🧠Mind Expanding 16 Jun 2023: 🌐technopolar hegemony vs. EarthStack🌍AI ouroboros🐍slime mold and intelligence🦠 AI alignment = planting trees?🌳universal basic (applied statistics)💻
Mind Expanding is my ~fortnightly curation for Memia subscribers of links to deeper dives and bigger thinks and other eclectica that I’ve come across while compiling the weekly newsletter. Thanks for reading!
Links in today’s post:
🌐🌍Technopolar hegemony vs EarthStack economic and geopolitical power continues to concentrate into the hands of multinational tech companies. Is global open source govtech the only way to address this?
🐍AI Ouroboros AI models training on AI-generated content risk misperceiving reality
🗣️ ChatGPT as strategist: don’t replace your strategy team (yet)
🔀 The digital twin IS the strategy an article I wrote from 2020
🔓 Is Open Source AI winning? Alberto Romero thinks not
📚 Ted Chiang on AI the sci-fi author provides an insightful commentary on AI in the FT
🤖 AI learning from AI detaches from reality.
⚠️ Model evaluation for extreme risks an important new paper from Google Deepmind provides a process to evaluate potential extreme harm from new AI models.
🌳 AI Alignment = planting trees? an exploration of Greg Kieser's work with the Reforesters initiative, promoting AI alignment with ecological restoration
🔮 Networking in the Mind Age contemplating evolution beyond humans
💻 Universal Basic AI? a new human right?
🧩 Miscellany quick mentions of several other topics:
🌍 Global morality isn't declining according to a new study
🧠 Hyperdimensional computing, a new approach promising more power-efficient AI problem-solving.
🦠 Slime mold and the definition of intelligence.
🤯 The Gödel metric
👽 The aliens are already here? The latest UAP rabbit hole…
🏙️ Les Espaces d'Abraxas a look into the backstory of French social architecture from the 1980s
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🌐🌍Technopolar hegemony vs EarthStack?
A common theme for my writing the Memia newsletter over the last 3 and a half years has been the concentration of economic and political power in multinational, hyperscale technology companies. In particular this imagined 2030 scenario, “MicrosoftStarlink, SinoStack nations“ from ⏩Fast Forward Aotearoa #8 a year ago:
“Over the course of the 2020s, the bifurcation between mainstream Western (US) and Chinese technology stacks continues until it reaches the point where there is very little interoperability at all…
…Throughout the 2020s, the consolidation of Western cloud computing infrastructure into just three giant US technology firms (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud) continues and by 2028 these three firms make up over 95% of computational capacity throughout Western nations. Despite soothing assurances about “privacy” and “data sovereignty”, there are lingering suspicions that US intelligence services have back doors into this infrastructure…
…Around the world, national Governments become increasingly dependent on these huge scale, vertically integrated cloud data centres, communications networks and technology stacks. Most small country governments can only afford to do a deal with one giant to build an onshore data centre: either Amazon, AlphabetMeta or MicrosoftStarlink. Part of the deal includes provision of all government digital services. Core services like citizen identity, passports, welfare payments, elections all get purchased from the cloud company’s services catalogue.
As these changes become rapidly embedded, it becomes clear that no government is ever going to be able to change the stack they are operating on and the concept of “sovereignty” becomes more about which tech giant is running your country’s tech infrastructure than who was voted in or out of Parliament at the last election. The map of the world becomes a colour-coded eyechart with AlphabetMeta strong in the US and in the EU, MicrosoftStarlink dominant in the US, UK, Singapore, Australia and Aotearoa and Amazon strong in the US and also around coastal Asia...
In October 2030, Aotearoa is all geared up for its first fully digital election running on Microsoft Office Elections - MMP Edition. At the moment the polls open…. all of the MicrosoftStarlink cloud computing network worldwide goes offline in a massive cyberattack…“
(Echoes of Malka Older’s excellent Infomocracy series of novels…)
This was written before the implications of progressively more powerful generative AI models had hit the mainstream.
Political scientist Ian Bremmer also riffs on these themes. His article from October 2021, The Technopolar Moment- How Digital Powers Will Reshape the Global Order articulates how technology companies are becoming de facto superpowers. And his recent TED talk is even more explicit:
“If China and the United States work to exert much more power over the digital world and technology companies in those countries align with those governments, we will end up in a technology cold war. And that means the digital order will be split in two.
If, on the other hand, technology companies persist with global business models, and we retain competition between the digital and physical worlds, we will have a new globalization, a digital global order.
Or if the digital order becomes increasingly dominant and governments erode in their capacity to govern, and we've already seen the beginning of this, technology companies will become the dominant actors on the global stage in every way and we will have a techno-polar order. And that will determine whether we have a world of limitless opportunity or a world without freedom.“
With OpenAI actively hiring geopolitical research scientists… plainly some tech giants are thinking along similar lines. Are there solutions to addressing this problem?
The pacing problem
In her article Congress vs. the “Pacing Problem[s]”: Policy lags technology and it’s only getting worse, Marci Harris outlines the fundamental cause:
In order for national governments to keep up with emerging tech, fundamentally they need to catch up… and then keep pace. Which means becoming technology organisations themselves. Yeah right. (But don’t let that stop you trying, politicians and bureaucrats!!!)
Right now if I’m honest, the only real scenario I can see hurtling towards us is Ian Bremmer’s all-too-real Technopolar hegemony. So what are the viable alternatives?
I continue to gravitate towards some of the (admittedly hyper-libertarian) thinking of Balaji Srivinasan and his nascent Network State theory. With nation state governments currently being left behind in this race, if they want a hope of being relevant in future then they need to band together to create “network” technological states.
This week (in response to continuing Indian handwringing after Sam Altman’s swaggering visit), Balaji proposed the open-sourcing of the nascent “India Stack”, the new software platform which is rapidly digitising India’s national payments and identity services for over a billion people. I had an even bigger idea:
I can envision the creation of “EarthStack”, a rapidly evolving open source repository sponsored by nation states, city states, network states (governments of every shape and size) to actually co-invest in technological capability and innovation while also retaining some semblance of democratic accountability and providing a counterweight to growing hegemonic powers of hyperscalers.
AI applied statistics
A roundup of longer links about AI
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