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Investigating AI (part 1)

Investigating AI has made me realise what this Mandtao path is truly about. I had seen it as a path of transcendence (of course all paths must transcend), by examining the boundaries of science, what science is, the assumptions that science makes, by deep enquiry into these as Buddhadasa put it there would be such a level of disillusion and disenchantment (ref) there would be potential for understanding leading to transcendence.

However investigating AI has led me to an understanding that when you look at it is so obvious yet few of us – especially on the left – examine it. The Marxist assumption is that there are two classes an exploiting class (1% or bourgeoisie) and an exploited class (99% or proletariat), and that it is the balance between these two forces which dominates our way of life. Investigating AI changes that view. With increasing use of automation, this alters the role of the exploited class. How this is altered needs to be investigated.

Marx talks of the owners of the means of production, and how the balance of who owns the marginal profits is at the basis of class struggle. Do we whose labour created the product merit ownership of the marginal profits or do the owners merit that profit because it is their plant – their automation (investment in automation)? But what if the means of production included AI, in other words what if production became fully automated then the owners would not need the exploited class. What would happen to them? If society continues to be seen in terms of this marginal profit, then the role of the 99% completely changes. What does it change to? In terms of the Marxist view the 99% changes to consumers only, the 1% as owners of the means of production still need consumers otherwise there will be no profits. But this feels so tenuous as a rationale for survival, we must survive to consume and make profits for the 1% whilst the machines produce for us. Where is the sense in this?

Scientists through AI and increased automation are creating the conditions in which there is no need for human labour – other than as scientists. There is no need for the 99% except as consumers without any means of making money to purchase that consumption. It is nonsense to continue this path without providing a solution to this dilemma. It is nonsense to think a solution for this dilemma will arise out of an evolution of the current system when basically scientists are creating a situation in which 99% are redundant. Sit down and look at this situation, it is a disaster of global proportions. This doomsday, catastrophe, apocalypse all rolled into one situation of our own creation – or rather the creation of the scientists. The path of scientific enquiry is an enquiry for all of us into the role of science – not just scientists, and what is going to happen if we don’t control that role.

Let us examine history and see how science has been used. Here is a short clip about the evolution of weaponry. Now let us examine how this weaponry has been used in the past. Although gunpowder was invented in China, it took the British and then other Europeans to decide that this weaponry could be used to control the world through colonisation; without gunpowder where would that colonisation have been – for such a small island? Then we have the nuclear bomb. Who used it? The Americans as Europeans would like to think, or if we think of Europeans as Russell Means does then it was the same people. Whilst the internal power balance was completely different we could view the same colonial forces as NATO. NATO was originally the British, then other European colonialists. After the Second World War global hegemony fell into the hands of the US, and together with NATO allies they are the global military power. In whose hands will the AI be in?

Has the third revolution of weaponry been used? Should we feel comfortable that AI has not reached the level of development as described in the clip? In my view the answer is that we should feel very uncomfortable. Weaponry and computers are very much inextricably linked so we are already using computers to kill people through advanced weaponry – through AI. Consider smart bombs. Smart bombs are sold as appropriate weaponry for strategic bombing. In the First Gulf War Stormin Norman was a figurehead in using “smart bombs” only to hit military targets. During this campaign very few westerners died, and it was presented as a campaign that killed few Iraqis. The figures are not clear (intentionally), here is a wiki about the casualties in Iraq. At the time estimates of First Gulf War deaths were as high as 200,000 (discussed here) but now PBS says less than 10000. I know which figure I think is nearer the truth but you must decide for yourself. But people died and they were not simply military targets of smart bombs; early AI was used to kill people.

Since then there has been another use of the AI revolution of weaponry – drone warfare. I find this even more heinous yet it has been accepted by most western people. The illusion presented is that deaths from drone warfare are targeted, and that the only people who die are targeted terrorists – presumably these terrorists have already waged war against the West. When people complain that women and children have died, the military blame the terrorists for using these people as shields; this is also an illusion to make this heinous form of warfare acceptable to NATO peoples. Western people accept these illusions because they cannot accept that they are responsible for killing people in such a heinous fashion. Here are some figures about wrongful deaths by drones, believe them or not.

No matter which figures you believe the fact is that the 3rd revolution of weaponry, AI as smart bombs and drones, have killed people. Years ago I read Asimov. He came up with a positronic brain that obeyed 3 laws first:-

Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics"

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Through our current use of AI these laws have already been broken yet most scientists who fear AI discuss this problem as existing in the future. This is not true the AI destruction has already started. Whilst it is too late for those people and countries already devastated by AI it is not too late for humanity.

