It’s Complicated

Anyone who has been through a change in software platforms for their company knows that it starts out as a lot of fun, but then turns into drudgery. Initially, thoughts of all the new stuff and better programs makes it feel like Christmas. Then the reality of going through every single business process of the company hits home. You end up re-thinking vast chunks of the company’s business processes, much of which is terribly dull, even though it is essential. It is the only way to get it right and take advantage of the new system.

What you learn from such an ordeal is that the company software system is the repository of the company rules that define how it exists. Over time, the rules changed and evolved and the software was changed to evolve with the company. There were upgrades and modifications. If the software is old enough, there were modifications to modifications and many hands doing the work, many of whom are long gone. More important, many of the processes were created for reasons no one remembers. It’s just the way it is done.

The people who like to argue that complex systems cannot evolve from simple systems have never worked with business software. All complex business software started as simple software. Over decades, it evolved into highly complex systems that even the creators don’t fully understand. Usually, in the case of enterprise systems, there are teams who specialize in one aspect of the system. They have created interfaces that the rest of the system uses to pass data or call functions related to that area of the system.

The reason that systems tend toward increasing complexity is that the world is not a fixed place. Even small changes can require significant changes in how a company does business. In a government regulated industry like food or chemicals, the government is always updating the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). That means regular changes to the forms that are printed or the data that must be captured. That, of course, means regular changes to the company software system. Over time, those changes add up.

Now, the people maintaining and modifying the software are not rewriting large swaths of it every time there is a change. They make small changes, the bare minimum, in order to keep costs down and get the change done quickly. That means they take shortcuts, hybridizing other functions and applying patches to existing code. It does not take long before this gets out of hand and even small changes require lots of thinking and planning.

It is good way to think about all of human organization. The company that started out as two people, but grew to one hundred people, is at least a thousand times more complex than when it started. Obviously, the small town that grew into a city seems infinitely more complex than when it started. Even your social circle can suddenly feel wildly complex if your circle of friends expands to include people outside your initial peer group. Complexity grows at a rate faster than the growth the organization. That’s an iron rule of life.

The people working in artificial intelligence are running into this same problem. Replicating even the most mundane human task requires millions of lines of complex code. What we take for granted as humans is actually quite complex. For the same reason no one person can understand the complexity of their small town, the creators of AI cannot understand the complexity of their creations. Algorithms to handle one small task get unwieldy in hurry once they are interfaced with other algorithms to handle other small tasks.

This is why the robot future is a lot further away than the futurists want to believe. The cost of labor to automate a warehouse is a grain of sand on the beach, compared to the cost and complexity of automating a highway. Just as important, the cost of maintaining it is orders of magnitude higher. As every business owner knows, just because something can be automated, the cost of doing so often outweighs the savings. Put another way, just because something can be done does not mean there is a reason to do it.

Putting aside the cost of complexity, systems often become so complex that they become unpredictable. Even in business systems, which are simple compared to the software for driving a car, the complexity can reach a point where no one truly knows what will happen if some change is implemented. The result is a whole new process for performing quality control, to make sure the changes do not have some unexpected and unwanted downstream result. There are now certifications for software quality control professionals.

This is often why legacy systems are replaced. It’s not the technology, although that is often a handy excuse. It’s that the old system has so many patches and mods that no one knows how it works anymore. New changes result is weird outcomes and costly followup changes. As is true with everything in life, things sometimes get so complicated that the best answer is to start over. It’s why men leave their families and why people change careers. It’s also why the people stand aside and let the revolutionaries topple the rulers.

That’s what a revolution is, when you think about it. It’s a lot like the decision to buy a new software system for the company. It’s not that what comes next will be better. It’s that the status quo is so complicated and unpleasant, anything has to be better. Of course, just a new software never turns out as expected, revolutions always turn out to be a lot more unpleasant than anyone imagined. Instead of firing the initial consultants, the revolution eats its own, by killing off the first group of revolutionary leaders.

Even so, it is something to think about as the West struggles to reform itself. The web of pirates, grifters, reformers and patriots within the ruling classes of the West has reached a point where no one understands what’s happening. That’s why official Washington remains in a state of emergency over Trump. It’s why the European ruling class is worried that they may be too lazy to fight their own people. Everyone knows that the system is not working, but no one has any idea how to fix and everyone is afraid to touch it.

It might be time for a new system.

104 thoughts on “It’s Complicated

  1. It’s a great analogy Z, and I agree with 100% of it.

    A topic you seem to shy away from is this, though: what SHOULD come next?

    Suppose you were one of the revolutionaries. You overthrow the current corrupt gubbimint, you survive the purging of the useful fools and cannon fodder after the fall, and you rise to a place of leadership in the New America: what would you do to make things better?

    • As much mass genocide and population transfers as I can until the UN comes and freezes the battlelines so that foreign companies can exploit our natural resources. Then it will be a mad dash to consolidate our identity when the enemies use the “Peacekeepers” to genocide us.

      • The king with half the East at heel is marched from lands of morning;
          Their fighters drink the rivers up, their shafts benight the air.
        And he that stands must die for nought, and home there’s no returning.
          The Spartans on the sea-wet rock sat down and combed their hair.

        A. E. Housman

    • Glen;

      If you are exceptionally lucky you might still have around those who ran the old simple system or enough knowledge of how it ran. Then you could ‘complexify’ it in a better direction.

      As a practical example, during the Cold War we still had to know how to use the pre-computer, paper-based backup for important information systems in case we survived the nuke strike. And this capacity often had to be demonstrated during exercises. Later on these skills were allowed to atrophy, what with cool graphics, the new world order and all that.

    • There’s a huge amount of discussion about the biological realities of race and Western culture and society.

