I love conferences which have me almost punching for the sky in a FTW! (for the win) style. Thinking Digital 2014 almost had me at points punching the sky. Now in its 7th year! Thinking Digital hasn’t lost any of its impact and is still a pleasure to attend and take part in.
There is always great talks from the stage and I always have a hard time writing up the best ones to me. But this year I have had to separate out a couple of talks which really got me going for different reasons.
The one previous to this post is Aral’s talk from Thinking Digital and my personal thoughts interleaved. The next one I had to separate out is part two of Blaise Aguera y Arcas’s talk about machine intelligence and social changes. I got the feeling Blaise, had wanted to do this talk for a long while but never really had the platform to do so till Herb Kim allowed him the space to bring his thoughts together.
The basic talk was…
machine intelligence + (gender selection + sexual and lifestyle freedom) = post subsistence economics.
Each one Blaise wrote about on his blog a while back.
He started off talking about everybody is worried about machine intelligence over taking human intelligence, the singularity, etc. Replacing jobs isn’t new and actually the move away from back breaking jobs isn’t such a bad thing. The move away from these back breaking jobs which require a lot of testosterone to jobs which are collaborative in nature is a good thing.
Then on to trends showing what females earn as a whole against their male counterparts is increasing but the amount of females university and beyond educated is growing massively compared to the males. Aka there will be many more women earning much closer to what men earn. We may see the end of the glass ceiling at long last?
Right with all that in mind, less testosterone driven jobs and finally a culture more accepting of collaboration plus a workforce to suit. You got a different mindset writing the machine algorithms and code to power the machine intelligence.
Thats the basic premise (and I know it hinges on a lot of stereotypes and questions, I may be doing Blaise a disservice but to be honest you need to hear Blaise talk about it and making the points. The crux is that women will dominate economically and society will reflect and favor a less testosterone driven approach going forward. The idea of machine intelligence given a cock and balls was floated as a very bad thing. Interestingly
This for lots of male kind is worrying as they suddenly feel the strangle hold they held for so long slip away. There will be a backlashes and your already seeing some of it including the redpill community.
In a surprising move by Herb, he opened the floor for questions. Of course knowing me I had to ask a question. I thought about it but had to tell the question is something I didn’t really think too much about because there was plenty of thoughts and connections floating around my head. The question came out and with some clarification I made the hole a little deeper for myself.
The question I was trying to ask was about the social backlash from female-kind (Blaise had only talked about the male backlash). I also used stereotypes to illustrate the point including the height factor, suggesting women may want a testosterone driven man over the alternative. By this point it was pretty much over and I gave up making the point. But interestingly Jemima understanding where I was going with the question, chimed in and gave a better question based on what I meant.
It was a truly fascinating talk and my number one highlight of Thinking Digital 2014. I really feel like I’ve not done Blaise’s talk enough justice… Hopefully once the videos are up, I will link to them and revisit this one. I said Blaise’s talk could be summed up like this. Machine intelligence + (gender selection + sexual and lifestyle freedom) = post subsistence economics. Somewhere in there diversity of ideas and thought is changing the way we think about machine intelligence and this is a very good thing. Not everything has to be zero-sum and like it or not that seems to be a testosterone fueled thing.
Here’s Blaise’s thought from his blog which gives a lot more insight and information, than I could.
Documentarlly did a great little interview with Blaise on Audioboo
I think that just as the Internet has been such a great driver of change across so many spheres over the past 20 years, we will see machine intelligence in the same role over the coming decades.
Today, we are as an intelligent species essentially singular. There are of course some other brainy species, like chimpanzees, dolphins, crows and octopuses, but if anything they only emphasize our unique position on Earth— as animals richly gifted with self-awareness, language, abstract thought, art, mathematical capability, science, technology and so on. Many of us have staked our entire self-concept on the idea that to be human is to have a mind, and that minds are the unique province of humans. For those of us who are not religious, this could be interpreted as the last bastion of dualism. Our economic, legal and ethical systems are also implicitly built around this idea.
Now, we’re well along the road to really understanding the fundamental principles of how a mind can be built, and Moore’s Law will put brain-scale computing within reach this decade. (We need to put some asterisks next to Moore’s Law, since we are already running up against certain limits in computational scale using our present-day approaches, but I’ll stand behind the broader statement.) When we reach this point, we will find ourselves no longer alone. It’s difficult to overstate the importance that moment will have in our future history.
It may well result in further nonlinearity in the “rate” of history too, since minds and what we’ve dreamt up with them have been the engine behind history and its acceleration.
For many thousands of years we’ve lived in a male-dominated society. I don’t think that we’re shifting toward “female dominance” so much as I think that the whole idea of dominance is a male paradigm, and that it is this paradigm that is being selected against— by increasing population density in the urban cores, increasing education, larger working groups, increasing collaboration, rising technological leverage, global trade and so on. It may be difficult to imagine this now, when the vast majority of the world’s capital is still in the hands of men and many of the STEM fields (which are also among the highest-paid) are still overwhelmingly male, but I think that men— and especially “manly men” exhibiting many of the classical correlates of high testosterone— will be at a distinct disadvantage in 30 years time. This represents a profound upset of the patriarchal system that has defined virtually all of recorded history, so … it’ll be a big deal.
As machine intelligence, robotics, and technological leverage in general increasingly decouple productivity from labor, we will continue to see unemployment rise even in otherwise healthy economies. The end state is one in which most forms of human labor are simply not required. In 30 years, if not sooner, we will be facing this unprecedented situation— and whether it’s heaven or hell depends on whether we’re able to let go of capitalism, economic Darwinism and the Calvinist ethics that implicitly underlie these systems. Without a change of course, we will see mass unemployment drive a radical acceleration of the already dramatic imbalance between the very wealthy few and everyone else, leading to ugly conditions in the cities and ultimately violent uprising.
On the other hand, if we are able to set aside our Calvinism, we will realize that given the technological efficiencies we have achieved, everyone can live well, with or without a job. Capitalism, entrepreneurship and other systems of differential wealth creation could still function on top of this horizontal base; but everyone must be fed and housed decently, have access to free health care and education, and be able to live a good life. I assume the nation-state will still be a relevant legal and economic construct in 30 years (though I’m not sure, as corporations or possibly other structures will complicate the picture); my guess is that we will see both paths taken in different parts of the world, leading to misery and war in some, where either the benefits of accelerating technology are slow to penetrate or Darwinian economics are left unchecked.
Sexual and lifestyle freedom
In 30 years, I think that not only will the more progressive places in the world have finished reconciling themselves to the wide spectrum of sexual orientation and expression, but also to a wide variety of life configurations beyond the nuclear family built around a single lifelong pair-bond. There are many forces contributing to this shift, and I suspect that an empirical case can be made for this in much the same way as for the gender ideas above. This is the least developed of my six ideas, but one that I think will have profound implications.