Friday 5 August 2022

The Machines will defeat us, even if war is not their aim.

In my last post I made a throw away comment in relation to the subject of climate change: "...nothing exposes right-wing ideological capture more than the subject of climate change, it's their version of the gender ideology clown-world occupied by the left." This ideological capture is most commonly known via the non-playable character (NPC) meme.

The problem with society now, more than in my prior decades of experience, is that of ideological possession and extreme political polarisation. The left are the most clear instantiation of this, being incapable of giving anything but circular definitions of what a woman is and claiming that there's no significant difference between men and women anyway, while cancelling people for using the wrong gender pronouns for another person. They are the hegemonic power within the cultural zeitgeist, yet they pretend to be an oppressed minority. That they are the hegemonic cultural power is clear when they have corporations falling in line, and the legislature and police wholeheartedly enacting their totalitarian ideology. The NPC meme was coined due to the similarity of the repetitive scripts of a character in a computer game and the average leftist activist. So one dimensional that when you know one of their opinions the rest are readily guessable with a good degree of accuracy.

However, despite their greater ability to craft successful memes (OK Groomer...), the right have their problems of ideological possession and NPC behaviour too. This most commonly shows with the subject of climate change. The recent extreme heat event in the UK has seen abuse directed to weather forecasters. Abuse of the same sort that radical leftists heap upon so called TERFs who assert the value of womanhood and deny that men can become women. The right also mirror the left where the 'manosphere' has become a mirror of the feminist left,  as such it is formed by the very people those men criticise. Stoicism is very much a male philosophy, which is popular as an act of performance within the manosphere. Yet the Stoic response to something like fourth wave intersectional feminism, and the demonisation of white heterosexual males, would be to shrug ones shoulders, walk away, and get productively busy. Not to keep obsessing about it, the obsession shows they care, deeply.

All of this has not happened in a vacuum. The polarised clown-world, where the most mentally ill have the highest social status, is epiphenomenal of the impacts of cybernetic 'organisms' now at the heart of our culture.

As previously discussed, we share our society with 'agents' in the form of computer based social media corporations whose primary goal is profit and the intermediate technique to achieve this goal is to increase user engagement. These can be considered cybernetic systems composed of human and narrow artificial intelligence, that being a form of AI working in a limited field of capability, e.g. playing Go or Chess. In the pursuit of engagement and profit, these cybernetic systems are creating ideological bubbles within which people are losing the ability to tolerate intellectual differences and to remain based in reality in their opinions. 

In contrast to the left who have gone totally mad (one interpretation of 'madness' being extreme detachment from reality), the situation on the right is not yet lost. The right continue to be willing to talk to alienated leftists fleeing the Woke Totalitarians and their poisonous ideology of intersectionalism and critical theory. However the right still have their ideological capture problem and primary here is their failure to ditch pseudo-science and move to the position of starting with the evidence then reaching their conclusions. To the degree that they fail to do so, many on the right are ideologically captured and to me it is hard to tell them apart from the swivel-eyed howling leftists. One side rejects climatology and physics, the other rejects biology, both sides look utterly useless to me, useless that is to a strong and healthy civilisation.

I make no pretence that it is easy subscribing to capitalism and accepting climate change as a significant problem, which may prove severe. The evidence is clear, capitalism may not be perfect but it works and has taken billions out of dire poverty and driven human technology to god-like heights. This may not be an easy circle to square, but hiding from reality in a bubble of fantasy centred on the global metaverse is not the answer. Stoicism tells us this, if nothing else. 

That the consequences of us burning all the fossil fuels are as severe as the consequences of us turning away from fossil fuels too quickly tells us we have a bounded problem. Each extreme is not acceptable, so there must be a path in the middle to follow, finding this requires people leaving the bubbles of comfortable and safe fantasy and working together to find that path. All is not lost if the majority take responsibility and reject the crazies on the right and the left.

We are now in the initial stages of the Singularity. The pace of development of machine learning and artificial intelligence is exponential. That will only accelerate. The first wave of general intelligences may not be sentient and aware, but they will have profound impacts on society. This is already starting. At some point, which may come with little warning, we will share the earth with sentient super-intelligences. Strategically, the power blocks of the world are driving towards this point because to be the last their may mean forever being behind the block that got there first.

We need to recognise our lack of ability to cope with the societal fracturing that has attended the rise of cybernetic agents like Twitter, TicTok, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. A fracturing that is in the process of tearing Western civilisation apart and making us look weak to our enemies (Yes, we have enemies, Ukraine and Taiwan tell us this, if we are minded to listen). If we cannot resist relatively stupid cybernetic agents such as these then we have no chance to resist the potential impacts of the first wave of artificial intelligence now moving through the fabric of our society. In the face of true sentient super intelligence we will have absolutely no defence against something that may well be able to do 15 minutes of advanced abstract thinking in each second of time (at most). 

To be clear, the social media firms, whose cybernetic systems are wreaking havoc in our society, have the goal of profit maximisation. They achieve this by seeking the goal of increasing user engagement. They don't wish us harm, the harm comes as an unintended side-effect of the goal. That it will be the case with machine learning/artificial intelligent agents merely serves to underline in bold our failure to contend with the unintended side-effects currently hobbling our society.

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