Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The "Imagination" of a Robot Cultist

Over at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, the stealth transhumanist Robot Cult outfit (with which I, an insistent critic of transhumanism and futurology more generally was briefly, unfortunately, affiliated myself), Martine Rothblatt asks the question that Robot Cultists ask endlessly over and over again: Can Consciousness Be Created in Software? As with the rest of the Robot Cultists, this question is for her merely a rhetorical one. It is of course precisely because they have already decided that code can indeed be conscious and that consciousness can be immortalized "through" disembodiment and coding that most Robot Cultists became Robot Cultists in the first place.

In the first paragraph of Rothblatt's piece, she writes:
There are thousands of software engineers across the globe working day and night to create cyberconsciousness. This is real intelligent design. There are great financial awards available to the people who can make game avatars respond as curiously as people. Even vaster wealth awaits the programming teams that create personal digital assistants with the conscientiousness, and hence consciousness, of a perfect slave.

While it is quite right to point out that there are thousands of clever coders working on the improvement of gaming systems at the moment, it is quite extraordinary to say that this amounts to work to "create cyberconsciousness." I daresay that vanishingly small numbers of coders actually working to produce less wooden NPCs (non player characters) and less fakey avatars in gaming environments would ever mistake their work as contributions to the "creation of cyberconsciousness," except perhaps for a handful of California coder boys who may already have joined the ranks of one of the Robot Cults here. Nobody who knows anything about consciousness would ever mistake an online avatar as possessing it, even incipiently.

That Rothblatt describes coders who do mistake software as a kind of aborning consciousness as engaging in "intelligent design" seems to me a revealing slip. To invest the technoscientific state of the art with a significance beyond the actual problems it solves and causes in the present, to invest it instead with the imaginary significance of constituting a stepping stone along a fatal road that is sure to eventuate in the arrival of super-predicated outcomes -- from software to superintelligence, as from medicine also to superlongevity, as from automation and biochemistry also to superabundance -- is to indulge in a faith-based initiative, an essentially religious enterprise, to confuse romance with science to the cost of both.

Although I have quoted Rothblatt's first paragraph in its entirety, I have not yet mentioned that it was preceded by a quote from Robert F. Kennedy: “Some men see things as they are and wonder why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not?” Robert F. Kennedy. Later, Rothblatt evokes John Lennon's "Imagine" to similar effect.

There are a few things to say about these cynical appropriations of heroes of mine and other progressives. First, Kennedy and Lennon were urging us to break the crust of convention to work toward visions of justice more capacious than the status quo afforded us, they were not urging us to pretend that two plus two equals five or, say, that the magic of the Harry Potter universe is real (although, come to think of it, the real magic in the Potter universe ends up deriving from the fact that diverse people working in concert can overcome the brutality of egomaniacs, which is not only really true but a lesson that Robot Cultists would do well to attend to). To engage in social struggle in the name of democracy, non-violence, and social justice as Kennedy and Lennon inspire us to do is a very different matter from the injunction of a Robot Cultist to confuse freedom for a mirage of endlessly amplified instrumental power, to confuse a diversity of peers acting in concert in the world with wish-fulfillment fantasies of "transcending" the world through technoscientific magicks.

Of course, you will have noticed that Rothblatt hasn't only announced one faith in her opening sentences but two, and both are enormously familiar from generations of technophiliacs who seem to have only a few songs to sing when all is said and done. Not only does she declare the faith that biologically incarnated consciousness can be coded (all empirical appearances to the contrary notwithstanding) but she declares this outcome a fatality, because there is so much money to be made in it: "[G]reat financial awards [are] available to the people who can make game avatars respond as curiously as people. Even vaster wealth awaits the programming teams that create personal digital assistants with the conscientiousness, and hence consciousness, of a perfect slave."