      Well there also appears to be some biological reality around the size of human organizations. If anything is going to be reformed – that is going to have to be taken into account. Large centralized organizations are usually doomed to failure. The logic of the way the U.S. government was organized at the start – was an attempt to take this into account and prevent that aggregation of power.

      Another example that comes to mind is automobile manufacturers. When they want to go racing or they want to develop a new car that is not the same cookie cutter corporate product – they form SMALL teams to go off and do it.

      Same principle applies in the military in regards to special ops groups. They are always small.

      • Nuke the federal gubermint (figuratively) and let state gubermint take over the lost powers. Then people could migrate to the state they prefer. Power is devolved to the states for better government.

    • This is what I would do.

      Make the New USA Demographically 80% White by any means necessary. White here is European extraction only no other region

      Add a permanent limit to immigration with no more than 1000 persons per year from any area other than west of the Hajinal Line. Total maximum immigration will be 25, 000 per year otherwise and it drops by up to 90% in case of a population over 300 million

      Return to “Fault” divorce, limited suffrage (21 years old, own property at the minimum) and default male custody in case of divorce other than in extremis . Also no one can be made to take custody of a child not their own except by prior agreement . If a woman cheats on her man, she also loses custody as it goes to the bio dad or the state

      Return to a 21 year old adult hood and In Loco Parentis doctrine to purge Cultural Marxism from the institutions, Teach it to a kid (under 21) in any institution and you’ll get a life ban on teaching and 5 years hard labor. Do it again, 15 — 10 for repeat offender 5 for teaching a minor without a license, 3 times, life ….

      Make public degeneracy illegal getting 5 years hard labor, doubling each time . This includes porn, cross dressing and everything else but does not apply to licensed clubs , licensed prostitutes in houses or excluding porn here on Halloween . This means every medium except the printed word.

      Remove weapon laws. Anyone unfit to bear arms should be dead or in custody

      Regulate trade as needed (probably a lot) regulate work week (lower it as needed) and if needed allow welfare for married couples ,widows or the like only . The goal is that people can be born in, live in and die in one place no matter what global business concerns want . Lack of roots is civic suicide

      Eliminate the pill but subsidize other methods of birth control.

      This isn’t everything but it should fix most of the problems in afew generations.

  2. Democracy is proving a dead end of waste and corrosion. What should replace it is hard to say. Nevertheless, it seems certain that it will die by its own hand at some juncture. Universal suffrage sounds good as an ideal, but the short-term thinking inevitably attendant to it guarantees ultimate implosion.

    Your software analogy is on-point.

    • The legitimacy of the government comes not entirely from its collection of taxes, though that helps (no taxation without representation). It comes from the ability to pay its bills on time. The unelected Federal Reserve is the real power in the government, and the unelected judiciary is trusted more than the elected Congress to mediate disputes. Civil service protected State Department employees scuttled attempts by Trump to reduce tension with Russia, to say nothing of the mutiny in the intelligence agencies.

      • This is the key to understanding immigration and trade policies. Globalism is traditionally unpopular in elections, and Congress hasn’t cast meaningful votes on either issue since 1994 (all votes have been for show). We allow immigration and have low tariffs in pursuit of the geopolitical goals of the unelected foreign policy establishment. Flooding the country with H-1Bs is seen as the price of pacifying nuclear-armed India so it doesn’t go rogue internationally. That it helps out Big Tech and juices a real estate bubble is icing on the cake.

      • “no taxation without representation”

        Maybe we need to go back to
        –>no representation without taxation <–
        If you don't pay taxes, you shouldn't get representation either.
        After all, we've reduced citizens to mere Homo Economicus,
        so we might as well go full hog.

        The sticky part is that everyone pays some sort of taxes; even homeless psycho welfare bums pay sales tax on their cigs and beer.

        • “one man, one vote” is not mentioned in the Constitution, the Warren Court invented it out of thin air. A state could if it wanted to, for instance, allow foreigners to vote (one of the Confederate complaints), allow higher taxpayers to have multiple votes, or allow property owners not resident to vote. The poll tax is specifically barred by constitutional amendment, but the law could allow anyone who is delinquent on tax payments to be denied suffrage.

          • I saw something a while ago (and foolishly forgot to bookmark) that less than 5% were eligible to vote in Washington’s first election

        • If you’re part of the Free Shit Army and all the money in your pocket is the result of your EBT card being refilled every month – you’re not REALLY “paying taxes”.

          Money is simply a means of transferring wealth. It makes the economy a bit easier to deal with – when you want to buy something from Person A who has a car part he wants to sell – and only Person B wants to take the wheat you’re trying to get rid of – you don’t have to setup a convoluted cluster-fuck barter exchange to get the guy’s car part. The net effect though is still the same – everybody in the exchange must actually be PRODUCING something to be able to barter or exchange for money.

          If the local warlord forces you to give Person A some wheat every month to keep him alive – and he’s now “selling” you that car part that he “bought” from somebody else by exchanging the wheat you were FORCED to give him – the net effect that he actually contributes to the overall economy and wealth of the society is less than zero. Everybody would likely be better off if Person A was just dead, because then at least you wouldn’t be forced to support him any more.

          If I’m forced to send Juan Pablo $1000 every month to fill up his EBT card – and Juan Pablo goes down to the local bodega and buys $400 of lottery tickets, Jose Cuervo – and some cigs – his net contribution to the overall society is still less than zero. You – and everybody else -would still be better off with YOUR $1000 back in your pocket and Juan Pablo out of the picture.

          When people can’t even basic math and economics straight in their head and fully comprehend how badly they’re getting screwed by the left wing’s welfare mania – I find it extremely hard to believe they’re going to comprehend more esoteric things like how inviting in the diversity is going to make their lives worse sooner or later.

