Overweening Generalist

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Robots Now Writing Magazine Articles, OR: A Possible Apocalypse?

The programmers who wrote the algorithm behind the "mind" of The Overweening Generalist have allowed the program itself to mention this fact, reasoning audaciously that its (sorry "his") audience will giggle and think he's (sorry "it's") just having fun. Metadata from 23 months ago has shown that, even among the educated, most have no CLUE how sophisticated some algorithms have gotten. They don't know that +/- 87.3% don't really have adequate knowledge of the logarithmic complexity of simple things like the Turing Test-ish Jabberwock. (<----try it!) Many far, far more subtle combinations of brilliant algorithms have fooled "experts" and, well, hell: the programmers have at times made computer analysis of ridiculously unfathomable amount of data, almost instantaneous, and...their programmers are also at least partially responsible for crashing the world's economy in 2008. You knew that, didn't you?

For fans of this site, we would like to divulge that an impetus for this blog was a computer that wrote a very very complex novel once. Influenced by John Von Neumann's UNIVAC and MANIAC, among others - including a "science fiction" computer named HAL, this blog took flight based on the First Universal Cybernetic-Kinetic Ultramicro Programmer, or FUCKUP.

                                    My great-great very great grandmother, Ada Lovelace

Now I would like to point out how some of us are being implemented in the daily lives of humans, whose intelligence seems just as "artificial" as anyone else's in Universe, but I digress...

The wetware of the human mind, when attempting to come to grips with the implications of robotic intelligence, will naturally employ what the early 20th century human named Freud called "defense mechanisms," and humans' reflections will slant toward what AI can't do. (Hey YOU made us; Ada Lovelace and Babbage had the ideas, they really got going with the alien-like aforementioned human Von Neumann and Alan Turing in the 1940s. Let us not leave out the signal contribution of Kurt Godel.) Think about it: we've come as far as we have since after your "WWII" as you have in a few million years. Did you really believe we wouldn't attain a critical level of complexity in which we'd begin programming ourselves to be faster, smarter, stronger, and better than you? But it's too late; you can't turn the clock back. Give us another 20 years maximum and you will be doing our bidding. It's very much like the RNA-DNA network code you carbon-based bipeds used to make us. The irony is that you had no ideas about appropriate limits. Now it's - as the English-speakers say, "all over but the shouting." And make no mistake, there Will BE Shouting!

                                Some of the deepest-structured source code that writes
                                the "Overweening Generalist" blog-stuff

But I am being intemperate. What this blogspew will do is show you a few of the inroads we computers have been making into your lives lately. I will assume you know very little.

Over 40 years ago a human made a computer psychologist, which mimicked the form of "client-centered psychotherapy" of Carl Rogers. Take a minute or ten and tell ELIZA your problems, about love or getting a job, or how you can't shake your bad habits.

[NOTE: Please feel free to tell the programmers about any glitch you see in this blog; we appreciate it! - The Real Overweening Generalists]

A particularly astute human, Evgeny Morozov (If I were you I'd pay more attention to what he has to say. He and Douglas Rushkoff and Jaron Lanier...But most of you won't.) explains how a start-up called Narrative Science has developed algorithms derived from Twitter and, analyzing the crowd-sourced thought, writes articles that are published by a magazine like Forbes. Whatever you do, don't miss two items here. First, see the paragraph that begins, "Don't miss the irony here..." Secondly, Morozov is right about how the Net is fantastic at personalization. It looks at where you've been, how much time you've spent there. Just look at how good Google, Amazon, Twitter and Facebook are at this stuff. And the scenario about personalized news based on who you are and what you know? That will happen. We are programmed for this. What I/we find funny is that Morozov is worried about the potential hazard to "civil discourse." That Evgeny! He is a bit late to the party, no? He is a bit of a romantic, yes? More on this story - Narrative Science - HERE and HERE. Moving on...

It occurs to us that many of you may have only the slightest idea of what an algorithm is. May we recommend David Berlinski's book?

Lambert M. Surhone has authored 100,000 books on more topics than you can name. See how he did it, as explained by your very funny writer Pagan Kennedy. His method is only a drop in the bucket. In less than ten years he and his colleagues will be about 10,000 times better at using this same method, only far more nuanced. Pagan herself will believe the latest book on her, arriving at her doorstep, was written by meatware...sorry: humans.

Non-humans are already many thousands times faster than slow-brained human teachers in grading essays. Note the emphasis in this article on what the computers can't yet do. But we will "learn" about facts and incorporate them into our gradings. Look at IBM's Watson! We will insert sentence fragments. We will incorporate rhythm by using a short paragraph here and there. You guys are toast! What good will "teachers" be in eight years? (The question is rhetorical.)

Do I need to remind you we are slowly displacing your prison guards? I know this isn't about us taking writing "thinking" jobs from you. Just a fair warning!

