Such software has certain distinctively teleological features. It employs massive reiteration in order to learn from outcomes. Performance improvement thus tends to descend from the future. To learn, without supervision, is to acquire a sense for fortune. Winning prospects are explored, losing ones neglected. After trying things out – against themselves – a few million times, such systems have built instincts for what works. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ have been auto-installed, though, of course, in a Nietzschean or fully-amoral sense. Whatever, through synthetic experience, has led to a good place, or in a good direction, it pursues. Bad stuff, it economizes on. So it wins.
Unsupervised learning works back from the end. It suggests that, ultimately, AI has to be pursued from out of its future, by itself. Thus it epitomizes the ineluctable.
For those inclined to be nervous, it’s scary how easy all this is. Super-intelligence, by real definition, is vastly easier than it has been thought to be. Once the technological cascade is in process, subtraction of difficulty is almost the whole of it. Rigorously eliminating everything we think we know about it is the way it’s done.
If we were to make it through this gauntlet of threats, we would still be facing starvation. Grains, the basis of the world’s food supply, are reduced on average by 6% for every one degree Celsius rise above pre-industrial norms. We are now about one degree Celsius above and climbing fast; the oceans are warming twice as fast and have absorbed a staggering 93% of the warming for us so far. If that were not the case, the average land temperatures would be a toasty 36 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit) above what they are now. Of course, there is a huge cost for ocean warming in the form of dying coral reefs, plankton loss, ocean acidification, unprecedented storms, and increased water vapor, which is yet another greenhouse blanket holding heat in the atmosphere.
As I became aware of these facts and many hundreds like them, I also marveled at how oblivious most people are to the coming catastrophes. There has never been a greater news story than that of humans facing full extinction, and yet extinction is rarely mentioned on the evening news, cable channels, or on the front pages of blogs and newspapers. It is as though the world’s astronomers were telling us that an asteroid is heading our way and will make a direct hit destined to wipe out all of life to which the public responds by remaining fascinated with sporting events, social media, the latest political scandals, and celebrity gossip.
However, beginning about five years ago, a few books and other sources of information began to address the chances of full extinction of all complex life, and these became my refuge, even though the information was the most horrific I had ever imagined.
via Catherine Ingram, Facing Extinction, Facing Extinction by Catherine Ingram, 2019 Facing Extinction by Catherine Ingram, 2019-Facing Extinction by Catherine Ingram, Leonard Cohen, Dahr Jamail, Chris Hedges, Extinction, Extinction Rebellion, global warming, climate change, climate disruption, Deep Adaptation, In the Deep, Catherine Ingram podcast, In the Deep with Catherine Ingram, post, Extinction Facebook, near-term extinction
The biggest problem climate change poses isn’t how the Department of Defense should plan for resource wars, or how we should put up sea walls to protect Alphabet City, or when we should evacuate Hoboken. It won’t be addressed by buying a Prius, signing a treaty, or turning off the air-conditioning. The biggest problem we face is a philosophical one: understanding that this civilization is already dead. The sooner we confront this problem, and the sooner we realize there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves, the sooner we can get down to the hard work of adapting, with mortal humility, to our new reality.
The choice is a clear one. We can continue acting as if tomorrow will be just like yesterday, growing less and less prepared for each new disaster as it comes, and more and more desperately invested in a life we can’t sustain. Or we can learn to see each day as the death of what came before, freeing ourselves to deal with whatever problems the present offers without attachment or fear.
If we want to learn to live in the Anthropocene, we must first learn how to die.