Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Computer Philosophy

It occurred to me yesterday that one of the reasons that it is so difficult to create a computer with artificial intelligence is that the people doing so believe there is some other kind. Once you realize that humans don't have "intelligence" that is connected in any way to the real world, you can rethink the concept of what it means to set up a model of the world and respond to the model, rather than the real thing. If the physical connections to the servos of the machine happen to go where the real universe works out for them, then you suddenly have the nearest thing to human intelligence that can be created: the illusion that your machine did something on purpose.

That damned 43%

A while back, there was a story about the distribution of wealth among people of the world. The gist of it is that 80% of the people survive on 7% of the wealth.
Mixing and matching statistics makes some interesting associations. When Mitt Romney talked about the 43% who aren't going to vote for him because they are gettin' some from the gubmint, the remaining majority (who weren't at all bothered by this, by the way...they just say "it was taken out of context" or "he could have said it better" or "well, it's the truth"), keep believing that he was talking to THEM.
He wasn't. He was talking to the 20% (and if you don't know you are in the 20%, then you aren't) who have access and control of the 93% of the world's wealth. The remaining (notwithstanding the actual set intersections for a minute) 37% who were not in the 43%, THINK that they are somehow on the way to BEING able to access that 93% of the wealth (If we just didn't have to pay those darned income taxes). They are not. They are actually just fighting with each other and the 43% of ill repute for that aforementioned 7% which the top tier is willing to write off as "necessary losses."

The problem with this contempt of the working classes is that there is really no way to quantify it properly to illustrate how far out of proportion it is to the natural world.

Imagine a big warehouse full of happy puppies, getting automatically fed just enough to keep them from yelping...day in and day out. Throw in a hungry tiger. No matter how many puppies it consumes, there are always more than it needs, and the tiger just chases the puppies around for entertainment (creates jobs for them) and when he gets bored, he shuts off the feeders and takes a nap, maybe he even takes some of the extra food (because he's been eating puppies) and uses it as a reward to get some of the bigger puppies to follow him around or chase the smaller puppies for him. We'll call them the "middle class". Put a collar on one and call it a priest, and you've pretty much got the Euro-Western idea of civilization in a nutshell. Just add marketing and noisy shiny crap to distract everyone.

Now, granted, the numbers don't accurately apply to the disparity between the West and the Third World, where the rich would take the tiger/puppy idea and actually implement it at some kind of gaming profit (financed by Harvard Investment banking...), or the massive flow of useless information filling the void between the Haves and the Have Nots in the West, who are convinced that they live in an 'advanced' society because they have running water and cars (at great expense to their own future selves). What needs to be considered in the natural world, however, is the usefulness of the actions of any species toward its own future, and the rate of change of the environment vs. the artificial stability of civilization. In other words, those whose lives are 'nasty, brutish, and short' know that their lives will continue to be so. Introducing modern ideas of "standards of living" always comes with a price: the potential loss of those artificial standards. Romney and his ilk believe that by virtue of their control over the vast majority of wealth, their lives are perfectly stabilized as far into the future as they can see with their "free market" goggles on. What they don't see is an end to economics and civilization caused by the instabilities introduced when they created their artificial world and "conquering" nature by isolating themselves from its feedback mechanisms.