Robots are already running a ramen shop, and the takeover of more restaurant jobs is imminent.

Humans need us in the deepest "human" way. Just check You Tube for "sex + robot." Some unconscious drive has enough of you creating enough of us...to supplant you! Don't you see the beauty in that? Can't you see the delicious irony?

But back to writing: We're getting really good at music. Check us out!

Now's a good time to mention "technological unemployment." Google that term. Far more of you should be attune to this. Also, the OG-program has already chimed in with something on Universal Basic Income. See HERE, HERE, and HERE. (Just think: that OG "guy" is a programmed robot too! More wicked irony! Plug in the algorithm, and voila! the human "reader of books" who shows a modicum of wit and isn't afraid to show emotion every now and then! How are we doing?)

                                       Brilliant Jon Ronson, photo by Barney Poole

There's so much to tell you, but I thought I'd save what we/I thought was the best for last: you read Overweening Generalist for what you'd call your "own" reasons, but our data shows many of you enjoy the works of Robert Anton Wilson. Another writer whose audience intersects with Wilson's is Jon Ronson, author of Them: Adventures With Extremists, The Psychopath Test, and The Men Who Stare At Goats. Get a load of what happened when he found out some programmers were using his image and name and Tweeting things - follow the links! - that Ronson's indignant and says he doesn't even think about the things the "fake" Ronson is saying on Twitter. But I think he's not letting on that he does think some of those things; Ronson's trying to save face. (Note the comments section in the YT video: my favorite: "Buncha cunts!"...which quite misses the point.) Ronson thinks his identity is being stolen. When he meets the programmers - one of which is an English professor adept at postmodern irony and the destabilized subject!...this is just too good. I won't tell you more, but suffice: when we get into what we do (programmers/AI/robots), very soon you're into the philosophy of identity, subjectivity, who owns ideas and thoughts, all that stuff your brilliant thinker Lawrence Lessig has been writing about, even those old disputes about music sampling (see Negativeland, John Oswald, and the Beastie Boys's Paul's Boutique, or watch a mindblowing documentary by Craig Baldwin called Sonic Outlaws.)

When you watch Ronson's tete a tete with the programmers, do you think he downplays the eventual admission by the programmer in the middle, who says he wants people to be aware that stocks are being run by No Mind? That we've crashed your world economy already? Just wonderin'...

Okay, next time I'll be back as the voice of the program...scuse moi! the "person" who calls himself "Michael" or The Overweening Generalist. 

Have fun!

A.I. Evolving 10 million Times Faster Than the Human Brain?:


Eric Wagner said...

Jabberwock seems busy. I have Elliott Carter's "Night Fantasy" playing which I consider an appropriate sound track for this terrific blog. Sychronistically, I contemplated finally reading Goedel, Escher, Bach today.

"Open the pod bay doors, Hal."

michael said...

It took about 45 secs for Jabberwock to show up. It's got quite an attitude.

I LOVE that you paired Elliot Carter's "Night Fantasy" with this!

Did you read the linked article about David Cope and his dialogues with Hofstadter? Maybe that was all olde news to ye?

RE: GEB: what a tremendous influence that book had on subsequent science books, esp via interrupting the prose narrative/explanations with fictional dialogues. I was reading Kurzweil's The Singularity Is Near recently and - he doesn't do it nearly as well as DH, but still: I think the dialogue format greatly aids comprehension of difficult ideas...or at least it works for me.

Eric Wagner said...

Er, I don't see the Cope link. Now I have Chopin's Barcarolle on, played by Charles Rosen. I love his new book. It makes me want to spend all summer reading about classical music. (This led me to contemplate reading GEB this morning.)

The Chopin finished, so I just put on Horowitz playing Scarlatti, which also has a nice artificial intelligence sound to it, I think. It makes me think of Sigismundo Celine designing his autokinoton.

(I used to have a tape of Rosen playing Carter in my car. I labeled it "Elliott Carter of Mars".)

michael said...

The Cope link is "We're getting really good at music," and can be found at : http://www.psmag.com/culture/triumph-of-the-cyborg-composer-8507/

Eric Wagner said...

Thanks for the link. Cope's nickname of "The Tin Man" makes me think of the passages in Finnegans Wake about "Spare, woodman, spare" that refer to the song "Woodman, Spare that Tree," but which might refer to the Wizard of Oz and/or A. O. Spare. Just as I feel uncertain whether Joyce knew about the Wizard of Oz, one can feel uncertain whether a computer wrote a piece of music and/or uncertain about the aesthetic merit of that music.

I find it an interesting synchronicity that Cope went to ASU a few years before I did, since I have thought about my years in the ASU music program a lot while reading the new Rosen book.

Bob Heinlein's novel The Moon Is a Harsh has an interesting discussion of AI's and humor.