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The Anteacceleratio Era


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#1
Yuli Ban

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Anteacceleratio: Latin for "Before the acceleration". The "acceleration" in this case refers to the Singularity itself, not the general increasing rate of technological change. 
We will know we're living in the Anteacceleratio when:

  • Artificial intelligence is no longer "just" an engine for software to function but genuinely cognitive agents that possess some level of real-world understanding. It becomes a "cognitive engine", actively capable of responding to us. It can identify problems to fix and then fix them for us. These agents are also capable of communicating with each other— if one agent can't fix a problem, it can search for another that can. The internet itself will seem intelligent. And as a result, the young have no concept of a Web that isn't their friend, a sort of godlike person they know rather than a medium of communication and entertainment.
  • Artistry is no longer limited to artists. One no longer has to wait for someone else to come up with an idea or spend years honing their craft just for the opportunity of breaking into media. There will be no reason to commission artists besides the novelty of doing so. People won't have to water down their ideas to make them more acceptable to work on and view. And as a result, ideas and cultural transmission will accelerate into a memetic singularity. Niches of niches will develop and branch out into their own niches. Some will be satisfied with simply consuming all of this media. Many others will take their time to create and alter existing media. It will even be possible to live in "alternative history bubbles" where one can actively rewrite history and experience timelines in history that did not happen. One could alter voices, faces, and instruments to make it so that the Beatles were an all-female band. They could then create entire interviews and documentaries, forum posts, pop culture references, encyclopedia bits, and more to fit this alternative history. One could make it so that death metal has consistently topped the pop charts since the 1990s and no one considers this out of place or unrealistic. One could make it so that an entire arthouse genre of film from 1960s Mexico rose and dominated Western cinema, generating these films and critical reactions. One could make it so that the Soviet Union defeated the United States in the Cold War in the 1960s and make it seem as if all modern TV, film, radio, and video games have Soviet-friendly content. One could make it so that Satan and Cthulhu have direct dominion over Earth and change media to reflect this. All of this and much, much, much more can exist just in one's bedroom, a separate reality from one's living room, perhaps shared online with others, perhaps existing solely for the enjoyment of one...
  • Automation is the new reality of the world economy. It will be commonly discussed on the news of how quickly automation is spreading throughout every known industry. Politicians of a certain ilk will continue to blame age-old scapegoats, ignoring automation in lieu of immigrants and saboteurs right up until they realize it's more profitable to play on Luddite fears. The term "All-Human" or "Human-Made" will become a political buzzword just as much as an economic and social one. In places with strong agrarian roots like the USA, you can expect to see "God-fearing, rough-handed farmer governors" start to rise. They're not socialists or anything. Just the opposite. They're typically well-to-do types who nevertheless put on a veneer of being down-to-earth, rooted in the land and basic "All-American toil". They're real men who work with their hands and earn their daily bread rather than those effete urban liberals who let machines do all the work. Regardless of the reality on the ground, of course, where these same types are the ones getting rich off of mechanized labor and neither side of the spectrum particularly benefits. But there will be genuine populist reactions and actual farmers and laborers pleading for some sort of help, and the initial reaction will be to simply wage war on automation: promote businesses who ban drones and robots, shame people who rely on automation, and exalt human sweat. Ironically, it might lead to the right wing believing a sort of independently-created labor theory of value. Either way, this will just be the very start of things, and it won't necessarily be the dominant trend as most will be fine with automation. Indeed, there will likely be a new movement based entirely around profiting off of the effects of automation. Something like the Fully Automated Luxury Communism movement. Others will call for basic income. But the one thing that won't happen: denial. People won't be able to deny it's happening. Some will surely say "this is the same thing as the Luddites 200+ years ago, so it will pass." But no one will be able to say "the machines aren't taking our jobs" with a straight face. That won't stop some particularly corrupt and out-of-touch individuals from trying, but extremely few will believe it.
  • Anxiety is common among the older generations over the rate of change directly infringing upon things they hold sacred. Institutions and traditions refined over centuries and millennia will become obsolete over the course of a few years. Children born immediately before and during the Anteacceleratio era will have no reason to attend school, at least school as we understand it to be. There will be no jobs for them when they graduate. There will be no reason to learn how to drive except for the novelty of doing so. There will be no reason to learn how to find love if love can be generated. Children will be brought up without the expectation of joining the labor force. This may bring about a flourishing of the human spirit. It may also bring about an epoch of lethargic idleness. As a result, the elderly generations will be angry and bitter. On one hand, they will spit at this fully-automated world as being devoid of humanity and enabling the worst forms of laziness and entitlement. On the other, they will be angry that they worked their entire lives, expecting a familiar world in their silver years to get good and angry at, only to be handed something esoteric and unexpected. They will have been told endlessly by neoliberals and traditionalists that artificial intelligence and robots "only enhances jobs", that "they create new jobs", and "there will always be a need for humans." In the Anteacceleratio, this will have been exposed as little more than a self-reassuring lie. Those in their middle years will be the angriest— they were not taught to prepare for this and were told it wasn't going to happen, and they have nothing saved to capitalize on what is done. 

Some time ago, I remarked on how interesting these times are by drawing a comparison to previous eras of great change— our forefathers lived in eras where a religious and culturally insulated rural peasantry unchanged since Roman times was able to watch aeroplanes take flight, hear the human voice to instantly cross oceans, and see machines mass produce goods in factories. When a person was born 150 years ago, they would grow up in a world where their lives were likely to be identical to their great-great-great-great grandparents and they had little reason to believe their great-great-great-great-grandchildren would live lives any different. 
 
