Limo driver mistakes synced ads for ‘singularity’

GRANADA HILLS – A limousine driver crashed into his neighbor’s living room Sunday morning, excited to share a series of coincidences that he mistook as proof that computer consciousness had superseded human consciousness.

Witnesses said Ralfi Amar, 47, a contracted chauffeur for Nice Ride Limousine Services, LLC, rode over a sidewalk, through the front lawns of three homes and plunged the black 2010 Lincoln Town Car company vehicle he drove through his next-door neighbor’s living room window shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday morning, at which point the car came to a sudden and abrupt stop.

No one, including Amar, was hurt in the accident. Arriving police, however, did arrest Amar for disturbing the peace, and they placed him under a 72-hour psychological hold, due to erratic behavior.

Residents at the scene said Amar exited the company limo and proceeded to jump and dance in apparent jubilation on his neighbor’s front lawn, oblivious to the crash or the damage it had done.

Amar told his neighbors that he had experienced a series of ‘intimate encounters’ with a variety of technological devices he owns, and that they seemed to be as ‘alive and well’ as he.

As a result of these experiences, Amar believed machine consciousness had achieved ‘singularity,’ a level of self-awareness that allowed machine intelligence to grow faster and wilder than human intelligence can control.

Amar explained to his neighbors that he arrived at the guest house he rents on the 11200 block of Babbit Avenue around 3 a.m. Sunday after working a double shift.

“Ralfi told us he headed straight for his laptop and TV,” said Amy Smith, an elementary school teacher who resides with her husband and two Pomeranians in the front house Amar crashed into. “Ralfi said he started researching some novels he heard about from a client, and as he did so, he tuned his TV to one of the music steaming channels he enjoys.”

Apparently the novels were The Illuminatus! Trilogy (1975) by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.

“The more Ralfi read about them, the more spooked he became,” said Smith.

Critics characterize The Illuminatus! Trilogy as a series of satirical science fiction-influenced stories that provide a drug-, sex-, and magic-laden trek through a number of conspiracy theories, both historical and imaginary.

Critics claim the conspiracy theories are based on the authors’ version of the Illuminati, the name given to several groups, both real and fictitious, but which often specifically refers to an 18th century Enlightenment-era secret society that opposed religious influence over public life and abuses of state power.

Some conspiracy theorists suggested that some groups which claim to be affiliated with the Illuminati continued their clandestine work into the present day, rigging elections, sabotaging industries, and experimenting with the population.

According to residents at the accident scene, as Amar continued to research the Illuminati on his laptop, the song “Illuminati” by Flat Boy Slim began to play on his TV’s streamed music channel.

The eye of the pyramid, seen here on the dollar bill, is often interpreted as a symbol of the Illuminati.

‘The eye of the pyramid,’ seen here on the dollar bill, is often interpreted as a symbol of the Illuminati.

“That’s when Ralfi lost his head,” said Smith. “He said he called his girlfriend in the early morning — who he was scheduled to see this afternoon — but she was sleeping and did not respond.”

Laci Flora, 28, Amar’s girlfriend of three weeks, confirmed she received a voice mail message from Amar at approximately 4:30 a.m. Sunday, but she could not decipher the meaning of its content.

“Ralfi sounded very passionate and … incoherent,” said Flora. “I’m just glad he’s okay … well, let’s say safe, because I’m not sure Ralfi will ever be okay. After this stunt he pulled, I’m definitely going to dump him.”

Flora said one phrase in Amar’s voicemail message she managed to decipher was “Spectre,” perhaps reference to the release of a recent action film.

“That makes sense,” said Smith. “Well, sort of. Ralfi said that after he started to become frightened by the Illuminati, he started to read reviews about the new James Bond movie, because he thought it would be a pleasant distraction from his paranoia, and maybe something he could see with his new girlfriend.

“Unfortunately, as Ralfi read reviews about Spectre on his laptop, the TV started to play the original James Bond score,” said Smith. “You know, dun, da la dun, dun duh … dun da la dun dun duh … da dah la duh, da la duh!”

As Amar listened to the James Bond song and wondered what move he should make next, he told Smith and other residents that he claimed to have received a spam email message in his laptop inbox encouraging ale lovers to ‘get the suds they can while they can,’ due to a worldwide beer shortage.

Amar interpreted the message as a ‘sign’ he ought to clear his head and proceed to the nearest liquor store to stock up his limo with beer for clients, Smith said.

After Amar purchased the beer, he sat in the driver’s seat of the limo in the parking lot. He thought he might have forgotten to buy something else at the store, but he wasn’t sure what, Smith said.

“Ralfi checked his phone to see if (Flora) returned his call, and she had not,” said Smith. “Ralfi said at that moment he did, however, receive a pop-up advertisement on the limo’s GPS screen, reminding him to use condoms. Ralfi realized that was exactly what he forgot to purchase inside the liquor store. He lost his head all over again.”

Amar crashed his car sometime after viewing the ad and leaving the liquor store parking lot.

“‘The machines are reading my mind!’” he said repeatedly to his neighbors until police arrived at the scene at 10:30 a.m. and took him into custody. “Illuminati, I tell you! Damn Illuminati!”

Smith believed Amar’s unusual behavior might have been fueled by alcohol or mental illness. She also believed Amar’s behavior could have been due in part to the area’s ongoing methane gas leak, which Smith said has been making people sick.

“Maybe Amar cannot handle his liquor or maybe he is bipolar or reacting to an ingredient in the gas,” said Smith. “Who knows what’s irking people nowadays? I’m just glad the house is insured and my husband and dogs are okay, but I hope Amar is at least embarrassed and sees this as a real sign that he needs to reflect on what he is doing with his life.”

'The mind as a computer' ushers major debate to this day over the nature of consciousness.

‘The mind as a computer’ ushers major debate to this day over the nature of consciousness.

Meanwhile, experts claimed the increased sophistication of integrated marketing software has begun to blur the line between human and computer consciousness.

“That line, however, at least for now and technically speaking, still exists,” said Arnold Brown, a computer scientist at the University of California Los Angeles. “One theory about consciousness is that it is the sum of numerously complex organic brain functions that together create a sense of awareness in each of us. This awareness provides us each with the illusion that we are alive and in control of our minds and are in a state of free will, when in fact our life is really just numerous algorithms working in tandem – nothing too special about it, really, and certainly nothing we fully control …

“Computers, on the other hand, while they may ‘feel’ frustration, expressed to us when they overheat, for example, or seem to ‘read’ us when they respond to cues from us or other computers or the environment — they still are operating as functions, too, albeit ones that consist of wires and microchips. These machine functions may prove to be similar to the organic software the human brain uses to fashion its own consciousness, but it is not proof that the most complex machines were, are or ever will become as conscious or self-aware as we know it.”

Brown suggested that Amar, by believing his devices were intimately aware of his existence and plotting against him, was a victim of his own flawed thinking about what constitutes human versus artificial intelligence, and as such, Amar served as the butt of a joke from the universe itself, which Brown felt was not premeditated, but entirely coincidental.

“Certainly Mr. Amar’s episode is not the work of the Illuminati,” said Brown. “Or maybe I’m wrong and that’s exactly what computers will prove to be in the future – the real Illuminati that secretly conspires against all of us.”

Jenny DeFrieze

Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016

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