amor mundi

Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Techbros Will Be Techbros

Oh, boys and their preoccupation with their STEM.

My Silly Skepticism About AI and Uploading

The following is edited and adapted from the Moot to this post, an exchange with "Gareth Nelson" (his contributions are italicized, follow the link for the unedited version and context) very much like countless exchanges I have had with cocksure robocultic AI-deadenders over the past few decades, but what the hell, new readers may not be bored unto death at such re-hashes as I am. By all means follow the link and make your own contributions, if you like.

Dale -- you've said (and I love this quote of yours) "a picture of you is not you", which is entirely true and I do not claim it is at all possible to "transfer" conciousness from a brain into a computer. But if we stick with the picture analogy, I would argue that a copy of a picture is still as useful for the same purposes. When we look at a beautiful work of art, we derive pleasure from appreciating the skill of the artist... assuming the copy is of high quality we can use it for the same purposes -- appreciating the beauty.

Setting aside the obvious fact that collectors spend millions for originals while disdaining reproductions for reasons that are not entirely dismissable as snobbery, I have no objection to the fact that some people might want to believe they get the same value from a recent digitally animated Aubrey Hepburn avatar selling a candy bar as they do from her actual performance in Sabrina, I have no objection to some pervbro who wants to believe his blow up fuck doll provides as rich a relationship as he is capable of enjoying with a human partner, I have no objection to somebody who wants to believe that they make some profound connection with the Great Emancipator via his stiff animatronic duplicate in Disney World's Hall of Presidents. Hey, there's no accounting for taste.

If we say that the purpose of a brain is to yield intelligent behaviour (and secondly to control a body -- but we generally value people for what's in their cerebral cortex, not their brain stem) then a copy of a brain that yields intelligent behaviour serves the purpose just fine, at least for other people.

I'm an atheist so I don't believe the brain exists for a "purpose" in the way you seem to mean. This is not a quibble, because the theology here already figures intelligence as purposively designed in a way that smuggles your erroneous conclusions into your framing of your position in that very dispute. Your second framing of the brain as "controlling" the body is also considerably more problematic and prejudicial than you seem to realize. The brain IS the body, not a separate or superior supervisor of it. There is a whiff here of the very dualism you falsely attribute to opponents of your faith-based formulation of the "info-soul." I also think this business of introducing "control" into the picture so early is rather symptomatic, but we needn't go into all that. I do hope you see a therapist on a regular basis.
If you're a true materialist you accept that the brain is just a physical object with some complex chemical and electrical processes being responsible for its behaviour. It stands to reason that modelling those processes accurately should allow the same behaviour.

Not only does this assertion not "stand to reason," but it is a patent absurdity. I am a materialist in the matter of red wagons, but I hardly think a computer modeling a red wagon would be one, even if it might generate an image I would recognize as the representation of one. I certainly would not expect a modeled red wagon to be capable of all the things a red wagon is, nor (knowing what I do know of computer modeling) would I expect that those shared recognizably red wagonish effects would be achieved in the same way by the red wagon and the red wagon model. Not incidentally, I do not agree that we know at present that the material processes that give rise to the experience of thought (including the experience of witnessing its exhibition in others) are reducible to only those chemical and electrical processes in the brain -- and also possibly elsewhere in the body -- that we presently know and in the way we presently know them. They certainly might, but our present accounts are hilariously far from sufficient to pretend we know for sure. And there is no need in the least to invoke supernatural phenomena to recognize the highly provisional status of much of our present understanding of brain processes and to treat grandiloquent extrapolations from our present knowledge onto futurological imagineering predictions with extreme skepticism and their confident proponents as ridiculous.

You could get really silly and claim that a model of a human brain which "seems" intelligent is actually just simulating intelligence and the model is just accurately predicting the behaviour of a human brain and outputting that behavioural prediction, but then you're just arguing semantics.

How terrible it would be to elicit the judgment that I am being "silly" from you of all people! You are acting as though AI or simulated apparent persons are actual accomplishments, not futurological fancies, and that my skepticism about their realization given the poverty of our understanding is some kind of a denial of facts in evidence. You'll forgive me, but it is not the least bit silly nor merely semantic for me to point out that AI is not in evidence, that AI champions are always certain AI is around the corner when it serially fails to arrive, that our understanding of intelligence is incomplete in ways that seem likely to bedevil the construction of actually intelligent/agentic artifacts for some time, and that AI discourse and the subcultures of its enthusiasts have always been and remain indebted to pathological overconfidence, uninterrogated metaphors, troubling antipathies to materiality and biology, sociopathic aspirations of mastery, control, omniscience none of which bode well for the project to which they are devoted.

Future Schlock

I demand the internet of things be set to vibrate.

Friday, November 27, 2015

"Radiant AI!"