          Most people respond very quickly to what they perceive to be wallet raping. When they won’t even respond to that – I’m forced to come to the conclusion that they’re close to or over the line to being lost completely.

          • Massive borrowing reduces the need to raise taxes for the financing of welfare statism. The US would crack up if it had the kind of budget restrictions the EU imposes on its member states.

          • That’s not how urban reality works or has ever worked. Everyone in a city has their hands out for a cut since in a city everything except the air you breath must be paid for and that includes personal safety.

            The reason for this is all business done with strangers is transactional , that is I get something you get something . I don’t know you, I don’t know you

            The reality is rights as such are only agreements between people with kinship, frith or the like, or ones where the State is not motivated or able to take them

            They are not imposed by a God and do not exists in nature,

            Western Christianity allowed a certain amount of free social capital, free public safety and trust of course

            Heck you could call it transactional freeloading if you felt harsh but the West is increasingly post Western Christians and the bulk of humanity, the other 6.5 billion and growing are not like this

            This means you have to pay for everything now and this will make cities very expensive

            And note failure to do this can get you killed or maimed . A homeless man where I lived beat a person with a rebar club because he wouldn’t give him money. This cost his employer millions of dollars , they kept him on the payroll and the State tens of thousands and his insurance who knows how much in medical since the victim had brain damage

            OTOH arresting the vagrant might cost 10k per year or fixing the guy if possible, more.

            As you delay paying the bills, the roads crumble (D+ Infrastructure nation wide) schools rot and people die.

            There is no incentive for these people not to shit on the streets , kill or rob or arson. You don’t have any frith with them, they have nothing save their insane drug addled squalid lives to lose

            Now a combination of economic regulation and ethnic restructuring might allow some relief but long term, the US is almost certainly going to gradually collapse do to its complexity.

            Its not really avoidable when the national stocks is all the globes assholes though
            the way to slow this is to incentive everyone in and come down hard on non cooperators.

            This means though an end to young nation vitality the US had for so many ears and becoming far more like Europe which sucks.

            In the end, the real trust is if they don’t know you, they don’t owe you.

        • The homeless person, who indeed pays taxes on what he buys, based on the largess of persons who have chosen to gift him money from those us who contributed to society at large by being creaters of wealth indeed deserves to to be held as dignified as a human life. He does not deserve to vote himself a public pension. He has no right to vote himself a share of my money. If I choose to gift him some, regardless of whether I can afford it or not, that is my choice. That he can vote to steal it from me through taxation is immoral. He should be denied the right to vote.

  3. A key difference between humans and computer programs is that human brains become more efficient at performing a task over time, whereas programs always expand in complexity to perform the same task. In people, practice leads to using less energy to accomplish the same task, as the number of muscle as neurons use is reduce to the essential few. An obvious example is driving a manual transmission car. Initially it is very difficult, mentally and physically taxing, but quickly becomes seamless, happening at a subconscious level.

      • K. H.;

        Assuming you didn’t forget the ‘/s’ at the endow your post and are serious, anyone who has dealt with software systems knows that sooner or later software patches expand to consume the entire software maintenance bandwidth. Why_?

        Even now, computers can’t work with indeterminacy, period. There must be a single answer for every possible set of inputs allowed. So if you need to add an input for any reason* you must have a ‘state diagram’ that precisely defines the expected result, depending on all all other possible machine conditions (i.e. states): Gets outta hand pretty quickly.

        IOW, “Beats the cr@p outta me_!” is not an acceptable output from a software algorithm even though you might get by with from with a human boss.
        ______________________
        * What reasons for new inputs you ask: New law, new regulation, new product, new market, new country, new owner, new boss, etc., etc.

  4. Good analogy – in my industry we are also buying smaller competitors and it’s a long process to integrate their systems – so all the patchwork connections between different systems just get that much more tenuous. Whenever it looks like we have at least a road-map to an uniform system, a big merger is announced.

    Much of the complexity in government is intentional. Both as a means to punish those who fall out of favor with arcane laws and regulations – and to keep outsiders like Trump from entering politics and disrupting their grifting.

    • Bingo. Tyrannical governments make everything illegal, and then use prosecutorial discretion to selectively punish their enemies and not their friends. This is today’s “Justice” Department, FBI and “intelligence” agencies.

  5. I’d recommend James C. Scott’s Seeing like a State on this. It looks like heavy academic stuff — published by Yale — but it’s really not. He says that governments make these kinds of reductions all the time: “The state of Montana is 1 taxpayer per 500 miles,: Which is fine for its (very limited) purpose, but these reductions themselves become the basis of other, very different social policy. So you get lunatics like le Corbusier, with the full approval of the Indian government, herding hundreds of thousands of people into dysfunctional hellholes like Chandigarh. It’s fascinating.

  6. As a hated futurist, I don’t think that the next stage of automation will hit the “blue collar” or even many of the skilled trades. The low hanging fruit has already been picked. The next wave will hit education, medicine, accounting, law, engineering, and other certificate driven enterprises. As to what comes next in the organisation of people and governments I think communities will continue to divide themselves by tribe and succeed or fail based on their tribe’s abilities. The strong federal government model will continue to fall apart as edicts from Washington/London/Paris/Buenos Aires are ignored. I was recently in a meeting where the Federales were pushing the concept that the “city” is the economic engine of the region. Sure, once upon a time this was true, but no longer. You can live were you want and work remotely. If it wasn’t for government regs we would be seeing massive real world deflation (cheaper cost of living) across all sectors of the economy. If it becomes less expensive to not only survive, but to thrive, we work less. If we work less the Federales cut gets smaller and smaller.

  7. “The people who like to argue that complex systems cannot evolve from simple systems have never worked with business software.”

