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

Friday, August 02, 2013

I Predict

Making their new predictions is the way futurologists distract you from the failure of their old predictions.

More Futurological Brickbats here.


Robert Gross said...

Exactly. The Jehova's Witnesses and Nostradamus people do the same thing.

By the way, is it just me, or does anyone else find it quite fitting that Dale's comments section includes a "Please prove you're not a robot" security key?

Dale Carrico said...

I wonder if blogger really thought you were a robot would they still say please?

Alex said...

Hi Dale. I'm curious what you think of this. I'd say Robin Hanson gives a valid argument for expecting a singularity in the next few centuries based on trends in world GDP. He puts the likelihood of this happening at 50% to 75%, which I'd about agree with, along with his reasoning method.

Dale Carrico said...

At a glance, Hanson's arguments seem to me ridiculous six ways to Sunday. This conclusion is not based on close reading -- I'm grading mid-terms right now. But even a cursory examination revealed the usual futurological pathologies aplenty.

You say you agree with him -- but what do you even mean by the term "The Singularity" about which you have formed such confident expectations? The emergence of nonbiological entitative superintelligence eventuating in a history-ending Robot God? Greater-than-human prosthetic-assisted collective intelligence that is different in some way from those forms already expressed in organizations, divisions of labor, and so on for some reason? Competing superintelligences, non-biological, biological, assemblages, collectivities?

What is it about the serially failed state of good old fashioned artificial intelligence research programs that makes you think such paradigm shattering developments are on the horizon? Pinning Big Hopes on Big Data are we?

Dale Carrico said...

The argument presumes brain emulations ARE people -- does it likewise presume photographs of people are people? It presumes "robots" that own wealth and compete and make wars on humans as key players in its calculations. All such characters are pure fantasy. The usual confusion of science fiction with science fact and science policy.

It is conventional futurological flim-flam to demand one's wish fulfillment fantasies be treated as serious policy discourse while at once shunting off all the evidenciary and analytic basis for rigor on a horizon displaced by twenty years into the future. Hanson is savvy enough to confine project his Very Serious speculations into centuries distant from our own. But there are still no actual substantive reasons to accept his assumptions or treat his projections as relevant to any real-world considerations.

Even by its own lights it is bedeviled by questionable premises and definitional fudges. Singularity, Robots, Uploads, even Superintelligence are playing out here as loose fancies pretending to be facts or terms of art when they are not.

Conventional automation hasn't displaced much labor yet, says Hanson? And yet productivity gains associated with automation, organization, transportation, communication developments in the context of the dismantling of organized labor in the US and the outsourcing of labor to overexploited regions where there are low to no labor protections has facilitated an extraordinary concentration of wealth and amplified precarity across the globe and eviscerated social mobility and buying power for all but the rich. Labor has indeed been displaced or replaced by placeholder jobs policing docility in majorities from whom the occasional photogenic or gifted exception can be plucked for the gratification of plutocrats.

Dale Carrico said...

Futurological projection can safely presume this state of affairs will either continue until a revolt reverses the trend -- who knows whether that revolt will be a convulsive and easily appropriated popular uprising enabling an authoritarian formation little different from the plutocracy or social democratizing reforms that are more sustainable -- in any case, only the latter response can possibly be equal to present climate catastrophe and resource descent and there is less reason to think that response will happen in time with every passing month.

Resource wars and climate catastrophe yielding a breakdown of planetary society and ending technodevelopmental advances in most fields seems to me the more likely result.

I believe that substantial technodevelopment already stalled a generation ago, and that computer enthusiasm and medical breakthroughs are gratuitously over-hyped by a public discourse mostly reduced to marketing. Futurology and the batshit extremities of futurology represented by transhumanism singularitarianism techno-immortalism greenwashing geoengineers and so on are the froth on the cauldron of such marketing denialism and fraud.

I am actually hopeful that social democracy and environmental politics might indeed marginalize the neoliberal/ libertopian/ Republican madness in the US in time to build a sustainable equitable and diverse social democracy in time to incubate renewable industries in collaboration with Europe, India, and South America in time to save the world from likely destruction. It's worth trying at any rate.

I do not think any true believing Robot Cultist or even Very Serious academic/think-tank Futurologists is a reliable ally in any of the work to accomplish a world worth living in or capable of sustaining an equitable-in-its-diversity secular technoscientific civilization.

Almost all futurology functions as apologiae for distraction from organized resistance together with encouragements for increased consumption and celebrations of corporate-military plutocrats and their norms and institutional forms. There is no definition of "singularity" I am aware of that looks much like any planetary outcome that seems to me remotely relevant to our actual circumstances.