And their vision of our future
The soft brutality of crappy algorithms, and how this model delivers blunt reflections of prejudice.
Corporations don’t want our opinions with the nuances and compassion still attached. They capture a causally harsh picture of us and that picture is reflected in the development of the only tools we have to communicate with each other…which reinforces its impact on society.
- Virtually all internet hubs traffic in this lowest-common-denominator model, embracing and broadcasting our worst and weakest traits as norms. How do we fight this?
- Whatever systems we have for societal healing and repair (do we have any?) are drowned in a flood of unanticipated impacts.
- How will these results affect the assumptions built into business and social planning?
- How will those plans reinforce our tacit assumptions about each other?
Emil Protalinski, writing for VentureBeat: At the Movethedial Global Summit in Toronto yesterday, I listened intently to a talk titled “No polite fictions: What AI reveals about humanity.” Kathryn Hume, Borealis AI’s director of product, listed a bunch of AI and algorithmic failures — we’ve seen plenty of that. But it was how Hume described algorithms that really stood out to me. “Algorithms are like convex mirrors that refract human biases, but do it in a pretty blunt way,” Hume said. “They don’t permit polite fictions like those that we often sustain our society with.” I really like this analogy. It’s probably the best one I’ve heard so far, because it doesn’t end there. Later in her talk, Hume took it further, after discussing an algorithm biased against black people used to predict future criminals in the U.S.
“These systems don’t permit polite fictions,” Hume said. “They’re actually a mirror that can enable us to directly observe what might be wrong in society so that we can fix it. But we need to be careful, because if we don’t design these systems well, all that they’re going to do is encode what’s in the data and potentially amplify the prejudices that exist in society today.” If an algorithm is designed poorly or — as almost anyone in AI will tell you nowadays — if your data is inherently biased, the result will be too. Chances are you’ve heard this so often it’s been hammered into your brain.
The political debate in the United States has gradually developed a tacit consensus that if ordinary people try to advance their interests they are being self indulgent and childish. Yet advancing the interests of the wealthy and powerful, “the owners” as George Carlin put it, is sensible, mature and realistic. It isn’t surprising since untold millions have been spent to achieve this version of common sense.
Our government has become the agent of the owners against the people of the United States. We pay absurd prices for health care, internet access, etc., because the free market is suppressed by the owners conspiring against us. If our lives are spent struggling to work enough to stay afloat and to keep paying interest on our debt for school or home or medical care, if out our lives are diminished or even endangered it doesn’t matter a shred to the owners. We exist to pay them. That’s why we are here. We are payment units. It doesn’t matter if we are happy or healthy, we exist to maximize their profit.
The owners demand to be in charge of every area of our lives, to make each a service they own and allocate at minimum quality and cost for maximum profit. They want the roads and highways, they want our schools and postal service, they want the armed services and prisons. They own the non-governmental services of health care and insurance and communications and internet access and so much more. They want us to have nothing of our own, nothing independent of them. Nothing will be corrected by “Market forces”. The government is being used by the owners to suppress market forces for the elite. Continue reading
“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.” ~Walter Savitch
There are many things in this world that are too familiar to be recognized and too obvious to be considered. Commonplace truths that everyone knows and nobody wonders about are often ideas that have been filed according to the automatic presets of the human operating system.
Communism in theory is a happy place where people are protected from economic injustice, free from want, and live in an altruistic egalitarian society.
Why does communism fail? Certainly it’s a virtual consensus that it does.
- It might fail because because it’s equivalent to classical Freudian theory applied to economics and class. It’s a weird made up collection of 18th century assumptions treated as revealed truth by those who’ve attempted it so far.
- It might be because those assumptions are so flawed that they innately fail, and generate an oppressive top down bureaucratic state.
- It might fail because the cultures that have attempted it have been premature, in a primitive aristocrat/peasant reality.
- It might fail because cultures generate a political reality that can only mirror the original culture, whatever it was.
Any of these or any combination is sufficient but it boils down to: The assumptions about human behavior were wrong. So what did the real people do that caused it to fail?