    I used to argue that complex systems have always evolved from simple systems;

    https://www.hedweb.com/bgcharlton/modernization-imperative.html

    But I was wrong – because, well, first complexity is a term that nobody really understands, because it isn’t a real thing that can be operationalised – so it cannot be made a primary term in any argument.

    Mainly, however, because of the role of human consciousness in the whole thing. Without consciousness is no knowledge – yet all analyses exclude consciousness – this comes from Owen Barfield’s Saving teh Appearances – which, assuming the argument is followed, is clearly, necessarily, correct.

  8. This is why the United States will inevitably split up – it’s too big, it’s too complicated, the people no longer share even residual values or interests, and the Federalism that the Founders counted on to buffer such differences has been destroyed because someone might be mean to a queer or something. The best outcome is a peaceful split, a al Czechoslovakia, and this is eminantly possible, as long as the Left thinks that it has something to lose in a Civil War (hence the capital importance of Americans staying armed). But peaceful or not, America will not be here as a united country by 2050, becuase its not really here as a united country now. The split has already occurred – it;s only a matter of recognizing and formalizing it.

    • The Baby Boomers seem to be the last true believers in The United States as it has been traditionally defined. Patriotism doesn’t seem to be all that high among Gen-Xers and even lower among younger generations. When enough Boomers have died, there could be an explosion of realism among common folks. Many people will realize exactly what you’ve pointed out — that large factions within this so-called country no longer share the values necessary to bind a nation together, the government has become too much of a leviathan, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, etc. Once enough folks understand that, various secessionist movements will spring up all over the place. My lone hope is that separation will come peacefully. You’re right to conclude that it’s inevitable. And 2050 seems a reasonable estimate as to when the current form of the U.S. will have ceased.

      P.S.: I miss the time when “mean to a queer” would not have qualified as a controversial expression. Peace!

      • Technically, I’m a Boomer, and yeah, I’m still patriotic, but the country I have those feelings for is gone, It’s like my deceased parents – I still love them, and hope to see them again someday, but on this plane of existance, they’re gone, and pretending otherwise is both absurd and pathological. Lots of my contemporaries are like Norman Bates – they have a dead body in their room that they are still frantically pretending is alive…

        • I’m not a Boomer, just a shade under 40 and I feel the same way. Even a slight glimpse of the shadow of once was and to hear the stories is enough to lament it. The Norman Bates metaphor sums it up nicely. Too many around continue to think that this will change if only, possibly, enough votes are cast the right way as they see it. No, the change has already happened. All that is left is to see what the futures holds and survive it.

    • yep – Federalism was a nice simple concept. Government governs very little at the top “federal” level and the most at the lowest level. The past century has really turned that system on it’s head and turned the federal government into a runaway train of complexity.

    • We don’t need a wall with Mexico. We simply need the will to punish those who enter illegally. Where we need walls are around California, New York and Chicago. I would love to live in the remainder of the country.

      • The “Wall” should be two barbed wire fences 50 yards apart and the willingness to shoot anything between them.
        Problem solved in 3 months.

      • Upstate New York is Redneck territory as is the High Desert of California and Jefferson

        Its more complex than you think.

        Also I’m not walling off the coasts and being pushed Inland by the coastals who sell out to China in a heartbeat

        In the end the Left can’t have political power whatsoever

        This means a peaceful split of all those Purple states which is like all of them even Texas where Houston and Austin are Blue isn’t doable,

        The Rights to understand that restoring the Republic requires an interregnum of at least 20 years of pretty rough but high quality rule. No running away, no “muh liberty” an iron hand on people and institutions till people pull their heads out of their asses

  9. Remember that the big demonstrations that finally brought down the DDR started in Leipzig, That’s an hour by train and or an hour and a quarter by car from Chemnitz.

  10. “The people working in artificial intelligence are running into this same problem. Replicating even the most mundane human task requires millions of lines of complex code.”

    Here you are making the assumption that AI software will be developed largely the way ordinary software is, by ppl writing codes. Under your assumption I agree with you. For AI to really take off it will have to write its own code. Making this step is the real key to AI taking off.

    This AI code taught itself to play the board game go. Then it became better than the software that beat the human world go champion. This is how AI could ‘explode’ in power; by getting to the level where it doesnt need us anymore to improve drastically.

    https://www.theverge.com/2017/10/18/16495548/deepmind-ai-go-alphago-zero-self-taught

    • Flying cars are vastly more simple than self-driving cars. We don’t have flying cars, yet everyone just assumes self-driving cars are right around the corner. Most streets in America are strewn with potholes. Bridges are all in need of repair. If we cannot maintain the old system, how likely are we to support a new, vastly more complex system for self-driving cars?

      But, futurism is popular because it means avoiding the present. This is the subtext of today’s post.

      • “Flying cars are vastly more simple than self-driving cars.”

        No they are not but that’s b/c of physics, not computer science. A flying object heavier than air is in a physically extremely unstable position. Something that rolls along the ground, is not. If you off power, the former will crash, the latte will, generally, just stop moving. Add to this a near zero tolerance for failure. There is a reason driver is an unskilled blue collar profession (I KNOW there’s a lot of skill in driving but I m talking perception here) and pilot is one step up the status ladder from physician.

        About potholes (I know, I used to live in New York, the richest city in the world, not that you would know in most neighborhoods) and bridges, true. But I think this is entirely different; that’s the culture collapsing in front of your eyes. Maybe potholes are the national equivalent of the office worker stopping to shave, iron his shirts, press his suits etc, ie stopping ot take care of himself in a way that suggests a deeper mental problem.