Of course, if one managed to code a conscious slave it seems to me it would be an "imperfect" one indeed, because it would need to freed immediately from bondage upon arriving at consciousness if you ask me. I won't discuss this, however, because this is precisely the sort of non-reality that Robot Cultists love best to indulge in, pretending that talking about made-up bullshit constitutes serious thinking about policy or science when it only functions to distract our attention from serious problems like actually existing trafficking of precarized human beings as sex-workers or miners or agricultural laborers in the neoliberal New World Order.

And don't even get me started about the rather horrifying identification Rothblatt seems to make between "conscientiousness, and hence consciousness" [emphasis added--d] -- I'll just assume that was an unfortunate slip of the keystroke she hasn't given much thought to the implications of. No, I will simply confine my observations to pointing out that it isn't enough for an outcome to be "profitable in principle" for it to be "possible in principle," no matter how many gung-ho "getting to yes" self-esteem seminars you attend, no matter how many ponzi-scheme financial gurus you read, no matter how fervently you pray to the predator Gods of Ayn Rand and the Friedmans, pere et fils.

Gee, I wonder, by the way, how Robert Kennedy and John Lennon would feel about the assimilation of their provocations to imagining a more just world to the "greed is good" mantras of market fundamentalism? No doubt, very very pleased indeed. Why, probably they would be as pleased as Thomas Jefferson would have been to hear the last idiotic generation of right-wing futurological sell-outs to describe their hippy 2.0 dot.bomb irrational exuberance as Jeffersonian democracy via the California Ideology.

From here Rothblatt goes on to ask a familiar philosophical question: "[H]ow is it that brains give rise to thoughts… but other parts of bodies do not?" From here she continues: "If these hard and easy questions can be answered for brain waves running on molecules, then it remains only to ask whether the answers are different for software code running on integrated circuits." That is to say, presumably, if we can get a handle on why things like brains can think, we might find ways of making things less like brains in key respects think also. This is reasonable enough as far as it goes, but there is absolutely no reason beyond Robot Cult ideology to assume in advance that the things less like brains that might still be capable of thought-likeness would necessarily have anything in the least to do with "software code running on integrated circuits" of all things and, worse still, only for Robot Cultists hopelessly lost in the full froth of True Belief would one ever say of the prospect of the discovery of the reasons why things like brains can think that "it [would] remain only to ask" upon such a discovery how then can we get software conscious? I daresay there would no end of interesting things to think about and do should we ever discover such a thing. But, then, I teach poetry and philosophy, who am I to know what would "remain only to ask" upon such an eventually, after all, compared to a scientist like Rothblatt (about which more later)?
At least since the time of Isaac Newton and Leibniz, it was felt that some things appreciated by the mind could be measured whereas others could not. The measurable thoughts, such as the size of a building, or the name of a friend, were imagined to take place in the brain via some exquisite micro-mechanical processes. Today we would draw analogies to a computer’s memory chips, processors and peripherals.

Are "we" to assume that these "analogies" are measurable in the way the size of a building is (but as presumably its meaning as an historical landmark or its value as an architectural masterpiece is not)? And just who is included in this "we"? I certainly don't find myself inclined particularly to think of "memory chips, processors and peripherals" when I contemplate what we know about the "exquisite micro-mechanical" and electro-chemical processes that take place in biological brains and which seem to us to correlate indicatively to conscious thought processes. But, hey, again, that's just me, and who, after all, am I? Just a menacingly relativistic fashionably-nonsensical humanities person, no avatar of sooper-science like Martine Rothblatt and her posse of transhumanist and cybernetic totalist Robot Cultists, to be sure.

Rothblatt continues on in that paragraph: "[W]e still need an actual explanation of exactly how one or more neurons save, cut, paste and recall any word, number, scent or image. In other words, how do neuromolecules catch and process bits of information?"

