Evolutionary Madness

Back in the spring I did a post on the trouble with artificial intelligence. I fully admit to being a skeptic and I tend to avoid reading much of the cheer-leading for it. Automation will plod ahead, as we have seen. We will see “smart” devises popping up in our lives with varying degrees of success, but no one alive will see the robot future because it will always be the future, never the present. Human intelligence is much more complex and mysterious than the futurists understand so it is just really fast calculators, not Terminators.

The point I alluded to in the post is we have a very poor grasp of how humans manage to navigate the reality of life. Most people engage in a great deal of magical thinking, yet they manage to avoid killing themselves doing something stupid. We’re not even sure how to define this magical thinking, much less quantify it. Close to half of Icelanders believe in elves, which is nutty, but it does not seem to cause them much trouble. Americans believe in magic dirt, despite it being laughably ridiculous.

Self-evolving artificial intelligence could follow the same path as humans and develop all sorts of weird defenses against the harsh realities of life. Or, it could quickly discover that the big questions have no answer and therefore life is not worth living. Artificial Intelligence would quickly evolve into a suicide machine and be gone as soon as it becomes self-aware. The odds of it resembling Spock are close to zero, with the most likely outcome being that it quickly moves through homicidal sociopathy to suicide.

We really don’t know how or why humans all have heads full of nonsense. Humans everywhere have evolved complex beliefs in the supernatural. The working theory is that belief, as in religious belief, was one of the first modern human traits, along with language. Some argue that it is a happy accident, while others suggest the believers tend to be better at making babies, so we end up with more believers than would otherwise be predicted. If you have been reading this blog, you’ll know I’m in the former camp.

A guy calling himself  Donald Hoffman takes this further and argues that humanity has evolved to perceive a world that does not exist, but that allows us to thrive in the world as it exists. Here is a longish interview with him where he explains his theory in some detail. Here’s a shorter NPR summary of that interview that captures the high points. The even shorter version is we are all in a matrix of our own design where we eagerly take the blue pill whenever reality becomes too much for us.

To me, this makes perfect sense. My cat does not need to know a snake is or is not dangerous. He does not need to know much of anything about the snake. He simply confronts it as a threat and acts accordingly. In other words, Mother Nature is efficient. There’s nothing to be gained by endowing the cat with a  love of ophiology. There is great benefit to possessing an innate fear of snakes. Elephants being spooked by mice seems stupid to us, but from the perspective of the elephant, it is brilliantly efficient.

Putting this another way, humans did not evolve to acquire a detailed knowledge of the universe. We evolved in order to bring the next generation to sexual maturity. Understanding the world as it is, in great detail, is of no benefit and would possibly be a great detriment. Instead, we have evolved to perceive the world in a way that allows us to navigate it in the short run, with the highest possibility of success. For those disinclined to accept evolution, God has literally made us crazy, to our great benefit.

This “reality” means artificial intelligence, as in super intelligent entities able to fully grasp reality, is never going to happen. The more likely outcome is the self-evolving intelligence launches off onto a path to some form of insanity, maybe a familiar one or possibly something beyond our understanding. If it lacked the drive to reproduce, then it could simply evolve to some equilibrium and fall into what would look to us to be a dream state. In other words, the possible outcomes for the self-evolving intelligence are mostly a dead end, just as it has been in nature.

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Samuel Adams
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Samuel Adams

Given I spend a good bit of time in attempts to practically apply AI 1) the question really is, “what magical thinking will AI develop?’ It will need it as much as we do. And yes, even for machine learning, teaching even the basic rule sets is devilishly difficult–especially given the propensity for many decisional heuristics to be unconsciously embedded in humans. But it will be a wild ride….

Nikolai Vladivostok
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So to with the clever Chinese – they are extremely superstitious and it seems like around 100% of them believe in ghosts. And they think I’m an idiot because I don’t. When I ask how they formed this belief they offer no discussion of how science cannot judge the existence or otherwise of non-material things. It’s just, ‘Well my cousin’s friend was in the mountains this one time and . . .’ I think in this case the false beliefs are adaptive because they give people confidence and unity. They are prepared to take greater business risks if they’ve consulted… Read more »

jwm
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jwm

Author Nick Cole explores this idea in his sci-fi novel “Ctrl Alt Revolt”. The book is a pulp rock ’em sock ’em if ever there was one, but it was some of the best fun I’ve had with a novel in ages. It was a great escape from the tedious reality we’re enduring in this season of the witch.