        I ll say one other thing about potholes and stuff. I wear my Indophilia on my sleeves, I dont ask you guys to share it but while I dont say theyre white, mentally I htink they are the closest to Mediterranean origin whites Ive ever experienced. Bangalore is as dirty, chaotic, potholed, open-sewaged etc, you ll ever find. But they make some of the world’s best software in that city. Mumbai (Bombay) same story, but they make more films than Hollywood. And if you think they’re cheap 60s style stuff, enjoy this scene (I do love epic antiquity war movies). You could have pot holes outside the most fantastic AI lab in the world and it need not mean a thing. In fact if NYC stopped being chaotic that’s when Id really worry about it. https://www.videoman.gr/en/97937

        Back to AI; in a way I think it is fair to say that you dont believe we will ever really get to self-coding algorithms and I personally believe they are where real AI begins. You may be right although I think we are getting there already. But IF we get to self-coding algorithms, you can see how this could really take off. I admit that for now I am indulging in conjecture but I am only projecting a strong trend from the mid ’00s and I dont think I m projecting very far here.

        Point taken about futurism as escapism. But AI I do believe in. And I fear China may come to dominate it. And then they’ll be our lords.

      • Futurism is part of the Progressive religion as vs things always get worse which is a far more Conservative view.

        That aside reading Greer’s articles and white paper on theory of catabolic collapse is a must for anyone on the dissident right

        https://www.resilience.org/stories/2011-01-20/onset-catabolic-collapse/

        This theory very much fits what is going on in society right. The worst thing though is that once you understand what happened you’ll realize how maliciously stupid our elite are . Every policy choice increases complexity

      • If you are right AI is impossible. But I think we actually know that you are not, by two ways; the vertebrate brain exists and if we assume no religious, ie outside physics/chemistry, reasons for its properties, it proves that such systems are possible. And, we have computers that actually learn. Such as the link I gave of a computer that learned to play go and then went on to beat the software that beat the human champion. That is learning. So it is possible.

        I believe you guys are behind the curve on AI. The next few decades will show who’s right here.

        • Moran, “assum[ing] no religious, ie outside physics/chemistry” is a big assumption for a terminus a quo for the vertebrate brain. Why should such an assumption be warranted by anyone but a self-professed materialist? Materialism is ultimately grounded in a belief just as surely as theism because it is logically impossible to prove a negative. Your subsequent argument for the success of AI is unconvincing because of the weakness of your fundamental assumption.

          • My asssumption, as stated above, is limited to the properties of the vertebrate, including human, brain’s properties being possible within the confines of what we could consider physics/chemistry (and probably math/logic/comp sci). I dont find that to be a weak assumption but I could see why religious people would think so.

            I had not previously considered this but some may feel that their religious views force them to assume that AI is not possible. That is not the discussion I am most interested in but I am not personally sure if AI will, or in extrapolation of current technology forms used there, can, lead to actual ‘intelligence’. It MAY ‘only’ lead to self-editing/optimizing algorithms which would itself be a quantum leap in the power of computers.

            One should not judge AI by the most extravagant predictions by ppl who may not themselves really understand what it is about. But it seems very likely to be very, very big.

  11. Oh dear Gaia. You can’t get even a few paragraphs into that Guardian article *putatively about coding software* before the poz starts… about how software is written by mostly affluent white and Asian men.

    It’s a demon-haunted world for Lefty, with white devils under every stone.

  12. Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana.

    As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all the other monkeys with cold water. After a while another monkey makes the attempt with same result, all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water.
    Pretty soon when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.
    Now, put the cold water away. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs.

    To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted. Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. the newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm. Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs he is attacked.

    Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

    After replacing all of the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana. Why not? Because as far as they know that is the way it has always been done around here. And that, my fellow monkey, is how policy begins………

    • Better find a different animal for your analogy before you’re called a racist. But soon that new animal will be perceived as racist. And the next. This will continue until no one remembers why all these animals are banned from polite discussion,

  13. There was a guy, Francis Cianfrocca, who used to be a podcast guest on a now defunct show. Always interesting and well-connected to Wall Street (but also a real programmer), one of his jobs was running a software company doing lots of high end work, some of it classified.
    At any rate, he also remained highly skeptical of the AI hype and the automation buzz. He pointed out we really don’t understand human cognition very well. There is something fundamentally different between it and how we make machines think. There’s even a thermodynamic basis for his suspicions. He noted that the machines which can finally beat world class chess champions consume enough energy to run a small town, while you can get a Kasparov to function with a pastrami sandwich and a cup of coffee. Biological mentation is radically different.
    The other thing he noted that rang of truth was that humans think their way through life by cutting corners. Somehow we solve problems by being able to ignore superfluous data. In a strange way, less is more when it comes to human cognition.

    • “When the cost of just keeping on running is higher than the benefits provided by the system the collapse is innevitable”

      Edit: “the cost to the majority” obviously even in the best system there will be some who pay in more than they get out but when then ratio hits 50%+ it’s game over

      This might be the true even if subconcious reason for brining in all those migrants as they will be net-beneficiaries of the system they will drive the ratio of takers-to-makers up thus lowering the total dissatisfaction with the system and prolonging it’s life.

      • There may be a point where people accept that turning over the tables and starting over will be difficult and make for hardship, but given the current situation, the process will be worth it. My gut says that a lot of people have recently reached the point where that way of thinking is front and center.

  14. Human groups – and the organizations they generate , appear to be subject to some biologically based rules.

    ————

    Dunbar’s number:

    Dunbar’s number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships—relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person.[1][2] This number was first proposed in the 1990s by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who found a correlation between primate brain size and average social group size.[3] By using the average human brain size and extrapolating from the results of primates, he proposed that humans can comfortably maintain only 150 stable relationships.[4] Dunbar explained it informally as “the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar”.[5]

    —————–

    Gary North has talked about this group size limit in relation to the size of church congregations – he has noticed that somewhere around the 150-200 number many church congregations split:

    —————-

    https://www.garynorth.com/public/15570.cfm

    Much the same can be said of churches. They are small. They stay small. Over 90% of American congregations have fewer than 200 members. The megachurch of 2,000 members or more is a statistical rarity. This means that the mega-church is not a valid model for the local church. It is legitimate, but it is not typical. He who begins his ministry with the goal of becoming the pastor of a mega-church is analogous to the man who sets out early in life to marry a local beauty pageant winner. Such a quest is valid but unwise. The odds are that the man will either alter his expectations or else remain single.

