China: The Interrogation (A Tale of AI and Revolution)

Stainless Steel Mouse is perhaps best known for being one of the first ‘netizens’ in China to be sent to prison. Today, she remains under house arrest while recent weeks have seen authorities use the call for Jasmine protests in China as a pretext to arrest or arrange for the disappearance of many of her peers. She also remains a huge Sci-Fi geek, and today published a short story that builds off some of her recent tweets, The Interrogation:


(This text is pure fiction, any similarities are purely coincidence)


Interrogator: Who planned the Jasmine Revolution?
Prisoner: I don't know, it wasn't me.


Interrogator: Then why did someone report you, saying you told them you wanted to use @mimitree0 to send a tweet, and call for netizens to gather? We have reason to believe that it was you who did this.
Prisoner: It wasn't only me who said that, lots of people did, great minds think alike. As for the tweet that went out on @mimitree0, I can assure you it wasn't me who sent it, and nor do you have any evidence that proves it was me who sent it.


Interrogator: Who else mentioned the idea?
Prisoner: I can't tell you that.


Interrogator: Okay, but since you say you didn't send it, do you know who did?
Prisoner: This I definitely don't know.


Interrogator: Okay then, how about this: If I were to ask you to guess, who would you say sent it?
Prisoner: I can't take legal responsibility for my own speculation.


Interrogator: Of course, just say what you like, I won't record it.
Prisoner: If I had to guess, I'd say that nobody used @mimitree0 to send the tweet.


Interrogator: What do you mean by that?
Prisoner: I think that it wasn't a person that sent the tweet.


Interrogator: Then what was it?
Prisoner: For example, it could have been AI.


Interrogator: Who is AI? Ai Weiwei?
Prisoner: AI is artificial intelligence, but can also be a program, like a virus.


Interrogator: You want me to believe that a program created all this trouble for us?
Prisoner: This program was only designed to send out information through @mimitree0, gathering and disseminating related information, as well as making adjustments based on netizen feedback, it didn't need to be that clever. As for the trouble, you actually created it all yourselves. If you hadn't arrested so many people and deployed such massive numbers to the city centers, beating up foreign reporters, then there wouldn't have been any trouble at all.


Interrogator: Nonsense! There had to have been a mastermind organizing this revolution, it's impossible that a program could have tricked so many people out onto the street.
Prisoner: You can't say that a single program tricked all those people to take to the street—the program merely published information, and those who received the information acted on it of their own volition, there wasn't any need for someone to organize this.


Interrogator: You really are talking a lot of nonsense, we know that some overseas democracy activists were behind organizing the Jasmine Revolution.
Prisoner: Actually, they responded the same way that netizens who took to the street did, they only became involved after the incident took place. There wasn't just one page or Twitter account set up for the Jasmine action, and people weren't even in agreement with each other over what the purpose was, there were a number of differences of opinion and arguments; they didn't even have the power to give orders to netizens, quite the opposite, it was netizens who chose to accept their suggestions through their own actions. You can see how there was no mastermind behind the Jasmine Revolution, it was purely the result of people taking action of their own volition. Actually, it was your behavior that added fuel to the flames, and not some revolutionary organizer who ordered you to do what you did. You also took action of your own your volition, but the result was that it helped spread information about the revolution. This is the logic of the Jasmine Revolution.


Interrogator: How can a society have no organizer? Everything would be chaos.
Prisoner: Society can have many organizers and actors, but it doesn't need one organizer at its core. Society evolves from the bottom up, it's the result of all people's actions. Regardless of how mighty a ruler is, it's still unable to force society to develop in complete accordance with its own volition.


Interrogator: Despite what you're saying, even if it was a program, it still needed someone to write it, and he needs to take responsibility for all this.
Prisoner: It's not guaranteed that this program was written by a human, programs are able to evolve too. In the same way that human consciousness wasn't the creation of god, but a product of evolution. It's entirely possible that a gigantic and complex program, over the course of years of evolution, gradually developed consciousness, and it was this that launched the Jasmine Revolution.

犯人:我说的是GFW,也就是Great Firewall。

Interrogator (growling): Just what on earth are you talking about!!
Prisoner: I'm talking about GFW, the Great Firewall of China.


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