Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

SLAM: debunk creationism, pseudoscience, and superstitions. Discuss logic and morality.

Moderators: Alyrium Denryle, SCRawl, Thanas

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 30092
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by Simon_Jester » 2017-12-26 01:08pm

I think that there is one specific exception to that rule, and that is for existential threats that endanger the world and all that is in it.

If a gigantic asteroid is headed for Earth and due to strike the planet in ten years' time, getting our social order sorted out before impact is all well and good, but we should probably try to deflect the asteroid anyway. And it might be long-term counterproductive to prioritize fixing the social order so highly that (purely hypothetically) it prevented us from deflecting the asteroid. Much better to save the world from the giant asteroid in Year Ten, then have the revolution in Year Eleven.
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

User avatar
madd0ct0r
Sith Acolyte
Posts: 5435
Joined: 2008-03-14 07:47am

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by madd0ct0r » 2017-12-26 04:00pm

Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-12-25 01:21am
Could you cite a large cooperative that organized large groups for an extended period in an effective manner?

Systems that scale well for a village do not necessarily provide a blueprint for how to sustain a global civilization.
Bit late but would you accept Waitrose or Arup as large organization? Big international employee owned organizations. Employee owned sheilds them from the short termist shareholders but does mean growth is slow and organic and opportunistic. Its not possible to outcompete something like the merger giant aecom, but it is easily possible to outlast them.
"Aid, trade, green technology and peace." - Hans Rosling.
"Welcome to SDN, where we can't see the forest because walking into trees repeatedly feels good, bro." - Mr Coffee

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 30092
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by Simon_Jester » 2017-12-26 11:50pm

[smiles]

I certainly would.

And I do think it would be good to reshape the corporate landscape in ways that reward or promote such organizations, at the expense of more conventional corporations.
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

User avatar
SolarpunkFan
Padawan Learner
Posts: 437
Joined: 2016-02-28 08:15am

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by SolarpunkFan » 2017-12-29 02:51pm

Well, it seems I posted a shitty article (that seems to be an unfortunate running theme with me...) but for those curious, there is now a rebuttal article.

Techcrunch: Ted Chiang is a genius, but he’s wrong about Silicon Valley
Ted Chiang isn’t just one of the greatest science-fiction writers alive — he’s one of the greatest writers alive full stop. Which is why I was so saddened and disappointed by his recent excoriation of Silicon Valley in BuzzFeed. As the tech industry grows ever more powerful, we need brilliant minds critiquing and dissecting its many flaws. Instead we got a trenchant takedown of a Valley that only exists in the minds of especially shallow journalists.

To be clear, his larger point is dead on: that being that the worry about an AI which maximizes for the wrong thing, most famously one which is told to make paperclips and responds by turning the entire planet into paperclips, is a worry which applies perfectly and exactly to capitalism itself.

The maximalist capital mindset, i.e. “all the world’s problems can be solved just by making markets freer” and “the social responsibility of businesses is to increase their profits” are indeed examples of robotic thinking, either profound intellectual laziness or a very flimsy fig leaf for greedy narcissism. Such thinking — call it “paperclip capitalism” — is devoid of any context, nuance, or understanding that even at its well-regulated best, capitalism is only ever a means to an end, not an end of itself.

(as an aside: the paperclip analogy has given us what is clearly 2017’s game of the year, Universal Paperclips, which ate a night of my life a few months ago. Hilariously, and/or semiotically terrifying, people have now of course begun to train AIs to play and win at this game…)

But the thing Chiang doesn’t get is: Silicon Valley is actually not a home of paperclip capitalism. That’s Wall Street. That’s Confessions of an Economic Hit Man-style neoliberal globalization. That’s not the tech industry. The Valley is a flawed and sometimes terrible place, true, but it’s a nuanced sometimes flawed and terrible place.

Chiang: “Who adopts a scorched-earth approach to increasing market share? … It’s assumed that the AI’s approach will be “the question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me,” i.e., the mantra of Ayn Randian libertarianism that is so popular in Silicon Valley.”

His argument is wrong because his postulate is wrong. Uber and Peter Thiel are not Silicon Valley; they are extreme outliers. Silicon Valley is mostly full of people who really want to build rocket ships and cure cancer with data analysis and who genuinely believed that “making the world more open and connected” could only ever be beneficial; who go to Burning Man each year and talk about how great it is that it’s decommodified and how awful capitalism is; who see capitalism as the engine that will drive them to their goal of [insert technical breakthrough here], not wealth as a goal in and of itself.