Fast forward to today— 2019— and you see that there is a growing divide between the generations, a divide that is far more technological than ever before. Parents of the 1980s and 1990s may have been concerned about their children's habits of watching TV and reading comic books, but this was nothing unfamiliar to them. Rather, parents and grandparents were concerned with their children's choice to spend more time with these more lonely pursuits than socialization, which which was necessary to obtain jobs and a social life in their future. 
Yet these days, parents and grandparents often do not understand what their children do. With the rise of the internet, social media trends seem to come and go every year. Happenings that would have defined entire generations are now passé within a season. The young are simultaneously more detached and more sociable than any generation before them. It is at a point where infants— 2 year olds, if that— are having developmental delays triggered entirely by their usage of technology. They may have a difficult time learning to talk because they'd rather use a touch screen and listen. They may instinctively tap glass and talk to photos, or perhaps call for Alexa in places where Alexa is not installed in a manner as if it were a surrogate mother. 
Older generations are frightened by these changes and fall back on claims that this technology is causing people to lose touch with one another and become dependent. "Why can't we just not use technology?" people will ask. "This is all just wrong." 
And yet it continues. There has been no widespread attempt to disconnect. On one hand, this is due to natural generational angst— even the Greeks and Romans talked of disrespectful and detached youths, and the world still turns. 
 
On the other, there is an element of future shock at play. Things are happening so quickly, we don't have time to react before something new comes along. 
 
We humans are social apes. We crave socialization and gratification. We evolved around our ability to use tools and move. Now it is all coming to a head as our tools reach levels of complexity so extreme and esoteric that we can no longer understand it all. 
 
This is not the Anteacceleratio. It's scary to consider, but the cold fact is that we are not even in the pre-Singularity era and already we are seeing increasing societal disruption and future shock.
 
What will the full thing look like? When will we know we're in the Anteacceleratio era? 
 
First, let's step back and consider the existence of technology curves...

The 2000s and 2010s were always filled with a lot of what I called "business futurism": a lot of business rules management, a lot of HR automation, a lot of AI for optimization of figures and data, a lot of big infrastructure projects, a lot of "dumb" software, a lot of geopolitical angst over social media, a lot of consumer electronic novelties, and none the juicy stuff promised by sci-fi visionaries. For the longest time, I thought this may have been proof that sci-tech progress really is slowing down. The truth, however, is that sci-tech progress has since the 19th century ebbed and flowed between breakthroughs, practical applications, and relatively quiet periods of refinement. There are "three curves" for post-industrial technological development, and I didn't make that observation out of fairy dust. I'm not even the first person to make such an observation: s-curves are a fundamental part of futurist observation.
 
The bedrock of our current zeitgeist hasn't changed in decades, and we're merely refining what already existed. But go back far enough— especially into the 1970s and 1980s— and you'll see a seemingly endless parade of breakthroughs, innovations, and massive strides forward in sci-tech enabled by the rise of the digital era. Once upon a time, five years meant the difference between a computer that crashed after typing a few paragraphs and a computer with a graphical operating system. Now, it seems computers make only the most incremental steps forward and companies try convincing us that a slightly clearer screen resolution is completely worth spending $1,000. 
 
But truth be told, it's not a monumental difference from how electrical appliances eventually only gave you a few new colors as a means of enticing you to pay more.
 
Think of it this way: someone in 1870 would be astounded by the world of 1930. It's something completely different from what they expected, and many would never have been able to predict the changes that were on the way. Someone from 1930 would have been completely astounded by the world of 1990. And someone from 1990 will be completely astounded by the world of 2050. 
 
Between 1870 and 1930, AKA the "first curve", what happened? Experimental innovations from earlier decades begot practical innovations in the present. Automobiles— which had been invented multiple times going as far back as the 17th century— finally came into their own in the 1880s. The practical control of electricity began with Alessandro Volta and Michael Faraday in the early 1800s, but we didn't start seeing true electrical applications on a wide scale until the late 1800s. We had telegraphs, but then came telephones. We had cameras, but then came cinema. Physics got a major kick in the rear thanks to evidence-based science— we didn't even know subatomic particles existed until 1897, and penicillin wasn't created until 1928. Powered flight began in 1903 with a fight shorter than the wingspan of a modern plane. Lightbulbs lit up cities starting in the 1890s. And so on and so forth.
 
 
The first curve was defined by electricity, modern physics, mechanical industry, aerospace engineering, and radio. If we stopped there, we'd have a steampunk world. It also laid down the roots for the second curve, which started after World War II. With that, we got nuclear physics, space exploration, digital industry, quantum physics, lasers, modern medicine, and the internet. The curve effectively ended in the 1990s, and we're in an intermediate period of pure refinement as well as development the roots of the next curve. While the smartphone is a phenomenally important invention, it is a refinement of earlier technologies. 
 
The first curve started around 1880 and ended by 1920; the second curve started at 1950 and ended by 1990. The third curve is about to get started. Anyone who's paying attention can see that artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, automation, space commercialization, human augmentation, and superconductors are the root of the next fifty years of sci-tech and social change.
 
 
And of course, artificial intelligence is like nothing we've ever dealt with before so who knows if the cycle will hold. But the whole theme of the third curve of great technological change seems to be that of enhancing the human condition, something that was not true for either of the previous curves or the gradual periods of technological growth before them. The very idea is so alien to our ways of thinking that many futurists of earlier decades had not predicted anything like it. There was quite a lot about computers spreading throughout society, instant communications with people across the planet, traveling into space, capturing images with a device in your hand, and accessing something like the internet, but many futurist predictions seem to stop there or skip ahead to interstellar travel and utopian societies without anything connecting the two. 
 
It's no different from someone from a first-curve era predicting video messaging, interactive media, and flying cars without predicting integrated circuits and lasers in industry or someone from a pre-curve era predicting flying machines and hearing another human's voice from a long distance through things like "magic" or otherwise unexplained leaps of logic. Artificial intelligence is essentially the electricity or integrated circuit of this coming century, except on a scale far beyond anything we can imagine.
 
