The latest dark gem from Fernandez opens:
When Richard Gallagher, a board-certified psychiatrist and a professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College, described his experiences treating patients with demonic possession in the Washington Post claiming such incidents are on the rise, it was met with derision by many newspapers’ commenters. Typical was “this man is as nutty as his patients. His license should be revoked.” […] Less likely to have his intellectual credentials questioned by the sophisticates of the Washington Post is Elon Musk who warned an audience that building artificial intelligence was like “summoning the demon”. …
The point, of course, is that you don’t get the second eventuality without conceding to the virtual reality of the first. The things ‘Gothic superstition’ have long spoken about are, in themselves, exactly the same as those extreme technological potentials are excavating from the crypt of the unimaginable. ‘Progress’ is a tacit formula for dispelling demons — from consciousness, if not existence — yet it is itself ever more credibly exposed as the most complacent superstition in human history, one that is still scarcely reckoned as a belief in need of defending at all.
How does the press warn the public about demons arising from a “master algorithm” without making it sound like a magic spell? With great difficulty because the actual bedrock of reality may not only be stranger than the Narrative supposes, but stranger than it can suppose.
The faith in progress has an affinity with interiority, because it consolidates itself as the subject of its own narrative. (There’s an off-ramp into Hegel at this point, for anyone who wants to get into Byzantine story-telling about it.) As our improvement becomes the tale, the Outside seems to haze out even beyond the bounds of its intrinsic obscurity — until it crashes back in.
… where there are networks there is malware. Sue Blackmore a writer in the Guardian*, argues that memes travel not just across similar systems, but through hierarchies of systems to kill rival processes all the time. She writes, “AI rests on the principle of universal Darwinism – the idea that whenever information (a replicator) is copied, with variation and selection, a new evolutionary process begins. The first successful replicator on earth was genes.” […] In such a Darwinian context the advent of an AI demon is equivalent to the arrival of a superior extraterrestrial civilization on Earth.
Between an incursion from the Outside, and a process of emergence, there is no real difference. If two quite distinct interpretative frames are invoked, that results from the inadequacies of our apprehension, rather than any qualitative characteristics of the thing. (Capitalism is — beyond all serious question — an alien invasion, but then you knew I was going to say that.)
… we ought to be careful about being certain what forms information can, and cannot take.
If we had the competence to be careful, none of this would be happening.
(Thanks to VXXC2014 for the prompt.)
* That description is perhaps a little cruel, she’s a serious, pioneering meme theorist.