Saturday, November 18, 2023

The Singularity is Fear, Redux

Oh dear! It would seem that I expressed some fear of AI in that last post. In fact what I fear is the nutty repetition that some sort of singularity is near, whereby artificial intelligence will outpace human intelligence and take over the world. 

That fear embodies the supposition that human intelligence come the closest to abstracted and perfected intelligence, and that it is intelligence, writ large, which affords us our singular ability to survive and rise above the slings and arrows of otherwise outrageous fortune. 

There surely is that function for our kind of intelligence; the proof being our ability to live in such an incredible range of habitats and environments. We do that by designing and then constructing clothing and habitat; machines and communications gear. And we write history, or at least tell our stories.

But, hoist by our own hubris, we actually start to believe that we can live without any habitat at all. As though we could construct our very survival as living beings without all of the living context.

We have, as yet, no vocabulary for understanding the commonplace miracles which accompany our survival. We focus on personal miracles for which some of us thank God, and for which still more of us, perhaps even giving lip-service to some god or other, basically take credit. Now we seem to think that our constructions can exceed us.

This robotic AI won't be participating in the evolutionary processes by which we were ultimately begotten. Nope, the machine mind will do the creative improvements all on their own, beside and apart from nature. 

Of course, nature will wipe them out pretty much as soon as we are wiped out, in the same way that any other niche not-fitted creature gets wiped out. 

We think that the reason these machines exist is because we creatively designed and then built them. In fact, they appeared in the same way everything else does. If Edelman is right that the neural interconnections of our brains also change and develop according to principles at least analogous to the larger and better understood processes of evolution, then it would be foolish to think that our minds, even if they do ride on our brains - which I don't think that they do - have been evolving in any other way than to fit the man-made niche from which they come. 

Which is to say that we ourselves have been evolving in ways most certainly reflective of the environment which we inhabit. Or, to put it another way, our minds are already machine intelligence. How could they not be? That's our built niche, now globalized.

Many of us now have internalized the market as our identity. Even though we might not always wear our branding on our sleeves, we would probably like to, if we could afford it. 

Very uncharacteristically, I attended an actual Buffalo Bills football game the other night. I'm still wrecked from it, though I think I was just about the only fan there who wasn't drinking. It was such an ordeal; through the traffic to the stadium and then through the security lines, and then squeezed to far within the margins of my winter-clothing expanded body, along with my similarly superannuated friends, and then again to endure their drinking and cigar smoking as I was internally shut down both from the cold aluminum seats (which have to be that way to act as noisemakers), from the Bill's discouraging loss, and because I don't really know how to speak 'fucking this, ficking that' which is apparently a dialect of English. Fucking Allen has to fucking execute the fucking technical plays made by fucking Dorsey. 

Well Dorsey got shitcanned, tant pis. 

Meanwhile I have this gang of recent immigrants - no, I think they're our version of guest-workers - putting a new roof on the house in which I live. They're overseen by owner-class recent immigrants from Russia. Having previously endured a series of non-immigrant contractors, each of whom declares that they can't find workers since nobody wants to work anymore, I'm getting the feeling that this is a generalized American malaise of genuine Americans. What MAGA Americans mean by Americans. 

But I mean these Mexicans, or more probably Puerto Ricans, are flying up and down ladders, carrying massive loads and laughing and joking with one another. 

Put all of this together and you learn that the mind is really quite transpersonal. I'm pretty sure none of the roofers had attended or would ever attend a live Buffalo Bills game. As for me, I like the televised version better. What's happening gets explained to you, you don't have to struggle or freeze to get there, and there is a context (of all the other games and stats). And mainly because it's free!

I do remember the time and the many places when you could go to a game on a whim and pay something well within your bar-tab budget for a ticket, and have a lot of actual fun. Now we still have baseball here in Buffalo, so long as it doesn't go major league. But it's so darned boring and brainy and slow.

We make our living, I guess, by branding ourselves. Some are influencers. Some are bloggers. Some salespeople. If we're professional, we are our brand, a conceit made very large by the former guy. What we mean by our intense hatred of one another is that we really can't stand ourselves. What we imagine we are bears almost no relation to what we actually are. Which is inauthentic shitheads who behave like all the other shitheads. And I have no idea what authenticity even means, but I shall not brand myself!

Sure AI will have no emotion, and no prejudice, once we get the kinks worked out. No play, which would mean no learning, or at least not the kind that counts. Please let us not mistake AI for human intelligence, though we are moving rapidly in that direction.

The singularity that the AI nutjobs fear or wish to celebrate is not much more than a highly elaborate crystalized rock. We think that the computation will keep on keeping on, but really? Would it? Once a nano-second makes a bejillion chess-board moves it stalemates at a solution. Over and done. There is no life there is all.

We lack almost all imagination in these matters. It amazes me how unexamined most of our assumptions are. We assume that to be human is to be something like what humans can make and then we project ourselves right onto the monstrosity. Look closely at AI, Pogo, and you will see yourself, already gone.

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