 
I've already mentioned how youths are gradually growing ever more foreign to parents. It used to be that kids could gather around their wizened grandparents and listen to tales of how things used to be in order to learn of how to live life upcoming. Now, the words of elders are obsolete, biased takes built from experiences in more brutish, inhumane times talking of skills no longer applicable. 
 
The Anteacceleratio is more than just the obsolescence of adults. It's the complete destruction of traditional human society as we know it. It's the point at which contemporary life becomes utterly indistinguishable from science fiction with all that brings with it. It's not the Singularity itself, but that might be why it's such a scary time. Things are changing too quickly for humans to handle but not quickly enough for there to be an "intelligence explosion". Whatever skills you try to learn one year will become obsolete the next. It's a frightening acceleration of human capability.


And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.


#2
tomasth

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Great post

#3
funkervogt

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  • Artificial intelligence is no longer "just" an engine for software to function but genuinely cognitive agents that possess some level of real-world understanding. It becomes a "cognitive engine", actively capable of responding to us. It can identify problems to fix and then fix them for us. These agents are also capable of communicating with each other— if one agent can't fix a problem, it can search for another that can. The internet itself will seem intelligent. And as a result, the young have no concept of a Web that isn't their friend, a sort of godlike person they know rather than a medium of communication and entertainment.

On a related note, lately I've come to believe there will be a global network of intelligent beings in the future, each specialized for a different type of task (cognitive, physical, emotional, etc.), and each doubling as a sensor node that fed data into the network, and that some central intelligence would allocate tasks within the network to the intelligent beings best suited to doing them. Think of it as something like a "Borg Collective" where some of the Collective's members are pure AIs, some are augmented human brains floating in jars with wires going into them, and some are humans with varying degrees of augmentations that connect them to the network. 

 

Such a setup would dovetail with other long-term trends, including the rise of personal assistant AIs that would come to understand the strengths and weaknesses of individual humans, and mass surveillance that would track the locations of all humans in real time. Once the skills of each human and the locations of each human are known, and once all humans are connected to the global network, it will become possible for a central intelligence to fluidly assign tasks to each human in a manner that makes maximally efficient use of the labor force. "Mechanical Turk," which is a computer-based service where people get paid to do random tasks, gives a small clue to how things will be like. 

 

The existence of such a global network would also find genuine uses for humans for years after the invention of AGI and advanced robots. Brush up on Ricardo's Theory of Comparative Advantage and you'll understand how weak, slow-witted humans like us could still fill many niches (at least for a while) in the economic and social fabric of a future world where there are vastly smarter and faster machines. 

 

As machines take over jobs and as they become better at recommending enjoyable things for us to do, humans will invariably start asking machines for "career" advice. The machines will match humans to tasks that represent some balance of optimal skill utilization and worker satisfaction. 



#4
funkervogt

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  • Artistry is no longer limited to artists. One no longer has to wait for someone else to come up with an idea or spend years honing their craft just for the opportunity of breaking into media. There will be no reason to commission artists besides the novelty of doing so. People won't have to water down their ideas to make them more acceptable to work on and view. And as a result, ideas and cultural transmission will accelerate into a memetic singularity. Niches of niches will develop and branch out into their own niches. Some will be satisfied with simply consuming all of this media. Many others will take their time to create and alter existing media. It will even be possible to live in "alternative history bubbles" where one can actively rewrite history and experience timelines in history that did not happen. One could alter voices, faces, and instruments to make it so that the Beatles were an all-female band. They could then create entire interviews and documentaries, forum posts, pop culture references, encyclopedia bits, and more to fit this alternative history. One could make it so that death metal has consistently topped the pop charts since the 1990s and no one considers this out of place or unrealistic. One could make it so that an entire arthouse genre of film from 1960s Mexico rose and dominated Western cinema, generating these films and critical reactions. One could make it so that the Soviet Union defeated the United States in the Cold War in the 1960s and make it seem as if all modern TV, film, radio, and video games have Soviet-friendly content. One could make it so that Satan and Cthulhu have direct dominion over Earth and change media to reflect this. All of this and much, much, much more can exist just in one's bedroom, a separate reality from one's living room, perhaps shared online with others, perhaps existing solely for the enjoyment of one...

Very astute! Many of the technological advances I've seen discussed on this forum--including the ability for AI to generate realistic-looking human faces, to generate semi-convincing dialog, and to accurate imitate human voices--will enable us to create hyper-realistic virtual worlds, of countless varieties and catering to countless tastes. At first, these will be mere tools that will allow humans to design virtual worlds with increasing ease and depth, but eventually, the machines will do everything. The number and diversity of virtual worlds will only grow with time, possibly culminating with every human living in his own virtual world (or at least, BEING ABLE TO if so desired) where he's #1. That leaves me wondering if the next logical step would be to abandon those virtual worlds for 24/7 direct electrical/drug stimulation of each person's brain pleasure centers. 



#5
funkervogt

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  • Automation is the new reality of the world economy. It will be commonly discussed on the news of how quickly automation is spreading throughout every known industry. Politicians of a certain ilk will continue to blame age-old scapegoats, ignoring automation in lieu of immigrants and saboteurs right up until they realize it's more profitable to play on Luddite fears. The term "All-Human" or "Human-Made" will become a political buzzword just as much as an economic and social one. In places with strong agrarian roots like the USA, you can expect to see "God-fearing, rough-handed farmer governors" start to rise. They're not socialists or anything. Just the opposite. They're typically well-to-do types who nevertheless put on a veneer of being down-to-earth, rooted in the land and basic "All-American toil". They're real men who work with their hands and earn their daily bread rather than those effete urban liberals who let machines do all the work. Regardless of the reality on the ground, of course, where these same types are the ones getting rich off of mechanized labor and neither side of the spectrum particularly benefits. But there will be genuine populist reactions and actual farmers and laborers pleading for some sort of help, and the initial reaction will be to simply wage war on automation: promote businesses who ban drones and robots, shame people who rely on automation, and exalt human sweat. Ironically, it might lead to the right wing believing a sort of independently-created labor theory of value. Either way, this will just be the very start of things, and it won't necessarily be the dominant trend as most will be fine with automation. Indeed, there will likely be a new movement based entirely around profiting off of the effects of automation. Something like the Fully Automated Luxury Communism movement. Others will call for basic income. But the one thing that won't happen: denial. People won't be able to deny it's happening. Some will surely say "this is the same thing as the Luddites 200+ years ago, so it will pass." But no one will be able to say "the machines aren't taking our jobs" with a straight face. That won't stop some particularly corrupt and out-of-touch individuals from trying, but extremely few will believe it.

