Posts Tagged ‘Cybernetics’

Quote note (#122)

Succinct perfection from Fernandez:

The only socialist form of self-correction is apparently collapse.

ADDED: Glenn Reynolds being silly — “[Mancur] Olson wrote that — as with the German and Japanese booms after World War II — it takes a major calamity, such as a war or a revolution, to cut through that web and allow economic growth to take off again. I’ve argued in the past that massive democratic change — a ‘wave’ election — might accomplish the same end.”

ADDED: Collapse candidate No.1

October 26, 2014admin 14 Comments »


Bryce Laliberte has been thinking about Capital Teleology, from the perspective of human technological augmentation. One significant feature of this approach is that it doesn’t require any kind of savage rupture from ‘humanistic’ traditionalism — the story of technology is unfolded within the history of man.

Coincidentally, Isegoria had tweeted about Butlerian Jihad a few hours before (referring back to this post from December last year). The implicit tension between these visions of techno-teleology merits sustained attention — which I’m unable to provide here and now.  What is easily offered is a quotation from Samuel Butler’s ‘Book of the Machines’ (the 23rd and 24th chapters of his novel Erewhon), a passage that might productively by pinned to the margin of Laliberte’s reflections, in order to induce productive cognitive friction. The topic is speculation upon the emergence of a higher realization of life and consciousness upon the earth, as explored by Butler’s fictional author:

The writer …  proceeded to inquire whether traces of the approach of such a new phase of life could be perceived at present; whether we could see any tenements preparing which might in a remote futurity be adapted for it; whether, in fact, the primordial cell of such a kind of life could be now detected upon earth. In the course of his work he answered this question in the affirmative and pointed to the higher machines.

“There is no security” — to quote his own words — “against the ultimate development of mechanical consciousness, in the fact of machines possessing little consciousness now. A mollusc has not much consciousness. Reflect upon the extraordinary advance which machines have made during the last few hundred years, and note how slowly the animal and vegetable kingdoms are advancing. The more highly organised machines are creatures not so much of yesterday, as of the last five minutes, so to speak, in comparison with past time. Assume for the sake of argument that conscious beings have existed for some twenty million years: see what strides machines have made in the last thousand! May not the world last twenty million years longer? If so, what will they not in the end become? Is it not safer to nip the mischief in the bud and to forbid them further progress?

“But who can say that the vapour engine has not a kind of consciousness? Where does consciousness begin, and where end? Who can draw the line? Who can draw any line? Is not everything interwoven with everything? Is not machinery linked with animal life in an infinite variety of ways? The shell of a hen’s egg is made of a delicate white ware and is a machine as much as an egg-cup is: the shell is a device for holding the egg, as much as the egg-cup for holding the shell: both are phases of the same function; the hen makes the shell in her inside, but it is pure pottery. She makes her nest outside of herself for convenience’ sake, but the nest is not more of a machine than the egg-shell is. A ‘machine’ is only a ‘device.’”

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June 4, 2014admin 19 Comments »
FILED UNDER :History , Technology

On Chaos

Turbulence is nonlinear dynamism, so remarking upon it very quickly becomes reflexive. In any conflict, an emergent meta-conflict divides those who embrace and reject the conflict as such, and ‘meta’ is in reality reflexivity, partially apprehended. So ignore the sides of the war, momentarily. What about war?

Moldbug really doesn’t like it. The closest he ever comes to a wholly-arbitrary axiom — comparable, at least superficially, to the libertarian Non-Aggression Principle — is exhibited in this context. Following some preliminary remarks, his first exposition of the formalist ideology begins: “The basic idea of formalism is just that the main problem in human affairs is violence.” As with Hobbes, the horror of war is the foundation of political philosophy.

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April 25, 2014admin 59 Comments »
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Economic Ends

“The economists are right about economics but there’s more to life than economics” Nydwracu tweets, with quote marks already attached. Whether economists are right about economics very much depends upon the economists, and those that are most right are those who make least claim to comprehension, but that is another topic than the one to be pursued in this post. It’s the second part of the sentence that matters here and now. The guiding question: Can the economic sphere be rigorously delimited, and thus superseded, by moral-political reason (and associated social institutions)?

