It happened sooner than even the doomsayers predicted. The era of artificial intelligence is here. A computer has become self-aware, a moral agent responsible for its own actions.
This breakthrough didn't happen in Silicon Valley or at MIT. It happened, of all places, in Chappaqua, New York. And the person responsible isn't even a computer scientist, but a lawyer and politician: Hillary Clinton.
Clinton's critics say a lot of things about her, but who would've believed she was Skynet's mother?
A little background. Clinton was forced to turn over her "home-brewed" email server to the FBI this week, along with a flash drive unlawfully stored at her lawyer's office. The server and the drive are tangible evidence of Clinton's decision to circumvent laws and procedures designed to preserve government records and keep classified information secret. She says she never knowingly sent classified information, but Clinton leaves out that the whole reason federal officials are barred from using private servers is that such systems are invisible to the classification process.
The Clinton team claims it handed over the server voluntarily -- a classic example of Clinton's penchant for half-truths. For months, they insisted they'd never turn it over. They caved because they had to. The decision was about as voluntary as a bank robber relinquishing his sack of cash to the cops at gunpoint.
Revealingly, many media reports say "the campaign" handed over the server. But the campaign wasn't in charge of the server -- if it was, that'd be a whole other scandal. It was Clinton's server, full stop. To say otherwise is to protect Clinton, the author of a book called "Hard Choices," from her own hard choices.
Which brings us to that evil server.
The first rule of Clintonism is that someone else is always to blame. That's why the first iteration of Clinton's defense was that evil Republicans were simply smearing her. When that didn't stick, Team Clinton expanded the indictment to include the partisan witch hunt by that famously right-wing organ the New York Times and two independent inspectors general (one at the State Department, the other for the intelligence community).
The reason the intelligence community's IG referred the case to the Justice Department stems from the apparent fact that Clinton mishandled classified information, which she denied.
An investigation into a random sample of just 40 emails from a batch of more than 30,000 revealed that four contained classified information and at least two were "top secret."
So now that the FBI and the Justice Department, both run by Obama appointees, are on the case, attacking the motives of inconvenient people no longer works. So the Clinton campaign has invoked a little-known codicil to the first rule of Clintonism: Blame an inanimate object.
The amazing thing is that this spin isn't coming directly from the campaign but from the reporters covering it. National Public Radio's Tamara Keith reported Wednesday morning that the inquiry "isn't targeted directly at [Clinton]" and is simply intended to determine whether the server was secure. Business Insider reported that "Clinton's private server is under investigation by the FBI, though Clinton is not a target of the investigation." Even the conservative Washington Free Beacon has fallen into using this locution, referring to the "private email server being investigated by the FBI."
McClatchy's Anita Kumar, who helped break the story that two of the emails were top secret, felt compelled to step on her own scoop. She said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that "there are several investigations into her conduct, not into her, but into her use of personal email and a personal server." Go ahead and try parsing the difference between an "investigation into her conduct" and an investigation "into her."
Clinton, in violation of State Department rules, guidelines from the White House and all common sense, used her own unsecured stealth server. She sent classified material on it. But it's the server that's being investigated?
Hopefully the server will one day be able to testify on its own behalf: "I was just following orders."
In fairness to the press, even the FBI is publicly toeing this line, saying that the investigation isn't into Clinton. But on background, federal officials sing a different tune. "It's definitely a criminal probe," a government source told the New York Post. "I'm not sure why they're not calling it a criminal probe."
I've talked to several lawyers who assure me that the FBI doesn't conduct criminal probes into anthropomorphized IT equipment. The bureau does investigate criminal abuses of them -- by people.