February 17, 2013
I’ve been forcing myself to read gushing statements about the march of artificial intelligence (AI) and how, in the near future, we will have “the source code of the brain,” and computers will be able to do whatever the brain can do, except much, much faster.
I’ve been reading about the day when we humans will somehow merge with the machines.
I think the technocrats who promote these notions were raised on comic books, and they haven’t really moved on from that phase.
What ever happened to the old phrase, “garbage in equals garbage out?” Was it too telling and real?
Take the idea that some day, tiny nanobots will patrol the body making adjustments and normalizing errant functions. Forget for the moment all the damage these little scouts could cause. Just focus on the quality of the information by which they would make moment-to-moment decisions.
Currently, by the most conservative mainstream estimate, the medical system in America kills 225,000 people a year. (See B. Starfield, JAMA, July 26, 2000, “Is US health really the best in the world?”).
Of these deaths, 106,000 per year are directly caused by FDA-approved medical drugs. Each one of these drugs was studied, and the results of the studies were published in mainstream journals. This fact alone indicates massive fraud in the clinical trials of the drugs.
Then consider that for all 297 officially certified mental disorders, there exist absolutely no physical diagnostic tests. No blood tests, no saliva tests, no urine tests, no genetic tests, no brain scans. The very definitions of these so-called disorders are adjudicated by sitting committees of psychiatrists, who consult menus of behaviors.
Then consider that the major infectious diseases in the West were already on the decline before vaccines or antibiotics had been introduced, and yet vaccines were hailed as the overriding reason for that decline.
These are just several general categories of fraud, misinformation, disinformation. So the question becomes: who exactly is going to program those wonderful little nanobots before they enter the human bloodstream in the near-future, and what medical information are they going to have access to?
And what kind of moron would assume that, just because artificial intelligence will have the ability to process enormous amounts of data about the body, it will process the right and correct and truthful data?
By extension, when it comes to AI solving political or economic or social problems on a massive scale, why should we assume the information AI is deploying will be correct and right and true, and why should we assume that these problems are stated and formulated, in the first place, according to underlying ethical values that we agree to or share?
Just because a computer can be built that works faster than the brain, and on more platforms, why on earth should we then infer that it is operating from a storehouse of information that is relevant or useful?
And as far as human brains “merging with machines,” why don’t we leave that mishmash idea to the Borg and the Star Trek crew?
The famous Watson test proved that a computer could handle Jeopardy questions on television better than two humans dedicated to trivia.
Deep Blue beat the world’s best chess player.
A computer can analyze the poetry of an author and then generate its own poems in that style. Rather poorly.
Do these feats imply something so significant that we want to put our future in the cores of computers? For that matter, if there is some holy-grail source code for the brain, why should we believe possessing it and using it, or even improving it, would qualitatively improve the solutions to our biggest problems as a species?
There are simple and basic laws of logic involved here. You can compute from now until the end of time, but your deductions are always going to proceed from premises, and those premises are going to predetermine direction and ethical values that color the end results. Computers don’t do Right and Wrong in any absolute sense. Never have, never will.
Even more important is the system or mechanism for allowing AI to dominate our decisions. Who is in charge? Who rules? Which humans hold the off-on switches on the machines? Who programs the machines’ premises? Who can, if necessary, use force to make the global population comply with what AI decides? And what are these humans’ motives?
None of such matters are mitigated by “more intelligent machines.”
The technocrats are actually playing a shell game with us. They’re showing us a vast array of quantitative and qualitative improvements in what computers can do, and they’re substituting that for wisdom. They’re redefining wisdom. They’re omitting the whole argument and debate about what kind of society we want to live in. They’re hucksters and hustlers and con men.
When faced, for example, with the problem of how to feed the world, computers would already be biased in favor of certain outcomes, and they would also be biased toward the basic notion of universal distribution of resources. Who made that choice? The humans deploying the machines from behind the scenes.
Is feeding the world an issue that should be solved top-down? Computers don’t answer that question. Humans do. And humans—specifically the ones in charge—make spectacularly wrong choices, according to the wishes and judgments of many people—many people who already know that placing a decision of that magnitude in the hands of a few oligarchs is a recipe for disaster.
Who will decide how to program the basic assumptions of super-brain computers on the issue of climate change? With what “science” will these computers be initially infected? Who decides what the valid and the invalid science is?
Any beginning student in a logic course quickly learns to distinguish between ethical values and data. Neither computers nor brains determine values based on information alone, no matter how quickly they think, no matter how much data they can access.
A person or a machine with an IQ of 7000 can’t be trusted to install values for others. That’s why we have this troublesome thing called freedom. That’s why we have a fundamental principle that you are free to do anything you want to, as long as you don’t interfere with another person’s freedom. Any system that countermands this basic principle, simply because “it can think better,” is a tyrant, whether it is composed of flesh or metal or some synthetic.
NBC news recently did a glowing feature on advanced cell phones that, in the hands of doctors, can carry out a huge array of medical tests on patients. The doctor was enthusiastic. The patient was enthusiastic. The reporter was enthusiastic. It was a virtual love fest.
No one bothered to ask about the meaning, utility, or dangers of the tests themselves. That issue was swept off the table.
Who cares? It’s technology. It has to be good. If the patient’s test results indicate he should be treated with a highly toxic drug, so what? That’s a minor blip on the screen. We should all celebrate the technological breakthrough. Pour the champagne. Forget about the patient.
