by Hugo Dunn
The introduction of the computer, portable or static, saw an unprecedented change in the code of conduct and behaviour throughout societies that were touched by its energy. In assessing value, whether perceived and arbitrary, or real and appreciative of the human condition; in today’s financial assessments – it is telling that access to infinite information which we will continue to enjoy as a standard would naturally be invaluable around any societally-shared market or barter-based financial valuation or assessment. If such a device could be used at any point prior to its invention, it would be priceless. The impact of these technologies has seen enormous benefits in the fields of creativity, education, and has allowed for people to become connected personally and Cybernetically between distances and times. The cybernetic extension of the computer allows us to explore how the velocity of continual technological change can be directed or redirected.
Moore’s Law is a demonstration of this pace of change- it was considered to be a law of nature under Smith’s ‘Free Hand’ that market competition would drive the price of transistors down; and the ratio of this to their processing power by a factor of two every 18 months. The assumption that market forces must move in such a direction is aptly described by Christensen in ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’. This explores the challenges that societies face as they share the need to barter for increasingly efficient goods. Larger organisations with incumbent power were unable to incorporate or merge the more efficient technology into their own market share, and the time required to pass regulatory processes for this to be a success meant new and more efficient technologies had developed in the meanwhile. Tim Wu in ‘The Master Switch’ addresses organisational purchase in what he describes as the ‘Kronos effect’ through which organisations deliberately purchase or prevent the flourishing of a new technology for the maintenance in strength of the incumbent.
The recent developments in Quantum computing might suggest that we are at the cusp of such a measurable change in computational power – however – the development of this technology allows us to re-assess its purpose.
One of the major changes that occurred throughout the latter half of the 20th century and early 21st century, is the change in the attention span which individuals can appreciate. Wu’s ‘The Attention Merchants’ explores this. The invention of the computer and use of data for the purpose of understanding humans as mere ‘consumers’ accelerated the mentality and intra-action towards means associated with value being interpreted as material gain; this gain became notably attentive at the beginning of the 21st century, and the human attention span became a new commodity – ready to be harvested. We should consider, if our attention is required, by a state, channel, streaming service or organisation; what the purpose of our attention is.
The utilisation of phones has accelerated the pace of life at which we can live. Why? Because a great deal of our processing power is now designated to the processors on our phone and computer. It is clear, that for a lot of calculations that would have otherwise been necessary for the past century – these are now redundant as we can ‘divest’ our own processing power to our phones. Consider directions for example, prior to GPS or navigational operations: we would have used a map – or even better – our memory to navigate our way around a city. A challenge with assessing the changes that technology has created in the past 20 years is that it is impossible to understand ‘statistical’ objectively across space and time. Many of the probabilistic theories and functions which we utilise in the fields of neuroscience, for example (Vauxhall by Vauxhall scanning) cannot incorporate what a brain might have looked like before the technologies invention. For this reason, the diagnostic tools through which hypothesis are created and definitional categories are created to make order out of the bio-generative process of language become flawed and can simplify the complexity required to understand or express experience. Some evidence suggests that phone screens are impacting the pre-frontal cortex in children below the age of three. What impact is this having on behaviour? Is this impact good? Are the youth being raised in this way healthy? There is a problem in that we do not even know what impacts industrialisation – the increase of Co2 in the atmosphere with industrialisation at the end of the 19th century; or with the introduction of the television screen in the mid-20th century – has had on human minds. This creates a dilemma in understanding how we utilise statistics and algorithms to study the mind of the individual or the community.
We should consider, if our attention is required, by a state, channel, streaming service or organisation; what the purpose of our attention is.