This is a major reason that Elon Musk is so hero-worshipped. Silicon Valley wants to do as he did, and follow the trail he blazed; first, make a lot of money from paperclip capitalism, yes (like Musk did with PayPal) but only in order to use that money to make rocket ships and electric cars and solar roofs. Not as an end in itself. They don’t want paperclips. They want to use the paperclip machine to build a paperclip catapult to launch humanity to Mars.

It turns out that this is a hopelessly naïve and confused and counterproductive and corruptible approach, flawed in many or at least several different ways, each of which deserves considered dissection and repudiation — but it’s nothing like the straw Valley that Chiang attacks in his piece. I hope he takes a second swing at it sometime, maybe in fiction. We absolutely need brilliant, critical eyes watching and criticizing our every move. But they have to be close enough to see through the cliché, and into the nuance.
Personal opinion: that's probably the worst rebuttal I've read in a while. :wtf:
"Politics is about who gets what, from whom, under what conditions, and for what purpose."

"A quasar is the most powerful object in the universe. It is bright with energy."

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 30092
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by Simon_Jester » 2017-12-29 09:54pm

What do you mean by 'worst?'
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

User avatar
SolarpunkFan
Padawan Learner
Posts: 437
Joined: 2016-02-28 08:15am

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by SolarpunkFan » 2017-12-30 11:28am

Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-12-29 09:54pm
What do you mean by 'worst?'
The rebuttal is trying to paint these guys as wonderful heroes here to save humanity. But frankly they don't seem to care about unintended consequences until it starts hurting their bottom line and/or public image (see also: Twitter's banning of an anti-Nazi bot, while keeping actual Nazis on its site).

Argumentum ad Burning Man is also a rather ridiculous way to argue. Some of these guys spend a weekend in the desert so that actually makes them awesome people? Haha, no.
"Politics is about who gets what, from whom, under what conditions, and for what purpose."

"A quasar is the most powerful object in the universe. It is bright with energy."

User avatar
K. A. Pital
Glamorous Commie
Posts: 20224
Joined: 2003-02-26 11:39am
Location: Elysium

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by K. A. Pital » 2017-12-30 12:33pm

How on Earth visiting a festival where the average cost of coming and staying for a week hits over 2000 dollars is even considered a benefit for personal moral values? That’s like saying people in Mos Eisley were nice. :lol:
Lì ci sono chiese, macerie, moschee e questure, lì frontiere, prezzi inaccessibile e freddure
Lì paludi, minacce, cecchini coi fucili, documenti, file notturne e clandestini
Qui incontri, lotte, passi sincronizzati, colori, capannelli non autorizzati,
Uccelli migratori, reti, informazioni, piazze di Tutti i like pazze di passioni...

...La tranquillità è importante ma la libertà è tutto!
Assalti Frontali

User avatar
Zixinus
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 6544
Joined: 2007-06-19 12:48pm
Location: In Seth the Blitzspear
Contact:

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by Zixinus » 2017-12-30 01:21pm

It shows that you are not completely the stereotypical Westerner. Somehow.
Credo!
Chat with me on Skype if you want to talk about writing, ideas or if you want a test-reader! PM for address.

User avatar
SolarpunkFan
Padawan Learner
Posts: 437
Joined: 2016-02-28 08:15am

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by SolarpunkFan » 2017-12-30 01:51pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
2017-12-30 12:33pm
How on Earth visiting a festival where the average cost of coming and staying for a week hits over 2000 dollars is even considered a benefit for personal moral values? That’s like saying people in Mos Eisley were nice. :lol:

It's not even the first time I've seen that appeal either: https://www.recode.net/2014/4/3/1162526 ... -is-pissed

“I really feel like Mike Judge has never been to Burning Man, which is Silicon Valley,” Musk said. “If you haven’t been, you just don’t get it. You could take the craziest L.A. party and multiply it by a thousand, and it doesn’t even get fucking close to what’s in Silicon Valley. The show didn’t have any of that.”
Emphasis mine.

Argumentum ad Burning Man, it needs to be a fallacy, now.
"Politics is about who gets what, from whom, under what conditions, and for what purpose."

"A quasar is the most powerful object in the universe. It is bright with energy."