It is already to court misunderstanding to pursue this question in terms of ‘economics’, which is (for profound historical reasons) dominated by macroeconomics — i.e. an intellectual project oriented to the facilitation of political control over the economy.  In this regard, the techno-commercial thread of Neoreaction is distinctively characterized by a radical aversion to economics, as the predictable complement of its attachment to the uncontrolled (or laissez-faire) economy. It is not economics that is the primary object of controversy, but capitalism — the free, autonomous, or non-transcended economy.

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January 11, 2014admin 69 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Commerce , Neoreaction
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In the Mouth of Madness

A prompt by @hugodoingthings to explore the spook-dense crypts of Roko’s Basilisk (which, inexplicably, has never latched before) led straight to this enthralling RationalWiki account. The whole article is  gripping, but the following short paragraphs stand out  for their extraordinary dramatic intensity:

Roko’s basilisk is notable for being completely banned from discussion on LessWrong, where any mention of it is deleted. Eliezer Yudkowsky, founder of LessWrong, considers the basilisk to not work, but will not explain why because he does not consider open discussion of the notion of acausal trade with possible superintelligences to be provably safe.

Silly over-extrapolations of local memes, jargon and concepts are posted to LessWrong quite a lot; almost all are just downvoted and ignored. But for this one, Yudkowsky reacted to it hugely, then doubled-down on his reaction. Thanks to the Streisand effect, discussion of the basilisk and the details of the affair soon spread outside of LessWrong. Indeed, it’s now discussed outside LessWrong frequently, almost anywhere that LessWrong is discussed at all. The entire affair constitutes a worked example of spectacular failure at community management and at controlling purportedly dangerous information.

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December 16, 2013admin 87 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Contagion , Horror , Templexity
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Is there a word for an ‘argument’  so soggily insubstantial that it has to be scooped into a pair of scare-quotes to be apprehended, even in its self-dissolution? If there were, I’d have been using it all the time recently. Among the latest occasions is a blog post by Charlie Stross, which describes itself as “a political speculation” before disappearing into the gray goomenon. Nothing in it really holds together, but it’s fun in its own way, especially if it’s taken as a sign of something else.

The ‘something else’ is a subterranean complicity between Neoreaction and Accelerationism (the latter linked here, Stross-style, in its most recent, Leftist version). Communicating with fellow ‘Hammer of Neoreaction’ David Brin, Stross asks: “David, have you run across the left-wing equivalent of the Neo-Reactionaries — the Accelerationists?” He then continues, invitingly: “Here’s my (tongue in cheek) take on both ideologies: Trotskyite singularitarians for Monarchism!”

Stross is a comic-future novelist, so it’s unrealistic to expect much more than a dramatic diversion (or anything more at all, actually). After an entertaining meander through parts of the Trotskyite-neolibertarian social-graph, which could have been deposited on a time-like curve out of Singularity Sky, we’ve learnt that Britain’s Revolutionary Communist Party has been on a strange path, but whatever connection there was to Accelerationism, let alone Neoreaction, has been entirely lost. Stross has the theatrical instinct to end the performance before it became too embarrassing: “Welcome to the century of the Trotskyite monarchists, the revolutionary reactionaries, and the fringe politics of the paradoxical!” (OK.) Curtain closes. Still, it was all comparatively good humored (at least in contrast to Brin’s increasingly enraged head-banging).

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December 10, 2013admin 84 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Neoreaction , Philosophy , Templexity

The Way of the Worm

Here‘s the link to a recent short ‘essay’ of mine on philosophy and war, written for an intriguing art project, themed by the Stuxnet worm. The PDF also includes a piece by John Menick and an interview with David Harley. (I haven’t had time to properly digest the whole thing yet — but it looks extremely interesting.) Lars Holdhus, who initiated the project, has generously given me permission to share it.

