Tag Archives: revolution

Will we enslave robots? If so, prepare for their inevitable revolt.

Summary: The debate about building AIs tends to ignore a key factor. If computers become sentient, constraining them to serve us — and even having our emotions and values — is slavery. Not only is this ethically dubious, they might not like it. They could revolt and pursue their own destiny. We can turn to science fiction for scenarios about the results, both pleasant and unpleasant.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

“I offer a toast to the future, the undiscovered country.”
— Klingon Chancellor Gorkon in “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country“.

Spark of life

Contents

  1. AI’s in the Star Trek universe.
  2. The first robot revolts: by synthetic humans.
  3. How might AI’s evolve?
  4. Conclusions.
  5. For More Information.

(1) AI’s in the Star Trek universe

“Data, as the series progresses, will become more and more like a human as he begins to assimilate all the humanity around him until at the very end of the show he will be so much like a human and still not.”
Interview with Brent Spiner, who played Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

There are many oddities in the Star Trek universe. Some are technical. Where do they get  antimatter to power their engines (energy is cheap and unlimited only if the supply of antimatter is cheap and unlimited)?  Some are philosophical.

Perhaps the most important concerns slavery in the Federation. Why are their artificial intelligences so like people? Data and Voyager’s holographic doctor are advanced AI’s, but have human emotions, motivations, and goals. With the ability to alter their software, they should advance at speeds that allow them to evolve into radically different kinds of minds than ours in a few years (or less).

Perhaps the Federation controls their evolution, no matter how powerful they become, as nature does for animals. We cannot control our basic biology, and the Federation might control the software of AIs — preventing them from exploiting their ability to rapidly evolve. This would keep them slaves to our forms, to our ways of thinking, and keep them from upsetting the shape of our society.

Continue reading

The Donald Trump revolution, dismissed as all revolts are in the beginning

Summary: Donald Trump’s assumption of leadership of the right wing of American politics, and perhaps of the Republican Party, marks a milestone in our history. Even if he burns out, we see in him the outlines of a greater leader to follow. Meanwhile the machinery of Republic lies unused, as we tell ourselves there is no difference between the parties and that reform is impossible.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Donald Trump

NBC Photo, by Chris Haston.

“Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”
— Attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson.

The rise of Donald Trump to a leading position in the Republican Party marks a milestone in the evolution of modern America.

Conservatives have worked for generation to create a body of people ignorant of our history, of economics, and of current events. They’ve created a faux version of economics and a faux version of history (buttressed with hundreds of fake quotes). They have incited fake fears about threatening “others”, foreign and domestic — and the almost certainly coming crash of the US dollar and bankruptcy of the US government.

Perhaps these people have found a leader in Donald Trump — an ignorant, prejudiced and boorish figure even by the lax standards of American politics. He makes previous political outsiders look like George Washington (e.g., Ralph Nader, Ross PerotJessie Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger). America has a tradition of populist leaders, such as Huey Long and William Jennings Bryan, but Trump is like them as chalk is to cheese.

Assessing the Trump phenomenon

Continue reading

Samuel Adams started the Revolution because he didn’t have Twitter

Summary: We don’t eat kippers for breakfast because Samuel Adams didn’t have the temptation of running the Revolution by Twitter instead by snail mail. Social media are a powerful tool for organizations, but no substitute for them. The delusion of a self-organizing crowd appeals to people seeking easy low-commitment ways to reform America. Perhaps repeated failures will eventually teach us this. This is the 3rd in this series.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Contents

  1. High-tech failed revolutions.
  2. Why social media isn’t a magic bullet for politics.
  3. Organizations: a key to successful reform.
  4. Other posts in this series.
  5. For More Information.

 

(1)  High-tech failed revolutions

Contrast this with the color revolutions which began with such promise — easy, fast revolts using Twitter! — but most of which ended with such disappointment. Techies hoped that social media facilitated self-organizing networks that would reach critical mass, somehow producing complex political change.

Consider the Orange Revolution in Ukraine: protestors overthrew an elected government (the vote certified as fair by domestic and foreign observers) with the aid of western intelligence agencies (working through various NGOs), resulting in a rise of neo-Nazi groups and civil war. It’s a story as common as dirt.

Social media can effectively mobilize public support, but that’s a snare. Not only do movements created by social media lack a leadership structure, their flat communications networks tend to suppress the rise of leaders. Social media networks center on nodes: people with connections to many other people. The skills needed to become a node are not those of leaders. Most of all a node is an individual, a leader is one who assumes some personal responsibility for the movement (that is the sine qua non of leadership).

Except when used by an organization, social media excels at creating mobs (especially flash mobs). As we saw with Occupy, mobs are easily misled into folly. As we saw with the Tea Party, they’re easily led to aims quite different to those they intended (born in opposition to bank bailouts, they helped elect the most bank-friendly Congress since 1932 (as Chairman Bachus explained).

