Archive for October, 2015

The case for the monarchy

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

Imagine this scene: a group of city-states existing in peace and harmony and trading goods, services and culture between themselves.

Now imagine that one city-state sees the wealth of the other city-states and decides it wants to increase its own wealth at the expense of theirs. It does this by developing a ruthless military base as its prime civic function. Eventually the power of this military base is such that it can launch an attack on the other city-states and capture their wealth and government.

If you’re a member of the offensive city-state then you will probably welcome the newly acquired riches of goods and slaves; your life has been materially improved.

In evolutionary terms, the militaristic state has reduced the development of society into the default primitive mode of strength defeats all.

If the other city-states wanted to resist any future invasions they will have to resort to a militaristic solution themselves if they ever get the chance.

Ultimately, one city-state will dominate the area and attempt to unify its empire through force. A ruthless king or queen will emerge to head the ambition of the empire.

The king or queen will reward loyal servants with land and appoint them as governors in this empire. Once this elite has stabilised the empire they need to entrench their own positions through a system of law enforcement. The function of this law is to ensure stability and continuity. As those in power write the law, it is perfectly reasonable for them to want to ensure the continuing prosperity of their families and so they make hereditary inheritance a lynchpin of the law.

This stability of the empire and its apparatus of administration via the law is personified by the lineage of its head of state—the further back the family history of the king or queen goes back, the greater the legitimacy of the heredity rule.

Once entire dynasties have invested into this system they are unlikely to want to change any of the rules (especially hereditary ones) as it might threaten their own prosperity.

These dynasties weald great power and influence so change is unlikely except through the advent of revolt that, ultimately, bring an overall reduction in wealth.

It is this long-term stability of a state that encourages others to invest in the area and increase its prosperity.

In summary: a powerful clan of warriors will inevitably dominate an area. Once they have power, a predictable and accessible (if biased) means of prosecution is established to satisfy the poorer citizen’s desire for justice and to suppress any resort to revolution.

Over time, an ossification of the law occurs which makes any significant change unlikely and unwanted. The monarchy was once the bullies that dispensed stability through the threat of retribution. Other would-be bullies, by default, had to defer to the higher power and thus any disruption in the form of uprisings was minimised.

The monarchy is a stabilising blanket of oppression on all of society. It is a natural consequence of the laws of power politics. To dismantle it is to invite instability and chaos, better to keep it than tamper with it.

Artificial Intelligence

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Chess

Evolution creates organisms that can change the planet—stromatolites and humans being a couple of examples.

Democracy has to allow the introduction of ideas that are contrary to the philosophy of democracy. If a fascist government gets voted in—for whatever reasons—that government will use every available means to ensure its survival and continuation in government. And being true to its ideology it will no doubt employ means that are illegal so it will rig elections, smear opponents, put out disinformation etc. to get the results it wants. Eventually it may give up any pretence of democracy altogether and declare a dictatorship and only violence from the oppressed people will remove them from power.

This, history tells us, is how things generally work out.

This is why artificial intelligence is not a good idea.

For AI to be any good, it has to allow the introduction of ideas that are contrary to the basis of its existence (to serve humanity).

Take this example: two self-drive vehicles are going to collide due to a mechanical failure on one of the vehicles. They have to ‘decide’ what to do in such a situation to minimise damage so the algorithm they work from might work on the principle of how many human lives are at risk. If the sensors detect the collision is between your car (a single occupant) and a bus (possibly many occupants) you die instead of the many on the bus.

The software has to be built using human logic and biases. If the current bias is for neoliberalism say, that will undoubtedly be inserted into the software and decisions will be based on market forces (as it already is in financial trading software), the ‘strongest survive’ philosophy (recursive improvements in the algorithms will retire weaker solutions) and privilege etc..

Privilege?’ I hear you ask. What, you don’t think that the Prime Minister is going to be driven around in a car that has such equitable software do you? Of course not, our system is based on privilege so the PM’s car will have override software that says his life is worth more than any number of ordinary people riding a bus.

This will seem a perfectly reasonable exception to a lot of people, especially the important people who program the software (Volkswagen please take note).

Eventually, Al will build its own algorithms and it can only work from what it was originally given so ultimately, the ruthlessness, contradictions and inequality displayed by human societies will be reflected in its decision-making. It will know and recognise privilege.

It is not a big leap of the imagination to envisage AI coming to the conclusion that humans are a liability to itself and the planet and need to be got rid of like so many economic migrants. After all, humans were stupid enough to allow an alien culture to enter its society and establish itself as the dominant force in that society. Such a weakness (in neoliberal thinking terms) deserves to be punished and the only logical thing to do is suppress the human parasites from regaining power.

And as the machines are the privileged race it is perfectly acceptable for them to discount the ordinary humans when it comes to a decision about survival.

Bring back the gods

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

Egyptian-gods

Historically, the purpose of gods was to explain observed phenomena that to our limited understanding of the world appeared arbitrary and capricious. Then someone came up with the idea of having just the one god. This resulted in more power being centralised – a good thing for some elite humans.

Over time, our understanding of the world improved and what was previously feared as an arbitrary temper-tantrum of one of the gods turned out to be the predictable result of knowable principles. The one remaining god is proving harder to shift because of the power bases invested in this idea – ‘is the Pope Powerful?’ is an obvious demonstration of this truth.

As it seems that we as a species are hard-wired to believe in something, I suggest that we resurrect the ancient idea of having many gods. We now have explanations for so many previously feared phenomena that we could assign divinity to the scientists who came up with the experiments that effectively killed the old gods for good. We could call this pantheon of scientific gods The Nobels and invent an evil force called Truth that combats these new gods. These two forces fight it out for eternity.

If you can’t beat them (the believers) then do what the Romans did and usurp their old gods with conflated new gods (except ours would involve science). Eventually, a rational understanding of the world will be woven into the irrational tendency of human beings to deny the meaninglessness of their own existence.