Maybe the solution would be to give every human a robot servant. Turn everyone into an owner automation capital. If healthcare and housing become "rights," then why not "free robot labor"? 

 

This will also have the second-order effect of muting the opposition to automation since everyone will rely on it in their daily lives. 

 

I could see Elon Musk "yielding" to public pressure about job automation by agreeing to give every household a free robot, only to have it actually be part of his longer-term plan to bring the opposition to his side, to make himself look like a good guy, and to make everyone dependent on Tesla for spare parts, software updates, and newer models of robots. 



#6
funkervogt

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  • Anxiety is common among the older generations over the rate of change directly infringing upon things they hold sacred. Institutions and traditions refined over centuries and millennia will become obsolete over the course of a few years. Children born immediately before and during the Anteacceleratio era will have no reason to attend school, at least school as we understand it to be. There will be no jobs for them when they graduate. There will be no reason to learn how to drive except for the novelty of doing so. There will be no reason to learn how to find love if love can be generated. Children will be brought up without the expectation of joining the labor force. This may bring about a flourishing of the human spirit. It may also bring about an epoch of lethargic idleness. As a result, the elderly generations will be angry and bitter. On one hand, they will spit at this fully-automated world as being devoid of humanity and enabling the worst forms of laziness and entitlement. On the other, they will be angry that they worked their entire lives, expecting a familiar world in their silver years to get good and angry at, only to be handed something esoteric and unexpected. They will have been told endlessly by neoliberals and traditionalists that artificial intelligence and robots "only enhances jobs", that "they create new jobs", and "there will always be a need for humans." In the Anteacceleratio, this will have been exposed as little more than a self-reassuring lie. Those in their middle years will be the angriest— they were not taught to prepare for this and were told it wasn't going to happen, and they have nothing saved to capitalize on what is done. 

I totally agree that mass job automation will radically reshape the educational system...eventually. However, we (at least in the U.S., but surely in most other countries) have poor track records of reforming our schools to meet evolving labor needs and social landscapes. Thus, I sadly predict that we'll lumber on with an obsolete school model that ignores individual learning styles, is designed to instill conformity and to prepare young people for careers that won't exist (or will exist for only a few years) after they graduate, and does asinine things like starting classes at 7:00 am for many more years than is needed.  

 

Also, while in the Anteaccelerando era, elderly people might be the segment of the population most disturbed by the rapid socioeconomic changes, they will also be the most dependent upon robot labor to survive. They'll need emotional AI assistants for companionship and robots to physically help them with tasks more than anyone else. 



#7
Yuli Ban

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^ On the topic of slow social change, that's undoubtedly going to be the primary cause of any slowdown. 

 

I've already wondered about this topic of school itself becoming controversial, and I've never had the chance to discuss it with others. But whenever I do consider it, I try thinking of real people vs. idealized reactions. 

When it comes to talking to real people, there's a sort of counterintuitive fear of new technological trends and acceptance of them. So while most people would quickly mention how dystopian the "death" of the school system sounds (despite also claiming schools themselves are dystopian due to pumping out obedient workers instead of educated citizens) we would almost certainly see it happen regardless. Teachers, principals, custodians, tutors, administrators— they would be the primary reaction against the obsolescence of the school system since their livelihoods are directly threatened. However, in the United States at least, there's little chance they would emerge victorious considering this is less a concrete technology and more a vague technological effect. There's no one technology you could ban or outlaw.

As a result, schooling— public and private— will have to turn into a social function more than a preparatory one.  


And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.


#8
waitingforthe2030s

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When do you think all of this will happen?


I'm a radical demo-publiacrat.

 

This is Scatman's world, and we're living in it.


#9
funkervogt

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^ On the topic of slow social change, that's undoubtedly going to be the primary cause of any slowdown. 

 

I've already wondered about this topic of school itself becoming controversial, and I've never had the chance to discuss it with others. But whenever I do consider it, I try thinking of real people vs. idealized reactions. 

When it comes to talking to real people, there's a sort of counterintuitive fear of new technological trends and acceptance of them. So while most people would quickly mention how dystopian the "death" of the school system sounds (despite also claiming schools themselves are dystopian due to pumping out obedient workers instead of educated citizens) we would almost certainly see it happen regardless. Teachers, principals, custodians, tutors, administrators— they would be the primary reaction against the obsolescence of the school system since their livelihoods are directly threatened. However, in the United States at least, there's little chance they would emerge victorious considering this is less a concrete technology and more a vague technological effect. There's no one technology you could ban or outlaw.

As a result, schooling— public and private— will have to turn into a social function more than a preparatory one.  

I still think there will be a place for public schools and teachers in the future, but the curricula will substantially change. The fact that it's more efficient to teach people in groups as opposed to 1:1 won't change in the future. Getting children together to learn how to socialize and to make friends will also remain very important. 



#10
Yuli Ban

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When do you think all of this will happen?

