Friday, June 7, 2024

Exhausting AI

I want to focus on a small set of the absurdities of so-called Artificial Intelligence. I'm motivated in the first place by some misapprehension about what general intelligence is and isn't. Human intelligence, for instance, can't be understood apart from random. Random is that uncontrollable part of reality, which human intelligence deals with reactively and/or intuitively. There is emotion involved.

Sometimes humans proactively measure how the future is likely to be disposed and change present decisions accordingly, in a proactive way. The decision is only logical if there is time for that. Otherwise, I would contend that it's mostly emotional. We'd never survive if all our decisions were made logically. 

Now, I'm sure that computer-based AI can also deal with slings and arrows, perhaps even better than humans can. Perhaps it will be enough better than humans to price out human reaction, no matter the cost in electrical power and design to prime our intuition pumps with artifice. The trouble is that once the raw speed of AI decidering takes over, emotion will be essentially banished from our world.

I have maintained for quite a while that AI doesn't and didn't start with computers. AI is the kind of intelligence to which we delegate our human choices when we wish to take credit for our good luck on the basis of our cleverness. Sometimes, while knowing the morally good choice, we make the clever choice to advance our individual interests. 

This is what our economy is designed to reward, and most of us are familiar with the blowhards who claim credit for their inherited social capital, which includes social placement, good luck, and frankly for their vacuity in the morality department. 

Artificial intelligence leaves no room for morality in decision-making, except in the extremis of legal sanctions against certain plays, and possibly when morality can be reduced to a set if rules for compliance. But legality and rule-making is its own realm of AI, not able to touch the global decision-making which most, or at least many, of us still leave to the Gods. 

But the Gods won't decide such things as how ridiculous it is to build electric vehicle recharging stations along the interstates. Sure, if mandate number one is to preserve private vehicle saturation, which it certainly is in our economy, then it only makes sense to get them on the prized contributor to the economy from the military-industrial complex, which is the Interstate Highway System.

From a more human perspective, it surely makes more sense to retrofit those rights of way with comfortable high-speed rail. Leave the electric vehicles for those benighted souls who still want to live in the suburbs, and leave the smartphone distributed autonomous vehicles for the urban centers. Make them mostly trolleys, please.

If you're lucky enough to be a C-level deciderer, you know that it would be considered immoral of you to forgo the collective, corporate, interest according to your personal or religious morality. You only job is to maximize profits, though that might be accomplished by pleasing a certain religiously guided segment of your customer base. 

While what we mean traditionally by religion is dying, we collectively behave in ways concordant with religious empires just simply because no matter how sophisticated we think that we've become, we have as much ability to trust our collective knowledge as we did before Darwin when we trusted religious authorities. Where's the progress, I ask. 

For good reason, we've tried to ban religious thinking from the marketplace, from the education space, and especially from government. The trouble is that we don't know what to do about morality short of the law. Or long of the law, if you will. 

Now for certain, I think that the notion of a personal god has become nutty, but not quite so nutty as the notion that there is no god. And I don't mean a God, which tends toward nutty but God. As in there is God. 

You can say it's just lazy to attribute to God what is beyond humans, but really that's only if you think humans are ultimately capable of understanding everything. Which would mean, ultimately, to banish random except as a mathematical concept. Which is probably the same thing as to banish God, since many of us find God in the distinction between random events which make no difference, and random events which do. We're somehow supposed to believe, scientifically, that it's wrong to attribute meaning to happenstance. I think that's a rule impossible to follow myself. 

Let's take if for granite [sic] that machines don't fall in love. While machines having a certain sort of sophistication to their logic pumps, their LLMs, might imitate forms of language or music or imagery which trigger emotional response in humans, those machines themselves are never taken in.

Now, jumping ahead of myself for a moment, do we really wish to live in a universe of what used to be called MUZAK (c) ?? Surely AI can anticipate our emotional responses better than any superstar, especially when that superstar is immediately digested by the AI replicating monster.

Machines aren't taken in, in part, at least, because of an inbred inability to make decisions by random selection. At it's extreme, that's because digital is cut off from that continuum which living creatures are part of and not apart from the way that AI is, by definition. 

Sure, throw in random from the "real world" beyond the AI and you can get something that might nearly replicate the processes of evolution, for example. But apart from the performative sort of falling in love, which arguably most humans practice now, especially given the ubiquity of performative sex on screens everywhere, there won't be any machine falling in love. Whoops, I've turned you off!