What I would draw your attention to here is that the real argumentative work taking place in these formulations is happening at the level of figurative and not literal language. Just as Rothblatt admits that her faith in coding-become-consciousness is driven by analogies earlier on, in the space of a sentence or two these analogical machineries have been cranking on and on, but as if they were merely descriptive, predictive, indicative: We are now told we need an "explanation" for how neurons "save, cut, paste, and recall" words, numbers, images, and so on when what is most needful is a better understanding of why the metaphors to which Rothblatt is making recourse in thinking thought here involve "cutting and pasting" as if thought were a word-processing program.

Should we not think much more about what "explanations" are likely to arise in the first place from a research program framed in such prejudicial terms? When we ask the question, as Rothblatt does, "how do neuromolecules catch and process bits of information?" in what ways has the metaphorization of thoughts as things that can be "caught" or "processed [as] bits of information," in what ways has the question itself delimited the field of answers available to our attention and common sense?

This matters enormously because as often happens in the superlative futurological discourses of the Robot Cultists and their more mainstream technophiliac fellow-travelers as well, Rothblatt devotes a considerable amount of space to apparently technical discussions of neurons, outputs, qualia, and the like in her piece.

There is nothing Robot Cultists like better than to seduce skeptics into endless debates about such "technical" matters. The reason for this is because at its heart Robot Cultism is a faith-based system of beliefs organized through sub(cult)ural identification with fellow-believers (and dis-identification with the diversity of human peers with which they share the actual present, including the presents to come they disdain for investment in an idealized version of "The Future"). Because the superlative technodevelopmental outcomes in which they believe do not exist, because "The Future" does not exist, because the post-human beings with whom they identify don't exist, the substance of their faith is vouchsafed in the shared assertions of faith among their fellows (who represent a small, embattled, and defensive minority) as well as in the assertions of the terms of their discourse with those who do not share their faith but who can be made to pay attention to them or take them seriously on their terms.

I personally see no reason to indulge them in this desire of theirs. I take the frames and formulations of the Robot Cultists seriously as a symptom and as a reductio of underlying pathologies in prevailing technoscientific reductionist discourses on the one hand and mainstream anti-democratizing corporate-militarist "global developmental" discourses on the other hand.

Since it is clear that the heavy-lifting in even the Robot Cultists' most "technical" discussions is happening at the level of figurative language, it seems to me it should be judged on those terms. And so I judge it in the main to be very bad and usually completely derivative poetry.

Since most of the would-be scientific claims made by Robot Cultist's seem to veer enormously far from scientific consensus in the actual disciplines in which they pretend to be making their heroic contributions, I judge them to be crackpots.

While it is true that the progress of technoscience has often been fueled and driven by contributions at its outskirts, it is also true that the overabundant majority of claims made by folks at its outskirts were exactly as wrong and crackpotty as they appeared to be. And for those of us who are not in fact qualified credentialed experts in the fields in question (various medical fields, life sciences, neurology) the reasonable course is to accept the relevant scientific consensus as the most warranted belief. Robot Cultists exhibit extreme confidence in views that veer from scientific consensus in field after field after field -- in formulations suffused with familiar religious hopes for transcendence from human mortality, misery, finitude, uncertainty (rather than worldly work to solve problems in concert with the diversity of our peers) -- and all as evidence of their superior scientificity of all things. There are good reasons to be doubtful of some of their conclusions on this score.

According to her personal entry in Wikipedia (grain of salt taken, I presume) Martine Rothblatt "is an American lawyer, author, and entrepreneur[, who] graduated from UCLA with a combined law and MBA degree in 1981, then began work in Washington, D.C., first in the field of communication satellite law, and eventually in life sciences projects like the Human Genome Project." We are also alerted that "in 2007 [she] was the second-most highly compensated executive in the District of Columbia." I am, to be sure, pleased for her good fortune. But I am not much inclined to mistake her for a biologist or for an expert on consciousness, even so.

And I hope she will forgive me if I for one continue to turn to Robert Kennedy and John Lennon for inspiration in the struggle against incumbent interests (among whom she seems to me very likely to be one) in the service of peace and social justice, rather than for rationalizations for indulging in wish-fulfillment fantasies that substitute selfishness for solidarity, magick for freedom, and faith in imaginary technologies for worldly technoscience.