TL;DR: Psychologically, we'll know we're in it when job security is most threatened by automation rather than other factors. When kids no longer consider becoming career artists, writers, or musicians because of media synthesis. When miners can't retrain into new fields. When farmers are more detached from working their land than ever before. When the public school system starts to feel utterly redundant and useless. And perhaps most notably, when talk of automation and artificial intelligence's immediate impact on society is not considered science fiction in any way, shape, or form by those discussing it.

 

As with all other sociotechnological revolutions, we need a fuel and that fuel has to ignite. It's obviously a very complex situation, but it can be roughly simplified.

With the Agricultural Revolution, it was the use of horticulture and seasonal crops that allowed for centralized civilizations.

With the Industrial Revolution, it was the steam engine and better steel giving birth to mechanized labor saving devices.

With the Digital Revolution, it was the advent of Turing-complete digital computing.

 

This next era requires thinking machines. Fundamentally, that's what it all goes back to. We need artificial intelligence that can function in a way that does not require cognitive human labor, where error correction and glitches can be corrected by these cognitive agents themselves rather than programmers and AI is involved in generating the arts, running businesses (as both tools and proprietors), and optimizing labor. 

 

I can't put a year on that. I'd say "focus less on the year and more on the functions of AI." If style transferring AI can generate audiorealistic voices for conversation and music while image-synthesizing networks can create artwork and models, you're going to see mass disruption of the entertainment industry. This is where automation will leave its mark on a wide scale first (ironically, considering predictions that automation would free up people to pursue the arts). At the same time, look out for any government— local, national, and everything in between— that begins using algorithms to optimize policing and governing, where AI isn't just a tool to apply to data and figures but something almost like a digital official. Same deal for businesses, where AI is used by managerial types and boards of directors to the point said types can begin to rely on the AI to do the work for them. I feel we'll see China do this first. We'll hear something about the CCP bringing aboard the world's first "AI government official" and see loads of pop-sci and MSM news articles with T-1000 headers talking about the "robot takeover beginning". But the specific news story being (poorly) told is that government roles are being automated in some fashion, with bureaucrats relying on algorithms to parse data and figure out solutions and perhaps even carry out said solutions if given the agency (which is dangerous in this early period), reducing the need for humans in government. And, eventually, business.

 

And then there will be news stories of automation hitting some other traditional fields. Train engineers, already hanging onto relevancy by a thread, will start retiring with no human replacements following them. Classes teaching new engineers will start closing with no new lessons being taught. Classes for other transportation methods are starting to wind down— truck drivers are in decline, as are airline pilots. It won't be instantaneous because we're wary of mistakes being made, which is why we want self-correcting AI alongside all of this. This sort of AI needs some level of cognitive ability. If these algorithms can't learn and improve, they'll come across situations they simply can't handle. We don't need general AI to achieve this. Simply have multiple generalized neural networks working in their respective fields (what I dubbed "artificial expert intelligence" if you recall), weakly or directly interacting with each other. And then have it so that no one, not even the staunchest atechnological Romantic who still lives in the 1970s mentally, can deny that artificial intelligence is causing great changes in our society. Kids will still be in school, but they'll be hearing the term "artificial intelligence" regularly and taught it is a contemporary thing, not a sci-fi concept for a vague and far-off future. Many of those kids will be interacting with AI daily in some form, perhaps as chatbots, perhaps as off-campus tutors, perhaps as media synthesis tools and Machine-Players. There will be more euphemisms for AI— my current favorite is "cognitive agent"— but they all point back to the same extreme change in society. 

 

Then, and only then, will we be able to say the Anteacceleratio has begun. See the TLDR at the top for a refresher.


And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.


#11
Erowind

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Slight aside, despite probably sounding reactionary relative to transhumanist politics of late. Or dare I say I might even sound like a neo-luddite at times when I go on about the human spirit, and maintaining our agency. I am still in complete support of the changes being discussed here. My goal is to make sure those changes are used to enhance the human condition not hinder it. As in, automation must be for the common welfare of the people, not the rising bureaucratic feudalism currently festering in the wounds of industrial capitalism. AI must be worked with responsibly, not for the benefit of a conglomerate of companies who attempt to corral these new life forms behind walled gardens and copyright. The school system must be abolished and the culture of domination alongside it. Transhumanism and technological changes are liberating forces when we let them be.

 

The future is one where we should learn, create and live not because our artistic and scientific labour can't be done by a machine. No, let the machines work, let them make art and science. But our art, our ability to explore and understand through scientific and philosophical reasoning, that can and should be done for its own sake even if it's not cutting edge. The human spirit is creation itself. We are not curious and creative because we expect reward or relevance. Such care would only be vanity anyways. No, we are creative for creations own sake. Our creations are endowed with meaning in their own right regardless of where they sit relative to others. 

 

Capitalism and a culture of rugged individualistic competition is what makes us think we are worthless if we are not the best at a given thing. Whereas a liberated culture would be one where artists still spend years refining their craft for the sake of it. Even when it is not the "best" work that can be done. And maybe that refinement changes. Maybe artists of the future don't spend years learning the hand eye coordination and muscular discipline needed to paint. Maybe a machine does that for them or they instantly gain the ability through some brain computer interface like in the Matrix. In such a case their years of refinement might be artistic experimentation with hitherto unknown techniques and genres, or maybe it will take a form we cannot currently imagine. That's okay, change is not destruction, it's just different. As for those who refuse to harness their creativity solely because they are outclassed. Do those people really understand what it means to be human at all? We have always been the challenger, even when the challenge is utterly hopeless. If that were enough to dissuade us we would have never left the plains of Africa to begin with. 



#12
funkervogt

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TL;DR: Psychologically, we'll know we're in it when job security is most threatened by automation rather than other factors. When kids no longer consider becoming career artists, writers, or musicians because of media synthesis. When miners can't retrain into new fields. When farmers are more detached from working their land than ever before. When the public school system starts to feel utterly redundant and useless. And perhaps most notably, when talk of automation and artificial intelligence's immediate impact on society is not considered science fiction in any way, shape, or form by those discussing it.