Some day, up the road, a human will be sleeping in his bed at night. The tiny bots circulating in his body will suddenly decide he needs a drug. They will either release the substance without his knowledge, or a robot sitting next to the bed will lean over and give him a quick shot. Done.
What? He ended up in the hospital next afternoon? Well, whatever the reason, it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the little bots or their programming or their method for accessing the vast clouds of data in virtual space. No, those functions are all brilliant and boggling and wondrous. It must have been something else.
A person walking down the street will be picked up by a hundred cameras and other surveillance devices. It will be adjudicated, in a matter of a few seconds, that he’s missed his latest series of a dozen vaccine boosters. At the next corner, a mini-drone, barely visible to the naked eye, will descend on him and give him a quick jab. Or his next meal will magically contain food engineered specifically to deliver the mandated vaccines.
Greatest good for the greatest number. Already decided and programmed.
Is it better to have separate nations with their own armies, or should we have one giant planetary force? Let the AI decide. How? On what basis? There are always value judgments that underlie these questions, and computers don’t suddenly create values unless they’re told to do so. Only in comic books or pulp science fiction novels do advanced races with very high foreheads come down and demonstrate wisdom based on IQ.
There is no evidence that, if you took a general like Julius Caesar and somehow shoved his IQ up off the charts, he would suddenly change his value judgments. Henry Kissinger hasn’t.
If you built a machine that could access every single datum acquired in 100,000 years of human history and store them all on the head of a pin; and if that machine could rearrange all these data in a trillion different patterns in a few minutes; and if that machine could then generate decisions that answer any question put to it, what would you really have? You would have, at best, sheer opinion on the most important matters facing the human race.
Technocracy is selling a myth of intelligence, a fairy tale. In this fairy tale, the smartest brains (coincidentally resembling those of the technocrats) would cross a threshold, beyond which intelligence would become something else, something very different: machines that have “higher access” to “the best moral values.”
Perhaps the most avid and famous proponent of a technocratic future is Ray Kurzweil, acclaimed inventor, author, businessman. He describes the event he calls the Singularity:
“Within a quarter century, nonbiological intelligence will match the range and subtlety of human intelligence. It will then soar past it because of the continuing acceleration of information-based technologies, as well as the ability of machines to instantly share their knowledge. Intelligent nanorobots will be deeply integrated…”
Among the effects of this unprecedented development?
“…the exponential rate of technical progress will create within 40 years an Internet that is a trillion times faster than today’s, a global media, a global education system, a global language, and a globally homogenized culture, thus establishing the prerequisites for the creation of a global democratic state, “Globa,” and ridding the world of war, the arms trade, ignorance, and poverty…Billions of people will be influenced by the ‘best’ ideas that the planet has to offer. People’s minds will be influenced powerfully, so that today’s nationalist mentalities will be gradually transformed into tomorrow’s globist mentalities…”
And just what are these “best ideas” that billions of people will voluntarily accept? The ideas expressed in, say, Plato’s Republic? Or instantaneous 3-D holographic “you are there” porn? Small decentralized organic farms or some Monsanto plan to disseminate GMOs from the sky all over the planet? A three-branched government with rigorous checks and balances, or taking the points on the Jets vs. the Rams? A healthy clean diet or a hundred vaccines by the age of three?
And the “global democratic state?” I’d like to see how the elections of a president and legislators work for the whole of Earth (including the recount after a charge of fraud is leveled by one citizen in southern Argentina).
If presidential debates in the US, targeting the lowest possible common denominators among the voting public, are filled with vapid generalities, I can only imagine the global debates: a few smiles, a few grunts, a few assurances that “we’re all in this together.”
One language for all the world? Sure, why not? Let’s wipe out the memory of what a few thousand years of hundreds of languages have produced.
And don’t worry. All over the planet, “the people,” newly brilliant, will rise up and overthrow their dictators, just as they did during the vaunted Arab Spring, where the crucial presence of cell phones and Facebook was touted as the lever that forced democratic breakthroughs. You remember that Spring: a promoted hoax designed to hide yet one more elite power play.
Greater insight into ethical values based purely on speed and range of information processing is really a quasi-religion. It uses the notion of IQ as the Prophet. It promises that, as the people have access to more and more data, they will naturally and inevitably choose the right values and the right data, because that’s what IQ does, once it passes through a certain upward level.
You can forget about elite power players exerting control over the population of Earth from above because, as in the Marxist formulation, these Rockefellers and Warburgs of the past will simply wither away, no longer needed.
I’m happy to learn that. I can relax now. We can all relax. The great day is coming. It will be brought to us by a multi-platformed brain, using its neuronal substrate to reach out and connect with nonbiological libraries of truth.
What were we worried about?
I’m sitting here talking to you and you’re talking to me, and you’re in Bombay and I’m in San Diego, and we’re seeing each other in high-res 3-D holographic brilliance, as if we’re in the same room. And as we talk and access skies full of clouds of relevant data in mere instants, we’re both coming to accept the best ideas and the best values and the best language and the best government, and we’re kicking the ass of the old world and rushing into the New, and life will be different forever, and I know it and you know it, so what else do we need?
My molecularly enhanced IQ is 7000 and so is yours, so we’re on the same precise page. That’s all the human race was waiting for all this time.
Read Jon Rappoport’s work at http://nomorefakenews.com