The System Currently In Place

<table><tr><td>From <a href="http://nihilo0.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-system-currently-in-place.html">... Zero</a>

The CEO of a prominent group promoting the manifestation of a technological singularity, Luke Muehlhauser from the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, recently came out with a very surprising statement regarding the dangers which would accompany the creation of artificial super-intelligence:

<blockquote>Unfortunately, the singularity may not be what you're hoping for. By default the singularity (intelligence explosion) will go very badly for humans, because what humans want is a very, very specific set of things in the vast space of possible motivations, and it's very hard to translate what we want into sufficiently precise math, so by default superhuman AIs will end up optimizing the world around us for something other than what we want, and using up all our resources to do so.</blockquote></td><td><img title="Everything?" src="http://anarchistnews.org/files/pictures/2012/happyinrain.jpg"></td></tr>...
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For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of the technological singularity... it has to do (generally speaking) with programming a thinking computer that initially has the same cognitive abilities as a human being. Due to computers regularly becoming able to process evermore information faster, in a very short time, after a computer achieved a human level of intellect, it would, conceivably, surpass that level – arguably in the next moment and almost certainly within the next few years. What would start with a computer being able to pass a Turing test (basically being able to fool human observers as to whether or not they were having a dialogue with a human or a computer) would then shortly be followed by a type of self-consciousness machine that would intellectually be capable of manipulating humans and taking human rationality to its furthest degree.

As indicated by Muehlhauser's statement, this could all lead to disastrous results for humanity. And, while I can't help but thinking this was some sort of an subconscious confession from him, his expressed concern is reflected by statements from other prominent individuals who work in fields related to a technological singularity. For example, Bill Joy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, has written about “Why the future doesn't need us,” explaining some of the dangers posed by a potential technological singularity. Even more optimistic figures in the related fields, like Ray Kurzweil, have been quoted as saying, “I’m not oblivious to the dangers, but I’m optimistic that we’ll make it through without destroying civilization.”

Personally, I'm not convinced that a singularity of the sort envisioned by the aforementioned technologists is possible or likely. It may actually be possible but I'm still wondering why we aren't already driving flying cars and living in the techno-utopia promised by similar technologists from the past. And, when I consider the hypothetical dangers posed by the proposed technological singularity, I tend to think that the existential risk to humankind outweighs the possible benefits.

More to the point, I feel that the overall technological system in place, techno-industrial society as it currently exists, is already “optimizing the world around us for something other than what we want, and using up all our resources to do so.” Muehlhauser's fear is already the reality as far as I can tell.

Even widespread implementation of early technological systems, like widespread agriculture, has caused places like the fertile crescent to become deserts. The technological advancement of that practice has since led to more widespread disasters – rainforests are being destroyed for cropland, the crops grown are increasingly being used for bio-fuels (presenting their own problems), and roughly a billion people go hungry or starve each year on this planet despite the widespread implementation of agricultural technologies. The Bhopal disaster, one of the single most devastating industrial catastrophes to date, was related to the production of agricultural pesticides. And yet, despite this, we are generally led to believe that agriculture has been a boon for humanity and is a project which should unquestionably continue. This, to me, is an example of a technological system advancing for its own sake rather than for the benefit of humanity. It is as Muehlhauser puts it... “optimizing the world around us for something other than what we want, and using up all our resources to do so.”

Other techno-industrial projects also proceed despite the harm they cause to humanity and despite the fact that they are using up resources in an entirely unsustainable way. Take, for example, the computer which I, as a critic, am using to write this article. We are told that computers make our lives better and lead to more progress, but their manufacturing process leads to toxic waste and their usage tends to promote a sedentary consumeristic lifestyle (presenting destructive problems in itself). But who can effectively argue that computer usage should be stymied or that broadening the world wide web of computer networks is a negative thing? To use these tools is certainly to be somewhat complicit in the problems they present, but to argue against them without employing their use seems quite futile. The system sucks us all in whether we'd like it to or not and it would be nigh impossible to escape the effects of the techno-industrial society which we have been born into. (I'd argue that certain destructive technologies can be used against themselves, but that's another subject altogether.)

