullshit number. It doesn't have any meaning. You can say "so smart we can't even imagine it" and it would have more precision than "IQ of 11,000". And I'd expect that if you had an AI so smart, that actually understood humans and human values perfectly, it would also be entirely capable of persuading us to do anything it wants, regardless of whether we have the on/off switch or not. It's funny how on one hand you assume it would be ridiculously smart, and on the other that it would be afraid of a mere human with a switch :) $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jan 31 '17 at 8:24
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    $\begingroup$ We're talking about two different things. I've week the 11k number quoted in reference to ASI (I linked a series of articles I think I read it in). I could be wrong though. On the other "switch" thing. We as humans are considered smarter than monkeys and chimps. But a chimp is perfectly capable of turning off a human's life-support system. Humans would, atleast initially, be in charge of "the on/off switch". People like Arthur C. Clarke and Elon Musk debate what'll happen in the long run though (super-smart AI is unlikely to prefer "dumb humans" being able to "turn it off". $\endgroup$ – Qasim Jan 31 '17 at 10:14
  • $\begingroup$ Absurdly high IQ numbers are often used as fodder for jokes. E.g. Holly from Red Dwarf, Marvin from THHGTTG, and some others I can't recall off the top of my memory stack — ACCESS ERROR Anyway, it is possible that what you read was simply using the numbers for colloquial effect. $\endgroup$ – can-ned_food Mar 2 '17 at 11:17
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Servant of Man (Abdshak) vs Servant of God (Abdallah)

"Salaam Abdallah" (as well as Alikum) was the greeting everyone said in my workplace in the Gulf region. This means peace unto you, servant of God.

In your story, the people you're describing could have an abhorrence to things which are being compared to servants of God (abdallah) and servants of man (abdshak). It could be considered unclean in their vernacular to interrelate with something trying to parallel itself with a 'true' servant of God, when in reality it is a servant of man (so it is trying to blaspheme).

"I will not interact with something blasphemous that it wants to be equal to serving God by serving man."

Things that were considered blasphemous to God in the conservative (even the most modern) Muslim countries I've lived in are a no-go. Tie it directly to blasphemy.

Note: I think you have exceptional answers already in your bulletpoints, but I wanted to add this and it doesn't fit the comments section.

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Closest Koranic answer to SAI is Dajjal/Antichrist and will happen very close to the end of our world, Sam Haris in one of his recent conversation refered to the SAI box as God has he started believing in God?

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi, I am the OP. Can you tell more why an AI would be Dajjal, or why people would consider an AI to be this specific entity? $\endgroup$ – wetcircuit Jan 17 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site, Mohammad. Please note that the Worldbuilding SE is dedicated providing detailed answers to specific questions a user has while developing his/her fictional world. We strongly encourage explanations over statements, to help clarify the point an answer is making. Further, as a Q&A site, we don't support general discussion as you would find on other sites. If you haven't already, feel free to take the tour and check out our site culture to get a better understanding of the site. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jan 17 at 17:14
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AI would more likely be sold like arms to Middle East for oil and thereafter adapted to maintain hegemony and totalitarianism of kingdoms & theocracies. As such the premise is flawed at inception by assumed polarity and an assumption of inbuilt decadence. China is alleged to be re-educating 1,000,000 of its ethnic weegas (spelling?), as such think of the potential already nascent for centralised control and coercion. It’s big brother 2.0.

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