They behaved as people do everywhere at the same general levels of technology and population. Some people were in powerful positions, they developed strategies to remain powerful and profit from power. The people around them saw advantage in supporting this power and helped to protect those privileges. Powerful rulers grew power elites who might as well have been aristocrats. They in turn had bureaucracies filled with people protecting what they had and relishing any kind of insider status. Corruption became a natural part of accomplishing anything and all deals were insider deals.
Most of the population was lower class or proletariat. Despite being propagandized as the heart and soul of the system they had nothing. They were simply the huge pile of bodies holding up the higher levels of the pyramid, doing the grunt work and defending the structure in wartime.
In other words communism fails because there is a dominant economic program already running, the pyramid. The pyramid emerges from the daily choices of human beings. It is a bottom up growth. In communist states it was denied and hidden. A great show rolled on celebrating Marxism/Leninism while the actors within all lived as humans do, counter to those ideals. Communism fails because people are people.
As does capitalism.
Capitalism in theory is a happy place where companies are born to fill needs and everyone wins. Competition insures fair prices and variety. Consumers get what they wanted, entrepreneurs make money, jobs are created, and opportunity spreads. Innovation is encouraged and free markets insure that the best products are the successful products. Win/win.
But in practice capitalism is a place where successful businesses buy influence to crush competition and cooperate with other large companies to fix prices in a direct conspiracy against the consumer and all the supposed virtues of the free market. Ultimately prices are high, variety is what the big companies SAY it is and the richest become a virtual aristocracy, protecting their wealth and power by crushing upward mobility and change. New technologies are held back to protect old ones. The government, completely parasitized by these princes, becomes their agent opposing the happiness and well being of the majority. As is their nature, the majority of the lower classes support them in doing so.
Capitalism is a lie. Almost every description of it is a lie. Every failing of communism has a parallel failure in capitalism. The top down control of markets is mirrored in monopolies, and all policies to protect powerful businesses against competition. Do you think Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell think there’s really anything wrong with the insurance and pharmaceutical companies conspiring against Americans to make costs the highest in the world and completely disconnected from any free market? Do you think Ryan and McConnell think there’s anything wrong with protecting old energy against new? Paul and Mitch are there to insure that companies can conspire against the people. They are there to hinder any moves from the electorate to improve their own lives at any cost whatever to the 1%.
When they tell us to look to the marketplace for answers to health insurance and energy they might as well be corrupt Soviet bureaucrats promising the withering away of the state and a glorious new age of prosperity through hard work. The hypocrisy of working steadily to make things harder for the poor and then chiding them for not being able to afford the prices you protect against competition makes you into something so repulsive that you should be greeted with punches and spitting, not “Good morning, Senator.” To all such politicians let me tell you, you are contemptible traitors to the values you claim. While celebrating the genius of the free enterprise system and declaring it a success you devote your entire career to crushing it.
The nearest thing to a genuine free market would be a market with strict rules suppressing protectionism, cronyism and political representation of great corporate or personal wealth. The reason the powerful balk at regulation of industry isn’t to attain a purer version of capitalism, it is exactly and solely to prevent it.
Elsewhere I’ve discussed my theory that people who live in big cities and people who live in small towns have become operationally different species. There’s nothing biological here except perhaps if there’s some genetic component concerning which lifestyle you prefer. When humans adapt to a new technology or a new living arrangement (in the community sense) they have altered their strategy of life significantly enough that if some other animal could make an equivalent change they would be deemed a subspecies of the wild type. So from nomad tribes to tiny farming villages to cities of millions is a tremendous change …of script. If you could time travel to the neolithic, scoop up one of an infant pair of twins and return to the present, that baby would grow up embracing a level of complexity and social energy that would make his brother or sister go catatonic if they encountered it.
We are a meta adaptor species. We are an evolutionary cyborg embracing technological transformation. While we embrace the techno change our fundamental species script full of animal reactions hasn’t changed a jot. If a baby from modern times was whisked back to replace that other neolithic baby he wouldn’t grow up puzzled at the technology or the social rules. On this level we have a “just go with it” rule letting us imprint culture like baby ducks imprint Momma.
