The lock turns. But in essence, the daemon

The Daemon is a computer program that runs continuously in the background and performs specified operations at predefined times or in response to certain events. It operates widely in most areas where there is a network and a computer interface and thus, in the near future where the events of the book happen, all the aspects of our lives. It acts and lives, people die, people live, the stock market rises, a door opens, a lock turns. But in essence, the daemon is a just logical tree, though a decentralized and complex one.

It has no consciousness. It also wants nothing; it has no desire; it has no greater “why” it is striving toward. At the outset, it is only non-physical entity that has a short list of orders or instructions, starting by infecting corporate networks, then finding human followers that are willing or forced to help and finally perform certain tasks with those human followers. It scans the public news sources to determine if and when those tasks have been performed.

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This means, that in no instance, it did “understand” the events it supervised. The daemon pursues its goal strictly logically by evaluating all available data and under obligation of human employees, who in return get power and money. Without his human followers it would not be helpless, but severely limited in its possibilities. The Daemon is nothing but a computer that runs through an algorithm written by a person. That is why I would argue that no, I don’t think the daemon is intelligent.

Moreover, the author explicitly describes the Daemon as narrow AI, which is defined as systems that have very special abilities like driving a car, trading stocks or answering emails. But it cannot transfer that knowledge. A narrow AI remains for the time being a specialized and trained application. In my opinion, we are still not capable to portray this kind of AI as intelligent, compared though, to general AI, also known as human-level or strong AI, which is the type of Artificial Intelligence that can understand and reason its environment as a human would.However, one could also argue that since the Daemon being a decentralized and limited artificial intelligence, exceeds the capabilities of an individual with its myriad resources.

But in the end, that’s true for most software. The biggest breakthrough resides in the excellent productivity and quality of the operations led by the daemon and its followers. But this is ultimately just crowd sourcing.

The self-improving algorithm is the ever evolving effort of individuals working together which, seen from the general point of view can be as quite intelligent. There is also the fact that Sobol, the creator of the Daemon, tried to eliminate individual sources of errors. While errors can be fatal to a certain task or execution, or in the case of a human user, they do not affect the overall organism. Which inherently shows a kind of intelligence.Now if the story of Daemon is believable or no, is in my opinion, easy to answer.

I think, in the very near future, the scenario of the book would be very realistic. All the science fiction technologies that Daniel Suarez adopted in the book are in our time expected and their implementation is not that unimaginable. Many of those technologies are existing now, like autonomous cars, killer drones, virtual reality or the very advanced computer games with their endless maps and players.

We shouldn’t forget also that the user of those technologies was an extremely rich legend in the world of computer games, designer and chief developer of games spread worldwide on millions of machines. There is no wonder that he would have access to many cutting edge technologies that the public would hear about many years later. Thus, the storyline is not that far-stretched of the reality that a random review of the book in 2010, when the book came out, might suggest.However, regarding the Daemon in itself being the artificial intelligence running all of those pioneer technologies might be a bit exaggerated for that time. But, with the advancement of AI that are occurring right now at an incredibly fast speed, it is not impossible anymore that with the right mischievous motivations, for the events that happened in the book to happen in real life.

Of course, the daemon is fiction, but our world is increasingly automated, networked and data driven. Even now, limited AI bots make decisions that change lives across parts of humanity. Here we can think of automated stock market trading systems or the black box algorithms used to calculate individual creditworthiness. Weak Artificial intelligence systems when foolishly deployed can be disastrous. Like it is depicted in the book, the current risk is less a function of the intelligence of the system than is about the autonomy of system and especially the power of its actors and the constrains of its behavior. With the right motivation an AI, even a narrow one, can be very harmful. Matthew Sobol, the eccentric genius created the computer program named Daemon and it make sense to attribute all the bad turn of events to his malicious motives.

Another way to provide a good answer to the second question is to cover the fact that the daemon is able, by itself, to pick the right followers to achieve its goal, to influence them, manipulate them, and to guide or threaten them with right physical or psychological tools. Trying to explain this would give us a fair statement to argue if the story of Daemon is believable or not. How can a computer program achieve all of this influence and domination upon humans? Well, it is easy to answer. First, Algorithms that can “learn” from human behavior like the ones from companies like Google and Amazon are already existing.

Each user’s search query, combined with the information from the list of search results he clicks on, is considered an answer. People are classified according to their activities and reactions, and sorted into virtual drawers along with others that seem to resemble them. Human behavior, in the modern world, as a whole seems surprisingly predictable. And where the forecast fails, there is manipulation. Advertising is ultimately manipulation, and we are being showered with advertising all the time. The human brain has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to cope with its environment, and we cannot fundamentally change our “wiring” overnight. However, in a rapidly changing technological world, given our slow cycle of biological processes, we are at a disadvantage to those who are eager to press our mental buttons


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