A Philosophy of Computational Absolutism
computers are important and stuff, right?
We’re moving to a world where ones with the most computing power win everything forever.
Today we see the rise of death-by-carbon coins and foreign interests manipulating US politics, but the situation is just going to get more confused over time.
How bad can it get?
Ultra Rich Are Ultra Maxed Out
We’re already in a world where money is meaningless for the ultra-haves. Rich people have no idea what to do with their money anymore except use it to buy more money as fast as possible:
- Single VC fund raising $6 billion
- Softbank is spending their $100 billion fund so fast they want another $100+ billion
- GM buys a two year old company for $1 billion
- Apple will soon have $300 billion in spare cash sitting around with no productive use
Where does Computational Absolutism come into play?
Computational Absolutism defines the social and political repercussions of introducing global scale computation into legacy human-speed systems.
A Computational Absolutist believes those with computers make the rules.
When computation enters markets previously powered by dumb processes, for example anything involving too much human-human coordination, all rewards will soon go to the new computational entrants.
Not all outcomes are rosy though.
We saw Russia’s anti-democracy government arm effectively hijack global election narratives in their favor using global social networks. Instead of using reporters as gatekeepers for reporter-citizen information dissemination, Russia saw they could send their troll army directly to citizens through social networks and ranked site aggregators. Disturbingly, social networks had no admitted mechanism in place to monitor a massive influx of centralized disinformation directly targeting specific populations.
We saw Russia do all of their 2016 (and continuing into 2017) manipulation using a combination of day job human trolls and really dumb spam bots. What happens when baddies fully automate an information assault individualized to each and every recipient’s trigger prejudices? Society-level humans don’t have in-brain information defenses. They don’t guard against bombardment with lies every hour of every day for six months—they just give in and believe it.
The ultimate achievement of Computational Absolutism is the realization of a generalized self-improving AI system. The first organization to unlock computational intelligence will hold leverage over the world economy at scales never seen before.
Imagining the end of society through computational collapse is boring though. Let’s back up and consider what the world will look like just a few years before.
Before the ultimate goal is reached, what else can Computational Absolutism involve?
Under the mantle of “computation makes might makes right,” you’d think current computer megacorps with over 2 billion users would use their considerable leverage to generate more good in the world. You’d think they would stop evil politicians by stepping up and saying, “No, you are destroying the planet and violating human rights. We are disabling Google and Twitter and Amazon and Apple for all government use until you stop being evil.” You’d think so, but instead, we get “Oh, you want to use our platforms to organize your nazi rallies and government-authorized propaganda? We love user engagement and are ethically blind to all use cases!”
Though, belief in people who wield computers having ultimate power of society falls apart when compared against the inept political maneuvering of today’s computational megacorps. There’s a difference between having power to fix the world and actually deciding to use your power.
Between today and the ultimate computational endpoint, what influence will adept users of computation wield?
Employer consolidation will continue to happen as we see today. Companies like uber and the various on-demand delivery services centralize employment due to the organizational ability of computer-human dispatching. How many other employer-contractor arrangements will be massively centralized?
We see weird attacks like WannaCry exploiting interconnected systems, but the exploits are still fairly passive. What happens when a traveling automated attack has the knowledge of an expert pen tester and a payload of 5,000 exploits at its disposal?
Media will become infinite and dangerously engrossing. Imagine instead of waiting two years between a release of ten episodes for a popular show, you had ten new computer generated episodes a day at the same quality of 2-year long releases? Imagine a Harry Potter series releasing one new high quality book every day without end. You could attention DDoS entire societies based on exploiting their wants as efficiently as possible.
Competition will continue to collapse as service providers with computational proficiency out maneuver lesser competitors. Markets will end up with one 90% dominant firm then a scattering of secondary lifestyle brands catering to niche markets.
Does a belief in Computational Absolutism help you in any way?
You could try to pick employers well suited to become computationally dominant, but they won’t have the labor needs of legacy employers.
You can attempt to start computationally dominant firms.
You can retain optimism by hoping computationally responsible firms will be kind stewards of the world.
You can espouse pessimism by realizing firms will use their influence to drain all resources for their own enrichment instead.
You can hope social networks will figure out how to moderate global data feeds faster than propaganda farms can inject doubt and falsehoods brainwashing people into authoritarianism.
You can know when to get out of the way. If your job involves interacting with customers directly one-on-one and isn’t healthcare, you will be obsoleted by robotics or knowledge systems (or, you could create those robots and knowledge systems).
It would be nice if we could say “bad people watch out, computers will take your power away soon and the world will prosper!”
But, right now, we have bad people exploiting the global interconnectedness of all things for political naughtiness. The powers of good are nowhere in sight.
let’s send a rocket to mars. that’ll help save the arctic.
Where are the good computational people who are willing to wield their influence over corrupt regimes? Where are the good computational firms willing to stand up and correct the wrongs of the world?
Computational Absolutism just means someone will eventually be computationally powerful enough to impose their will on the world outright, unchecked, and with no oversight.
We can only hope the good side gets there first.
Happy Endless Existential Dread!