Path of the Critique of Commodity Fetishism

From the fetishism of commodities to the Culture Industry to the Spectacle to Big Data, being degraded into having, having degraded into deferring, deferring degraded into appearing, appearing degraded into being framed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

CODA: For Anti-reductionist Anti-reactionary "Tech" Discourse

Techbros Bring Their Reductionism to Basic Income Advocacy

I should preface this twitter essay with the recommendation that those interested in the issues it raises may also want to take a look at my earlier, more conventional essays on closely related topics topics: A Neoliberalization of Basic Income Discourse? and p2p is EITHER Pay-to-Peer OR it is Peers-to-Precarity Be that as it may, he we go:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Long Teaching Day

Rain is pouring down and this promises to continue all the livelong day hideously enough. In that rain, I'll be splashing along to the BART, soaked to the knee no doubt. The stale steam pouring off the damp humanity corralled into the train cars is sure to be a treat. A faculty meeting and then I face my usual undergraduate lectures, but I am expecting the usual decimation this close to the Thanksgiving holiday. In my first course I'm lecturing on Joe Orton, in my second on William Burroughs and Valerie Solanas. Usually these texts are a pleasure to teach, but I am expecting a handful of students who haven't read the material, checking their plane reservations on their cellphone while rain pounds the window panes, inviting me to catch pneumonia as I stumble my way through the dark slick street to commute the long way home. Grumpy I am. Grumpy. Blogging, as usual, low to no.

Monday, November 23, 2015

What They Fear

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Just Breathe Together

Conspiracists get right that incumbent elites are capable of anything, but get wrong how incapable incumbent elites are of everything.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Everything Old Is New Again

I really thought it was funny when I used to lampoon ridiculous VR gear as glorified Viewmaster until I noticed Viewmaster now hyping itself as VR.


Behind every great man is my dick ready to fuck him.

Goes To Show

No preoccupation with good taste is an example of it.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Relevant Expertise in the Critique of Robocultism

Longtime readers of Amor Mundi will be amused to see that my current twitter exchanges with robocultists trundle along the same well-worn grooves as they did a decade ago. Must be because all that accelerating acceleration of acceleration is disrupting everything to shock level one!

Back to Pancryptics?

It is agonizing to contemplate, but there are times when I think I should dust off my more-than-a-decade-old-by-now dissertation Pancryptics, strip it to bare bones, update it a bit, and try to do something with it. Whatever its faults it did provide me with a critical vocabulary that gives me some purchase on crypto debates that continue to this day. Here's an interesting scrum I found myself in yesterday:


Encryption fixated politics seem to me regularly to expose a paranoid/aggressive project of cyborg-ruggedized selfhood, very closely akin to what is revealed in gun-nuttery.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pay Attention When Your Congress Votes To Refuse Terrorized Syrian Refugees Asylum

We Must Burn The Species To Save It: Faith-Based Techno-Transcendentalist Condemns Faith

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Explains A Lot

It's hard to read the Bible when you're hiding behind it.

This. Changes. Everything.

Startups don't impress me, but their endups do amuse me.

The Politics of Fear -- Now With Even More Stoopid (A Twitterrant)

(I got the numbering a little muzzfuddled there, sorry.)

Now, Now, Why Overgeneralize? Why So Extreme?

Those who admonish the palpably obvious observation that all Republicans are either outright racists, or dismiss impacts of structural racism (which ultimately depends on racist animus or racist insensitivity), or know they depend on racism for their power (a form of opportunism which is also racist), do remember these disgusting days of rancid racist Republican hate.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Long Teaching Day

Teaching over in the City all day today: Noel Coward in my first course, Judith Butler in my second. This semester is flying along. As usual, blogging today will be low to no.

Monday, November 16, 2015

My Heart Will Be Blessed

Sins of the Futurologists

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Solutionism "Beyond Left and Right"

Every technofix (including most simple, marketable "policy fixes") advocated as a circumvention of left-versus-right politics ends up being either a rightist apology or has to make concessions amounting to legible leftism.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Periodic Reminder

I'm a registered Democrat in the United States of America in the brutal and debasing years of its imperial plutocratic consummation, in the ruins of neoliberal globalization, universal precarization, and ongoing ecological catastrophe and yet I am still a believer with Michael Harrington that "the best liberalism leads toward socialism. I’m a radical, but... I want to be on the left wing of the possible." To conjoin democratic radicalism with partisan compromises is a pain in the neck, fraught with peril and error, but in my view just as vital and necessary as ever.

Friday, November 13, 2015

"Look for the Helpers."

And try to be one.

Socialism Versus Capitalism According to the Onion

via The Onion:

It's never a good idea to nitpick a joke, but the premise here seems to be that "fuck you" is a "spot-on" summation of human behavior. Needless to say, the Onion wouldn't be the endlessly entertaining and insightful publication it is if that were not true all too often, but it should be no less needless to say that were it true all or even most of the time then society would not function sustainably enough to keep the Onion -- and other, less vital institutions -- a going concern in the first place. It is also worth noting that the misquotation of the Louis Blanc slogan popularized by Marx ("to each according to their needs") are hard to square with the benefits actually properly attributed to socialism two lines later. Also worth a reminder: the "Mine, mine, mine!" of capitalism involves wealth redistribution no less than socialist equity does, there is no "natural" distribution capitalism honors more than socialism does. As for the assertion that both work "in theory," I agree with what I am reading as the insinuation that neither does in practice.


Lately, libertechbrotarian Thought Leaders really do seem to be taking to heart the Poverty Disruption wisdom of Swift's "Modest Proposal."