The way our modern system is set up, with an exponentially growing human population, it serves more the interests of technological advancement and scientific discovery for its own sake rather than for serving the broader interests of humanity at large. A large human population, despite the problems that accompany it, simply allows for more people working for further technological advancements. And even those working in seemingly benign jobs within this modern system actually facilitate the work done in more destructive sectors of techno-industrial society. The toilet scrubbers and the bakers doing their jobs makes it so that rocket scientists, nuclear physicists, chemists, and genetic engineers, can focus more completely on their work – which has proven time and again to be highly destructive. And those latter individuals, the scientists, are largely revered by our society and held up for emulation despite the destructive powers they have repeatedly unleashed.

When any destructive aspect of our techno-industrial system must be acknowledged, like a nuclear meltdown or the occurrence of some other large toxic spill, it's presented as a necessary evil. But what is the good that comes with these disasters? Is it because, in the case of nuclear power plant melting down, more energy was previously created to be used for the broader consumption of other resources (also known as the natural world)? Or, maybe, a medical advancement is touted for saving lives despite the harm involved with the creation and implementation of that advancement? At the very best... technological advancement seems to be a double-edged sword.

But incredible dangers presented by our techno-industrial civilization persist. The negative feedback loops associated with global warming, for instance, will continue beyond most of the dates ever discussed – the Earth's atmospheric temperature will continue to steadily rise even after the end of this century. Toxic waste created over the last century will persist for hundreds of thousands of years. And the weaponization of many seemingly benign technologies threatens human existence on Earth.

And why? Why does humanity proceed down this techno-industrial path? Is it supposed to be for the creation of a computerized artificial super-intelligence (which even the proponents fear)? Why would we seek to become gods just to create the gods who will subsequently destroy us? I'm not really a Freudian, but this is the thanatos urge personified in our society – and it permeates most of us in this society. We largely serve, promote, and defend a system which is, in one way or another, leading to our collective destruction.

How long can this continue before some large portion of humanity attempts to go down a different and more sustainable path? In the past couple years we have experienced the worst ever nuclear meltdown as it occurred just outside the largest urban population center on the planet – and which subsequently inundated the largest ocean with high levels of radiation. We have experienced an oil spill which essentially turned the Gulf of Mexico into a toxic pit. And we have seen unprecedented heatwaves, forest fires, and droughts around the world which have occurred as a direct result of global warming which is brought about by our techno-industrial civilization. Our collective response to these events has been little better than that of cattle being led into the slaughterhouse. We are already going along with a system that is “optimizing the world around us for something other than what we want, and using up all our resources to do so.”

But I suspect humankind's broader mindset and our way of relating to this crisis might change. The disasters of techno-industrial mass society are becoming more frequent and more apparent. At some point... some significant portion of the global population may begin to effectively fight back as the things which we collectively value, and our relationship with the current system, suddenly and dramatically changes. This may or may not occur in time to prevent the anthropocene mass extinction event from finally catching up with its cause but, at the very least, humanity at large might find some dignity in our resistance to the system currently in place.

Nihilo Zero <a href="http://nihilo0.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-system-currently-in-place.html">... Zero</a>

Comments

silly humanist, singularity is the primitivist's dream!

No that's the collapse, the singularity is their nightmare. The probable future is likely a combination of both the two ie. a 'singulapse' or global clusterfuck. It would be nice if it leans more in the direction of collapse but in such a world it would be likely that all our punk would be folk punk... And you thought billions of dead motherfuckers was a scary prospect.

Thanks Nihilo Zero. It is baffling that these fucking technocrats can talk about the possible horrors in this way as they are perpetrating them.

The anti-primmie is sooo last year.

Let's keep waiting for that point. Here it comes. Only a matter of time now. Be patient. Keep waiting.

"At some point... some significant portion of the global population may begin to effectively fight back as the things which we collectively value, and our relationship with the current system, suddenly and dramatically changes."

Alan Turing's revenge is already happening. Believe-it-or-not "Singularity" already occurred; about a dozen years ago. Rapid Climate change, evaporation of tangible things (including humans), people going utterly nuts; it's already happening!

combined and uneven singularity??

Cue matrix shit. As for me, I'll carry a big fucking sledgehammer wherever I go... PRIMITIVIST SMASH!!! *AI machine dies*

Might I interest you in a cybernetic arm porthesis? It let's you carry a bigger, heavier sledgehammer...