It is telling too, that algorithms explore statistics through which hypotheses are tested on a Cartesian understanding of consciousness. Cartesian consciousness arises from the ‘hard’ structure of the brain, and does not account for the paradox of the changes in information which exist in constant flux around an individual’s experience. The etymology for statistic does indeed share its origin with the ‘state’; and adheres to respect for the leviathan – a shared consensus amongst the people to respect the absolute rule of the sovereign. Under this absolute rule of the sovereign, ‘consumers’ are – under a perceived natural law – examined under a dualistic x/y interpretation of cause and effect. That is to say – evidence exists for the purpose of proving a hypothesis across few measurable criteria; often for the purpose of understanding a human or a mind. Alexander Wendt at the University of Ohio discusses this; pointing out that many of the social sciences missed out the mathematical and probabilistic changes explored in the quantum revolution. The Cartesian and Newtonian ways of examining cause and effect lead to hypothesis becoming causal and often spuriously correlative – the questions tested in the hypothesis – when ‘proven’ resultantly become engineered into the collective understanding of the society. With regard to ‘Artificial Intelligence’ or the more aptly named ‘Computational Statistics’ – the algorithms programmed into testing such hypothesis mean the biases of the viewer are shared with the biases of the examiner who wrote such an algorithm in the first place. Examining a system cannot be explored under any dualism and the ‘controls’ for any experiment cannot take into account the numerous variables which are, again, infinitely more complicated than x/y or z – being the linguistically bio-generative creatures that we are – moving and chatting like dolphins in a sea of space and time. The simplified Newtonian nature of examining and adapting the bio-generative mathematical logic and language of an individual does not do justice to the generative grammar which rests as a bio-generative basis for each language. It develops a hierarchy of the mind for organisations placing value in an individual which becomes numerical and statistical. We should recall therefore, what the purpose of the modern technological revolution is – it existed for the purpose of liberation – and not conscription. Between 2012 and 2016 in the UK – time in front of screens increased 90% year on year. This marked change would suggest a massive social change – so much so – that it is almost impossible to examine the effect that this may have on the population’s well-being.
The purpose of the algorithmic intelligence in the 21st century has thus far been managed by some of the tech giants including Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook. Each of these has provided access to goods or communicational services to improve the standards of living for each individual. These technologies are now ubiquitous. Yet in ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ – the dilemma through which individuals in a shared space compete for, and resultantly deplete resources through shared action for the common good – the commons and the commodity frequently belongs to the technology which engages us. And the common resource, now planetary, has become not only the materials and resources which we require to live and thrive, but also the human mind.
The damage to the environment and our atmosphere; through the use of overtly-consumptive resources and its detriment to the global population’s health both in the present, and in the future, would suggest that populations have not been capable of assessing the proportion and scale of the commons – and the risk to the commons of the future if these resources are mismanaged. The original definition for cyberspace was as such:
“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light range in the non space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.”
In the ‘shared hallucination’ which we all engage in – it would seem sensible that the math, and language that we also engage in should be appreciated for the best purpose. Each generation should be kindly educated on the most effective ways to utilise the Artificial Intelligence at their fingertips. Whilst services can improve aesthetic appreciation and creativity such as Instagram aid individuals in sharing memories and experiences; these services often exist for the purpose of profiting from the advertising fees garnered through the use of each individual. With regard to the mathematical complexity; it would seem that many of the algorithms which exist are oversimplified – especially through the understanding they have developed to create the correct dopamine release: so, rather than going to a slot machine in a Las Vegas casino – the gambling occurs right in front of your eyes. The repetitious searches and ‘scrolling’ for new information means engagement in a smart phone – even for taking a picture – produces a search for a dopamine release. And the search for interesting information becomes a spectator sport through which life is experienced through the eyes of others through their phones, cameras or screens. That said, I would argue that technology has allowed for increased creativity when used correctly. The expression ’The artist does not create anything, they merely rearrange what is already there’ would seem applicable to an age when information is so abundant. But for correct assessment of proportion, understanding the purpose and free-will through which information is governed is vital.
The damage to the environment and our atmosphere; through the use of overtly-consumptive resources and its detriment to the global population’s health both in the present, and in the future would suggest that populations have not been capable of assessing the proportion and scale of the commons – and the risk to the commons of the future if these resources are mismanaged.
With regard to mathematical complexity – it would seem best if future generations were encouraged to incorporate value of complexity into their understanding from an early age. The purpose of communication and collaboration is to develop shared meaning and ideas and to allow the community to develop. Emerson, in ‘The Over-Soul’ speaks about just this – he discusses the importance of individuals staying in their own homes and developing their own cultures. Where so much time and energy is utilised for commuting, driving and lighting an office space – this seems applicable. Technology endows us with more opportunity than ever to do this. It seems reasonable therefore, to encourage each generation to engage in provision of suggestions which incorporate maths at a quantum level – across space and across time. The move towards electric transportation, while it will take considerable consumption to achieve, will reduce net emissions and improve the health of the global community in the near and distant future. Further; communities can share and visualise goals. An example would be for a community to educate themselves and those around them in a shared and continual conversational exercise to focus on a range of projects. How to develop a new motor for an electric aeroplane, increasingly efficient pre-coolers for a jet engine, alternative logistics to improve the efficiency of a supply chain or how to re-plant a de-forested landscape seem to be demonstrative starting points. Everything in moderation too, so a focus on developing social games for the purpose of humour and catharsis that every human requires to be happy and to thrive is important too. Constant work and mental practice around such goals, whether written or visualised, would mean education and experience in a community would constantly be developing experience around a shared and intuitive ‘set’ or ’sets’ of goals and values which adhered to mutual respect for a society both local and global.