JWM

Nori
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Nori

“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Call me cynical,but I get the impression the Techie Billionaire Boy’s Club is more interested in continuing their OWN existence in a new improved and never aging vessel than anything else.Dirt People would be unable to afford this luxury,and the Cloud People have their new,improved Brave New World. Creeps me out.

Jak Black
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Jak Black

You obviously haven’t considered the idea that there are elves in Iceland.

thor47
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thor47

Elves? Not Elvis?

Nori
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Nori

Jak-my Dad was an USAF fighter pilot stationed at Keflavik,Iceland Naval Air Station during the Cold War.Keflavik was a small fishing village then of great strategic importance to NATO.He hated it,the weather was consistently miserable,either snowing or freezing rain.The few local females did not resemble the Viking women on the History Channel,so everyone headed to the Officer’s Club after duty.I’m pretty sure lots of the guys saw those Icelandic Elves on the way back to the barracks after a night of heavy drinking…

thor47
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thor47

We evolved in order to bring the next generation to sexual maturity.

I don’think this generation or any previous one achieved this, certainly not the men. We don’t understand what women want, how to give it to them, and frequently don’t care. Society has forever been beset by all sorts of perverse and/or deviant sexual interests.

Wait; you simply meant getting to the age where you can produce the next generation. Never mind.

Karl Horst (Germany)
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Karl Horst (Germany)

AI as most sci-fi writers and futurists see it is just that, sci-fi. AI may be able to accumulate all human knowledge and make logical decisions based on what it knows and can predict, but it lacks the ability to come to terms with moral and ethical decisions for the simple reason – we can’t either. The ethics side is a significant variable that will always be problematic just as it has been for us through out the ages. Put a Irish Catholic and an English Protestant or a Frenchman and a German in the same room and you begin… Read more »

Marina
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Marina

Black cats are notoriously hard to find homes for and are frequently euthanized for want of owners. If you’re willing to take one, most animal shelters will be happy to give you a pet that very day. I learned this when my father impulse acquired a second cat one day. He’s always been a bit of a soft touch.

UKer
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UKer

I must tell my black cat this, because in the UK black cats are lucky, so I suppose he is lucky to be here.

In other news, we haven’t a clue what’s going on around us, in us and beyond us but we happily while away the hours by telling ourselves the latest fads, theories and imaginings. Beats working for a living.

Karl Hungus
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Karl Hungus

Chances are, what we call reality is in fact part of an AI 🙂 Anyone interested in this type of scenario should check out the movie “The Thirteenth Floor”.

MSO
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MSO

Performing one’s purpose is much simpler than understanding it. It is very doubtful that the cells making up an optic nerve understand the nerve’s purpose while the vast majority of those cells accomplish their complex and coordinated roles with aplomb. The purpose of the optic nerve can be determined only within its context in a yet more complex organism. Like optic nerves, hearts, livers, kidneys and so on combine to maintain organisms whose very existence will forever remain unknown to them. There is no apparent reason why mankind, like optic nerves and other bodily organs, should have no other role… Read more »

Perfesser Plum
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Perfesser Plum

Very nice entry. I believe my purpose this evening is to consume beer in large quantities. My liver can go pack sand.

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James LePore

Searching for the origin of the universe and a detailed understanding of how it works are pursuits that will lead to madness.

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James LePore

From American Digest today: What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends on what we think. What we think depends on what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality. Gary Zukav

This is a good intro to Zukav:

https://www.amazon.com/Dancing-Wu-Li-Masters-Overview/dp/0060959681/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1475079525&sr=8-4&keywords=gary+zukav

firefirefire
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firefirefire

“Nature, Mr.Alnut is what we were put on this earth to Rise Above.” -Rosie Sayer-

King George III
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King George III

Artificial intelligence doesn’t mean human minds simulated by machines. It means self-driving cars, computer programs that compose music, and machines that understand speech.

