Why the singularity thing is retarded

Expanding on a previous rant:

On singularities: Robots, computers, and factories are all just big, complex tools. Every tool is a lever. You need a human somewhere in the process to pull the lever, otherwise what you’re talking about is a perpetual motion machine. [The effect of automation on the unskilled workforce is] still the same question as whether to dig with spoons or a bulldozer, except scaled past the human capacity for imagination.


It’s important to understand that computers aren’t magic. They’re just fancy calculators hooked up to LEDs and wireless antennas. You can build purely mechanical computers out of gears, if you’ve got the room and the patience for it. I find that removing electricity from the system makes it a lot easier for people to understand that digital != abstract. There isn’t much difference, functionally, between a CPU and an abacus. How many gears do you have to line up before they become self-organizing and sentient?

Humans fall back on magical thinking when a system becomes complex beyond their powers of reason. Where the understanding of cargo dropping from the sky ends, the tribal imagination begins to supply plausible gods from their existing conceptual framework. How did the cargo gods make Netflix out of a fancy electric abacus? Surely these marvelous devices are alive and conscious in small ways, like our little purse dogs, and could become moreso if only they were bigger and more complicated.

tl;dr-abstraction and magic are the same thing. (That link is a required prerequisite for this post.)

There is a dynamic inherent to abstraction and trust. Because trust turns out to be a less intuitive concept than I’d assumed, I will quote Bruce Schneier at length:

This book is about trust. Specifically, it’s about trust within a group. It’s important that defectors not take advantage of the group, but it’s also important for everyone in the group to trust that defectors won’t take advantage.

“Trust” is a complex concept, and has a lot of flavors of meaning. Sociologist
Piotr Sztompka wrote that “trust is a bet about the future contingent actions of
others.” Political science professor Russell Hardin wrote: “Trust involves giving discretion to another to affect one’s interests.” These definitions focus on trust between individuals and, by extension, their trustworthiness.1

When we trust people, we can either trust their intentions or their actions. The first is more intimate. When we say we trust a friend, that trust isn’t tied to any particular thing he’s doing. It’s a general reliance that, whatever the situation, he’ll do the right thing: that he’s trustworthy. We trust the friend’s intentions, and know that his actions will be informed by those intentions.2

The second is less intimate, what sociologist Susan Shapiro calls impersonal
trust. When we don’t know someone, we don’t know enough about her, or her
underlying motivations, to trust her based on character alone. But we can trust
her future actions.3 We can trust that she won’t run red lights, or steal from us, or cheat on tests. We don’t know if she has a secret desire to run red lights or take our money, and we really don’t care if she does. Rather, we know that she is likely to follow most social norms of acceptable behavior because the consequences of breaking these norms are high. You can think of this kind of trust—that people will behave in a trustworthy manner even if they are not inherently trustworthy—more as confidence, and the corresponding trustworthiness as compliance.4

In another sense, we’re reducing trust to consistency or predictability. Of
course, someone who is consistent isn’t necessarily trustworthy. If someone is
a habitual thief, I don’t trust him. But I do believe (and, in another sense of the word, trust) that he will try to steal from me. I’m less interested in that aspect of trust, and more in the positive aspects. In The Naked Corporation, business strategist Don Tapscott described trust, at least in business, as the expectation that the other party will be honest, considerate, accountable, and transparent. When two people are consistent in this way, we call them cooperative.

In today’s complex society, we often trust systems more than people. It’s not
so much that I trusted the plumber at my door as that I trusted the systems that
produced him and protect me. I trusted the recommendation from my insurance
company, the legal system that would protect me if he did rob my house,
whatever the educational system is that produces and whatever insurance system
bonds skilled plumbers, and—most of all—the general societal systems that
inform how we all treat each other in society. Similarly, I trusted the banking
system, the corporate system, the system of police, the system of traffic laws,
and the system of social norms that govern most behaviors.

Bruce Schneier
Liars and Outliers

In a high-trust society, complex machines work. Engineers study hard in school and pass up on opportunities to cheat, machinists show up to work and pay attention to the quality of their work, production managers don’t pressure their machinists and assemblers to focus on quantity at the expense of quality, and users read operating manuals without looking for frivolous opportunities to sue. Even lawyers are constrained by a general sense of what their society considers appropriate.

In a low-trust society, complex machines are unreliable and dangerous. There are too many places in an industrial supply chain where something can go wrong. In modern America, we have to design our CNC machines so that operators can’t disable them so they can go home early on Fridays. Everybody is cheating and if you give a shit about your company or the long term, that makes you a cuck because your boss wants to replace you with three immigrants doing a shitty job for half the cost.

Trust enables abstraction, abstraction enables prosperity, prosperity makes in-group competition more salient than out-group competition or environmental selection, and trust drops. In the end, the only thing that’s changed is sun activity. The little ice age selected for a very high-trust European society for many years that became extremely prosperous (read: high abstraction) during the Holocene, and now is beginning to eat itself as the Holocene comes to an end. It’s an open question whether we could build a bridge if we confiscated all the Rothschilds’ unlimited money to pay for it. Good luck with the infrastructure spending, Mr. Trump, you will surely need it.


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16 Responses to Why the singularity thing is retarded

  1. Edenist Whackjob says:

    “There isn’t much difference, functionally, between a CPU and an abacus. How many gears do you have to line up before they become self-organizing and sentient?”

