I met Dan Selsam when we were toddlers. I liked letters. He liked numbers. I liked telling jokes. He liked solving math problems. We both liked the show “ThunderCats.”
Years passed. I became a comedy writer. Dan became a computer scientist. But, even though our lives took different turns, we remained friends. Every so often, I’d e-mail Dan a story I had written. Dan, in turn, would e-mail me an update on his research. I did not understand Dan’s e-mails, but, since we were friends, I would write back encouraging responses like “Wow, that’s so cool, congratulations.”
A few years ago, Dan warned me about something called the Singularity. He said that artificial intelligence was becoming so advanced that it would soon “surpass man’s capabilities.” I asked him how that could be possible, and he explained it all in detail, and I nodded a lot, pretending like I understood what he was talking about. When he was finished talking, I said something like “Wow, that’s crazy.” Then I forgot that we had ever had the conversation.
About two months ago, our friend Josh got married. Dan and I were groomsmen. We were sitting with Josh and another groomsman, Brent, in the lobby of a Marriott, attempting to put on our bow ties, when Dan asked us if we wanted to see something. Even though we were pretty busy—especially Josh, who was hours away from getting married—there was something about Dan’s tone that persuaded us to say yes.