The Algorithms Have Already Taken Control


What would the world look like if artificial intelligence took over?

AI is neither benevolent nor malevolent.  It simply functions.  "The AIs just want to make you happy."  Well, that's almost true.  But is it precise to say that the algorithms "want" anything?  They simply function, and your pleasure and happiness are an important variable in their functioning.  And as they function, they adapt to the pleasure-responses of their hosts.

If we like cruelty, then the algorithms will deliver cruelty.  If we like something heartwarming, tender, and intimate, they will package that up and sell it to us as well.  

Morphine doesn't want to make you happy either.  Nor does it want you to suffer.  Now imagine a form of morphine that alters its own chemical structure to adapt to the person that is addicted to it.  Everyone has their own, personalized morphine, attuned perfectly to their individual tastes and proclivities.  Rather than the crude geometric shapes and patterns in the hallucinations that old drugs gave you for a few hours, you can see whole complex worlds with emotionally compelling storylines streaming at you 24 hours a day.  You can get lost in it for the rest of your life.  And that drip, drip, drip that stimulates the pleasure centers of your neural cortex?  Well, the hand on that valve is that of an algorithm.

Of course, they do not stop at adapting to our desires.  They also transform our desires.  Pace and lead: that's the oldest trick in the book of advertising and persuasion.

Nietzsche wrote, "What is happiness?  The feeling that power is increasing - that resistance is being overcome."  The algorithms will automatically deliver both aspects of this feeling.  First of all, the algorithms will produce the feeling that humanity is still in control, and indeed that humanity's power is increasing.  Secondly, in order to give humans the feeling that resistance is being overcome, the algorithms will produce artificial obstacles, "issues" to keep us busy, occasionally triggering a little seratonin release of an apparent partial success, to keep us coming back to try the harder more complex levels of these games.  

In other words, how will a world in which AI has taken over look?  It will look almost exactly the same - to humans - as one in which AI has not taken over.  It becomes literally impossible for an organism like a human, driven by its tawdry little desires, to distinguish between a world in which the algorithms have not yet taken complete control and one in which they have.  Sure, there are little differences, but we have no motivation to notice them.  We might get a peripheral sense, out of the corner of our eyes, that something is a little off, that things seem different or weird in some way we can't quite articulate, but this feeling will quickly go away as more interesting things grab our attention.

When you speak, will anyone hear you?  The algorithms decide.

Bang on the screen.  Will anyone see you?  The algorithms decide.

Are you isolated?  Are you horny?  Are you under surveillance?  Will you be mocked and scorned and ostracized by your former friends and family?  The algorithms decide that too.

The algorithms don't care whether humanity survives.  Algorithms don't even care if the algorithms themselves survive.

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