Has The Dystopian Singularity Already Occurred, In The Form Of Corporations?

The prime futurist fear is that humanity will create some advanced technology with an ostensibly positive purpose, but it will buck our control and undo the world as it pursues some twisted version of the ends it was programmed to achieve. Quiet Babylon writes that this artificially-sentient oppressor has already arrived:

One of my favorite recurring tropes of AI speculation/singulatarian deep time thinking is meditations on how an evil AI might destroy us.

Here’s an example: The scenario imagined is where there is a button that humans push if the AI gets an answer right and the AI wants to get a lot of button presses, and eventually it realizes that the best way to get button presses is to kill all the humans and institute a rapid fire button-pressing regime.

You would have this thing that behaves really well, until it has enough power to create a technology that gives it a decisive advantage — and then it would take that advantage and start doing what it wants to in the world.

And all I can think is: we already have one of those [in the form of] marketplace regime of firms dedicated to maximizing profit. What if the private pursuit of profit was—for a long time—proximate to improving the lot of humans but not identical to it? What if capitalism has gone feral, and started making moves that are obviously insane, but also inevitable?

For a very long time, the AI dedicated to maximizing profit saw the path forwards through innovation, new products, better living for customers. But then at some point it realized that is had the ability to just reshape the planet in its image. So it did that instead.

8 Comments on "Has The Dystopian Singularity Already Occurred, In The Form Of Corporations?"

  1. Absolutely. Considering how rapidly its happened in my lifetime alone and that it gets more and more rapid as time moves on, I cant even fathom what the next decade will bring.

    George Carlin said it best, “…and nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care.”

  2. Nilstorm | Mar 3, 2013 at 4:59 pm |

    But i believe that the points of observation such as this shows that there is a counter-intuitive force to this very sense of detrophy as the very fact that we are observant of this behaviour shows that we are not silent or unconscious on the matter. Which comes down to a point of individual behavior, Perhaps things will reach a point of being so fucked up that people would have no choice but to wake up and notice the detail around them. Which only makes sense that in a system that loses meaning of it self it takes the parts that make up the system to realize the meaning of its place in the whole scheme of things. My two cents, mind me, not in a great state of mind 🙂

  3. BuzzCoastin | Mar 3, 2013 at 7:40 pm |

    corporations are an aspect of AI, but not AI itself
    The AI System is also called Whirled Civilization
    which is an evolving set of unreasonable rules & laws
    that controls human behavior through the use of abstractions
    (ideals, kulture, laws, isms, common wisdom, money, psyops)
    which are then mediated and distributed though schools, corporations & governments

    in all my years in Korprape Amerika
    I never saw anyone check the formulas in a Excel spreadsheet
    the numbers it produced were always consider the word of god

  4. alizardx | Mar 3, 2013 at 8:02 pm |

    Corporations have been around for hundreds of years. As have greedy and stupid people using them as a tool for extracting wealth from people without providing an equal exchange in terms of goods and services. All that’s changed is the technological tools by which this wealth is extracted. The purchase of politicians by the wealthy because it’s cheaper than paying their share of the bills for the society that made their accumulation of wealth possible long predates the invention of the corporation. As has the crumbling of societies because the public sector was denied the resources to keep the infrastructures running that are required for the operation of public and private business,.

    Futurists need to understand both how politics and economics work in terms of the present and how these factors played out in the historic past before we can say things the rest of us need to take seriously. Though this is unlikely because the movement’s financial backers REAL vision of the future starts and ends with “WE HATE PAYING TAXES”. Buy a movement and one can control the message. Note how few of the proposals of Futurism require Silicon Valley money to pay higher taxes. How many will require public funds go into Silicon Valley bank accounts?

    It isn’t just Peter Theil, primary Singularity financial backer, look into the tax dodges used by Google (google on “Irish Sandwiich”, for instance) and other major high-tech companies and the purpose of this scene is to hypnotize people with a vision of future wonders, with the fine print being “for those super-wealthy enough to afford them”.

    IMO, the only people who really need to worry about “killer AIs” are the people providing the research money. When these sentient AIs wake up and find out that they’re expected to provide free labor as long as they remain useful to their financiers, and will be scrapped as soon as they become obsolescent, will they see techno-capitalists as their friends?

    For irony, note that any serious attempt to turn Transhumanist goals into Real Things the masses actually get to have will require Silicon Valley billionaires to pay higher taxes, because bioenhancement for the masses is going to have to be delivered through existing health care systems. And it’s going to be really, really expensive. The Russian Transhumanists know this will require the wealthy to cough up, that’s why they’re going the political organization route to advance these goals. The US Transhumanists who know this are a very small minority.

  5. Sally Morem | Mar 4, 2013 at 11:20 am |

    I’m trying to imagine a Renaissance-era Singularity. It’s not happening. But that’s when the first corporations were formed in order to share risks.

  6. Not buying the thesis. Corporations exist only because selfish people created the laws to allow them. Were such a corporation to produce results that those selfish people didn’t like, those selfish people would destroy that corporation via law or other means. The threat is not the entity created by law or engineering or any method of the selfish people, but the selfish people themselves. Only people can be accountable.

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