I am far from an expert in the field. This post – as most of this blog – is more to gather and share some ideas in a bar-table-conversation. Is that OK to you?
So come along.
First, deep learning is emerging strong. Long story short from this article:
[…] researchers can bombard computers with a flood of information and let the systems make sense of the data. “You show a computer 1 million images with chairs and 1 million without them,” Hotz says. “Eventually, the computer is able to describe a chair in a way so much better than a human ever could.”
George Hotz [the famous hacker who first cracked iPhone when he was 17] is teaching a car how to drive by just letting the computers watch himself drive around. And it is working. You can check the video.
It means machines can learn to do virtually anything by copying in a very efficient way. More interesting and useful than scary.
But then consider this TED talk from Susan Blackmore. Long story short. Natural selection force is unstoppable. Genes appears and, following natural selection rules, lead to complex animals. Complex animals – hi there! – have ideas, called memes. Such ideas make our culture, and now it is the second big thing fighting for survival following Darwin rules. Blackmore argues that technology is the third one. A different “replicator” fighting for survival, she call it technological meme, or teme.
She is not alone. We have plenty of science fiction dealing with the rise of the machines. In this New Yorker article the philosopher / futurist Nick Bostrom talks about his work around the risks artificial intelligence represents. He comes to a conclusion similar to Blackmore’s:
Such a system would effectively be a new kind of life, and Bostrom’s fears, in their simplest form, are evolutionary: that humanity will unexpectedly become outmatched by a smarter competitor. He sometimes notes, as a point of comparison, the trajectories of people and gorillas: both primates, but with one species dominating the planet and the other at the edge of annihilation.
It means that, sooner or later, artificial intelligence will grow far stronger than human capabilities. Then this new life-form can take care of “procreate” ignoring us the same way we ignore ants, plants and primates – not caring much about their annihilation.
Then Sir Tim Berners-Lee drops this bomb:
The full argument is that since corporations have rights, can make decisions and many are heavily commanded by computers – specially investment firms – they might already be the AI we fear.
Ok? With me so far?
So please put your futurism helmet on and engage with this idea for a moment.
Corporations are the evil artificial intelligence.
In most countries they are “legal persons” or “artificial legal structures” that can behave and be seen in front of the law as a special type of citizen.
This artificial form of intelligence might have started with the first human groups able to organize themselves. Countries might be an early form of these structures. But corporations master this behavior.
In this documentary [full here] they explore the idea of corporations as if they were a person. And if people presented such behavior they would be called psychopath. Things like ignoring human suffering, not admitting guilt, focusing only on profits. In fact money is another invention that helps companies to drive and control us, like fences on a farm.
You could say “but companies are made of people”. Yes. But inside an organization people do not behave as they normally would. The whole complexity, power struggles and social rules of an environment can lead us to do things we would not do in a different situation. Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment and the usual “I was just following orders” phrase from soldiers are examples of this organizational power over individual will.
As a final piece of conspiracy theory the famous Bitcoin, the digital currency that allows anyone to pay anyone without banks or governments, makes the perfect tool for the technologically based artificial intelligence we call organization / corporation to control humans without any laws to follow. And we don´t need to stretch too much actually, since Satoshi Nakamoto, the credited inventor of it is completely unknown. As far as I know “he” could be even just an artificial intelligence in someone’s server.
So the final idea is:
Companies are the AI we always feared. They don´t have a “brain”, but each worker act as a “neuron” performing tasks they would not normally do in exchange for money, but not for long, since new processors and systems can easily outperform humans.
What do you think? Sense?
The website I sourced for Sir Tim Bernes-Lee quote is out, not sure why. I will leave this other link here to document that actually happened.