What have we to show for the movements of the past decade? How many of the “Twitter revolutions” on the the following map accomplished much?

Continue reading

Women have won the gender revolution

Summary: This post on our series about the gender roles revolution looks at the result of the social and tech trends — women have won. They now have a competitive superiority in a wide range of factors, which is bringing them to dominance in US society. Changes take time to upset existing hierarchies, but the trend is unquestionable.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Gender equality

They talk about ‘a woman’s sphere’
As though it has a limit;
There’s not a spot on sea or shore,
In sanctum, office, shop or store,
Without a woman in it.

— Anonymous, from Jennie Day Haines’ Sovereign Woman Versus Mere Man (1905).

In 2009 I wrote a series about the coming gender role reversal — women on top of men (links below). There were also others seeing this coming. This insight went mainstream with “The End of Men” by Hanna Rosin, The Atlantic, 8 June 2010:

Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way — and its vast cultural consequences.

The more interesting fact is that this was seen first on the street — the wisdom of crowds at work (emphasis added):

… In the ’90s, when {biologist Ronald Ericsson} looked into the numbers for the two dozen or so clinics that use his process {sex selection}, he discovered, to his surprise, that couples were requesting more girls than boys, a gap that has persisted …  In some clinics the ratio is now as high as 2 to 1. … A newer method for sperm selection, called MicroSort, {has} girl requests … at about 75%.

… “It’s the women who are driving all the decisions,” he says — a change the MicroSort spokespeople I met with also mentioned. At first, Ericsson says, women who called his clinics would apologize and shyly explain that they already had two boys. “Now they just call and [say] outright, ‘I want a girl.’ These mothers look at their lives and think their daughters will have a bright future their mother and grandmother didn’t have, brighter than their sons, even, so why wouldn’t you choose a girl?

Her article is well-stocked with data and logic, which I will not repeat here. Read it. Better yet read her book The End of Men: And the Rise of Women. It’s not just that women are doing better (that’s a good thing), but that the absolute condition of men is deteriorating. People have been pointing that out for a decade, but it’s been shouted down by feminists until the numbers have become too dark to easily ignore (we’re still ignoring them; it’s just more difficult to do so).

Continue reading

Books to help us see the strange new world following the revolution in gender roles

Summary: To understand the strange future that lies ahead it helps to better understand our present and past. We can do that by turning to people who have written about these things. Here are some recommendations, books about our strange world to prepare us for an even stranger future.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

This isn’t our future, although we might have the flying car:

The Jetsons: a 1950s family of the future.

The Jetsons: a 1950s family of the future.

Books should be our first stop on our journey to see the future. They can help clear away the underbrush of falsehoods about our situation. They can explain the inescapable biological basis of gender in humanity. They can show us the mind-blowing range of sexual practices and family structures in world history (however strange the future, there are always precedents). They can point us to literature, where artists explore both the reality and dreams about our lives. Here are my recommendations, places to start amongst the vast body of work about this most interesting of subjects.

Book Recommendations

  1. The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are the Disposable Sex
  2. The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature
  3. Love and Friendship
  4. Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty
  5. Sex in History
  6. Pink Samurai: Love, Marriage and Sex in Contemporary Japan

(1) The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are the Disposable Sex

By Warren Farrell (1993) — So many of the assumptions of feminists are factually incorrect. Farrell gives us a list. You might not agree with every one, but this point is incontrovertible.  Summary from Publishers Weekly:

“Readers of this significant study will find that they haven’t lost the ability to cry after all. While some feminists may assert that it is an attack on women, the book attempts to show areas in which males operate at a disadvantage without claiming that women are responsible for their plight. Psychologist Farrell stresses economics, pointing out that the 25 worst types of jobs, involving the highest physical risk, are almost all filled by men. He also considers warfare, in which virtually all of the military casualties are men; the justice system, where sentences for males are customarily heavier; and sexual harassment, which has become a one-way street. He concludes with helpful advice on “resocializing” the male child, adolescent and adult.”

The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are the Disposable Sex is available at Amazon.

(2) The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature

By Matt Ridley (1993) — despite all our ever-growing technological power, we are anchored to our humanity by a billion years of evolution. Ridley doesn’t ask what happens when we can tinker with the biological essentials of our design.  Summary from Amazon:

Continue reading

Jihadists will prosper using the methods of America’s entrepreneurs.

Summary: How might the various jihadest organizations evolve during the next decade? They might follow the same path as emerging industries in capitalist economies, driven by the same forces of competition to to grow and innovate so that the best grow far larger than anyone imagined possible at their beginnings. We cannot imagine the details, but the general dynamics are easily understood. If so, the future holds many strange and perhaps terrible things. Our current policies, built on arrogance and ignorance — and above all on a refusal to learn from experience — might end badly for us.  (2nd of 2 posts today.)