The tragedy of the commons that we are currently experiencing on a planetary level is demonstrative of the need for change in the nature of communication and action. Streaming services in particular could improve their content. A recent series allowed the viewer to engage in an experience of choosing causal pathways of decision making. A perfect example of how free will is – to a great extent – managed by the creative decisions and process of the producer or creator of an algorithm. In Mathematical terms, this show was interesting, as it was an immersive engagement in a fractal understanding of determinism.
A fractal is a repetitive geometric system, through which different outcomes of formulae can often be visualised. This is important when it comes to the social games which individuals interact with. Developing the strongest syntactic and semantic pathways in communication can be understood through this fractal nature; examining a human society – the activity, productivity, positive bodily experience, fitness, and communication between each individual can be communicated for the effectiveness of each community. How to do this?
With regard to streaming services, it would seem beneficial if such a fractal deterministic pathway for visual engagement was utilised for the purpose of seeing and visualising positive experiences in order to educate the viewer around systems of thinking which are complex, and constantly aim for the highest standards of encouraging self, and societal improvement.
Further – the use of such technology can aid and benefit each generation to engage in more complicated and sophisticated forms of grammatical use. I see no reason why, through utilisation of such technologies, a young person could be speaking with the intellect, concentration and dedication of a professor five times their age. Indeed, such a growth mindset could be developed in an individual of any age. A society that encourages a deeply imbibed curiosity means mental practice can accept and develop experimentation, and promotion of harmony amongst a community. Teaching with a ‘growth mindset’ would mean that the ‘recursive-self improvement’ of each individual redirects the ‘Take-off’ of computational statistics and its velocity not to consumption, but to collaboration between individuals engaging in and conversing about the ideas and projects that are experienced intuitively by each citizen.
The tragedy of the commons that we are currently experiencing on a planetary level is demonstrative of the need for change in the nature of communication and action.
The impact that technology has had on the development of the health, intelligence, and welfare of communities is difficult to assess, but it would seem beneficial if societies attempted to move to utilise technology for the purpose of liberation, and aid the creation of shared, active and liberated cultures engaging in the challenges of life with the good humour which we all enjoy. The exercise and development of synaptic pathways of individuals in communities for this purpose would allow the development of more natural cultures with a focus on the need to take time to allow an individual’s and communities’ focus not to be geared towards a computer screen or computational statistic – but towards shared goals and ideals that appreciate the necessity and proportion of their work. Another example of this could be seeking to find a balance of a healthy amount of screen time for the purpose of good-will and research, and then enjoying the catharsis which the exercise of our problem-solving abilities and language-generation brings. A suggestive nature is a healthy nature moreover – and good or helpful suggestions need not consistently be made with complexity. A good and constructive idea simply communicated provides the foundation for a group to discuss, explore, elaborate and develop an idea to fruition. Twitter, it would seem, can be a strong way for a helpful idea to be communicated succinctly. Complicated ideas, too, if properly explained, can be expressed with a degree of simplicity and kindness thus understood by someone of any age. The crisis of the environment at this stage would suggest that this would be a strong endeavour to be problem-solving and conversing around for a portion of one’s time. The American transcendentalists as part of a literary experiment in the 19th century are a good example of this – and all cultures have developed their own poems, arts, literature to experiment to improve the experience, empathy, understanding and thus standards of living for all. Jeff Bezos recently made the claim that we would have 1000 Mozarts and 1000 Einsteins when we become a solar-system based species. The curation of such a goal should be seen as an achievable minimum. Only consistent effort will tell if it is, but to quote Kanye West: “Reach for the stars so if you fall, you land on a cloud”. Technology provides us with the opportunity to work towards and visualise goals for citizens in all communities whilst we are still only on Earth. In a conversation between Elon Musk of Spacex/Tesla and Jack Ma of Alibaba, Ma pointed out the importance of encouraging the youth to move and to dance. Utilising technology for the purpose of encouraging intuition, ingenuity, curiosity, humour, conversation, fitness, both mental and physical for all individuals would seem to be an effective way to direct the velocity of technological change.