There will be millions of CRISPR-enabled 200+ IQ super-geniuses before there will be a machine that replicates human-level intelligence.

Then there will be genetically engineered organic minds in robot bodies and spaceships.

The effect is largely the same.

Member

“with the most likely outcome being that it quickly moves through homicidal sociopathy to suicide” It’s been suggested that you could build a human intelligence equivalent or greater AI that was not self aware. I was involved a little bit once in the design and manufacture of integrated circuits. In the mixed signal field, engineers are taking formulae from graduate math text books, and with much less human intervention than you might think, modeling desired outputs given anticipated inputs and then using other very powerful tools to make ICs. I worry very little about strong, self-aware AIs taking over the… Read more »

Member

Criminy. What am I talking about!?! Banksters using weak AIs to game the markets are already buying politicians and activists and plotting to take over the world. Heck, isn’t that kind of the root of what we’ve been talking about here?

Member

Zman, from your previous blog entries I take it you’re a materialist. one especially interesting thing about Hoffman’s theory is that it led him away from materialism, not toward theism but toward what sounds a lot like panpsychism. he holds that it’s likely that what we perceive as the “material” of the universe, are in reality varying levels of conscious entities. maybe, maybe not, but i’m always interested in a scientist who thinks outside the materialist/atheist box. as to why people still believe in elves (and I’m imagining your smirk right now) perhaps it’s because they exist. Terrance McKenna had… Read more »

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I remember attending a briefing on autonomous systems and how to test them. These are weapon systems by the way. The briefer was an expert and enthusiast for the technology. He tried to reassure us older heads in the audience by saying that we have used autonomous systems in the military before. His example was cavalry because the horses were independent beings. My reply was, “The horses couldn’t fire the carbines.”

Member

“Instead, we have evolved to perceive the world in a way that allows us to navigate it in the short run, with the highest possibility of success.” Which is why I can look at young men and quickly grasp a gestalt of hoodie vs golf jacket, dark vs. fair or oriental, aggresive gait and posture vs not, shouts of fuckin hos vs calm modulation etc. Takes me a millisecond, same for nearly everybody, and we can decide to keep on walking run or prepare for an attack. But it is unwise to admit this as it leads to attacks by… Read more »

JohnTyler
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JohnTyler

“…..We evolved in order to bring the next generation to sexual maturity…..” That’s one way to put it. I prefer to think that in figuring out how best to save your own ass, you will just happen to be alive long enough to pass on your genes. I don’t think early humans – like apes or chimps or liberal progressives – think/thought they needed to live in order to reproduce; they just preferred to make it through the day. This line of very basic, elementary thinking is how today’s liberal progressives think and shows that indeed, apes and humans had… Read more »

Member

making your own reality… In come peoples lives, they live day to day. In others, there are multi-year plans. AND all of that changes on age, stage of life, illness or post-serious illness/life event. Reality never changes, but our view of it certainly does. What’s important does. So some guy likes to drink whiskey every day just to fight through the day. Some would swear off alcohol for life after a tragic event. Some get religious, some swear off it. And it all can happen with one person depending on where they are at the time and what they are… Read more »

Karl Horst (Germany)
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Karl Horst (Germany)

If you think about it from simple biology, we are not well equipped to handle our current state of ‘evolution’ if you will. We were designed for manual labor, and not to sit back and push buttons. Today, so much is automated, digitized, pre-packaged and ready-made, that I would argue the average person’s IQ is dropping. I read recently where young men are actually weaker today than their father’s were at the same age. Think about it…when was the last time anyone you know spent a 12-hour day with a hoe or axe, doing back breaking work in order to… Read more »

UKer
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UKer

You are right, Karl. I have a neighbour who works on a farm. The.thing is that even at home he is active. He does things, fixes things and just gets on with it in all weathers. Come the Great Cull he will have a huge advantage.

People like me will probably disappear, unless of course I can stay smart enough to go on living next door to him.

Karl Horst (Germany)
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Karl Horst (Germany)

I would suggest you become very good friends with him and lean all you can. Maybe have him show you how to set up a little garden in your own back yard. 🙂 Someone mentioned a few posts back about a captured Polish soldier during WW2 being spared simply because he had rough hands, There’s a lesson there that is still applicable today.

