(previously published over at Orange, where they ignored it)
Here is an essay for those of you who are clinging to the status quo, who imagine that a few mild reforms, instituted by a managerial elite, will change society significantly enough to “make a difference” and “put America on the right track.” Let me be clear about this: I’m sure we have a lot of the same goals — but I am looking for a clear and unequivocal repudiation of “progressivism.”
Better management won’t change our society. Its problem is the one John Lennon sang about forty years ago: how can I go forward if I don’t know which way I’m facing?
If society is “facing the wrong way,” and headed for crisis for reasons internal to its functioning, then the point of planning within that social context is lost. Better management will then merely mitigate the resultant disaster without offering any real resistance to its happening. The fundamental reality is this: global capitalist society, which organizes the world economy to benefit 793 billionaires and ten million millionaires while marginalizing that half of humanity which lives on less than $2.50/day, is headed toward more growth, more intensive and more extensive exploitation of resources, toward an ultimate crisis of exhaustion. These tendencies are all built into the system. And you are all going to “plan around” this?
Below the fold I will give you all a short list of reasons why our managers don’t know which way they’re facing, and also of why real social change is more effectively accomplished by social movements than by managers.
That doesn’t look like much does it? Just some robots doing their thing, finding a light source, charging their batteries. What you are actually looking at is Skynet in the making.
This is the work of Dario Floreano of Laboratory of Intelligent Systems based at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. What you are looking at is Bio-Inspired Artificial Intelligence.
What the does that mean, you are asking yourself? Well, let’s let a layman explain it:
Dario Floreano and his team at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology built a swarm of mobile robots, outfitted with light bulbs and photodetectors. These were set loose in a zone with illuminated “food” and “poison” zones which charged or depleted their batteries. Their programming was initially random, so the first generation staggered around the place like bunch of concussed puppies.
At intervals, the robots were shut down and those that had the most charge left in their batteries were chosen as “successful”, and their neural programming was combined to produce the next generation of the robots. These offspring are downloaded into the same mechanical bodies their parents inhabited, forming an closed-circuit Buddhist system which might be an extremely efficient method of maintaining a stable population, but will provide a serious headache for any robot philosophers who might turn up.
Which could happen before long. Within fifty generations of this electronic evolution, co-operative societies of robots had formed – helping each other to find food and avoid poison. Even more amazing is the emergence of cheats and martyrs. Transistorized traitors emerged which wrongly identified poison zone as food, luring their trusting brethren to their doom before scooting off to silently charge in a food zone – presumably while using a mechanical claw to twirl a silicon carving of a handlebar moustache.
You might be upset by this result, scientific proof that those who say “Evil is utterly fundamental to human nature” actually understates the scope of the problem, there were also silicon souls on the side of the angels. Some robots advanced fearlessly into poison zones, flashing warning lights to keep other robots out of harms way.
This is one of the most incredibly bad ideas I have ever seen. Asimov is twirling in his grave, and he didn’t even know what neural networks were.
That is what is going on here, the crazy Swiss. Not these little bots will ever achieve enlightment due to the need to be downloaded into a new body, but sooner or later some dumb monkey is going recreate this project with a group of robots capable of longevity.
And that’s where we will destroy ourselves.
Now to understand exactly what they are recreating with these robots, one must understand basic connection theory.
Load the bowls boy, your about the enter the Pinche Zone.
A number of scientists have been sharing their data and taking this fledgling science into new areas of application. It is now being scientifically demonstrated that everything — all systems — in nature utilize the same pervasive laws of organization. These laws of organization are always seeking to ensure the survival and success of whatever is in the network. So the chorus of crickets, or the flashing synchronicity of a ten thousand fireflies, the movement of people from one website to another, the movement of traffic through a city, the movement of signals through our brain’s neural circuitry and the cooperative activity of proteins in our cells are all inter-related through the underlying organizational principles that they use.
One very interesting aspect of networks that has been discovered is that all networks have “hubs” where a greater concentration of connections exist. On the internet these would be called “portals.” In the study that was done on the network of all known movie stars the hubs were the more popular stars who had more contacts in the movie star world.
The net result of this research seems to indicate that these hubs are very important to the health of the network. They offer other members of the network the capability of connecting to significantly more additional members than they could on their own. This points to a vulnerability in the network, if something happens to the hub(s) then the network becomes fragmented with isolated pockets rather than functioning as a whole organism.
This basic scientific principle has already been employed to identify and destroy the hubs in terrorist networks and reportedly has worked very well. An even more constructive use of this technology is emerging in the medical field. They have mapped all known diseases and the DNA codons that are involved in each disease for those diseases for which the associated codons are currently known. This has resulted in revealing a massive network of interconnectedness between many different diseases. This system takes advantage of the DNA codons as the hubs in the network.
A good example is how Daily Kos is the hub to a lot of smaller sites that are connected together by their association with Naranjastan. Without Daily Kos, most of the progressive blogosphere would not exist, or at least not in its current state.
In fact, life began on earth when certain organic compounds formed hubs out of the chaos, creating a network of connections that evolved as per the underlying geometry of the known universe.
And if one looks at a map big enough of the universe itself, one will also see a network of hubs of the collective whole of all, starting small and going infinitely big, but all following the same mathematics as that of our very cells:
As stated above, all forms of life follow connection theory and hubs. And that is exactly what those robots above are doing.
In the neural network of these AI robots, connections to their environment and themselves has lead to hubs, nexuses of learning, that has allowed them to evolve.
And as with any system, you will have angels and devils, which was probably what formed our concepts of religion during humanity’s era of mythos.
Humanity evolved no differently in connection with each other than these robots are currently doing, so who is to say that these robots will not develop a concept of god?
And if they are decide that god has given them dominion over all, much like humanity did, what is to stop them? Especially if we weaponize large robots, or even worse, nanorobots within a structured neural network allowing for the development of hubs?
The answer my friend is nothing.
And that is why I will always campaign against the neural networking of AI robots, no matter the hubba hubba about how nothing could possible go wrong.
Because the geometry of the universe will make sure it goes right, and that will be against humanity’s best wishes.