Thursday, March 08, 2018

Advanced AI is indistinguishable from slavery

"Any sufficiently advanced AI is indistinguishable from slavery".

Amazon link

“Before he met the brilliant, hypnotic child Milena, Alex Sharkey had never played with "dolls"—blue-skinned, gengineered lifeforms designed for work, amusement, or destruction. But the underground gene-hacker is seduced by a megalomaniacal little girl's dream of providing the soulless genetic constructs with free thought and a future—and he unwittingly unleashes a plague of madness on the world.

Now there's a void in his life and memory that must be refilled, but it means pursuing the dangerous sentient species he helped sire from the ruins of a Magic Kingdom through a wasted Europe. It is Alex Sharkey's last chance and the last hope remaining for a once-dominant human race.”
From this review of Fairyland.


The historic role of capitalism is to develop the forces of production towards abundance. The founding fathers of Marxism speculated that everyone would then live like the ancient aristocrats of Greece and Rome, but with deeper, broader and more sophisticated experiences than those available in antiquity .. and without the slavery.

How would communism look? I sometimes think they imagined automated factories with conveyor belts and robot arms moving stuff onto automated trucks to deliver to your door. But Amazon seems to have all that in hand.

There is another route to abundance - the biological.

Biology seems to work off plentiful raw materials: air, earth, rain and sunshine. We're getting better at gene-hacking. Within a generation we could make dolls. Start from a primate base, add IQ and speech. Modify the empathy-volitional drives .. .

Is it slavery if they really want to work to keep us happy?

Everywhere you currently envision smart, AI-controlled robots of steel and chrome, tilling the fields (or the hydroponic tanks), fabricating gee-gaws .. replace them in your mind with smart biology - genetically-engineered protoplasm.

Just itemise people's needs:
  • food and drink (lots of new plants) - check
  • accomodation (grows from a pod, see the catalogue) - check
  • transport (smart horse and carriage; primate-derived servitors) - check.
The list goes on. If it can be done with metals and integrated circuits, it can be done with genetically-modified lifeforms in a much more sustainable way.

Will our prospective uplifted biosphere be subverted, as in "Fairyland"? With all that free time in a communist society, there should be plenty of people happy to invest in counter-terrorism. Or we'll engineer some servitors to do it: there's a lot to learn from the Greeks and Romans.


Why the emphasis on biology?

Because our existing metal-and-plastic technology-base depends upon a complex division of labour and global supply chains. It's brittle and unstable, and relies upon human (in fact smart-fraction) levels of competence to make it work at all, to sustain it against entropy. It's capitalism's great achievement.

By contrast, the biological ecosystem is predominantly local and functions on the lowest level of explicit intelligence possible. It's so much more robust. It also helps address economic coordination problems which have proved so intractable to centralised planning.

I don't think everything can be subsumed under applied biology. But most things for sure.

Other stuff (supercomputers, hypersonic/space transport, genome engineering) may be beyond anything a tailored plant/animal could do* - opportunities for our future AI overlords to shine.

What will we do with all that free time?


* As the old saying has it: "supercomputers etc don't grow on trees". And probably in the future they won't either.

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