User avatar
K. A. Pital
Glamorous Commie
Posts: 20224
Joined: 2003-02-26 11:39am
Location: Elysium

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by K. A. Pital » 2017-12-30 02:18pm

Zixinus wrote:
2017-12-30 01:21pm
It shows that you are not completely the stereotypical Westerner. Somehow.
I’m not a Westerner at all, much less a stereotypical one. But I really haven’t thought anyone could seriously advance an argument based on... attending a big camper art party??

I like that Musk thinks a party between a bunch of rich and ultra-rich dudes set up in a very casual manner is somehow superior to parties where the rich compete with each other. He isn’t being completely honest here. In SV, the idea is to gather others’ ideas and make money off it. It dictates a casual atmosphere to make the process feel natural.
Lì ci sono chiese, macerie, moschee e questure, lì frontiere, prezzi inaccessibile e freddure
Lì paludi, minacce, cecchini coi fucili, documenti, file notturne e clandestini
Qui incontri, lotte, passi sincronizzati, colori, capannelli non autorizzati,
Uccelli migratori, reti, informazioni, piazze di Tutti i like pazze di passioni...

...La tranquillità è importante ma la libertà è tutto!
Assalti Frontali

User avatar
Zixinus
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 6544
Joined: 2007-06-19 12:48pm
Location: In Seth the Blitzspear
Contact:

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by Zixinus » 2017-12-30 03:12pm

I’m not a Westerner at all, much less a stereotypical one.
Not you, your typical Silicon Valley goer. Burning Man is outside the mainstream (possibly) and if you attend it, you do something crazy.
But I really haven’t thought anyone could seriously advance an argument based on... attending a big camper art party??
Argumentum ad Burning Man, it needs to be a fallacy, now.
In context, the argument is that the typical Silicon Valley goer is not your typical Christian, White, mainstream-loving capitalist that probably still watches TV. They are Different. I think the implication was that they are not your typical libertarian types.

Of course, they are not sufficiently different to actually change the system. Or make a new ideology that wants to reign in the dangers of runaway capitalism and replace it with something that is better, something that both would work and yet is not as destructive.

For it to be a fallacy, it needs to be systematic. It is probably already a fallacy, possibly a red herring one.
Credo!
Chat with me on Skype if you want to talk about writing, ideas or if you want a test-reader! PM for address.

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 30092
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by Simon_Jester » 2017-12-30 11:20pm

SolarpunkFan wrote:
2017-12-30 11:28am
Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-12-29 09:54pm
What do you mean by 'worst?'
The rebuttal is trying to paint these guys as wonderful heroes here to save humanity.
Uh... No. No, it is not doing that.

Please cut it out with the goddamn black/white fallacy already. There exist viewpoints between "X is terrible in all ways" and "X is glorious in all ways." Disagreeing with the former does not mean you're asserting the latter, or vice versa.

As this article illustrates. It's trying to paint them as flawed but essentially non-evil people who would, all things considered, rather save humanity than ruin it. Which is, when you think about it, a pretty accurate description of most of the human race. There are a relative handful of arch-psychopathic fucks who are willing to act in ways that could ruin things for humanity, but not literally every rich person in the world is a member of that group. Not literally every capitalist is a member of that group. Because while it helps to be an arch-psychopathic fuck if you want to become very rich... it's not necessarily a requirement.
Argumentum ad Burning Man is also a rather ridiculous way to argue. Some of these guys spend a weekend in the desert so that actually makes them awesome people? Haha, no.
No, but it makes them different people, it indicates that maybe they have values that are not the values shared by millionaires that, y'know, do not go to Burning Man.

The point here is to illustrate that "capitalism" is not a massive monobloc of identical men in identical suits. Because the original article very, very much portrays all of capitalism as a wall of suits, and then says "haha, so look at this one member of the wall of suits claiming that AI could devour the world, when in reality, it is HIS WALL OF SUITS DOING THIS!"

And then Elon Musk was a hedge fund manager.

The reality is more complex, in that there is at least a measure of diversity at work here.
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

User avatar
SolarpunkFan
Padawan Learner
Posts: 437
Joined: 2016-02-28 08:15am

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by SolarpunkFan » 2017-12-31 07:25am

Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-12-30 11:20pm
Snip
You're right. I suppose I made that argument because I'm angry and that's no way to make a good argument, or to view a problem properly for that matter.

I concede.
"Politics is about who gets what, from whom, under what conditions, and for what purpose."

"A quasar is the most powerful object in the universe. It is bright with energy."

