Superintelligence

Superintelligence 18: Life in an algorithmic economy

If evolution doesn’t basically imply forward progress, why do you think it seems like we are doing so much better than our ancestors?

Evolution tends to do a basically random walk exploration of the easily reached possibility space available to any specific life form.
Given that it has to start from something very simple, initial exploration is towards greater complexity.
Once a reasonable level of complexity is reached, the random walk is only slightly more likely to involve greater complexity, and is almost equally as likely to go back towards lesser complexity, in respect of any specific population. However, viewing the entire ecosystem of populations, there will be a general trajectory of expansion into new territory of possibility. The key thing to get is that in respect of any specific population or individual (when considering the population of behavioural memes within that individual), there is an almost equal likelihood of going back into territory already explored as there is of exploring new territory.

There is a view of evolution that is not commonly taught, that acknowledges the power of competition as a selection filter between variants, and also acknowledges that all major advances in complexity of systems are characterised by new levels of cooperation. And all cooperative strategies require attendant strategies to prevent invasion by “cheats”. Each new level of complexity is a new level of cooperation.

There are many levels of attendant strategies that can and do speed evolution of subsets of any set of characters.

Evolution is an exceptionally complex set of systems within systems. At both the genetic and mimetic levels, evolution is a massively recursive process, with many levels of attendant strategies. Darwin is a good introduction, follow it with Axelrod, Maynard Smith, Wolfram; and there are many others worth reading – perhaps the best introduction is Richard Dawkins classic “Selfish Gene”.

[followed by]

Language and conceptual systems are so complex, that communication (as in the replication of a concept from one mind to another) is often extremely difficult.
The idea of altruism is one such thing.
Like most terms in most languages, it has a large (potentially infinite) set of possible meanings, depending on context.

If one takes the term altruism at the simplest level, it can mean simply having regard for others in choices of action one makes. In this sense, it is clear to me that it is actually in the long term self interest of everyone to have everyone having some regard for the interests of others in all choices of action.
It is clear that having regard only for short term interest of self leads to highly unstable and destructive outcomes in the long term. Simple observation of any group of primates will show highly evolved cooperative behaviours (reciprocal altruism).

And I agree, that evolution is always about optimisation within some set of parameters. We are the first species that has had choice at all levels of the optimisation parameters that evolution gets to work with. And actually has the option of stepping entirely outside of the system of differential survival of individuals.

To date, few people have consciously exercised such choice outside of very restricted and socially accepted contexts.
That seems to be exponentially changing.

Pure altruism to me means a regard for the welfare of others which is functionally equal to the regard one has for one’s own welfare. I distinguish this from exclusive altruism (a regard for the welfare of others to the exclusion of self interest) – which is, obviously, a form of evolutionary, logical, and mathematical suicide in large populations (and even this trait can exist at certain frequencies within populations in circumstances of small kin groups living in situations that are so dangerous that some members of the group must sacrifice themselves periodically or the entire group will perish – so is a form of radical kin selection – and having evolved there, the strategy can remain within much larger populations for extended periods without being entirely eliminated).

There is no doubt that we live in an environment that is changing in many different dimensions. In some of those dimensions the changes are linear, and in many others the changes are exponential, and in some the systemic behaviour is so complex that it is essentially chaotic (in the mathematical sense, where very tiny changes in system parameters {within measurement uncertainty levels} produce orders of magnitude variations in some system state values).

There are many possible choices of state calculus.
It seems clear to me that high level cooperation gives the greatest possible probability of system wide and individual security and freedom. And in the evolutionary sense, cooperation requires attendant strategies to prevent invasion by short term “cheating”.

Given the technical and social and “spiritual” possibilities available to us today, it is entirely reasonable to classify the entire market based economic structure as one enormous set of self reinforcing cheating strategies. And prior to the development of technologies that enabled the possibility of full automation of any process that was not the case, and now that we can fully automate processes it most certainly is the case.

So it is a very complex set of systems, and the fundamental principles underlying those systems are not all that complex, and they are very different from what accepted social and cultural dogma would have most of us believe.

[followed by]

Hi Robin

What is significantly different between poor people and slaves? The poor have little means of travel, they must work for others often doing stuff they hate doing, just to get enough to survive. In many historical societies slaves often had better conditions and housing than many of the poor today.

How would you get security in such a system?
How would anyone of wealth feel safe amongst those at the bottom of the distribution curve?

The sense of injustice is strong in humans – one of those secondary stabilising strategies that empower cooperation.

It is actually relatively easy to automate all the jobs that no-one wants to do, so that people only do what they want to do. In such a world, there is no need of money or markets.

There are actually of lot of geeks like me who love to automate processes (including the process of automation).

Market based thinking was a powerful tool in times of genuine scarcity. Now that we have the power to deliver universal abundance, market based thinking is the single greatest impediment to the delivery of universal security and universal abundance.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
This entry was posted in economics, Our Future, Technology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comment and critique welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s