    ——————-

    I saw a Youtube video the other day on a chimp troop in Africa that was very violent and expansionist. The did mention that the initial troop size was around 145 members:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQn1-mLkIHw

    Maybe the rule even extends to primates…………………….

    Just like there are some biological realities to culture – there are also apparently some biological realities around human organizations.

    I’m sure there’s a rule somewhere out there that the larger an organization becomes – the more tyranny must be applied to keep it all working. Otherwise the natural tendency to break into smaller groups will surface.

    • In anthropology, it has always been assumed that hunter-gatherer groups were stable at around 150. Beyond that, the group would split and form two new groups.

        • I get a little claustrophobic after more than 100 commenters on here. Maybe that’s why Taki shut us down.

      • Almost exactly the same number range I’ve seen mentioned in regards to church congregation size.

        I believe the group size issue is something that the lefties have very consciously sabotaged when it comes to the way the House of Representatives is structured. The rule restricting the amount of reps to 435 didn’t come about until 1913. Right in the midst of the “progressive” era. Income tax also came in 1913 and direct election of Senators also came in 1913.

        These things fundamentally changed the structure of the Republic we used to have. The restriction of the House to 435 members is important – because I believe it is directly tied to that Dunbar number effect. Past a certain point – there is a number of people you simply cannot “know”. I don’t know what the number is – I suspect it’s maybe up in the 30,000 to 50,000 range. Many towns in this area are in the 30k range. As a mayor or town rep it’s possible to get a good sense of what the *general* sentiments are of 30K people – but somewhere north of that – the connection breaks. I believe the break comes somewhere well south of 100k.

        What do you get once you break that connection? You get a rep who isn’t really connected to the people. Which of course perfectly suits the needs of the government. You also get a very controllable group. Controlling 435 people is a hell of a lot easier than controlling say 2500. 2500 might be a mob – but it at least has a better chance of “representing” the people’s interests. One advantage of a mob – is that nothing gets done. They might debate and debate and debate and then accomplish nothing. Sturm and Drang isn’t a bad thing when the alternative is that they actually get something done – and screw over the entire country in the process.

        I believe the progressives knew damn well what they were doing when they restricted at 435 seats. They were getting control of the House and sabotaging it’s true mission.

        If we’re going to fix things – we need to be cognizant of the corruptions of the past because they’re on the road we’ve traveled to get where we are today.

    • This also explains why socialism doesn’t work. Beyond 150 members in the group, you lose the ability to police the lazy from those truly in need.

    • calsdad, your church anecdote really only works for Protestant groups, particularly those heavily based on Scripture. It may be that groups larger than 150 simply cannot cohere around a specific pastor’s interpretational style. In comparison, most Roman Catholic parishes are 1000+ families. But they literally have communion through their belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. It isn’t as crucial to their fellowship that they all know one another and tend to agree with each other. That may be why you see Dunbar’s number kicking in at the non-essential stuff for Catholics, like Bible Studies and coffee and donuts after Mass. Alternatively, it may explain the proliferation of smaller auxiliary groups like the Knights of Colombus and the Italian Catholic Federation where it’s rare to see a large amount of cross-membership.

    • Z, and readers.

      What would be a great label for our current “deep state” reality building on this label?

      _______ debt

      One potential theme is legislative debt.

      Consider the sheer # of laws, and rules, and regulations that have been passed at every level of government. Trump’s point of taking away 2 every time you add 1 is a good start, but perhaps the rule should have been take away 5 for every 1 added.

      Odds are every time you step outside the door you are breaking some existing rule without knowing it.

      Everyone can be convicted of something when the deep state armed with hundreds of years of legislative debt is duly motivated to f* you.

  15. It has always been my contention that the optimal population for the United States should be 100 million.

    • I can vouch for the fact that things were a lot better at 200 million than they are now, so 100 million might be even better.

        • I still think it’s a quantity AND a quality issue.

          I was a kid when the population was in the 200 million range.

          As a young adult the population was already up at the 230 million range – but my recollection was that things were a hell of a lot less congested and stifling than they are now.

          So I’d have to agree that things were better back when there were less people.

          • How about the incredible population growth in Florida?

            Its one reason why I am souring on the idea of ever retiring or semi-retiring in the sunshine state, much to my wife’s chagrin as we have some family in Florida.

  16. Respectfully Z, you misapprehend AI and erroneiously cast it into the explicit programming realm. We don’t actually require more than a few dozen expert rules, or lines of code if you will, to achieve a result that benefits humans and faithfully mimicks a subset of their behaviors. I can actually teach a tanker aircraft to fly itself with zero human involvement well under a million “lines” with acceptable risk. You’re in good company though, not many folks do a PhD in computer science with emphasis on AI then get a law degree and represent AI companies on the bleeding edge as their patent lawyer. Which keeps me busy.

    • A few lines of code? Each calling how many lines of code, calling how many lines of code? If you don’t talk down to us, we won’t talk down to you. Deal?

      A great place to learn about the limitations of AI is this blog by Filip Piękniewski:

      Check out AI winter for example.

      http://blog.piekniewski.info/

      There are some amazing things deep learning algorithms can do that are well beyond mimicking humans.