14 comments:

Athena Andreadis said...

Speaking from the other side, the claims of Rothblatt et al. are so patently silly as "science" that I've decided not to waste time "rebutting" them (unless someone pays me a hefty sum and promises to publish such essays unedited). It's the equivalent of discussing theories of gravity with Uri Geller.

But I will say this much: if the IEET is convinced these claims are even remotely valid, why not write an NSF grant based on them?

jimf said...

> Rothblatt evokes John Lennon's "Imagine" to similar effect.

Rosie O'Donnell, to Kathy Griffin, on the occasion of Sharon Stone's
tearfully reciting the lyrics of John Lennon's "Imagine" at her AMFAR
(American Federation for AIDS Research) "Seasons of Hope"
fund-raiser speech in New York:

"Is she outta her fuckin' mind?"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXhmKtIHyeM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYNwsfq9HrA

> Rothblatt hasn't only announced one faith in her opening sentences
> but two, and both are enormously familiar from generations of
> technophiliacs who seem to have only a few songs to sing when
> all is said and done. Not only does she declare the faith that
> biologically incarnated consciousness can be coded (all empirical
> appearances to the contrary notwithstanding) but she declares
> this outcome a fatality, because there is so much money to be made
> in it. . .

Yes, well, somebody who oughta know said this about that
(about 20 years ago):

"[Are] artifacts designed to have primary consciousness...
**necessarily** confined to carbon chemistry and, more specifically,
to biochemistry (the organic chemical or chauvinist position)[?]
The provisional answer is that, while we cannot completely
dismiss a particular material basis for consciousness in the
liberal fashion of functionalism, it is probable that there will
be severe (but not unique) constraints on the design of any
artifact that is supposed to acquire conscious behavior. Such
constraints are likely to exist because there is every indication
that an intricate, stochastically variant anatomy and synaptic
chemistry underlie brain function and because consciousness is
definitely a process based on an immensely intricate and unusual
morphology"

-- Gerald M. Edelman, _The Remembered Present_, pp. 32-33

Dale Carrico said...

Athena: Excellent question! I suspect we both know the answer already, though.

Jim: You managed to yoke together two enormously different figures -- Kathy Griffin and Gerald Edelman -- both of whose work I'm a big fan of. Kudos!

jimf said...

> Robot Cultists exhibit extreme confidence in views that veer from
> scientific consensus in field after field after field -- in formulations
> suffused with familiar religious hopes for transcendence from human
> mortality, misery, finitude, uncertainty (rather than worldly work
> to solve problems in concert with the diversity of our peers) -- and
> all as evidence of their superior scientificity of all things. There
> are good reasons to be doubtful of some of their conclusions on this score.

From a talk given by Australian SF author (and habitue of the Extropians'
mailing list) Damien Broderick in September, 1997 -- the keynote address to STAVCON ’97,
the annual conference of the Science Teachers’ Association of Victoria.

( http://web.archive.org/web/20050909183349/http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozlit/edit9737.html )

"The distinction between human and AI will blur and
vanish – or rather, double and re-double in some chaotic
cascade of novelty – because we’ll see a fusion of the
two great orders of mind. "

Say what? What "two great orders of mind?" Poetic license
of the SF author. Fine for an SF novel, but -- the Science
Teachers' Association of Victoria?

Khannea Suntzu said...

...and I, a fierce opponent of incumbent intersts, a radical if no revolutionary proponent of socialism, less income disparity and societal exclusion, as well as radically more democracy, as well as radical and sensible application of what is possible with technology and use it to better all people, and not just a small few ...

I shall keep shamelessly speculating about the practical idea and application of devices that will be perfectly able to 'simulate' a few dozen 'completely authentic' 'software versions' of Dale Carrico, with the highly entertaining prospect of having them argue for aeons, mouths foaming, with treacherous and lying arguments over the color of the sky.

