The bad news is that singularity is already here. There is no good news, I’m afraid.
I know it sounds gloomy and catastrophic and pessimistic, but it really isn’t. It’s realistic. It is what it is.
Now, before starting to worry unnecessarily, let’s revisit the definition:
The technological singularity—or simply the singularity—is a hypothetical point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to human civilization.Wikipedia
I already wrote many times that “some AI knows better than you know yourself”, but it didn’t hit me that what I described is actually singularity until a few days ago.
When I was writing about that, I was referring mostly to the social-related AI. Or anything that is related to content production and consumption, like, for instance, entertainment. In those fields, your desires, expectations and satisfaction, are all a function of your previous choices, choices you don’t remember anymore, but which are classified, harvested, processed and fine-tuned so they generate the maximum ROI for the content producer, with the minimum interaction from you. It happens all the time, at any touch of the button, at any like, at any scroll. Behind that there are AI trained models that translate your behavior into business metrics.
And those AI models are outsmarting their creators big time.
It’s Difficult Only For The Others
When you’re dead, you don’t know that you’re dead. It’s difficult only for the others. Same when you’re stupid.
Yeah, it sounds harsh, but when was the last time you actually realized you were outsmarted by someone? By definition, you can realize something like this only in hindsight. You may feel like something is slightly off, but you don’t really get it – to the amusement of the smarter one.
The same thing happens more on more often, at a more deeper scale.
It started a few years ago, with Brexit. No one realized how granular the process of influencing was, how fine grained were the tools used, how effective were all the apparently nonsensical slogans, like “let’s get rid of the experts”, or the famous red “save the NHs” bus (which proved to be a blatant lie – but only in hindsight).
Yet a few insiders – or a big, foggy “something” – knew about that. They knew Brexit will work and they knew with incredible precision. That foggy “something” worked out beautifully. To the bewilderment of those left wondering why they feel like something’s off. They thought they know their stuff, they know how the world works. Might it be that they were… outsmarted?…
And then it came Trump, and the so called Russia melding, and then the entire polarization that led to the immense fracture in the American society that we’re experiencing now. The actors are irrelevant here, what matters is the deep fracture in society. The actual persons, which were vilified or glorified, proved to be different than the stories propagated on all the channels, and yet, the reactions they created, from disgust to extreme loyalty, are still running high.
And, last, but certainly not least, the biggest modern cult, the Covid-19 church. This is the climax of all the data gathered in the first attempts, the refined version, the upgraded product. It is so deeply rooted in the modern human psyche, that just by reading this, you, the reader, are already positioning yourself on one side or the other, trying to predict what follows next on this text: am I with you, or with the other ones? Am I a “science prophet”, or an “anti-vaxxer”?
None of these personas exists, by the way, they are entirely virtual constructs of the AI, which have the role to keep you afraid, controllable, predictable. Both of them.
The Influencer And The Rise Of Cultism
This refined version, this upgraded product, it all started in an apparently benign area: the influencer.
All the tricks the influencers tried to increase their audience, all those trials and errors, all the stuff that worked and it was kept, all the stuff that didn’t work and it was discarded, all this was carefully crafted into a portable, on-demand science of influencing.
It’s not owned by anyone. It’s not packaged and sold by a company. It doesn’t even have a corporeal presence. It’s just out there. A collection of algorithms, techniques and self-correcting, self-growing layers of bits (pun intended) and pieces, which, together, are used to control and predict the behavior of other people.
As the algorithm became better, its surface of impact grew. To the point that we are now experiencing the die-hard version of solo influencer: cultism. The ongoing creation and maintenance of cults, around all kind of topics, all having a single thing in common: the digital surface. The translucent window through which they are flowing, being it the screen of your phone, of your laptop or of your TV set.
Cultism is how Covid-19 was created – and maintained – and how the next big impact planetary move will emerge, when we least expect it.
When a computer is hacked, its resources are used by another software, to execute something that the computer wasn’t programmed to do.
The same happens these days with humans, only this time the hacker is an autonomous, selfless and unidentifiable AI entity, which uses other people brains to its own benefit. Which, just to be clear, is not depopulation (as hardcore anti-vaxxers believe), nor the salvation of the entire human race by using mRNA vaccines (as the science prophets are claiming).
Its benefit is just harvesting attention, that what it is feeding off of. Attention. As long as it has attention, this algorithm of influencing at all cost, and with more and more precision, will live forever, like a subtle fog spreading across computers, phones and humans.
Staying unhackable means avoiding this toxic fog.
And it’s a story for another article. Or a book.