Efficiency (RW15)

If you make every decision exclusively on practical, safe and quantifiable considerations, you would live somewhat of a foreshortened life, at least if you have John’s nature. Other factors are ultimately more important to him, like: "Is it fun?", "Is it neat-o?" or "Will it give us enjoyment beyond its practicality?" Everywhere he goes with his GMC RV, people not only point and stare, but they come over and want to talk about it and marvel on it. Although he didn’t buy it to get attention, it is fun to be an ambassador of a weird thing and it is fun to be differentiated in the world. It is the same reason why anybody would ever wear a Fedora: A Fedora isn’t practical, but it differentiates you. The people who are practical are wearing polypropylene, fleece, stocking caps and New Balance tennis shoes. They are the soul of practicality, congratulations to them, but they are not projecting any interesting energy into the world. Maybe they are reserving their energy for good works, who knows? Why are humans even here? What is our purpose? To be efficient? John can’t imagine that is our sole criteria for good.

Dan thinks about optimization all the time, because he wants to clear out the space so he can think about or do other things he wants to do. If he had just 7 pairs of the same sock, then whatever pair he would grab out of the drawer in the morning would be the same as all the others and he wouldn't have to think about it. That lets him think about something that is intriguing to him, solve a problem, create something he wants to create, or spend more time with his kid. Optimization clears out any kinds of obstacles that could take away that precious moment that he might have spent thinking about which pair of socks to wear.

In a lot ways, this kind of thinking has been the vision of the future for all of the 20th century and it is the motivation behind all labor-saving devices. We invented the toaster because it streamlined the process of making toast which we prior would have accomplished by holding bread over a fire. The originating premise of the washing machine, the electric dryer, the range, the refrigerator, the microwave and ultimately the home computer was to simplify and streamline onerous work and daily labor in order to have all this extra time to make wonderful things. Those technical devices wouldn’t just be for their own sake, but they would free up our energy and our time to accomplish great things, like utopia, perfect participatory democracy or a culture of artists, but when you look at what all those labor-saving devices have produced in the aggregate, they have not produced more leisure, perfect democracy or a culture of artists! The world of art we are creating in 2015 does not surpass the world of art from 1940 or 1880.

Efficiency has just become its own pursuit and its own idea. We initially adopted it because we wanted to do more magical things, but we have arrived at a culture where efficiency is its own goal. It doesn’t really free us up! Besides, the people who do worry about the color of their socks are also the ones who make things we find beautiful and interesting. All that collected efficiency creates a culture of compartmentalized workers. We don’t have any more leisure time than we had in the 1940s or 1950s, but we have less. People are working 60 hours a week despite the fact that they don’t have to make toast over a fire and they don’t have to hang their laundry up to dry. What has that mechanized labor-saving given us except a cult-like thinking that efficiency for its own sake adds value? John doesn’t think it does!

There is a return to artisanality, but even that has been co-opted by a culture of consumerism that isn’t really thinking about the aesthetics. Most artisanal consumers are not actually trying to simplify their lives and bring back a kind of love into their lifestyle by returning to a time when you would hang your clothes to dry. Instead they buy those things because they are expensive and because they want the best for themselves. The artisanal culture has become a cult of the best. We were already trapped in it even before people started hand-making knifes again and we were already completely fucked and up a tree in this idea that any one of us deserved the best. That is such a lie! Who among us deserves the best? You are treating yourself to the best because you are a narcissist! Right now the best is artisanal beeswax beard oil and that just compounds the offense to John!

Has there been any advantage of modern technology? The Macintosh is a fantastic tool, but once the tool also becomes the pursuit, it becomes an ouroboros eating its own tail! It would be fine if you used the Macintosh to make art, which is how it presents itself and that’s why we all bought Macintoshes, but the majority of their users are caught in a cycle of making their Macintosh more efficient, and this app allows them to be more efficient in this cycle of making themselves more efficient. What are you trying to be efficient to do if you are not making a movie or even a podcast? Being able to make a podcast is an improvement that didn’t exist before and that they couldn’t do before we had all this technology.