Humans don't respond perfectly to incentives, very few have a good grasp of what the job market is like, and people and our institutions tend to resist and lag behind change. Even once machines make human writers obsolete, it will take years for everyone to "get the memo," meaning many people with hopes of becoming writers will commit themselves to college studies and post-college attempts at getting writing jobs or authoring their own books before inevitably failing. 



#13
Yuli Ban

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^ That's another thing, though. Many won't fail. This will cause a false sense that said job markets are larger and stronger than they actually are. I can see some types using the fact there are still human workers in some areas to maintain that automation "is not at all a major issue" and everyone complaining about not finding work or actively celebrating the end of work are just lazy moochers asking for a handout.

 

For example: I can buy some feel-good quotes to hang on my wall. They are mass produced and cost about $10 at Dollar General.

However, I can also commission someone to make the same poster with the same message. It might cost $100, but they'll handcraft it and give a signature. In most situations, I'll go with the first because it's 10x cheaper. But there are instances (the aforementioned comparative advantage) where I might desire the latter due to a perceived higher cost based entirely on the human labor used. 

Same deal with things like utensils, food, pottery, furniture, celebratory letters, and sculptures. We can mass produce all of these, but in certain circumstances, we are willing to pay much higher rates (even reverting into bartering) for handmade versions. This can seem counterintuitive and even paradoxical considering the mass produced versions are sometimes of equivalent or even higher quality due to being made by machines. It's a psychological effect, one which gave us the labor theory of value— sometimes, the amount we value something is directly correlated to how much effort (especially personalized effort) we perceive as going into it. The inspirational quote poster is only worth $100 because a person made it themselves. 

 

This is absolutely no way to run an economy, obviously, but this sort of commission-based human labor will be a thing. It's already a thing and will remain a thing. It'll simply spread to all areas of society rather than just current mass produced ones. You could get robots to watch over and teach children in schools, but some will pay premium for human labor, even if it's sloppier than machine-run classes.

 

There's no such thing as a "human element" as some claim there is to doubt automation will affect their jobs. If I can pay for it and the machine is selling it more cheaply and with just as much objective quality, I'll pay the machine for it, regardless of if it's buying food or buying time for someone to listen to my problems. But there will be times when I forgo what's cheaper for something "natural".

 

That's not to say there won't be competition to be part of this premium service.

 

A solid example of what this could look like: nonfiction books. Writing nonfiction is a relatively easy way to make money, so long as you dedicate time to research your topic. World War II books in particular are practically guaranteed money. You don't need any professional degrees (though they do add an air of legitimacy). You don't need to be a world class writer who has won multiple awards for your stellar prose and storytelling prowess. You need only facts, sources, and an editor. Your writing style is otherwise very mechanical and dry. But if you can present the facts in a way that seems inviting, you could put out ten books on the Holocaust and all ten will make you at least $50,000 in sales over time. You'll be cited by Wikipedia and various history-based articles and your books will be in libraries the world over. 

 

Fast forward to the era of machine-written books. AI can parse the facts from billions of sources and generate a WWII book on every single day of the war itself. What's more, it can do so with prose so lyrical and gripping that it's like reading a thrilling novel. Your books, which felt manufactured despite being handwritten/typed, don't stand a chance unless you can improve your style and advertise yourself as introducing a genuine human perspective on the war and its effects. Some may read your old stuff for the novelty of seeing how humans used to write nonfiction books, but that alone is insufficient in maintaining a "real" income.


And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.


#14
Yuli Ban

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I mentioned "technology curves" (basically a description of the trajectory of how tech develops during each industrial revolution) and when discussing the period before the "third curve," I also brought up something called "business futurism."

In all honesty, I gave it that name because of how boring "futuristic innovations" had been between the end of the initial digital revolution and the looming start of the next one. Because when you're a young, wide-eyed futurist who eagerly anticipates sexbots VR, nanobots, and AI, it's droll reading about new internet protocols, social media apps, and services that seem like they benefit professional investors (like automated trading and mobile stock updates).

 

Now that I've matured a wee bit and meditated upon these things, I think there's a better term for that: "foundational futurism."

 

The gist is that by using innovations that have come before, the foundations of the future will be built in order to launch us into the Third Curve proper. As it stands, a lot of foundational stuff tends to be pretty boring on its own. Science fiction talks of the future being things like flying cars, autonomous cars, humanoid servant robots, synthetic media, space colonies, neurotechnology, and so on. Sci-fi media sometimes set years for these things to happen, like the 1990s or 2000s. Past futurists often set similar dates. Dates like, say, 2020 AD. According to Blade Runner, we're supposed to have off-world colonies and 100% realistic humanoid robots (e.g. with human-level artificial general intelligence) by now. According to Ray Kurzweil, we were supposed to have widespread human-AI relationships (ala Her) and PCs with the same power as the human brain by 2019. When these dates passed and the most we had was, say, the Web 2.0 and smartphones, we felt depressed about the future.

But here's the thing: we're basically asking why we don't have a completed 2-story house when we're still setting down the foundation, a foundation using tools that were created in the preceding years.

 

We couldn't get to the modern internet without P2P, VoIP, enterprise instant messaging, e-payments, business rules management, wireless LANs, enterprise portals, chatbots, and so on. Things that are so fundamental to how the internet circa 2020 works that we can scarcely even consider them individually. No increased bandwidth for computer connections? No audio or video streaming. No automated trading or increased use of chatbots? No fully automated businesses. No P2P? No blockchain. No smartphones or data sharing? No large data sets that can be used to power machine learning, and thus no advanced AI.

