Artificial Intelligence and the Curse of the Machine Gods

Image by Gertrūda Valasevičiūtė.

Someday back in 2008 I was acquiring a conversation with an FBI agent. This is not one thing I would usually treatment to do, but in this scenario it was a relatives member—my fifty percent-brother, who is fourteen a long time older than me. We didn’t mature up jointly and have under no circumstances specifically appreciated each individual other, and his wife and I share an intensive mutual loathing, but at the time I was making an work to be more present in the lives of their two youthful daughters, my nieces.

We ended up sitting down in the dwelling area of their dwelling in Simi Valley, where by cops shift so they never have to live in L.A. with actual folks. The tiresome babble of a televised soccer recreation was droning in the history. Following a thread of discussion I have long considering that forgotten, we in some way received onto to the matter of theft and morality. My brother explained to me—and this is an exact quote—Are you just one of these people today who thinks it’s improper to steal from a mother & pop store, but it is alright to steal from Wal-Mart since it is a huge corporation?

Sensing my time to glow, I replied as follows: in buy for me to believe that that it would be “stealing” to just take a little something from Wal-Mart with out having to pay for it, I would 1st have to think that Wal-Mart is able of owning anything. I really do not.

He was promptly confused. I continued.

In my perspective, you ought to have consciousness and will in purchase to very own anything. Wal-Mart has neither of these issues it is a assemble. It might have shops and personnel, professionals and board associates, but effectively it is a lawful fiction—a artificial entity. Wal-Mart actually only exists on paper, and it’s only due to the fact of consensus social agreement—and fear of legislation enforcement—that it can be mentioned to have any claim at all to its warehouses of tacky home furniture and sweatshop clothes.

The “synthetic entity” portion really bought him he froze like an aged laptop or computer. I could nearly listen to the cogs of his thoughts grinding as he tried to course of action an strategy that was fully alien to his worldview.

Thanks to particular rulings of the excellent ol’ Supreme Court docket, these synthetic entities have all of the “rights” of individual citizens, but none of the liabilities… like mortality. There is not a one human servitor of Wal-Mart who is not replaceable, from the CEO to the door greeters. Like all workforce of giant corporations, they’re fundamentally wetware, serving the wants of a more or a lot less immortal construct.

You may perhaps have figured out wherever I’m going with this: corporations are a type of synthetic intelligence. I despise to be the one to split it to y’all, but our culture was conquered by A.I. generations ago.

I connect with them machine gods “gods,” because they’re essentially disembodied—they are generally conceptual, like, say, Hermes. “Machines,” simply because they do not have any actual will or consciousness—what they have is programming they take objects and transform them into revenue, which is in essence the identical factor as stating they transform objects into electric power. The objects them selves are established by transforming the dwelling—trees, livestock, landscapes, sweatshop workers—into the lifeless.

A fun, outdated-fashioned occult phrase for these an entity is egregore.

Using matters from a mom & pop retail store would instantly hurt the livelihood of precise human beings, who have will and consciousness. That is basically not the scenario with Wal-Mart, or Focus on, or Greenback Standard. These organizations make billions of bucks in income, most of which goes into the pockets of a handful of corporate executives who are by now rich. If I could do so with impunity, I would just take definitely every thing I ever required or essential from Wal-Mart—or any other chain store—without paying out for any of it.

You know, kind of like European invaders did to Turtle Island.

That I refrain from shoplifting is not a ethical stance at all, but a practical 1 based mostly on dread of legal punishment. Also, my finances are sound ample that I really do not require to acquire things from the machine gods without having having to pay not like many people in this place, I can find the money for the principles of daily life. There’s no very good purpose for me to risk a larceny scenario. But if my scenario were to change, I surely would not experience any pangs of fucking guilt for assisting myself to the shit at Wal-Mart.

And so, my brother’s attempt to lure me with his simplistic, pseudo-Christian ethical conundrum unsuccessful totally. Following sporting out his cop-thoughts for a couple minutes striving to discover an angle from whence to undermine my argument, he lastly landed on this: Effectively, where by does the transition materialize in between a mom & pop keep and Wal-Mart?

He definitely imagined he received me with that just one, but it is evidently absurd at the time it is probable to buy shares of a firm on the stock current market, we’re fairly nicely into device god territory. Despite the fact that technically they are the two firms, a tremendous gulf separates my local corner shop from Wal-Mart. It is like comparing a marble to Jupiter.

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I would argue that the state, with its penchant not only for reproducing by itself, but also for producing people who need a condition, is also a variety of artificial intelligence.

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Considering the fact that the industrial revolution, or at the very least due to the fact the arrival of advertising and P.R. firms, each and every time some fancy new technologies arrives all-around there are normally Legitimate Believers—the men and women who can’t wait around to inform you How Significantly Far better Lifestyle Will Be Now. This fable is nevertheless common just after two hundreds of years of revealing itself as a lie—the most major achievements of most new technologies are: killing much more of the earth, impoverishing the doing the job course, and consolidating prosperity & control.

If you have been linked to the last smoldering remnants of the counterculture in the mid ‘90s, then you may possibly recall how anyone was certain that the world-wide-web was likely to Liberate Democracy or whatever. Anyone who’d examined Marx for two seconds really should have effortlessly predicted that the capability to get every thing on the net was just going to put a whole lot of mothers & pops out of organization. But could they have predicted QAnon? Hmm…

A couple of of the early dick-riders of cybertech, like Douglas Rushkoff, have repented of their silly technophilia… now that it is also late. Who is aware of what entire world we may well now are living in if liberals and leftists would have immediately recognized the net as a pressure of evil? Basically, nevermind they most likely couldn’t have stopped it. By that stage the beast was coming whether we required it or not.

