Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Or something like that

"There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation," Musk told CNBC. "Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen."

Or something like that. What the fork does that mean, GoodPlaceGuy or whoever else might know?

It's a comforting assertion, in an isn't it pretty to think so sort of way. But boy does it ring hollow (although I suppose it depends on the range of "a pretty good chance").

Musk's fundamental point, which seems unassailable, is that humans process info (which is to say, it's the common, underlying factor of literally everything we do) at 10 bits per second or some such, whereas machines do so many, many orders of magnitude faster (and always increasing the rate).

Which translates into a statement that we are useless.

This was said much more effectively (and depressingly) about 20 years ago in an essay, "Why the future doesn't need us" by Bill Joy, and I suppose a precurser to that was about 40 years before, when Richard Feynman was saying "There's plenty of room at the bottom," arguing that soon enough the most massive libraries we had ever created would fit into the space of a sugar cube.

All very interesting, but why exactly does such a system need to give us "UBI," or a claim on any resources, when by definition we are inferior technology with no known use? Because we want it? Well, it's pretty to think so, but in the time it takes us to do that thinking we'll be processed at a frequency of, oh, say, google per second into something useful, as defined by something other than us.

I have a premonition that LAGuy in the next few days is going to say experts don't know anything more than anyone else once they step outside their expertise. Seems an obvious and yet nearly universally ignored point. Posner made the same assertion or argument about 20 years ago in "An Affair of State, and I'd have to say the concept is probably LAGuy's top five themes on this blog, e.g., entertainment critics telling us about politics--who cares what they think?) Pretty clearly Musk, however bright he is, has no idea. I suppose I should credit him for admitting it, "I am not sure what else one would do."

Suddenly I have a vision of James Bond asking Auric Goldfinger, "Do you expect me to live off a universal basic income? . . .. " I'd like to see a similarly happy ending to that movie.


Blogger New England Guy said...

I think Kurt Vonnegut or possibly his creation Kilgore Trout examined this or at least I think I remember reading it high school. The advanced machines figure out humans have no purpose and begin eliminating them and then the machines decide with no more humans, they have no purpose and so they must be destroyed too. This gives them a new purpose as they destroy each other (I guess we are meant to assume there are individual machines consciousnesses). Until we get to the last machine who having no purpose beyond ceasing to exist pulls his own plug (metaphorically) and ends it all. Goodbye . For Keeps. Forever.

I apologize for any hash to the original story my 40 year old memory has caused. Please feel free to correct. (like the internet asks permission...)

So why not Universal Income them?- it could help keep the game going.

6:18 AM, February 14, 2017  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Almost every human used to be involved in growing food, or everyone would starve. If only we'd destroyed all those newfangled tractors, we wouldn't be in this mess.

9:45 AM, February 14, 2017  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I know there is a story that ends similarly with one final comuter trying to figure out the meaning of life, and at the last second before oblivion it reads out "Let there be light." I don'y know the name or the author, but I'm pretty sure it's real.

8:05 AM, February 15, 2017  
Blogger LAGuy said...

It's Isaac Asimov's "The Last Question," one of his best-known stories.

9:07 AM, February 15, 2017  

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