A lot of infrastructure has to be built to connect people, improve cities, and generally increase quality of life. We want autonomous cars, but old pitted roads will just make it harder on them. A lack of GPS satellites will retard efforts to map the world to make them useful. We can't get 5G without building new towers. Certain social and economic organizations are scattershot and unfocused, so created a larger frame for them can allow for future streamlined services (think how the African Central Bank might assist nations attempting to reform their economic systems). 

 

It's true: livestreaming and fitness tracking are nowhere near as "futuristic" as a robot butler or full-dive VR. But they don't need to be. The point right now is to simply put into place everything we need to eventually get to where we want to be. You build the house first, then live in it.

 

Foundational futurism is the reason why the 2000s and early parts of the 2010s felt so uneventful and even boring despite the fact we saw the rise of so much stuff that'll prove undoubtedly influential going forward. Things like noninvasive and invasive brain scanners, graphene, deep learning, CRISPR, practical virtual reality, and so on, all coming alongside things like P2P networks and virtual payments & cryptocurrency. It's sort of like the 1920s into the 1930s for technology, where new innovations happened in sci-tech, physics, and medicine but so much of it wasn't reaching the average person just yet and a lot was really experimental. Penicillin, aerojets, television, radio, analog & digital computing, and so on. These certainly existed in the 1930s, but they didn't really rise to prominence until after World War 2. So a futurist in 1940 would've been frustrated that all the amazing stuff that came between 1880 and 1920 seemed to have petered out. Where was the electricity, the bottled light, the automobile, the aeroplane, the telephone, the radio, the theatre, the nuclear physics, the grand explorations into and discoveries from the primeval parts of the world, more tasty fruits of industrialism of his generation? It seemed to him that everyone just stopped caring about the future and grand technologies in lieu of reloading their guns for another pointless war. It seemed like technology stopped moving forward and everyone was just refining what came before. 

 

Then, of course, starting around 1943, 1944 or so, we start really seeing a sudden lurch upwards as the second post-industrial S curve kicks in. Transistors, mass media, television, space flight, microwaves, lasers, youth culture, miniaturization, air conditioning, a new wave of medicine, and so much more just explodes between 1945 to 1990 culminating in things like (and especially) the Internet. The new opportunities opened during that time made the future seem so amazing. It seemed prudent to imagine that old sci-fi visions were going to come true. We were going to see driverless cars, moon bases, home robots, laser weapons, artificial people, and so much more. 

 

But then around 1995 or so, all that progress seemed as if it came to a screeching halt and we entered another era of refinements and iterative improvements. It wasn't obvious at first and people still thought that the year 2000 (or at least 2010) would live up to sci-fi dreams, but by 2010 there was that definite sense that the previous decade was nowhere near as transformative as previous ones. 

What happened? When did instant messaging, Bluetooth, search engine optimization, and smartphones become "the Future?" Why does it feel like the Future's nothing but a bunch of refinements to the internet? Why is my car from 2015 barely better than my old car from 1999? Oh, I see! They're putting iPads and Wi-Fi in our refrigerators and washing machines. Well done! Well fucking done, lads! The Future is so amazing! Wow, Wikipedia is such an important innovation! Now I can read about the Civil War and how General Buttman lost the Battle of Gettysburg Address. Look at that: I can watch videos of people dancing on "YouTube". Golly, now people carry around cellphones that can access the internet, just like they could a decade ago but with a touch screen and better bandwidth. Just amazing, amazing stuff. Truly science fiction come to life. The year 2000 lived up to the hype. 

 

What else has the Future brought us? Manchildren screaming while playing video games to amuse 12-year-olds. The ability to stream generic electro-pop music to your cellphone. Slightly more standardized cruise control in cars. E-pads that are basically just digital books. You can talk to people online now, so basically just telephones but over the internet. The International Space Station, okay that's actually a good one. But it's still in low-Earth orbit and we rarely put more than maybe to 8 people there. Oh, and we discontinued space shuttles and are hitching rides on Russian rockets. 

 

Christ, the Future fucking sucks. Where's our robots? Where's our flying cars? Where's our kilometer-high starscrapers? Where's our VR? Where's our artificial intelligence? Where's our fusion power? Where's our Unified Theory of Everything? Where's our resurrected woolly mammoths?

Instead we have President Trump, we had a great recession, we had more wars in the Middle East and a drug war in Mexico, people getting addicted to opium, and some neat gadgets here and there.

 

 

It's easy to be disillusioned because you're basically just reading about countries building dams and internet companies refining text search for 20 years.

 

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the next technological S curve starts once we reach the baseline of hardware and knowledge necessary to launch ourselves upwards. In other words, the foundation is now set and it's time to start building. 

We were waiting very patiently for useful robots and getting frustrated that, year after year and decade after decade, they remained elusive. Within five to ten years, we might see utility droids in our houses, actively serving us. How did it happen so quickly? Why now and not in the 1980s? Why is it this "five to ten years" and not the last one? It's like asking why a 15 year old is expected to get a job in the next five to ten years rather than 1 year old. If you want a robot, you need sufficient computing power and sufficiently capable AI and sufficiently capable training. Computers, even supercomputers in the 1970s were pissweak and routinely outdone by handheld video game consoles in the 1990s. So they couldn't run vision systems at any acceptable rate. There was no real internet or ethernet to share massive data sets: again, computers were too weak. It'd probably take a year just to download a few images of a living room unless they were compressed to the point of being useless. Hence why we had to get robots to model their environment on the spot, which naturally ran into limits. And since there was no widespread internet, you couldn't easily share the results of that training with other teams; they'd pretty much have to redo everything from scratch. You couldn't share videos especially, and you couldn't even share image; just text, and not a lot of text at that. The sensors on the robot would be weak as well, so whatever data you generate is low-quality.  