But I have to ask “Who is using the AI for murdering people through warfare?” And the answer is again NATO, NATO is now using the 3rd revolution of weaponry for killing its enemies. Where do the AI scientists live and work? Mostly in NATO countries. Japan and now China are innovators in AI but their AI, as far as I know, has not been used for killing.

I am British – my country is part of NATO, and I consider myself reasonably moral. Do I accept responsibility for this situation? And the answer mostly is no. I hold myself accountable for my actions but I do not accept responsibility for the actions of the people pulling the strings in my country.

How can I say this and still call myself accountable and responsible? To understand this we have to understand how democracy is working in these NATO countries. We have an electoral system that votes in supposed leaders, and through this electoral process these leaders are supposedly accountable. By this process I should accept accountability and responsibility. But I don’t because there is no intention within this process to be democratic and accountable. The leaders lie to us, within the electoral process they make promises but they are rarely kept. And we have to understand why. They are not the leaders, who we vote for do not control the power. If we stand up as a people and said we did not want war – as the British and elsewhere did for the second Gulf War, the decision was made to go to war. In the US with regards to Yemen only congress can legally and constitutionally authorise war but they started the drone attacks anyway. The democratic structure is an illusion, yet it is used as an excuse for war.

If you accept this then who is making the decisions? I would argue the 1% through the backdoor – through power and influence. So this backdoor of power and influence is controlling the AI. Wai, this is not an enquiry, you are just telling us. I am using the soap box. BUT don’t believe me. I have no problem with that. But if you don’t believe me investigate it. And here is the real problem, scientists. Scientists, do you believe me? If not, have you investigated? Science provides the tools for this 3rd revolution of weaponry, and yet I seriously question whether science has questioned. Are the current wave of scientists going to be the Oppenheimers of global destruction through the 3rd revolution of weaponry?

Is this lack of scientific questioning a reasonable contention? I turn to history again for answers. What has been the most devastating man-made destruction of life in our history? Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Harry S Truman sent the bomb. Under Oppenheimer the Manhattan project at Los Alamos provided the US government with the capability of nuclear warfare, and it was used by Truman’s government. Was it a mistake? I always associate Gore Vidal for exposing the myth that these bombs were not necessary, here and here are some discussions on this. If there was any doubt at all they should never have been used whether war is war or not. For a peaceful world we cannot trust the exiting form of democracy and its leaders. And yet scientists are providing those leaders with AI.

Here is what the scientists are doing:-

They are providing AI as machinery and potentially robots to obviate the need for humans in the means of production.

They are providing AI as the third revolution of weaponry which is being used to kill humans through smart bombs and drone warfare – so far.

But this is not all the problems associated with AI at the moment. I see computers as restricting human freedom – a restriction I see initially caused by the limitation of software and secondly caused by a societal requirement for conformity.

I want to examine how software was introduced into the workplace. When this was an issue, mostly back in the 80s and 90s, I was teaching computing in which one of the primary requirements of software design was being “user-friendly”. I have no idea whether designers felt the need to be “user-friendly” or whether this was a sales pitch, but what happened in the end was that software was introduced and people were expected to understand and use that software – sometimes without training. This caused great resentment and sometimes people lost jobs. Now it is expected that we all work with computers at some level, and in many job situations humans are simply front ends or communication conduits for computers. On one level it is reasonable that humans enable the computers in order that computers can function better in order to benefit humans, but it is the other level that concerns me. For profit-making it is cheaper to enforce humans to comply with software which suits owners who prefer conformity. Fundamentally our consumerised system wants us to conform to a consumer model that is directed by fashion. Typically they want us to earn our money, go home, switch on the TV, look at google and facebook (with ads), and purchase by how fashion dictates. If we accept such conditioning, then we are equally likely to accept that working as a computer’s front end is sufficient so long as we are able to consume. And then delude ourselves that we are happy.

But what happens if we want to assert our freedom? What if we want to choose a life that is not based on conditioning and conformity? Do we have the freedom to do this? The older I have got the less I feel this freedom is welcomed but that could just be me. How free we are is a subjective question?

But here’s the rub. It should be individual people who decide this and not computer algorithms. As individuals we should not have to conform to algorithms which do not support our freedom. In other words any algorithm that is used needs to enable human freedom, not the freedom that supports exploitation but freedom from suffering. Freedom to be a compassionate human.

The scientists are providing algorithms that are inhibiting human freedom.

