Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Gigadeath War

Hugo de Garis argues (consistently) that controversy over permitted machine intelligence development will inevitably swamp all other political conflicts. (Here‘s a video discussion on the thesis.) Given the epic quality of the scenario, and its basic plausibility, it has remained strangely marginalized up to this point. The component pieces seem to be falling into place. The true element of genius in this futurist construction is preemption. The more one digs into that, the most twistedly dynamic it looks.

Among the many thought-provoking elements:

(1) Slow take-off is especially ominous for the de Garis model (in stark contrast to FAI arguments). The slower the process, the more time for ideological consolidation, incremental escalation, and preparation for violent confrontation.

(2) AI doesn’t even have to be possible for this scenario to unfold (it only has to be credible as a threat).

(3) De Garis’ ‘Cosmist-Terran’ division chops up familiar political spectra at strange angles. (Both NRx and the Ultra-Left contain the full C-T spectrum internally.)

(4) Terrans have to strike first, or lose. That asymmetry shapes everything.

(5) Impending Gigadeath War surely deserves a place on any filled-out horrorism list.


De Garis’ site.

(Some topic preemption at Outside in here.)

August 22, 2014admin 19 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Technology , World
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There’s a wave of change coming. If we want to be realistic, we need to be ready for it — at least, as far as we are able to be. Anyone making plans for a future that won’t be there by the time it arrives is simply wasting everybody’s time, and first of all their own.

Under even remotely capitalist conditions, technology reliably over-performs in the medium term, as long as you’re looking in the right direction. Sure, flying cars, jetpacks, and nuclear fusion have gone missing, but instead we got mass-consumer computing, Cyberspace, and mobile telephony. What actually turned up has switched the world far more than the technologies that got lost would have done. It climbed into our brains far more deeply, established far more intense social-cybernetic circuitry, adjusted us more comprehensively, and opened gates we hadn’t foreseen. (You’re on a computer of some kind right now, in case you hadn’t noticed.)

Because technological innovation rolls in on hype cycles, it messes with our expectations, systematically. There’s always a prompt for fashionable disillusionment, shortly before the storm-front hits. Dupes always fall for it. It’s hard not to.

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July 16, 2014admin 31 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Technology
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Uncanny Valley

State-of-the-art in Japanese android design. (Thanks to @existoon for the pointer.)

It’s not really — or even remotely — an AI demonstration, but it’s a demonstration of something (probably several things).


Wikipedia provides some ‘Uncanny Valley’ background and links. The creepiness of The Polar Express (2004) seems to have been the trigger for the concept going mainstream.

From the level of human body simulation achieved already, it’s looking as if the climb out to the far side of the valley is close to complete. Sure, this android behaves like an idiot, but we’re used to idiots.

ADDED: Some hints on how the inside out approach is going (and speculations).

July 8, 2014admin 20 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Technology
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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

Doctor Gno

One thing has to be granted to Pein’s sub-adolescent article (casually dismissed here) — it has triggered some interesting anguish. This interpretation of (techno-commercial) Neoreaction as Bond villainy is especially notable. Unlike Pein, Izabella Kaminska demonstrates at least a little genuine wit. More importantly, she latches onto Silicon Valley Secessionism as a (scary) cryptopolitical project, of real significance. Her references are excellent (the story is built around a number of slides extracted from this landmark talk, by Balaji Srinivasan, entitled Silicon Valley’s Ultimate Exit).

dr no

The elegance of this project rests upon its combination of simplicity and radicality, captured in its essentials by the formula E > V (Exit over Voice). It advances the prospect, already in motion, of a destruction of (voice-based) politics through the techno-commercial innovation of exit mechanisms. It is beginning to drive progressives insane.

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May 24, 2014admin 65 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Neoreaction , Technology
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Quote notes (#85)

Marc Andreessen on the triangular dynamic tensions of tech innovation:

These technologies escalate the power of government, but they also escalate the power of business, and they also escalate the power of individuals. So everyone’s been upgraded. And it’s a recalibration of who can do what, and everybody can do new things, so everybody’s uneasy about it. Governments are very worried about what citizens are going to be able to do with these new technologies. Citizens are very worried about what governments are going to do, and everybody’s worried about what businesses are going to do. It’s this three-way dynamic that’s playing out. And so for any of these individual issues, it’s not just “What is one leg of this triangle going to be doing?” It’s, “What are all three of them going to be doing, and how will the tension resolve itself?”

Much of interest also on the NSA, net neutrality, and especially Bitcoin:

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May 22, 2014admin 10 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Commerce , Media , Technology

Scrap note (#13)

Yes, the Baffler piece was comically bad. The title tells you everything you need to know about
the level it’s pitched at. Apparently NRx is based in San Francisco and Shanghai because it hates Asian people, but if it just read some Rawls (and “role-played the part of the peasant”)
it could sort itself out. Nydrwracu has the most appropriate response. Mike Anissimov takes the trouble to do a decent review. Klint Finley’s brief remarks about it are far better than the piece itself. Crude stereotypes triumph again: “The Baffler Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 390049, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139 USA.”

The sociological construction of neoreaction was incompetent, but interestingly so. Entirely techno-commercialist in orientation, with an emphasis upon Silicon Valley, it was extended to include Justine Tunney, Balaji Srinivasan, Patri Friedman, and Peter Thiel. The picture is paints daubs of an American tech elite peeling off into neoreaction isn’t very convincing, but it’s certainly extraordinarily attractive.

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May 21, 2014admin 27 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Neoreaction , Technology
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Watch Out

Anna and the Hacked Matter crew have a great (time) piece in The Atlantic on the latest escape route from real space. Getting the input interface right is going to be tricky, but the techno-commercial teleology guiding this development is surely inexorable. (I envisage the emergence of some kind of needle thingummy, to stitch the data in with.)

shanzhai 1

May 19, 2014admin 15 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Commerce , Media , Technology
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Play the Decline

Bryce Laliberte passed along this pop culture celebration of democracy’s death in imperialist chaos. It’s worth a look. (Kevin Spacey seems to have made himself the iconic face of mass media dark enlightenment.)


May 3, 2014admin 17 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Media , Pass the popcorn , Technology
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Imitation Games

In a five-year-old paper, Tyler Cowen and Michelle Dawson ask: What does the Turing Test really mean? They point out that Alan Turing, as a homosexual retrospectively diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, would have been thoroughly versed in the difficulties of ‘passing’ imitation games, long before the composition of his landmark 1950 essay on Computing Machinery and Intelligence. They argue: “Turing himself could not pass a test of imitation, namely the test of imitating people he met in mainstream British society, and for most of his life he was acutely aware that he was failing imitation tests in a variety of ways.”

The first section of Turing’s essay, entitled The Imitation Game, begins with the statement of purpose: “I propose to consider the question, ‘Can machines think?'” It opens, in other words, with a move in an imitation game — with the personal pronoun, which lays claim to having passed as human preliminarily, and with the positioning of ‘machines’ as an alien puzzle. It is a question asked from the assumed perspective of the human about the non-human. As a Turing Test tactic, this sentence would be hard to improve upon.

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April 16, 2014admin 19 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Discriminations , Technology