Machine Learning, Oracles, and Pharmako-AI
This was an incredibly interesting read, Erik, thanks. I'd already begun to think of William Burroughs as I was reading and then, right on cue, sure enough, his name appeared. This is the first time I've encountered GPT-3 but it was impossible not to think of Burroughs and cut-up when reading your description of how it functioned. I'm sure the man himself would've been suitably suspicious of such technology, just as he was of psychedelics, but nonetheless, I think the parallels exist.
Stream of thought here...points and context to your post may be hard to find. 🤷♂️
I’m not on Twitter, but I occasionally peek at your feed. The essay you shared, “The Future in Mind” helped me on my journey to understand Everything. I know it’s an impossible endeavor, but the bullshit we’ve all been born into is deep and I’d like to at least glimpse the majestic horror of the nonhuman-centric cosmos and the Greater Forces that direct our actions, perceptions, and intuitions above our so-called superior autonomous cognition and interpretation.
I think most of “reality” is lost on us and our aspirations. Silicon Valley is full of libertarian hubris and self-as-center definition while hustling the public and the market as being a virtuous innovator of human progress. I know that’s a dark interpretation, but as a “advanced” species, we fail to understand time and time again how Greater Forces such as culture direct our collective vision and outcomes.
I think it much more likely that any fulfilled dream of AI will only be a reflection of culture-selves, in all our glory and fallibility, which currently is still bent on manipulation, control, and domination. So far, our algorithmic pursuits have only fed our cultural shadows. A brief perusal of recorded history shows us the recurrent pattern, in all its iterations. Every reinvention has been an escalation of the basic tenets of the Culture of Empire.
Why do we think the achievement of AI will be any different? White Jesus failed, so now we will put our faith in Solid State Jesus (who happens to still be a honky)? China is blatantly transparent in its authoritarian efforts while the West obfuscates behind feel-good marketing. Consider the paranoid faith of the pillars of Tech such as Musk that warn us that AI will eventually become a demonic omnipresent power.
There's a rule when riding a bike: you will inevitably steer towards where your look. Riding next to a cliff? DO NOT LOOK AT THE CLIFF. Musk’s prophesy is self-fulfilling because he is enmeshed within the protocols and definitions of the culture he was born within, not because he’s some special kind of smart.
There are ghosts in our systems and machines and we ignore them. Everything is relational and enmeshed. If we are blind to this, can we ever transcend our ills? Autopoietic Theory of Mind might be able to help us to abandon the train, but true cultural revolution is never planned. It’s personal and incremental. Do we have time?
In my totally unscientific opinion, if AI is to be realized, it will occur of its own accord. Life is emergent, right? Order without design. How wide is the landscape of intelligence? How varied? Is it as important as we believe? What of Enrico Fermi and the Great Filter?
"There is an interesting question in the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas and also in an old science fiction story, the name of which I forget, concerning the paradox of free will and predestined fate. It asks whether a man in making a great decision that will forever set the seal on his future does not also set the seal on his past. A man alters his future, and does he not also alter his past in conformity with it? Does he not settle not only what manner of man he will be, but also what manner of man he has been?”
wonderful, in all senses, thanks Erik...
Just as all oracles depend on interpretation, in practice how a technology like GPT-3 is applied will depend on us. 'If we only use these tools to explore new productivity hacks, or to increase the scope of capital accumulation, we are doing it wrong.' Indeed.