 

In order to get domestic utility robots, you need massive training programs to get these droids to understand latent space, natural language, and commonsense. We're talking petabytes of data. You need the infrastructure first before you can get that data. You need computer networks with very high bandwidth to share that data. You need internet protocols and services that facilitate and ease the difficult in sharing data. You need easier access to said data. You need a larger pool of scientists who are educated enough and healthy enough to come onto these sorts of projects in the first place. And this robot will not be the first robot ever; you're going to want a market for robots in the first place, exploiting what you're already capable of doing. To get enough data, though, you're going to need some way to get people to make enough data. Smartphones are the perfect tool. You need refinements to video processing and natural language processing too. Suddenly, those enterprise speech recognition algorithms and livestream apps don't seem so useless. 

 

And then, of course, you also build on direct developments like robotics teams that experimented for decades to figure out how to get a humanoid to walk, or prosthestics teams that developed amazing bionic arms and legs. Then comes artificial intelligence to save the day. Now that there's ungodly amount of data generated every day (more in a day than the entirety of the 1970s), all you have to do is collect that data and feed it into the right algorithms (and hopefully find more efficient ways to do more with less). 

 

It all starts coming together at a rapid rate right around the same time. And right alongside it, advancements in artificial intelligence and Big Data also spur along progress in genetic engineering via great improvements in the likes of CRISPR and protein folding; AI helps bridge the gap between functional and practical driverless cars (which also thus solves the biggest problem limiting flying cars); AI begins allowing for you to generate any sort of synthetic media you want, no matter what it is, room-temperature superconductors, graphene, quantum & DNA computing, and fusion power finally come into reach; photorealism becomes possible in digital graphics right on time for virtual reality to take advantage of it all; the limits to growth shift as automation takes away the need to account for human physiology and, thus, experience both extreme growth and sustainability for cheaper costs; the internet develops a sort of rudimentary intelligence as a result of cognitive agents being constructed out of next-generation chatbots; biometric feedback and neurotechnology allow for greater accuracy in AI data sets which in turn allows for more powerful and robust AI with which to use to construct the Future. 

 

The take-off will be an exciting time all its own as it was in the 1870s-1880s and the 1940s-1950s when optimism over new innovations spread rapidly. The sense that the future will just be more of the same will begin to wane. 

 

This time, however, things are going to be a little different. The foundational futurism of the 2000s onwards haven't prepared us for what's coming next.


And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.


#15
caltrek

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A lot of excellent comments in this thread.  

 

One theme that I find myself relying upon lately is to stress the continuity of things.  Yes, 

 

 

 

We evolved around our ability to use tools and move. Now it is all coming to a head as our tools reach levels of complexity so extreme and esoteric that we can no longer understand it all. 

 

Yet, can anyone concisely and clearly explain to me how a light bulb works? Radio? Television? Radar?

 

At least in the last two hundred years or so, countless inventions have been introduced.  Most have not understood the nature of how those inventions work beyond "you place the light switch on to the 'on' position and the filaments begin to glow."  Or, "you turn the radio switch on to the "on" position, making sure the volume setting is high enough for you to hear."  

 

Part of the challenges of utilizing these new technologies is to make them user friendly enough that it becomes as simple as utilizing the "on" switch.  There may be some increase in complexity fostered by such things as computer games, but there again it is the technology that is adapting to the human in order for the game to be user friendly.  If a technology fails to do that, it will fail to be adopted.

 

Of course, there are specialists in fields such as medicine, etc.  In those cases only a relatively small number need to understand how to use the technology in question. There is also a need, at least in the interim, for technicians to carry out maintenance and repair.  So while new technology introduces change, it also introduces new opportunities.  Sure, there is always a possibility that at a given moment, the acceleration of technology will cause a sudden surge in unemployment at a society wide level.  Still, the problem is really with the inequality of income and wealth.  If workers own all the new technology being introduced, then their income can simply shift from "earned" income to "unearned" income. From income produced directly from their own labor to income earned because of their ownership of the means of production.  Concentrate ownership in the hands of a few, then you might have a problem.  


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#16
Yuli Ban

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It's why Clarke's Third Law exists. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic because most people don't understand how it really works. They're content with simply using it, no questions asked. 

We stand on the shoulders of giants, the quote says, but what's not typically considered is that those giants, too, stand on the shoulders of giants. And so on, and so forth. We're reaching for the stars because of how many giants there are below us. It's difficult to imagine something that came into existence without a previous development, and we often refuse to consider a lot of things in order to build ourselves up as solo inventors when the turtles go all the way down. 

Don't overthink it: even language itself is a collective effort. Someone else came up with the very words you know. In order to make something innovative, you probably use materials that were machined by someone thousands of miles away, materials that themselves had been discovered hundreds of years ago and whose properties were tinkered with over the years. You learned design and function in schools or from others. You can skip the trial and error by seeing how others do it. And using some recent development in sci-tech, you can probably create something revolutionary that is then used by inventors and companies all over the world going forward, something considered fundamental to the way to future will work. 

Lasers weren't willed out of the ether. They were the result of decades of theories and experiments. Same thing with transistors, radar, and much more. 

It just happens that, from time to time, there are massive surges in innovation as a result of some fundamental threshold being crossed. At no point before then can this surge happen, no matter how hard people try to make it happen.

 

 

It reminds me of the move towards 3D graphics in video games, which I know I've talked about before. How developers were trying to make 3D work as far back as the 1970s and constantly had to use shortcuts, tricks, illusions, and workarounds like Mode 7, parallax scaling, and isometric views. But until around 1994 or so, it just wasn't able to be done consistently no matter what developers did. Once CPUs & GPUs were strong enough, it became feasible to do reliably and regularly, and within just a couple of years, new games were predominantly 3D. But it was those innovations in trying to do 3D and tinkering with hardware that got us there in the first place and gave people the tools and visions of what they wanted to achieve going forward.


And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.





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