Sunday, August 19, 2018

Artificial intelligence, fake images and crumbling trust in our narratives

In a piece I wrote in 2014 I opined, "If you want to corrupt a people, corrupt the language." I added, "Once it becomes impossible to say the truth with the language we have, it will ultimately be impossible for us to adapt and survive."

In that piece I was complaining about what I dubbed "oil Newspeak," an Orwellian lexicon created by the oil industry to deceive policymakers, investors and the public.

Of course, back then I concerned myself only with words. But with the increasing power of artificial intelligence (AI) enhanced software which is now available to average computer users, practically anyone can alter and/or create images and audio recordings that seem real, but which are entirely concocted. It means that comedian Richard Pryor's famous line—"Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?"—may very well morph from a joke into a serious question.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Climate, politics and the narrow vision of futurists

Most people know the tale of the blind men and the elephant. Each describes a part of the elephant. The elephant is said to be like a pillar by the blind man touching the elephant's leg. The one touching the elephant's tail says the elephant is like a rope and so on.

Now, let's substitute so-called futurists for blind men in this tale and you get something even less reliable. Futurists are the soothsayers of our age. Of course, futurists have eyes to see at least. But they, like the blind men, almost never see the whole picture.

And, in this case they are giving us a description of something that is not even there for them to examine. The future doesn't exist. It's a mere concept. Unlike the blind men, futurists aren't really describing part of a whole.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Eternity, nature, society and the absurd fantasies of the rich

Professor and author Douglas Rushkoff recently wrote about a group of wealthy individuals who paid him to answer questions about how to manage their lives after what they believe will be the collapse of society. He only knew at the time he was engaged that the group wanted to talk about the future of technology.

Rushkoff afterwards explained that the group assumed they would need armed guards after this collapse to defend themselves. But they rightly wondered in a collapsed society how they could even control such guards. What would they pay those guards with when the normal forms of payment ceased to mean anything? Would the guards organize against them?

Rushkoff provides a compelling analysis of a group of frightened wealthy men trying to escape the troubles of this world while alive and wishing to leave a decaying body behind when the time comes and transfer their consciousness digitally into a computer. (I've written about consciousness and computers previously.)