    That’s eerie – I used the exact same argument once :)

  2. Edenist Whackjob says:

    “abstraction and magic are the same thing. ”

    When I was a kid, I used to believe that doctors could just automatically fix anything wrong with sick people. Because doctors do that, obviously. I wonder if the same kind of thinking is prevalent among adults? And I wonder how much of this effect gets exploited by sales & markting…

    I also wonder if the utter LACK of this thinking causes mental problems for some individuals? Do we need some “magic” to make our thoughts go around?

    • Arakawa says:

      Well, I can volunteer an example. Lack of magical thinking makes it impossible for me to trust Bitcoin, because I cannot follow the reasoning behind the crypto algorithms and verify that I am not being conned at some step along the process.

      Ironically, Bitcoin was created and popularized by people who were attracted to hard currency because they are unable to apply magical thinking to abstract away the mad complexity of a monetary system backed by elastic IOUs. This means it is impossible for them to trust modern finance; that modern finance is run by dark sorcerers who do not have your interests at heart is merely a side bonus.

      (The answer to “what is money?” in modern society takes an entire semester-long course to explain, apparently. https://www.coursera.org/learn/money-banking The banking institutions described in this course exhibit the same kind of organic, Cthuloid complexity that I as a programmer feel when trying to study how DNA ‘programs’ the behaviour of an organism.)

    • Santoculto says:

      ”Abstraction and magic are the same thing”

      Magic is just like something that challenge completely the physics laws while abstraction is the artificial world beyond the immediatism that only exist in our minds OR only our minds who can capture it in significative ways. Abstraction, primarily speaking, don’t challenge physics laws because firstly it’s don’t exist in literal way, so… secondly because it’s ”exist” in our minds while sensations of ”tomorrow will be a day”. Abstractions are also behaviors that emanate from physical or organic things, like the step or sequency of given behavior.

      Humans not only think in abstract ways in, whatever, great part of their time* But also invent and confuse abstractions with REAL or physical things. Macro-stupidities as ”culture”, ”religion” and ”ideology” are direct product of this fundamental confusion. More ”primitive” is certain society more ”abstract”, specially to explain things that appear to be too much advanced from their factual understanding capacity [what you said here in this text]. Ok, ”advanced” societies are full of magical, from simple to ”complex”, thinking, but we are talking about proportion and revelance of magical thinking in the way certain community operates to understand and live in certain place. So, a ”primitive” tribe in Papua New Guinea can have less accumulated cultural resources than France, but the importance of their abstract inventions seems higher or proportionally significative than in ”advanced” tribe. Or not, and it’s tend to be constant since the most ”primitive” or simple to the most ”advanced” or complex tribes [ i doubt, for example, medical cultural resources: because modern or western medicine, western world became less magical in this aspect than other societies]

      So abstractions at priori are not magical, but can become.

      • Santoculto says:

        And abstractions tend to symbolize effects while it’s the role of serious analytical philosophy as well science literalize this path to found the origin or the cause that are always physical.

  3. MM says:

    Don’t see how any of this disproves the singularity. Maybe you have some magical thinking that humans are special. Laugh Out LOUD.
    These machines will surely be able to give the impression of sentience. That’s what matters to the globohomo elites and their lagrange libration point bioweapon bullshit.
    Hell, even if it comes “only” in the form of machines taking many jobs that will still be wildly transformative.

    • MM says:

      Short term.
      Long term the problem is that the elites wont need us at all and will eradicate the human race.

    • SirHamster says:

      “Don’t see how any of this disproves the singularity. Maybe you have some magical thinking that humans are special. ”

      Singularity is based on idea that we can nudge computer development to the point where it becomes an endlessly self-improving system without further input from humans. That is a perpetual motion machine.

      What this idea doesn’t account for is how much computers rely on the human users/developers for functionality.

      Computers are still a tool. But where humans aren’t going to worship a screwdriver or hammer, computers are seen to have potential to become gods.

      Humans will become gods before computers do.

  4. Heaviside says:

    >industrial supply chain

    laughing out loud

  5. UnSAint_ly says:

    Humans also cling to reason (a fraction of their cognitive powers) all the harder when the system they want to understand refuses to be understood by reason alone.

    The first thing impotence yells is “I am strong”, and so is in the habit of doing.
    Therefore, a careful effort to repress the perception of every aspect of the system that escapes reason provides confidence, and a sense of security in one’s (one group’s, one society’s, one species’) capabilities.

    Everybody has a smile on their lips, although it’s not sheerly speckless.
    But smiles rarely are, never mind then.

  6. Jelly Baby Bean Pie says:

    A singularity is easy enough to understand …

    It’s the point beyond which you can no longer map the social situations and technology of a previous society onto the one that has emerged in its place.

    Insofar as “magic” goes, many of the artefacts from the emergent future, if they were to find their way back to the previous society, would be considered to be somewhat magical.

    “Amazing! The torches light themselves after you manipulate a small lever on the wall! The mechanical lighters must be hidden within the wall, there’s no way that it could work otherwise! And look how fast they light themselves! It’s magic!”

    Similarly, I’m sure that a Mr Jesus Christ would have more than a few thoughts on how to feed the masses if he were shown a Japanese vending machine with hot meals. :-)

    [… and just try, I double dare you, to explain what Spatial Interpolation & Diversion Rationalised Across Time means, let alone to any of these twenty-first century Terran mop-heads that are running around as if they’ve just solved the universe with fiddly little handheld computers … to them it’s all just magic!]

  7. Koanic says:

    It’s extinction, not singularity.

  8. Pingback: The cosmopolitan’s curse | Aeoli Pera

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