Having said that, I do not imagine that our techno-dystopia was historically unavoidable.

Back in Might, author Thomas Knapp produced a statement in a piece for Counterpunch that I sense is truly worth quoting at duration before I carve it up with the Wu Tang sword:

We’ve been hurtling towards the “singularity” for at minimum 3.3 million years, ever since one particular of our ancestor hominins (probably Australopithecus or Kenyanthropus) started off utilizing resources to make their operate less complicated.

Above these tens of millions of years, we have continually improved our tools … and our equipment have continuously improved us. We’re not really the same animal we were being right before the automobile, let on your own in advance of the wheel. We can do things our grandparents, and those people hominins, hardly ever dreamed of.

At the time we began producing instruments that could crack nuts much better than us, converse across larger distances than us, vacation faster than us, and so forth., it was inevitable that we’d ultimately acquire applications which could feel greater than us.”

With as a great deal respect as is thanks to any one who has just insulted their whole species, I have to say this is a gold-medal contender for the stupidest shit I’ve heard all 12 months. I have an appreciation for healthier cynicism, but damn this sort of Unique Sin nonsense chafes my chonies.

Initially of all, the industrial basis that built laptop tech probable is only a couple of hundreds of years outdated go forward and get a 2nd to boot up your calculator, then divide 200 by 3.3 million and see what form of ratio you get. I’d barely explain the speed of that species-journey as “hurtling.” It seems to be extra to me like currently being healthier for a hundred yrs, then acquiring full-entire body cancer for a portion of a second right before dropping lifeless.

Second, there was by no means just about anything “inevitable” about A.I., the world-wide-web, computers, business, or even civilization. Civilization has only been around for about 5,000 years (divide that by 3.3 million you are going to get a bigger range but not by a great deal), and as James C. Scott examined in Towards the Grain, the earliest hierarchical states were being extremely fragile for any selection of reasons. There was no assurance that this way of organizing culture would past as very long as it has… and it likely won’t previous significantly extended.

The industrial revolution was not the unavoidable consequence of human beings getting “tool users”—a large amount of other species make and use tools—it was the certain merchandise of a precise tradition in a distinct area underneath distinct conditions. If the cosmic prison Christopher Columbus experienced met a righteous end by drowning at sea right before achieving Turtle Island—or, as in the brief story I’m currently producing, been murdered by a coalition of time-touring queers—it’s probable that the industrial revolution would under no circumstances have transpired. That signifies no capitalism, no planet-devouring organizations, and no motherfucking A.I.

3rd, Knapp’s passage is truly just a re-framing of the European “Enlightenment” myth of Progress™. The thought that factories and Skynet are aspect of the “natural evolution” of the human species is not only ridiculous, but it’s also a clandestine sort of diet white supremacism—if the industrial revolution was a normal element of “our” evolution, and Europeans did it first, then obviously they need to be more “advanced” than other men and women. Ergo, manifest some future, etc.

To commit what’s in fact an huge fuck-up and then assert it is “natural” to the species is a phenomenal level of hubris… hubris that is simple to the social building of whiteness. I have endured this crypto-racist horseshit in some variety or yet another for my full lifestyle, and I’m drained of it. I sense the similar way about the “progress” myth that I experience about the Bering Strait Principle and White Jesus—I continue to keep hoping it’ll retire to Debunked Land, but it in no way does. Considering the fact that we just cannot get rid of it, my only alternative for religious properly-becoming is to mercilessly clown it.

These very last several months, there have been a ton of individuals gnashing their tooth about the Potential risks of A.I. Most of these people have been enthusiastically feeding all of their private details to tech providers for the very last 20 yrs, and really do not see the partnership involving the two items, but nevermind that.

I really do not see that there is any new risk from A.I. that is not by now inherent in our cybernetic dystopia. Banal and soulless well-known tradition? Presently got that. People today relying on personal computers to do their imagining for them? Been prevalent for many years. Equipment having people’s jobs, or murdering them? Test. Planetary extinction? Well on our way. The “singularity” is just a secular repackaging of Judgment Working day. It’s all buzz.

That said, is resistance even possible?

I believe that resistance is often possible… but only if you realize the risk. More than the a long time I’ve researched many social actions, especially the additional radical ones—labor legal rights, spiritual rebellions, anarchist insurrections, Black Electrical power, Indigenous sovereignty, and so forth. One particular of the points all these actions have in popular is that they grew from a environment in which there was nevertheless these kinds of a thing as communities.

A lot of of the Black Panthers had been organizing with neighbors whose family members they’d acknowledged for two or three generations, in some cases extended. When was the final time you ended up in a neighborhood exactly where all people experienced known each individual other for that extended? Gentrification is a helluva drug.

The gospels of Marxism and anarchism have been distribute in cafes. Today, I’m completely ready to shed tears when I see strangers so a lot as strike up a discussion with each individual other at a cafe. Most persons choose interacting with a display.

Our recent point out of hyper-alienation and full cybernetic mediation has proficiently ruined our communal relationships. Nobody like Malcolm X or Fred Hampton could ever have emerged from the entire world of smartphones and zuckerbook. Tech is the dilemma, and has been for a very long time… nonetheless individuals act like uncensored obtain to Twitter is the critical to a operating democracy.

What is to be done?

I don’t know. But I have an further sledgehammer if you wanna engage in Luddite with me.

 

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