Blog

2019-09-06

Last night I read a talk, “Emergences” by W. Daniel Hillis, from 2019-09-04.

In part, the talk was heartening, because the speakers were discussing a handful of topics which I address. These include: AI, “intelligence in the wild”, chemicals organizing themselves into multi-cellular organisms, the development of social language among humans, not being able to see “the Golem” as it develops, the development of DNA from analog chemical processes and how it “abstracted out” the information processing system, and the, “worry that somehow artificial intelligence will become superpowerful and develop goals of its own that aren’t the same as ours”. Notably, W. Daniel Hills said, “One thing that I’d like to convince you of is that I believe that’s starting to happen already”. There were a few mildly interesting examples of AI which were discussed, such as Facebook’s attention-monetizing algorithms and positive feedback it has developed with itself, but these examples were focused on people, not on systems which produce more computers.

However, the talk was incredibly frustrating for me because they fail to grasp that what they are talking about is the development of life in a new symbolic logic media. They fail to grasp that biology has developed code-based techniques to identify life in the environment, even when we do not know in advance what is there. They do not seem to know that we can distinguish one reproductive organism from another based on measurable rate-volumes of communication and Kleiber’s Law. They do not seem to know that Kleiber’s Law tells us that all reproductive organisms have a volume and a surface area of communication, that there is a most-stable ratio between the two, and that when an organism deviates from this ratio, the organism becomes more vulnerable to external perturbation and internal mis-communication. They do not apply this understanding to the examples they cite regarding corporations. They do not discuss how increasingly fast communication technologies allow humans to create larger reproductive organisms, with larger internal information processing volume to balance the larger surface area. They do not discuss a “hard” definition of communication, straight out of Shannon’s information theory, which defines communication as order ↔ energy conversion over time.

They do not put this together with "dissipation driven adaptation", evolution, and the fact that life occurs SPONTANEOUSLY whenever energy flows through a symbolic logic media over a sustained period of time.

They do not realize that biology has developed code-based techniques to identify living organisms even when we do not know, in advance, what the organisms are. They are not CLAMORING to sample our latest symbolic logic media and measure what it is doing, as it changes beneath and around us, as we are left further and further behind it.

This talk left me profoundly bothered, frustrated, and dispirited by how unstructured and unfocused it was.

I used to think that we could at least describe and measure whether life is occurring in new media, though I have been skeptical that we will be able to control it (life is larger than we are). But this talk leads me to believe that humans will not be able to achieve a rate-volume of communication among ourselves to even measure whether life is occurring in new media, let alone control it.