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 30092
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by Simon_Jester » 2017-12-31 05:34pm

It's just... this is kind of a pattern, and you may want to work towards greater mindfulness because I can't imagine that this doesn't impact you in real life.

Black/white thinking, where everything is either totally good or totally screwed and doomed, is toxic thinking. Practicing black/white thinking yourself will make it hard for you to correctly understand a world where most things are a mix of gold and clay, truth and falsehood, good and bad. Attributing black/white thinking to others is even worse because it means you will always, always misunderstand what other people are trying to tell you.
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

User avatar
Guardsman Bass
Cowardly Codfish
Posts: 9279
Joined: 2002-07-07 12:01am
Location: Beneath the Deepest Sea

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by Guardsman Bass » 2018-01-04 02:23am

I do think the silly startups (what Scott Alexander called "uber for tacos") get too much attention. Most Silicon Valley startups are either trying to do something genuinely beneficial and big, or they're business-side stuff that you usually don't hear about because the average person isn't their intended consumer base (think Salesforce).
“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.”
-Jean-Luc Picard


"Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them."
-Margaret Atwood

User avatar
K. A. Pital
Glamorous Commie
Posts: 20224
Joined: 2003-02-26 11:39am
Location: Elysium

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by K. A. Pital » 2018-01-04 08:39am

Genuinely beneficial and big? Like... what exactly? I’m interested to know the examples.

Wiping out traditional dineries in favor of junk food chains and franchise outlets, as the population can’t afford paying decent wages and still being able to eat out, or exchanging one set of pollutants for another?

There are benefits, but they come slowly and are obvious mostly in hindsight. And even then it is a very complex equation.
Lì ci sono chiese, macerie, moschee e questure, lì frontiere, prezzi inaccessibile e freddure
Lì paludi, minacce, cecchini coi fucili, documenti, file notturne e clandestini
Qui incontri, lotte, passi sincronizzati, colori, capannelli non autorizzati,
Uccelli migratori, reti, informazioni, piazze di Tutti i like pazze di passioni...

...La tranquillità è importante ma la libertà è tutto!
Assalti Frontali

User avatar
Rhadamantus
Padawan Learner
Posts: 367
Joined: 2016-03-30 02:59pm

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by Rhadamantus » 2018-01-15 10:18pm

"There is no justice in the laws of nature, no term for fairness in the equations of motion. The Universe is neither evil, nor good, it simply does not care. The stars don't care, or the Sun, or the sky.

But they don't have to! WE care! There IS light in the world, and it is US!"

"There is no destiny behind the ills of this world."

"Mortem Delenda Est."

"25,000km is not orbit"-texanmarauder

User avatar
SolarpunkFan
Padawan Learner
Posts: 437
Joined: 2016-02-28 08:15am

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by SolarpunkFan » 2018-01-29 08:31pm

Interesting.

(OT: how is SSC? I've heard fascists are tolerated in the comments section)
"Politics is about who gets what, from whom, under what conditions, and for what purpose."

"A quasar is the most powerful object in the universe. It is bright with energy."

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 30092
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Runaway capitalism, not AI is the threat

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-01-30 03:52pm

I suppose fascists could be/would be/are "tolerated" in the sense that they're not aggressively hounded out of the community solely for having deplorable opinions. They're not exactly what you'd call super common in the comments thread, though.

The author's stated policy on comments is that they should be at least two of "kind, true, and necessary." Commentators who feel persistently compelled to say things that are unkind and untrue, untrue and unnecessary, OR unkind and unnecessary are supposed to get kicked out. And my impression is that this actually happens.

If you can believe that the correct response to all the ills of modernity is to put the Stuarts in charge of everything as absolute monarchs, and you are polite about this and willing to engage in reasoned discussion, he'll put up with you. If you believe that the correct response is a proletarian revolution, and you are polite about this, ditto.

As such, the typical alt-righter isn't going to be able to hang around at Slate Star Codex without getting kicked out, because they will predictably be unkind liars, or gratuitously unkind, or harass groups that the author considers to be (for lack of a better term) protected classes. Or if they hypothetically can/do, then the hope is that it results in something like this:

Image

Honestly, I think it's working. You may well end up disagreeing with some of the things the author says, for one reason or another. You WILL disagree with some of the things the commenters say. But it's a place with a commendable lack of malice, and one that does a MUCH better job of managing a diverse set of political views than any other place I'm familiar with.
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

Post Reply