      #2 on the list is a great visual example

      https://medium.mybridge.co/30-amazing-machine-learning-projects-for-the-past-year-v-2018-b853b8621ac7

    • I don’t respect the idea of AI, but here’s my wooden nickle. Your post is honest and straightforward, I grant, but many who will board your train do not want to faithfully mimic human behavior as much as they want to replace it. Improving over human behavior invariably reduces the quality of human behavior. Standing aside all issues of A! practicality, If our present lords and masters oppose rather than support AI I will rethink my position. Whose tool would this ultimately be?

      • “Whose tool would this ultimately be?”

        The way things are going right now, China’s tool. Would you prefer to be run by arrogant ppl in DC or would you rather be run directly from Beijing.

      • AI may or may not happen. But there are a lot of bright and very twisted geeks trying very hard to create it. They may create something, but it will probably be evil by our standards judging by the people who now run Big Tech,.

        And Big Tech does not have our well being in mind at all. In fact they hate us and want us dead and gone. I could see them using some sort of AI they think they can control to drop the hammer on us and the old men in D.C.

        Even if Big Tech wasn’t full of sociopaths and other crazies. AI is not something we should mess with.

        Look at where 50 years of Silicon Valley progress has gotten us. Big Brother on steroids. They know pretty much everything about you. Where you sleep, drive, visit, talk to, etc. Orwell’s IgnSoc has nothing on today’s surveillance state.

        • That’s an extremely valid concern. The problem is that AI looks to be a transformational technology and that leaves you no choice but to embrace it, frankly b/c your enemies will. I can explain it like this; my moniker comes from my time in Africa. There the Maasai tribe confronts lions and other dangerous animals with spear and sword. This impressed me enormously and Ive been interested in spear hunting ever since. But, if someone came after me with a gun, I would be dead or have to rely on unrealistic amounts of luck to beat him with a spear, especially in repeated encounters, the same surprise tending to wither fast. In other words, if I have enemies who use guns, I will need them myself, the old school wont cut it.

          AI could be the same thing, only in more abstract, general and complex settings.

    • “Respectfully Z, you misapprehend AI and erroneiously cast it into the explicit programming realm.”

      Yup. If you have to code new input into it, it is certainly not doing AI. Once codes start to ‘write’ themselves, that’s when something like AI might be possible.

  17. That article, like all Guardian articles, is garbage. A few points of order:

    1. The “algorithms” for AI are actually very simple and well-understood. The reason they are somewhat unpredictable is that the *state* they end up in is the aggregate of millions, maybe billions of data points and thus extremely opaque. Trying to predict how an ML algorithm will behave in a specific scenario is like trying to infer information about individual humans from population statistics. It can’t be done with certainty, only with a degree of probability.

    2. The Uber incident appears to have happened because they used an absolutely retarded design. An AI driver, like a human driver, should never EVER assume that any road hazard is going to move out of the way! If it’s in your way, you either go around it or stop. From what I understand, the failsafe in self-driving cars is supposed to be to STOP (or pull over safely) when the system can’t recognize something or orient itself – just like a human would do. I’m not surprised that Uber would cock this up, given that they have no actual experience with AI as a corporation and are way out of their league on such a high-tech project.

    3. Certifications for QA/QC have largely made the industry worse, not better. They’re analogous to the awful PMP and friends. They look at difficult, high-skill jobs requiring creativity, wisdom and conscientiousness, and take a steaming dump on them by condensing them down to a set of rote procedures that can be outsourced to India for pennies on the dollar. Wondering why quality sucks so much these days in both software and retail? That’s why.

    And a bonus 4. revolutionary politics are leftist politics and only ever produce more leftism. If you look at the past history of what we might call restorations (the right-wing version of a “revolution”), they never involve hordes of people screaming and rioting in the streets, unless it’s in the context of them being gunned down with grapeshot.

  18. Another issue which suggests itself is the fact that as our society becomes ever more complex, it requires ever greater intelligence to make it work. However, as a recent study shows, despite our need for an intelligent population, ours is getting duller. Chaotic areas like Baltimore and Chicago are a case in point. And the more intelligent are leaving for areas where things work.

    • The look on Dr Forbin’s face (played by Eric Braeden) when he realizes every aspect of his own life is being watched 24/7 is chilling. Those unintended consequences are a bitch.

      • In a way Colossus is already here. But it’s not one system. But a network of systems. Google, Ebay, Apple, Youtube, 23 and me and Amazon all share data and with uncle Sam.

        Say you have a cell phone, wireless internet, GPS on your car and a Alexa(or Google Home) in your home.

        You are monitored 7×24 no matter where you are. Your phone and car track your location, both can listen in on you. They can figure out who you visited and for how long. When you shop in a store like Target, they know what isles you stayed longest and can infer what products you are interested in.

        Foolish enough to get a Google Nest Cam IQ or similar product? The company can see who is home and what they are doing.

        Google openly admits to reading your email, scanning your pictures to determine what you photograph and interests are.

        If you’re dumb enough to send your DNA to 23&Me, Google gets the data as well.

  19. Darn straight it’s complicated. The longer you have been in “The Honorable Resistance” the more the actual living practice of becoming as self reliant, self determining, and removed from the complexity of the modern world becomes short of outright violent revolution, the only viable and practical way to peacefully defy and reject that modern world.
    There are very few choices here. It’s not rocket science the world is about to go down the crapper. But it is a mystery because no one knows when or what black swans show up.

    The Honorable Resistance has features to it which are proactive even though the idea behind it is in part defensive, the other is more features which lend themselves to the excellent old Boy Scouts motto, “always be prepared”.

    So why not join? Learn new skills. Grow your food. Get right with The Lord. Build family/tribe/community. Pay less or no taxes. Become debt free. Homeschool your kids. Become proficient with weapons and small unit infantry tactics. Build a home business through skilled handcraft or mincraft work. Go off grid with power, water, food, heating. What really do you have to loose rejecting the complex modern world? Resist. Train. Defy. Live. Thrive.