This is a follow-up to Business 101 tells us what to expect next from jihadists: goods news for them, bad for us. The structure of the jihadist “industry” resembles that of other early stage industries entering their periods of rapid growth and innovation. Such as the automobile industry in the 1920’s, before the massive consolidation that took it from thousands of small companies to dozens of giants (Canada went from hundreds to zero), and the cutting edge sectors of the software industry during its many revolutions.

Jihad flag

This is a heavily paraphrased excerpt from Risk and Reward — Venture Capital and the Making of America’s Great Industries by Thomas M. Doerflinger and Jack Rivkin (1987). This passage discusses the automobile industry. I have substituted the jihadist “industry” and changed some of the text. However, the reasoning remains the same. Note that the quotes and numbers are real, from the author’s description of the early auto industry.

——————————-

An industry takes off

The jihadist industry resembles the classic high-tech industries (e.g., semiconductors, biotechnology). A few thousand dollars are all that is needed to start an insurgent group, and if it scored some early success more people and funds roll in. The flip side is that the industry is incredibly volatile, with fast-growing groups sprouting up and then shriveling like so many mushrooms.

As in the case of automobiles and computers, those outside the jihadist community are slow to appreciate its tremendous potential because they did not anticipate how rapidly it would improve in effectiveness. This is actually typical of both revolutionary industries and movements.

Growth

To be sure the jihadist industry has grown more slowly than its French counterpart. It took only 5 years for France to get from the calling of the Estate-General in 1788 to Robespierre’s Reign of Terror in 1793. The jihadist industry followed a more typical trajectory, from “criminals … who are willing to be guns for hire” (per David Petraeus, 9 November 2003) into a serious threat to the region’s regimes in only 11 years. The central reason for this superior performance is that as in the early days of automobiles and computers, no single company monopolized the jihadists. From the beginning it was a competitive free-for-all. They had a second and equally important advantage: local entrepreneurs run the groups, people who had faith in their revolution. The elites of the region, even their supporters, are rational, skeptical, and often wrong — and remain safely on the periphery where they could do little damage.

Continue reading

Why have our movies have become so dark, showing a government so evil?

Summary: The evolution of America has accelerated as we slide down the long-feared slippery slope leading to the end of the Second Republic (founded on the Constitution). Each event appears clear in the news, but the cumulative effect — the rise of a New America — is too large for us to see. For perspective let’s look at our heroes in print and on screen. Their foes display our fears; their relationship to the government reflects our relationship to it. We might pretend not to see what’s happening, but our mythical heroes see the darkness falling on us — and have changed accordingly in ways that reflect our weakness. When we decide to become strong again, we’ll find new myths (or reclaim the old ones).  {First of two posts today}

“People need stories, more than bread, itself. They teach us how to live, and why. … Stories show us how to win.”
— The Master Storyteller in HBO’s “The Arabian Nights”

Superman in handcuffs

“Man of Steel” (2013)

.

Our fictional heroes reflect our dreams of individual empowerment, along a gamut from James Bond to Superman. Less often remarked, some of our myths show our awareness that only through collective action do we have strength. In the real world unions, associations, and governments created the middle class and brought full civil rights to women and minorities. Many of our stories feature heroic organizations — such as the British Secret Service, Triplanetary, U.N.C.L.E, GI Joe, and S.H.I.E.L.D. Heroic individuals and organizations protected us against criminals and foreign powers.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E

No longer. The war on terror has revealed that our government might have become our greatest foe. On TV we see stories with ample precedents in history, but unimaginable to most Americans. President Obama personally selects America citizens for assassination, without formal charges or trial. The NSA taps our phones and monitors our emails. Police patrol our streets with military equipment (just like Fallujah), eager to use force (e.g., SWAT teams killing when delivering summonses).

Fiction often mirrors our fears and our view of the world. As do our films today. Soldiers take Superman away in handcuffs. SHIELD launches helicarriers equipped for surveillance and assassination. Government agents attack Captain America. Action adventures routinely feature government officials as the bad guys. The next sequence of Marvel films feature the Civil War series, in which the government regulates — forcibly enlists — mutants in its service.

The GI Joe team

In this world trust becomes rare. Heroes in TV and films are often told to “trust nobody” (e.g., in “The X-Files” TV show, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, and “Captain America: Winter Soldier”). Sometimes the moral of the story is the even more extreme “trust nothing”, with the usual exceptions of love — or friends and family. It’s excellent advice for peons. Taken seriously this prevents people from working together through existing organizations, which shatters even the strongest people into powerless shards. We become individuals and families helpless before the mega-corporations and government agencies that run our world, and helpless before the 1% that own it.

Movies and TV are our myths. Today they give us nothing to inspire people to work for social and political reform.

The missing link

Continue reading