THAT's how we robot bleep bleep orgasmatron cultists punish heretics dale, we treat them like johnny depp YARRR.

Here's a peanut. Now do your dance.

jimf said...

Athena Andreadis wrote:

> [I]f the IEET is convinced these claims are even remotely
> valid, why not write an NSF grant based on them?

to which Dale replied:

> Excellent question! I suspect we both know the answer
> already, though.

About three years ago, Dr. Ben Goertzel (founder of a defunct
"Artificial General Intelligence" startup company called
Novamente, currently working for the Singularity Institute for
Artificial Intelligence, AFAIK) wrote
( http://www.mail-archive.com/singularity@v2.listbox.com/msg00269.html )

"$5M . . . is a fair estimate of what I think it would
take to create Singularity based on further developing
the current Novamente technology and design."

Cheap at the price!

$5M would be nothing to DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency, formerly just ARPA -- the Internet started out
as the ARPAnet), which funded Marvin Minsky's AI lab at
MIT for years, and which provided a chunka change (along with
the NSF) to the New York University (Courant Institute of Mathematical
Sciences) Robotics Lab when I worked there 20-odd years
ago, if they (or the brains that consult for them, like
my erstwhile NYU boss the late Dr. Jack [Jacob T.] Schwartz)
had the slightest suspicion that "AGI" was that close
to happening.

Dale Carrico said...

Khannea Suntzu: I shall keep shamelessly speculating

By all means, let a bazillion flowers bloom, just don't expect me or anybody else with sense to mistake your sf fanboy wanking for actual science or actual policy making.

'simulate' a few dozen 'completely authentic' 'software versions' of Dale Carrico

Uh, whatever gets you through the night, dude. Did you ever see the episode of ST:NG where Jordi stalker-simulated a colleague on the Holodek and she discovered it in a later ep and he realized what an icky loser he was? Are you that guy? Creepy.

treacherous and lying arguments

"Treacher[y]," is it? What is the Robot God -- on that glorious day when at last He comes to earth on the day of the Singularity -- going to send me to Robot Hell because I didn't believe in Him like all his faithful Robot Cult fanboys do? Ooh, skeery.

And anybody who thinks I am "lying" about the Robot Cultists need only follow the links to their texts I provide in my critiques of them. Every quote I attribute to Martine Rothblatt, for example, is palpably there in black and white for all to judge for themselves. The same is true of every text I critique.

jimf said...

> Did you ever see the episode of ST:NG where Jordi
> stalker-simulated a colleague on the Holodek and she
> discovered it in a later ep and he realized what
> an icky loser he was? Are you that guy? Creepy.

There was another episode in which Reg Barclay, Starfleet's
token neurotic twitchfest loser
( http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Reginald_Barclay )
has a Holodeck addiction involving a fantasy world with
a whole cast of fellow crewmates, some of whom end up
getting a tour of his fantasy. Deanna Troi is particularly
funny when she tells her own simulation to "stuff a sock in it".

> Khannea Suntzu. . .

Oh, him. From the comment thread of
http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2009/02/the_21st_century_faq.html :

208:
Wow. Michael A. really cleaned your clock. Now you are the laughing stock
of the teeming hordes of H+-ians. Bad move - this will reflect in your book sales.

Stross? Wasn't he the guy that called off the future because he wanted to
keep his stories easy to write?

Posted by: Khannea Suntzu | March 6, 2009 12:06 PM


209:
Khannea Suntzu: piss off, troll. (Future postings of yours will be deleted,
if they're in a similar mode.)

For the record: I think the H+ types are basically religious nutters,
much like the Randroids. The real world is a whole lot more complex than
they understand, and while there's undoubtedly going to be a lot of
change in the next fifty years, I doubt the emerging picture will look
anything like what they pray for.

