“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower –
Setting the stage
Just when you thought things couldn’t possibly get any weirder, the cosmic joker recently played his ultimate trump-card, and quite literally this time. A depraved egomaniac at the wheel: A walking textbook example of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I challenge anyone to look up said ailment in DSM-V, the standard classification of mental disorders used by psychologists and psychiatrists all over the world, and disagree with me. His orange glow was nature’s final desperate attempt to warn us, but it went unnoticed. America chose the carrot over the string-bean, the outsider over the wife.
Of Course, more subtle things were at play here than initially meet the eye. Not since that German bastard reared his ugly head during World War two, have affect heuristics been utilized with such effectiveness. What everyone said wouldn’t happen, happened. You laugh at first, simply because of the surreal quality of it all. Like being stuck in a David Lynch movie. But then the horror of it all begins to dawn on you. If someone would have described the current state of affairs to me a decade ago, I would have asked what he or she was using to produce such a nightmarish trip.
Unfortunately, this joke the gods played on us couldn’t have come at a worse moment in time. Great challenges are looming around the corner: With the political climate as volatile as it is becoming and increasing social and religious polarization, with climate change being an undeniable occurrence everywhere around us and with massive unemployment due to the rise in artificial intelligence looming, just to name a few, we have a difficult road ahead of us. It will be far less forgiving than we have grown accustomed to in the last 50 years or so. If we nod off or do not make the right turns it very well might steer us towards social upheaval, the likes of which the world has not seen in quite some time. We might be aware of a lot of these problems and are even working on a solution for some, but to others, society remains blind. Our first reaction, letting a fool hearted sociopath set the stage for us, does not bode well…
The Boiling Frog
It remains a mystery why we accept incompetence from our political leaders, especially compared to people in our everyday lives. If we translate the incompetence of “he who must not be named” to any other field in life, such a fumbling display would immediately be deemed unacceptable and purged without a second thought. Yet in politics today for some reason, total fuck ups either go by unnoticed, or are just accepted as a fact of life. We are the proverbial frog boiling in the moral filth and incompetence of our leaders, and we are loving it. Another example of the cultural masochism that is slowly invading the West. But I digress.
Massive unemployment caused by the increasing capabilities of A.I. is a perfect example of one of the challenges facing us that has gone by largely unnoticed. This will probably remain so until jobs are already disappearing like boys at a Catholic summer camp. Of course there is the odd whistle-blower. Some economists have been talking about this issue for years, but their warnings went by unheeded. The public at large remained unaware, while politicians consciously avoided the subject as much as possible.
I suppose it has always been this way. Mankind tends to shy away from acknowledging a problem until it literally smacks them in the face. History is laden with examples where man could have seen things coming -and did- but chose to ignore it as long as possible. By the time ignoring is no longer an option, the effort needed to overcome said problem is vastly greater than before. A timeless fallacy, annoying enough on the individual level, but downright dangerous as a species. Whether this is a semi-conscious effort, like the ostrich putting its head into the sand, or some kind of fuck up in our cognitive make up remains to be seen.
What needn’t be forgotten though is the fact that we are still here, so we’re obviously doing something right from time to time. After all, it is when faced with the most horrible of times that mankind often shows itself in its true glory, overcoming obstacles through willpower and creative thinking. And we are going to need a lot of it if we are to get through the rise of Artificial Intelligence unscathed.
It stands to reason that automation through A.I. has the potential to radically alter our society in positive ways. From improved diagnosis processes at the hospital to cars driving themselves without error, A.I. will ultimately lead to an enormous increase in the quality of our lives on a global scale. Providing we actually make it to this point.
As the capabilities of A.I. keep increasing more and more jobs will become eligible to being performed by it, and probably a hell of a lot better than its human counterparts. This is no longer just science fiction, it’s happening already. Manufacturing was the first industry where we saw robots and automation eliminating human jobs, but as robots and A.I. are becoming more affordable, more intelligent and more widespread every day, it is difficult to think of an industry that will be left unaffected .
Kudos to Kurtsgesagt for their to-the-point video on this:
Deep Learning: The game changer
Up until recently however new jobs replaced the old when automation made human workers obsolete. But recent developments in the creation of neural networks and, in particular, a process called Deep Learning, are making this scenario increasingly unlikely. Some explaining is in order here: Neural nets have been around since the 1940’s and are basically computer systems modeled on the human brain and nervous system. Recently however, it spawned an eerie child called deep learning. You might have heard of it when Google created a program that could recognize cats in YouTube videos. Cats own the internet, needless to say.
A form of machine learning, deep learning mimics the human brain, evaluating input through multiple levels of analysis and rules, to arrive at a desired output. Each level is more specific than the last, with multiple connections and feedback-loops between them, while having the ability to create new systems and connections. You can provide it with a shitload of input, ask what you want to know, and Mr. Data will give you the answer. This is where things get unsettling: We have not yet been able to find out how it got to its conclusions, simply because the network has become way too complicated to understand. Just like a human brain.
Say you provide a deep learning system with a couple of hundred thousand patient records and ask it to detect and predict disease in them. The answers might – and in fact did – astound people. An MIT professor called Regina Barzilay, determined to apply deep learning to medicine after surviving breast cancer, actually built such a system. It was able to diagnose and predict disease with incredible success rates, even the ones that are notoriously difficult to spot for physicians, like schizophrenia, far surpassing the current standard.
