Monday, October 28, 2019

the new precariat

I've paraphrased William Gibson in the past - "the future is already here, just it is unfairly distributed".

People (Russell) worry about the way AI may dehumanise us. The less alarmist position (than the AI's will kill us all) might be welcome, but it is still quite a depressing image - the assumption is that that which makes many of us human (trivia, gossip, ephemera) will be automated away from us, and our humdrum existences will become less and less pointful but also that the grand creative goals some of us might set ourselves, will also increasingly fall to the machines. In this world, the human race becomes more and more de-motivated and dispirited. As if this isn't already true - they seem to have missed a  hundred years on work on alienation and the pointlessness of work post-industrial revolution, driven by time-and-motion studies, treating people as pluggable components (the sickness behind the phrase "Human Resources").

The reality will be much more of the same - a mandarin class which already exists will just get stronger-  people that program the AI, can hack the machine in the ML, will be the new hedge fund managers and political manipulators - everyone else will join the new precariat in larger and larger numbers, fed and watered and numbingly entertained just enough to stop them revolting. Maybe that is what they are saying ...Maybe I should read the book:-)

So what's the solution? I've said it before - it is in SF literature (just like all the climate change writing for 50 years) - we need (thanks to Frank Herbert in Dune) a Butlerian Jihad. Not to get rid of machines, but to stop them usurping the charming little nonsense that makes people human. and the challenge of working stuff out in one's head (whether its arithmetic or harmony).

Friday, October 18, 2019

driven to abstraction

Computer scientists sometimes say that their true discipline is about abstraction (modularisation, recursion, layering, isolation, information hiding, denotational semantics, etc)

but what if this is something more fundamental - what if the laws of the universe are layered, so there is a lawyering abstraction?
we learn mechanics, then gravity and acceleration and frames of reference, then fields, then waves and quanta - what if these aren't just pedagogic tools for making scientific progress[1] by continually improving our models of the universe? what if the laws of the universe actually a series of better approximations? What if, as some people say, we live in a simulation, and we're just witnessing progressive rendering by different physics engines?

What other novel forms of abstraction might we envisage?

Well I can think of two simpler ones:

  1. The power/late ratio for binding - the later someone is to a meeting, the more power they probably have...
  2. The infinite number of interpretations possible for the performance by an abstract impressionist (was it Donald Trump or was it Cameron's pet pig? or was it a pink salmon riding a bicycle) - Rorschach was just scratching the surface.

[1] belief in progress is an abstraction of the complex effects of dementia.

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home