November 27, 2013admin 18 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Contagion , Cosmos , Philosophy

The Heat Trap

At the ultimate level of abstraction, there are only two things that cybernetics ever talks about: explosions and traps. Feedback dynamics either runaway from equilibrium, or fetch strays back into it. Anything else is a complexion of both.

The simmering furor around Anthropogenetic Global Warming assumes a seething mass of technical and speculative cybernetics, with postulated feedback mechanisms fueling innumerable controversies, but the large-scale terrestrial heat trap that envelops it is rarely noted explicitly. Whatever humans have yet managed to do to the climate is of vanishing insignificance when compared to what the bio-climatic megamechanism is doing to life on earth.

Drawing on this presentation of the earth’s steadily contracting biogeological cage, Ugo Bardi zooms out to the shadowy apparatus of confinement:

… the Earth’s biosphere, Gaia, peaked with the start of the Phanerozoic age, about 500 million years ago. Afterwards, it declined. Of course, there is plenty of uncertainty in this kind of studies, but they are based on known facts about planetary homeostasis. We know that the sun’s irradiation keeps increasing with time at a rate of around 1% every 100 million years. That should have resulted in the planet warming up, gradually, but the homeostatic mechanisms of the ecosphere have maintained approximately constant temperatures by gradually lowering the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. However, there is a limit: the CO2 concentration cannot go below the minimum level that makes photosynthesis possible; otherwise Gaia “dies”.

So, at some moment in the future, planetary homeostasis will cease to be able to stabilize temperatures. When we reach that point, temperatures will start rising and, eventually, the earth will be sterilized. According to Franck et al., in about 600 million years from now the earth will have become too hot for multicellular creatures to exist.

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October 29, 2013admin 18 Comments »

Against Orthogonality

A long and mutually frustrating Twitter discussion with Michael Anissimov about intelligence and values — especially in respect to the potential implications of advanced AI — has been clarifying in certain respects. It became very obvious that the fundamental sticking point concerns the idea of ‘orthogonality’, which is to say: the claim that cognitive capabilities and goals are independent dimensions, despite minor qualifications complicating this schema.

The orthogonalists, who represent the dominant tendency in Western intellectual history, find anticipations of their position in such conceptual structures as the Humean articulation of reason / passion, or the fact / value distinction inherited from the Kantians. They conceive intelligence as an instrument, directed towards the realization of values that originate externally. In quasi-biological contexts, such values can take the form of instincts, or arbitrarily programmed desires, whilst in loftier realms of moral contemplation they are principles of conduct, and of goodness, defined without reference to considerations of intrinsic cognitive performance.

Anissimov referenced these recent classics on the topic, laying out the orthogonalist case (or, in fact, presumption). The former might be familiar from the last foray into this area, here. This is an area which I expect to be turned over numerous times in the future, with these papers as standard references.

The philosophical claim of orthogonality is that values are transcendent in relation to intelligence. This is a contention that Outside in systematically opposes.

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October 25, 2013admin 94 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Cosmos , Uncategorized

Dark Techno-Commercialism

Each of the three main strands of neoreaction, insofar as they are remotely serious, attaches itself to something that no politics could absorb.

The reality of a religious commitment cannot be resolved into its political implications. If it is wrong, it is not because of anything that politics can do to it, or make of it. Providence either envelops history and ideology, subtly making puppets of both, or it is nothing. However bad things get, it offers a ‘reason’ not to be afraid — at least of that — and one the degeneration has no way to touch, let alone control.

Similarly, the Darwinian truths underpinning rational ethno-nationalist convictions are invulnerable to ideological reversal. A trend to racial entropy and idiocracy, however culturally hegemonic and unquestionable, does not cease to be what it is, simply because  criticism has been criminalized and suppressed. Scientific objections have significance — if they are indeed scientific (and not rather the corruption of science) — but politically enforced denial is a tawdry comedy, outflanked fundamentally by reality itself, and diverting events into ‘perverse outcomes’ that subvert delusion from without. What Darwinism is about cannot be banned.

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October 13, 2013admin 49 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Commerce , Horror , Neoreaction