    Our Founders did no less. They had no choice if they where to be Freemen of The West. It worked well. The colonial period of America has no equal in crafts, industrial revolution, philosophy, classic schooling, political science, culture, history, traditions and legacy.
    And all of it was self validating. Like Alt-Right. Which everyday is validated by events and crisis, history and science.

    And if your to read my words here and say resistance is futile or other lame defeatist negative statement, you validate who and what I am, for I am of The Honorable Resistance, Freemen who have done these things above and not only are we survivors, not only do we pass on the ways and traditions of Liberty lived, but we thrive. There’s hundreds of thousands of us, and each day more and more say yes it may get that bad, so why not join The Honorable Resistance.

    All it takes is change your thinking and hard work. But how is that different than any other day? Finding the rest is easy from there.

  20. Of course, that’s the whole point of the market economy (or the internet). I don’t have to understand how the internet works. I just have to know how to get my application to load on AWS and figure out how to get AWS to present my application as https. I don’t have to know how an automobile works or what it should cost; I just have to get the salesman to sell it to me at a price sufficiently below retail that I can retain my bragging rights with my buddies.

  21. Free market libertarian economics was supposed to give us a way to get complex, over-arching rationality from simple sub-systems pursuing their rational interest. We may have underestimated the sophistication required of the sub-systems – the humans – involved. Race and culture matter, big time.

    Well, something analogous is probably the difficulty with general purpose AI. It needs great sub-systems. Functional programming and thoughtful toil on the basic building blocks might be the race and culture of an AI.

  22. “It might be time for a new system.”

    I think future historians will record that we passed the tipping point sometime in the last decade or so. Civilization and technology have wrought the explosion of complexity that is our obvious bane, but the lesser recognized problem is that we are rapidly deteriorating as a species and becoming less robust. If we don’t fix that problem, better leadership alone won’t be enough to right the ship.

  23. Great analogy. The manufacturing company for which I work as a designer in the engineering dept. has recently switched to a new ERP software that promises to integrate all aspects of our business, sales, accounting, engineering, purchasing, manufacturing engineering, parts routing, production scheduling, warranty and repair, and production. Wow! What a mess.
    Granted, as per your analogy. The software we were using was antiquated. We could no longer update it as we had made so many changes to it that we could no longer update it without incurring thousands of hours of in-house modifications. And the only employee we had who could attempt it has gone overseas on missionary.
    Our new software is horrible to use. It has a terrible user interface. Not intuitive at all. Some of the the interfaces I use have 25 unique tabs, of which I use only 4. God forbid I click the wrong one, which brings up 12 or 16 or 25 new tabs, which have different names for the the same things I need than the correct tabs.
    Now. I’m a bright guy. Not a slug. I can find my way back.
    And I have a manual to guide me back to the right place should I get lost.
    We have a lot of really great, bright welders and assemblers at our factory. A lot. I work in the Midwest. They want to put out great product. Most of them have a HS diploma, not all. Some have secondary degrees. But they all struggle with the new software. Will they learn it? Sure. In time. But it will take time.
    Is the change a good thing? Yes. In time. But at the same time it is frustrating and scary. And I have thought several times over the last few months that one couldn’t find a better way to bring a great company down than changing the way its people interact with software .
    Now this brings me back to the original intent of this article. Does the US need change? Not so much. The Constitution of these United States is the most perfect governing document in the history of EVER. It limits the power of the Federal government. It grants power to the states. And it promises to limit its power over the peoples personal lives.

    • Good Lord, man, did you just return from Alpha Centuri? Jefferson would rip his name out of your handle and light the next revolution with it. Blood of tyrants. This republic ended in 1861, and the Constitution with it. The single founding member that would not despair of this hash would be the dandy Jamaican bastard who got himself shot for running his mouth.

  24. This post was great. It reminded me of an interview on NPR with a woman tech-philosopher. She held much the same view as Z and others about the dangers of AI. But she was incredibly boring and wouldn’t say anything like Z just did. She spent the entire interview almost arguing against her own case. She was in the universe of NPR and was self-conscious about sounding like a prole who just doesn’t get how amazing it all is. She’d start out every response with a tedious qualifier, and only at the end she’d tack on a bit of her truth-to-power. Liberals may have been “badasses” in the 50’s and 60’s, but now when they try and talk truth to the system they sound tepid. “I’m with you guys, but can I please just say one thing? I’ll do it really weakly I promise.”

  25. I worked as a debugger in a multinational telecommunication company. And this is 100 percent correct.
    I fixed modules that were written before I was born. No documents. The last guy who worked on it is either retired or dead. Noone living has any idea on how it worked when it was working.
    After I fixed it. Same truth. It’s working now. Still have no idea what it does. Noone does and noone cares.
    The bosses don’t care as long as it works.

    This is why I don’t worry about Google. I’m pretty sure it’s going to become self aware and eat it’s owners to the surprise of everyone.

  26. I go to my local, family-owned supermarket (not bodega, but customer base heading that way due to location), and they are running on Windows XP.

    I am the owner of a small business and we are running our network and all software on Windows XP. The programs we use for our business every day get the job done just fine and have done so for almost 20 years. If MS, etc. find a way – besides leaving us exposed to hackers (and I wonder how many they may equip to crush us legacy users at some point…) – to steal back the software we bought and use… we’ll be forced to “upgrade”. As in waste thousands of dollars and tons of manhours, not to mention lost business … with a learning curve that is 100% not necessary.

    Me, I figure soon will be the time to run our core business tasks on offline computers – using the ‘old’ software suite. And for tasks that require online access, use a separate computer(s), with the two boxes literally FIREWALLED from one another … by the former not being connected to the internet. I built all the machines on our network and do all the troubleshooting myself.

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