When we consider what the scientists are providing at the moment, AI that obviates the need for humans in production, AI as the 3rd revolution of weaponry being used to kill humans, and algorithms that conform inhibiting freedom, we have to say this is not what we want. Before scientists make it worse we have to demand that AI follows Asimov’s “3 laws of robotics”. They are fictional so we need to call for all computers to follow a Humanity First Protocol (HFP), a protocol that enables human development as opposed to replacing humans in the workplace without providing another solution, a protocol that prevents any machine from being used to kill humans, and end the use of algorithms that force conformity at the expense of human freedom. Asimov created the fiction of a positronic brain that followed the 3 laws, before we consider the advancement of AI there needs to be a priority of developing a HFP. It could be that any computer platform needs to have as part of its software a HFP – HFP-enabled windows. We cannot accept AI without HFP, it is too dangerous; scientific enquiry without HFP is far too dangerous for humanity to allow.

To contrast this what is happening with enquiry is that it is being controlled. Scientists are not controlling their own enquiry, humanity is not controlling the enquiry, investment, primarily arms race investment, is controlling the enquiry. That is a disaster waiting to happen – rather not waiting to happen but in the process of happening. Within the competitive market approaches to AI what is there to prevent a disaster? We cannot leave AI-development to the prevailing research-funding processes. We have to end this controlled enquiry, and begin to develop approaches that enable HFP-AI.

As scientists let me ask you, where would you get funding for HFP-AI? Where would you get funding to develop HFP-enabled windows, HFP-Mac-OS or HFP-Linux? Nowhere. Because there is no profit. Where is the research process that would prioritise HFP?

And if HFP is not going to be developed, then should scientists be working on AI that will disadvantage humanity – or even destroy it? These are the enquiry questions science needs to be asking. Oppenheimer didn’t ask them, and we had Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Inventors of smart bombs did not ask, and we had Stormin Norman in Iraq. Drone warfare researchers didn’t ask, and we have had deaths in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and Afghanistan. We cannot leave it to the scientists to ask questions, their enquiry has been controlled. As humans who are under threat we have to make demands on behalf of the scientists because we do not want history to repeat itself.

What has to be understood especially amongst mass movement activists is that power has changed. In the time of Marx Labour had power. Since that time the power of labour has slowly diminished as science has been used to develop machines. Whilst it might still be the 1% exploiting the 99%, the 1% now don’t need most of the 99% - they still need the knowledge from the scientists; the mass movement is not needed. This can be visibly seen in western politics where there is an evident move to authoritarianism because 99% are not needed.

What is needed is knowledge, knowledge is now the “labour” the 1% wants. We have to work together to control this knowledge, to work together to control the direction this knowledge takes us. Without a proper direction (HFP) human life will mean less and less to the 1%. Now consumption by the 99% feeds the accumulation of the 1%. But greater profits can be made through increased automation to the extent that less and less people will be required as labour. Where will people get the money to consume? Universal basic income? Does it make sense for the 1% to give away the money in order to consume?

We need to take control of our knowledge – our creativity, and demand HFP.

What implications does this have for the Path of Scientific Enquiry – the Mandtao Path?

A HFP-protocol would be a priority for this path, however it comes about.

But what would such a protocol be based on? Bostrom has written an interesting book on Superintelligence but like much of science it is based on assumptions similar to Sheldrake’s 10 core beliefs of science (taken from Science Set Free). Following a typical “theme” of Superintelligence, intelligence is based in the brain and depends on the speed of processing – consciousness is an “extension” of the physical brain. If this assumption is true, then undoubtedly AI processing will be faster especially if quantum computers happen.

But I think it is far from the truth. There is much to investigate in Bostrom and in quantum theory, but the investigation will be concerned more with what man can do that machines can’t. If we can determine that then there is a basic strategy for the HFP protocol, a reason for preservation – emphasising what machines can’t do. The logic of scientific assumptions fundamentally obviates the need for human survival, because scientific assumptions automatically favour machines. With this scientific view, why are we allowing their discoveries to dictate the future? At the same time we place these discoveries in the hands of the 1% and their western politician puppets whose history is rife with destruction. (I am not suggesting to put them in the hands of non-westerners either, their track record is better but they have not had the power or invention).

Humanity’s future rests on regaining control of human knowledge, and recognising the qualities of humanity that place humanity above AI. Investigating scientific assumptions and placing them in the context of what is human, and placing humanity in the context of Gaia, can perhaps provide the platform for survival in a world where scientific intellect and knowledge expands without control, and places tremendous power in the hands of the 1% and their puppetry whose history has been so destructive – now it is potentially genocidal – human species genocide.