“ I feel that the overall technological system in place, techno-industrial society as it currently exists, is already “optimizing the world around us for something other than what we want, and using up all our resources to do so.” Muehlhauser's fear is already the reality as far as I can tell. ... We largely serve, promote, and defend a system which is, in one way or another, leading to our collective destruction.”

the problem is as follows [it has been outlined by Mach, Poincaré, Nietzsche and others whose ideas have attracted interest but not [so far] practical assimilation];

Western civilization’s scientific thinking based world view is being confused for ‘physical reality’.

“Science itself, … may be regarded as a minimization problem, consisting of the completest possible presenting of facts with the least possible expenditure of thought. –Ernst Mach

the land offers its ‘teats’ to men who swarm around the teats [fertile valleys, oases, richly nurturant fishing ports etc.]. those swarming around the teats spawn/multiply and as they swarm and multiply, a diverse multiplicity of new teats develop in the webs of relations. science interprets this in an all-balls-no-teats ‘what-humans-as-things-in-themselves do’ framework. in systems terms, science and rationality inquire analytically into the ‘swarm dynamic’, treating the swarm as a ‘local system’, notionally with its own locally originating, internal components and processes driven and directed development and behaviour [the teats vanish thanks to the way science and rationality frame the observations, in purely assertive ‘what things-in-themselves do’ terms].

science is like the man who has only one tool, a hammer [analytical inquiry] so that everything is treated like a nail. analytical inquiry is limited to ‘what locally-existing things-in-themselves do’. though the habitat is an inductive source of organization [richly nurturant spatial regions induce swarming/settlement the gathering/development of communities], science and rational inquiry [analytical], being constrained to interpret observations in the one-sided terms of ‘what locally existing things-in-themselves do’, can’t help but come up with the ‘all-balls-no-teats’ model of swarm development. its the guys and their intellect and purpose that are purported to be the animative sourcing of the swarm/settlement. science uses euclidian space to frame the all-balls-no-teats model of dynamics; i.e. it treats the habitat as a sterile, passive, non-participating operating theatre.

the economy is modeled by science and rational analytical modeling in all-balls-no-teats modeling framework. if you swarm to the oil-rich lands and drill a well, YOU are the ‘oil-producer’ and the organization in the swarm development is seen as deriving from the knowledge, intellection and purpose of the humans participating in the swarm; 'no teats allowed' in explaining the swarm-organization because there cannot be any teats-influence in a model based on ‘what things-in-themselves do’, where the animative sourcing of their behaviour is , according to science and rational analytic inquiry, coming fully and solely from their own internal components and processes.

this scientific and rational analytical inquiry based modeling is NOT ‘physical reality’. as Mach says, physical reality is where; “the dynamics of the habitat are conditioning the dynamics of the inhabitants at the same time as the dynamics of the inhabitants are conditioning the dynamics of the habitat.” in other words, ‘teats and balls’ are conjugate aspects of a single dynamic (transformation of relational space).

the all-balls-no-teats scientific and rational analytical modeling paradigm is, as nihilo zero says, leading to collective destruction. Mach’s ‘teats-and-balls-in-conjugate-relation’ principle is also implicit in Frédéric Neyrat observation in ‘Biopolitics of Catastrophe’;

“In extending his living space in a manner that destroys the space of others, he destroys his own space. Not initially his inside space, his ‘self’, but his outside space, this real outside-of-self which nourishes his ‘inside-of-self’. The protection of this outside space now becomes the condition without which he is unable to pursue the growth of his own powers of being.”

[[Mach's principle affirms that; "the dynamics of 'his outside space' are conditioning the dynamics of 'his inside space' at the same time as the dynamics of 'his inside space' are conditioning the dynamics of 'his outside space'.]]

insofar as we remain faithful to the Church of Science and Rationality’s analytical inquiry, we shall continue to deploy the dysfunction-infusing all-balls-no-teats technological hammer on all manner of challenges inappropriate to its use.

Heretics to street! Beneath the pavement: a beach.

*to the

Science itself, … may be regarded as a minimization problem, consisting of the completest possible presenting of facts with the least possible expenditure of thought. –Ernst Mach

emile itself, ...may be regarded as a maximization problem, consisting of the completest possible presenting of fiktions with the most possible expenditure of thought. -Max Ernst

Also! Dude sees boobs everywhere. I liked the analogy of a land covered in boobs that explode in to more clusters of boobs like mushrooms popping everywhere. Yes Emile, that's all I got from your post. BOOBS.

nice work, ... a good start. chew on those thoughts for a while, more may come.

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