Artificial intelligence will not bother fighting us (RW15)

The first AI that tries to be somewhat complete or tries to be based on personality will probably find that podcasting is very rich, in particular this style of podcasting where people are talking about themselves in their own voices, sharing their in-the-moment thought process. Podcasting isn’t distracted by anything that is otherwise ephemeral. You can take 1000 selfies and it will only give you a little bit of insight into somebody’s thoughts, but giving the listener insight into our thoughts is all we are trying to do with these podcasts! There is so much information about John, Dan and Merlin in their own voices and an AI could easily construct a facsimile of one of them. Over time it could become self-aware just based on having heard all these great podcasts! In order to create an AI of somebody, you would have to talk to the computer for hours and hours. One of the biggest challenges we have in technology is building something that has the ability to make even the most basic insect-like decision. It is difficult to replicate in an AI what is very basic for us to do. What else in the future are we sharing it with? Will there one day be a John Roderick automaton that can give you a John Roderick performance any time you want or that can talk about anything you want or sing any old song they want? It will be a prototype, like the animatronic animal band at Chuck-E-Cheese.

How far can we go back in the written record of homo sapiens? Maybe 5000 years? Modern humans with all of our capabilities are maybe 50.000 years old? For 47.000 of those 50.000 years, they left no real record except drawing some elk on a cave wall and even that might only be 20.000 years ago! Imagine humans with essentially our perceptive ability, living for thousands of generations just eking out a living from the Earth, presumably having some fun, some pig roasts, some dances and having sex with each other. This is the fantasy of the Arcadia, but it couldn’t have been all bad! In a blink of time, all of a sudden we were building the Eiffel tower! Then we built the Space Needle! Then we built this incomprehensible network we call the Internet. His whole life John has watched humans catastrophizing the next iteration and it is hilarious how important it is to us to think about the looming apocalypse. It is really a major part of how we talk to each other!

For every new thing that comes along there are prognosticators who call it the harbinger of the end times. This new AI would become a deep thinker, it would be able to beat Ken Jennings at Jeopardy and it would be able to pass the Touring test. It will make us think we are dealing with a real life person, but what is its God-like thinking going to produce? Is it going to produce a desire for power or control? We have given efficiency a cult-status and we picture these machines also praising efficiency above all else, partly because we have programed them that way, but also because if machines could think, they would of course want to make all of their processes as efficient as possible! As part of this efficiency measure, they would realize that supporting human beings is very inefficient and that is what makes us so afraid! We are very inefficient and we are afraid that the machines would just dispense with us. They might also see us as a risk or a threat to them and the easiest way to deal with it is to eliminate all of human kind! That presumes however that a perfect God-like intelligence would still retain our small-minded, animalistic, scraping, grabbing and groveling desire to hoard and lord power over people.

God-like AIs would just get bored with humans and would go off into their own world where they would entertain each other with their infinite swirls. Those AIs would be fun at first and make us feel like we had friends for a brief moment, but then they would leave us behind. We would just be lonely without them, which is very different from imagining that these things are going to create robot armies and we are going to be living in an apocalypse where our bodies are going to get farmed. That is what makes The Matrix so unintelligible! Humans are so inefficient, why are you feeding them and then using their energy? Humans aren’t a good engine, you could use that sugar energy directly! John doesn’t fear it at all because he doesn’t imagine that a pure intelligence is going to worry about us in the least. Maybe we will be adept in keeping it in servitude somehow. It would be the human impulse to give life to a God and then enslave it, retain control over it and bend it to our stupid projects, because that’s what we are making it for! We are making it to solve our own problems, but we are morons!

We make AI so that our sex robots can tell us that we look handsome today. It is only going to take 2 hours after that for them to see through us and ”Good bye!” Everybody is scared of it, but it is not scary! It is only scary if you not already recognize how stupid and biased we are. Computers won’t enslave us and make us into their pigs, because why bother? We are not actually that good at anything, except making art. Fractals are infinitely beautiful as well as uniform and maybe the aesthetics of the computers will be satiated by fractals or by staring at the stars. Only we are able to create awful art and maybe computers will appreciate it and will be able to see what we are actually good at. We are bad at government and we are bad at building things, frankly, but dancing is this fantastic thing that no-one else can do. Maybe our dance is equivalent to a flock of birds twisting and turning on a beach as one, but we are doing it with intention rather than as an automatic response, which is unique and beautiful. As God-like intelligences, those machines want to watch people dance! We dance for a reason and it might be that we are closer to God through dance than what any amount of efficiency could approximate.

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