Not being able to see how it arrived at its conclusions however, it is too early to actually let it diagnose patients outside of the lab. But it is only a matter of time before this bump in the road is smoothed out and doctors too will be in danger of being replaced. Of course RoboDoc will fuck up sometimes and pull of the occasional head during a chiropractic procedure. But it will be a small price to pay for nearly flawless diagnosticians. I can already see the C3PO unit in a white doctors’ coat, walking around frantically while holding a patient’s severed head. “Oh dear, I’m terribly sorry about all this! I beg you not to disassemble me!”…
Automation Inflation Station
It’s estimated that between 35 and 50 percent of jobs in existence today are at risk of being lost to automation in the next 20 years. Repetitive blue collar jobs might be first, but in time everybody will be at risk. Bio-hacking, the process of enhancing human capabilities through implants, will maybe slow the process a bit, but A.I. will surpass us eventually and reach a level where not a single job remains that cannot be done just as well or better by an artificial system.
The jobs that will remain the longest will require high levels of expertise, intelligence and creativity and there won’t be a whole lot of them to go around. This situation constitutes the perfect recipe for the expression of the more depraved and beastly facets of human behavior. Explosive economic and social stratification are unavoidable in this situation, under the current political and monetary system. Biohacking will likely only aggravate the economic differences, given that said implants won’t come cheap, at least not at first.
Many economists and historians insist that in the end technology always creates more jobs than it destroys. What they forget to take into account here however, is that up till now we were always behind the wheel of technology. Now that it has started programming itself, the game changed entirely. It’s out of our control to the extent that it now controls its own evolution. Of course we can pull the plug, for now, but we’ll be unable to constrain what it can and cannot become capable of. This is one of those rare cases where history is not a good teacher, but a cruel Cyrene.
Another world is possible.[/caption]
Without (m)any jobs to go around, our current money based economy will buckle like some overaged steroid shooting pincushion of a bodybuilder, whose kidneys have finally blown up. The seams of our current economic system are beginning to crack. Only a matter of time before it bursts completely, revealing its putrid insides to the world.
The conclusion you arrive at is inescapable: The current economic system is in desperate need of an overhaul. It is a product of a period in time where scarcity was a reality. But technology is steadily reaching a point where, assuming we take full use its potential, scarcity is becoming a thing of the past, making our money based system irrelevant and toxic to our evolution.
Instead a resource based economy, where sustainable use of available resources is considered a must, divided equally amongst Earth’s inhabitants, giving every human being a good quality of life, appears to be the next logical step. Government should be based on science and reason, not politics. A deep learning A.I. will probably be quite adept at devising such a system.
The movie Zeitgeist: Addendum dealt with this subject, but gave up a lot of credibility by suggesting this flawed system is a conspiracy by the upper class/ big corporations to keep the working class enslaved. Fuck, that is giving way too much credit to a group of degenerates with the moral sense of a dung-beetle.
Organized religion operates with the same social irrelevancy and merely exists as a barrier to personal and social growth, perpetuating a closed worldview based on a finite and archaic perception of the emergent universe we live in. Just as the monetary system, it once served a purpose in our growth process, but is now only weighing us down. Time to shrug it off, tie it to a tree and get the fuck out. Run like mad and see where our creativity takes us.
But those subjects are too vast to delve into now and certainly worthy of their own treatises. The point is that whatever we decide to do, we better do it quick. The longer we wait, the bigger the shit-storm that is headed for us, eventually culminating in an orgy of human animalistic behavior that could kick us right back to the agricultural age, if we decide not to act at all within the next decade or so. And it would be well deserved too.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am a relatively optimistic person by nature. We will probably get through this and beautiful transformations of the human race as a whole might be ahead. When forced, mankind can evolve pretty quickly. But as with any transformation, it won’t happen without a few hard learned lessons, broken bones and perhaps worse. One thing is for sure: Putting idiots in power, whose religion is money, certainly isn’t going to help. It is imperative to remember that next time you get to decide who will get the privilege to decide for you. Judging by the conduct these first months of he who shall remain unnamed for the entire article, this moment might just come sooner rather than later. Thank God…
“Artificial intelligence: The impact on jobs Automation and anxiety.” The Economist. June 25 2016. Web. http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21700758-will-smarter-machines-cause-mass-unemployment-automation-and-anxiety.
“DSM-IV and DSM-5 Criteria for the Personality Disorders.” Psi.uba.ar. American Psychiatric Association. Web. http://www.psi.uba.ar/academica/carrerasdegrado/psicologia/sitios_catedras/practicas_profesionales/820_clinica_tr_personalidad_psicosis/material/dsm.pdf.
Clark, Liat “Google brain simulator identifies cats on YouTube.” Wired. Google X, June 26 2012. Web. http://www.wired.co.uk/article/google-brain-recognises-cats.
Frey, Carl B and Michael Osborne. “The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerization?” Oxford Martin School. September 2013 http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/publications/view/1314. Print.
Klein, Ezra “Yuval Hariri on why humans won’t dominate Earth in 300 years.” VOX. march 27 2017. Web. http://www.vox.com/2017/3/27/14780114/yuval-harari-ai-vr-consciousness-sapiens-homo-deus-podcast.
Knight, Will “The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI.” MIT Technology Review. April 11, 2017. Web. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/604087/the-dark-secret-at-the-heart-of-ai/.
Statt, Nick “Elon Musk launches Neuralink, a venture to merge the human brain with AI.” The Verge. march 27 2017. Web. http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/27/15077864/elon-musk-neuralink-brain-computer-interface-ai-cyborgs.
Wallace, Brian “How Cognitive Bias Played Into The Most Divisive Election Ever.” Dumb Little Man. March 29 2017. Web. https://www.dumblittleman.com/how-trump-won/.