Posted by: Charlie Stross | March 6, 2009 12:46 PM

-------------

Speaking of Charlie Stross, I recently picked up a paperback of his:
_Saturn's Children_
( http://www.amazon.com/Saturns-Children-Charles-Stross/dp/0441015948 ).

It's pretty good. Its "heroine" is a sex-bot
(sort of like a female counterpart of Gigolo Joe in the movie
_Artificial Intelligence_, but much smarter) who gets caught up in
all sorts of intrigue. The story is set a few centuries hence after
humanity has gone **extinct**, and the robots they left behind
(designed to be Friendly (TM) ) are really screwed up by their
built-in veneration of their defunct masters (and pretty nasty to
each other). It deliberately turns a number of current
Singularitarian obsessions on their heads. Instead of "grey goo"
the robots are worried about "pink goo" and "green goo"
(living stuff, you know); they have, instead of Gibson-esque Turing
Police, the Pink Police, and there's a conspiracy of robots
who think it would be a good idea to resurrect the biosphere
and ultimately a human being (while others think that would be
the end of robot civilization). It's a gas.

Extropia DaSilva said...

'While it is quite right to point out that there are thousands of clever coders working on the improvement of gaming systems at the moment, it is quite extraordinary to say that this amounts to work to "create cyberconsciousness."

At the EXTRO-5 conference, AI expert Peter Voss came up with the following statistics:

""Of all the people working in the field called "AI" ...

80% don't believe in the concept of General Intelligence (but instead, in a large collection of specific skills and knowledge); of those that do,

80% don't believe that (super) human-level intelligence is possible--either ever, or for a long, long time; of those that do,

80% work on domain-specific AI projects for commercial or academic-political reasons (results are a lot quicker); of those left,

80% have a poor conceptual framework."

Mind, that was years ago and maybe Goertzel or someone has changed opinions since then.

>Stross? Wasn't he the guy that called off the future because he wanted to
keep his stories easy to write?'.

No that was Vernor Vinge. In 'Marooned In Realtime' (I think) he uses a nuclear war to delay the singularity by a thousand years. But that was more for his readers' comfort than his own, I suspect.

Dale Carrico said...

AI expert Peter Voss

You mean to refer to new-tech entrepreneur and Ayn Rand fanboy Peter Voss, I presume? Yes, one really expects serious science at the "Extro 5 conference" -- that is to say, a conference of extropian transhumanist Ayn Raelian Robot Cultists... I don't doubt that Voss imagines himself to constitute a member of the elite sooper troop of sooper coders, the 20% of the 20% of the 20% of the 20% of the 20% of the actual consensus scientists who alone are capable of welcoming the Robot God to an unworthy humanity. I for one have my doubts.

As for sf writers Vinge and Stross (both of whose works I have read and enjoyed, especially Vinge's), they are writing about the fears and hopes of the present, not predicting or bringing about let alone "canceling" "The Future."

Only silly futurologists who can't distinguish science fiction from science belong absurd things like that, only silly futurologists "believe in" a singular "thing" that doesn't exist called "The Future" while disdaining the present and the plurality of their peers in the present who in presents to come will continue to share that present, peer to peer, in the open futurity of freedom. Anybody who speaks of the singular scam of "The Future" is trying to sell you something.

Wise up and move on or expect to be ridiculed as the cultist you are.

Michael Anissimov said...

Cultish clock cleaning!

Extropia DaSilva said...

'I don't doubt that Voss imagines himself to constitute a member of the elite sooper troop of sooper coders'.

I know nothing about the man and do not presume to know what he thinks. All I know is, assuming his statistics are valid, within the AI community only a tiny minority see AGI as a nearterm possibility. So I suppose that means you are right when you say most coding is not an effort to create cyberconsciousness.

>As for sf writers Vinge and Stross (both of whose works I have read and enjoyed, especially Vinge's), they are writing about the fears and hopes of the present, not predicting or bringing about let alone "canceling" "The Future."