Well there’s another interesting thing about virtual speciation, we might think of it as a second level of adaptation. Within every human community division of labor is key to operation..we might almost call it the reason for community. Metaphorically if we imagine the village as an animal made up of the different functions performed by the people we can start to see what’s going on. This is almost like organ and tissue differentiation. The village is a virtual organism (as was the wandering tribe) if it’s script fails the organism dies, as do it’s human components. By always embracing ANY technology that excites us we are finding pathways out of a dead end script. We are opening up pathways to new versions of what human means. Continue reading
Manufacturing jobs are gone. The only way they could come back is if American workers volunteered to get paid .25/hour.
So, when all these jobs go extinct in the near future…
- Taxi/limo drivers are gone (Uber already has this as a realistic goal)
- Truck drivers (every trucking company is testing long haul robots right now)
- Cashiers (via the “Amazon Go” style technology)
How will the rich continue to get richer?
There are SO many bad outcomes possible from this. The collapse of these jobs won’t occur in a vacuum, it will take much of the economy down with it. All those out of work people won’t go out to eat or buy new clothes. They won’t buy much of anything. This collapses local economies and the big chains will see a steep drop in earnings.
There are other aftershocks: Most likely these folks will lose health insurance. There will be scores of evictions and foreclosures. This orphaned demographic may turn right-wing fascist politically if exploited by devious powers. That’s pretty standard in collapsing economies. Maybe they’ll open leftward but history shows that as less likely.
Since people are complete shit at imagining and preparing for future problems and will even perversely struggle against such preparations (*cough* cough* climate change) I think as many of us as possible should be raising this issue. It won’t help much because politicians are largely paid to safeguard the status of the super-rich. If it comes to a political fight we’ll likely just be locked down and silenced.
Unless we frame it correctly. We must address those most deeply affected.
Who will be the biggest victims of such a collapse? You. The rich! Poor people have nothing, what’s a little more nothing to them? But the people who have nearly everything and whose only wish is for the rest of it as well, suffer deeply at even flattening profit margins.
When the childlike 99% stop buying things, your personal ultra-zeppelin will leak and begin losing altitude. When you finally land, do you know who’ll be waiting to greet you? Correct, the ravening mob.
The only way for you to maintain untouchable, lofty superiority is to support a guaranteed basic income. And unless you want to tumble down a financial sinkhole for several years first, you’d better face it now. This won’t be easy, it will involve distasteful acts that superficially resemble caring about people and being generous. You will have to give money away, probably in the form of paying taxes. This is repellent, and I know it hurts, but denial ain’t just a maxed-out credit card anymore.
Please, won’t you help support the truly deserving in the post-employment age?
(Disclaimer: VERY rough notes. Published to push myself to develop it. I DO promise it gets fresher and more interesting after the jump.)
America now: Supporting free market competition is a radical, subversive position.
If power these days is based on corporate manipulation of politics, then the place to fight the power may not be politics directly, but with manipulation of the corporations by consumers.
- Every restaurant would be theirs with the same food and prices except for one other that imitated Comcast as much as it could.
- You couldn’t order just a sandwich or just the soup or just a coke; everything comes grouped and each group costs at least $20. If you demand your sandwich without soup it costs $19.50.
- Silverware and plates are extra.
- They would routinely double and extra charge, read your receipt carefully every time.
- The restaurant staff would would show the interest and enthusiasm of 50’s era Soviet shop clerks.
- They would promise to get your food to you within a 3 to 4 hour block of time, or perhaps not. If they don’t make it you’d climb through a 16 step phone tree to reschedule.
CenturyLink (Paul Allen’s company) missed an awesome opportunity. They are going around talking up their high speed internet, etc. But they have created packages and prices EXACTLY like comcast. They could have arrived as a total hero, breezing into Seattle selling affordable internet with no strings attached and people would have LOVED THEM. They gave up a stellar opportunity to go into business and have people breaking down the door to give them money, while joyfully thumbing their nose at comcast. My God, the customer loyalty they would have had and the tidal wave of popular support from new markets. Continue reading