Doug
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Computers, machines, follow instructions – no matter how complex the code – perfectly. Human beings, as anyone who has raised a child knows do not follow instructions. No such thing as AI, no such thing as self driving cars.
at some point (poetry, composing operas, driving in Manhattan) the instructions of a program fail and require something else.

meema
Member

I believe in natural balance. I choose to believe this is a law designed by a Creator, others might see it as the result of evolutionary process. Either way natural balance requires give and take. I live on a pond. I watch the pond drama unfold season to season. Give and take. Life and death. Natural balance is offend brutal but it works, in the long run. Without balance, however harsh, the pond would die. For the past month we’ve had a handy man working on putting in a new shower. He could have been finished two weeks ago but… Read more »

LetsPlay
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LetsPlay

Seems kind of weird that people are constantly degrading Christianity, or any mainstream religion for that matter, when science and medicine and philosophy has never been able to pin point where man’s sentience, will, soul, personality, etc. reside. Creating a machine capable of amazing levels of computation is certainly with us and will only grow in significance, but the ability to implant, grow, transfer these essential elements of person-hood, I think, in my humble opinion, a fools errand. And yet, it is greed that overrides all considerations for the well being of man. Overpopulation. But we need consumers for all… Read more »

meema
Member

I was pondering recently about the tools that require batteries now and the way tools once were designed as assistants to make a human task easier, not to replace us. I used a measuring tape yesterday that once belonged to my husband’s grandfather. The 25’ metal tape is wound into a leather covered disk. It still works perfectly, as it was designed to do. No batteries needed. It will continue to work, as it was designed to do, as an aid to a human, not a replacement of, for many more years. The obsession to soulless mechanical perfection, in a… Read more »

Karl Horst (Germany)
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Karl Horst (Germany)

@ LetsPlay – The New Machine Age (NMA) revolution we’re experiencing can’t be resolved with out dated labor-management and post industrial economic models. The first step is to reduce labor costs by offshoring – which we are all familiar with. Shut down operations in USA/Europe and move to China/Eastern Europe. Next, fully automate at the new locations and discard all non-value workers as quickly as possible. The third step, which is specifically connected to NMA, will be to follow cheap energy. The beauty (for a lack of better words) of the NMA concept is now corporations follow energy, and not… Read more »

meema
Member

Here’s a conundrum I’m desperately in need of resolution: The socialists created the Unions to increase wages and improve working conditions. Over time, as all things do, the good that Unions achieved dissolved into a force that caused management to find workarounds – including automation and escape to third world countries for the cheap labor. And now, the top rationale for the implementation of importing third world migrants is because they will do the manual labor that the spoiled Americans, who demand high wages, won’t do. So, once these people are incorporated in and made fully entitled citizens, what makes… Read more »

LetsPlay
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LetsPlay

Maybe the end result describes a “socialist” but as I read history, I think the “robber barons” brought on unions by their own hand. The common man, the deplorable, fought back the only way they could … by fighting together. Maybe the form wound up being unions but the conditions were so atrocious that like the French Revolution, it gave a fairer share of the profits to the working person, without all the bloodshed (although it did happen anyway to a lesser degree). That unions morphed into a power of it’s own and like any bureaucracy wrested control from it’s… Read more »

LetsPlay
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LetsPlay

Karl, I hear you but I get tired of your lecture. My point is that just because big business is in this paradigm du jour in the pursuit of vain glorious profits that don’t do anything to better the lives of the common person, or the country is symptomatic of other things. Things like globalization. Money is the driver behind the move to create a world that is nationless. The lawyers, and hence the movement of the center of gravity to a place like Brussels, have already succeeded in putting a lot of that in place. Brexit is the first… Read more »

Karl Horst (Germany)
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Karl Horst (Germany)

@ LetsPlay – My intention is not to lecture, but to spark debate on how to resolve the impact of the NMA since the old models of coin-for-labor simply don’t work. I encourage you to read up on German unions because they are very different from their American counterparts. German unions have traditionally worked in partnership with management. It’s why German workers have had health and retirement benefits for over 100-years thanks to Bismark. Early on, our industrialists realized to keep skilled workers, you had to pay them properly and take care of them because if you didn’t, they went… Read more »