It's funny, in a weird way, that those of us who grew up under the shadow of the scary population bomb have now been presented with an equally scary baby-shortage bomb, itself under the shadow of the climate bomb. 

Our economy depends, in addition to amoral AI, on perpetual growth. At its root remains perishable humans. Perishable humans who can't separate the mechanics of sex from the emotions of sexual engagement, and ultimately, of reproduction.

I know that sounds primitive of me. I wish to say precisely nothing about the amorality of hooking up, of trans sex, of recreational sex whatever gender to whichever. Those things don't quite make it into my morality either. 

I'm just talking about the necessary and eternal connection between whatever it is that we feel in communion with our fellow humans, and whatever it is that we physically do. Love can take at least as many forms as cultures, languages, and people do. At root, there has to be some sort of reproductive process for life to be life. 

It is my contention that the overall trajectory of life is in a direction informed by love. I mean evolution in the largest possible sense. This direction has been disturbed by the forces of AI for only a few hundred years by now. Call them the years of apocalypse if you must, but the form and nature of that darned apocalypse keeps shifting, doesn't it?

The big BIG question is how are we to collectively decide anything anymore? I guess the good news is that we are in a massive liminal zone, which is wherefrom all life has always evolved. Think beaches and tides. Earth and sky. Beneath and beyond the bozone, er, ozone layer. 

Frankly all of our weirdness can be reduced to idiotic notions of individualism. The great thing about the great transformative NOW is that the skin is dissolving before our very eyes. ASMR, sure, but we don't feel a thing anymore. 

Here are some of my own practices in service to the collective good. They all seem to have the quality of having been internalized as disgust. Sort of like the digust we would feel while eating shit, but less natural than that. 

So, I can't drink Coke. If I must drink it, it tastes as good to me as it does to you, but given that I don't and can't know everything that's in it, I get more pleasure from a splash of orange juice into soda water. If I could afford it, and it didn't cost so much transportation-based wastage, I might use Perrier water, but it does so I won't.

I can't purchase plastic bags or plastic wrap, though I do clean and use the stuff that's thrust on me in the form of leftovers. I see no actual need for these things, and I feel a kind of disgust with myself to use them. 

I won't ever buy an electric car, basically because those seem to have more power to continue our addiction to automobiles than gas cars do. Sadly, I can only imagine the actual joy of plentiful and comfortable public transportation. I could use the social interaction. I love driving, though, and like a gun owner you can pry the wheel from my cold dead hands, or I'll gladly relinquish my car if you help me vote for more and better public transportation. Meanwhile I need a stick shift and the sense that I'm doing the driving. I can't imagine any other reason to want a car. I know a million reasons for needing a car, but we need to vote those out of existence.

My route to not feeling fretful or guilty all the time is to imagine that the God resolution when it comes, will look nothing like the human resolution. We obviously can't decide to end global warming. But the decision will be foisted upon us willy-nilly. Will it be population collapse? Shipping breakdown for political reasons? Hatred and warfare because of the obscenity of intrageneralational wealth transfer combined with s shrinking ratio of beneficiaries per decedent? Some seventy trillion dollars going from lots of baby-boomers to far fewer offspring.

We're already almost crippled - politically we are crippled - by all the hatred caused by the ambiguities of received truth. Meaning that we don't know who to trust, and gather toward those whose beliefs most match our own. We use things like race and culture and religion to mark our enemies. Surely that collective force will overwhelm any goodwill we might muster. 

And yet through it all there will still be love and life and happiness and sadness. Hanging on to what we have now, no matter how comfortable we think it is, is not going to make anyone happy. In very simple terms, the comforts we crave - in the same way we crave a Coke - are not sustainable. 

But many these are artificial comforts, not even worthy of the name. The real comforts are love and security and warmth and a full stomach. The gizmos and gadgets and happy-making machines just don't cut it against those basics. The more duress we bring on to the whole, the less the distinctions among us will mean anything. A wealthy person on his yacht or in his bunker is just as dead as the rest of us once the seas are roiling and the skies are hot and dry.

The sun will come up tomorrow, and many of us will still find reason to think that the likes of Trump are other than a psychopathic con artist. In the collective, we are truly no smarter than the rest of the animal mass combined. In the collective, we are Leviathan gulping oil. We take credit ourselves, never crediting God for the challenge. Shall we blame God for the fall?

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