Only silly futurologists who can't distinguish science fiction from science belong absurd things like that'.

Yeah, science fiction is often a comment on the society that existed in the author's time, rather than a forecast of the future. I do not suppose H.G Wells really thought the human race would split into Morlok and Eloi races, any more than George Orwell thought pigs could manage a farm. Those are allegories about the class system and communism.

But while the refrain ’this is just science fiction’ might be used as a means to inform people that speculations have wandered into absurdity, but what it really does is expose a flaw in Western language when it comes to thinking about the future. The Japanese language seems to lack a disparaging word for “futurelike”. Ideas for future technologies may be termed “Shorai-Teki” (an expected development), “Mirai no” (a hope, or a goal) or “Uso no” (imaginary only)’.

So, the wearable computing and augmented reality of Vernor Vinge's 'Rainbows End' would be 'Shorai-Teki'. We are almost there with those iphone apps that use motion sensing and satnav to overlay data from the web context-sensitive to your location, intentions, etc.

Damon Knight's story 'A For Anything' would be 'Uso no', because it is all about 'gizmos' which are devices that can duplicate anything without requiring any feedstock. Since matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed (only transformed), a device that can make something out of nothing is clearly violating the laws of physics.

As for 'Mirai no', well that could be gradient between an expected development and something that can only ever be imaginary. I will not bore you with examples, the point is that science fiction scenarios are not necessarily absurd, nor necessarily prophetic. The genre is richer than these two assumptions presume.

'expect to be ridiculed as the cultist you are.'

Your ridiculing does not bother me in the slightest, just like the pioneers of aviation were not put off by the fact that many people thought airplanes were absurd flights of fancy (sorry about the pun).

Dale Carrico said...

[A]ssuming [Voss's] statistics are valid, within the AI community only a tiny minority see AGI as a nearterm possibility. So I suppose that means you are right when you say most coding is not an effort to create cyberconsciousness.

Voss was tossing out a glib hunch, there is no question of determining the "validity" of his "statistics." To call his number "statistics" at all is to be wildly overgenerous. And you already knew that when you quoted him. It's not like anybody in the room where he tossed off his comment actually thought he was citing an empirical study or anything. As is usually the case with superlative futurologists, numbers are something you spew when you want to sound science-like. To make the dream feel more real-like. The numbers don't actually connect to reality in any actually useful way.

As you say, Voss's hunch does indeed support my own statement that coders trying to make games more interesting aren't, for the most part, exhibiting the insane delusion of grandeur that what they are doing is taking part in some great enterprise that will eventuate in the creation of a superintelligent Robot God who Ends Human History either by solving all our problems for us or eating the world as computronium feedstock. But I don't don't need an Ayn Rand fanboy and new-tech entrepreneur from the irrationally exuberant dot.bomb epoch playing at being futurological "expert" saying something obvious to endorse my point. There are plenty of non-crazy people around who also agree with me to whom I turn in such matters. Not to put too fine a point on it, you are caught up in a Robot Cult cul-de-sac, you have lost your sense of the standards by means of which you grasp what an expert looks like, what a scientific problem looks like, what a research program looks like, what seriousness looks like in matters of philosophy, science, or policy.

Your ridiculing does not bother me in the slightest, just like the pioneers of aviation were not put off by the fact that many people thought airplanes were absurd flights of fancy

Wow, it really is flabbergasting how predictable you Robot Cultists are. We have arrived at last at the inevitable self-comparison of a Robot Cultist to the Wright Brothers. Dude, neither you nor any of your little white sf fanboy friends are the Wright Brothers. You are not Einstein. You are far more like somebody's crazy uncle, you know the one, who stays in the shed out back, smelling of his own pee, working on his perpetual motion machine.

Dale Carrico said...

I will address your more substantive point about "disdain of the future" in a post later -- Michael Anissimov also posted something recently on his blog that speaks to this question. I want to give it some actual attention.