Monthly Archives: October 2016

Stephen Hawking, #AI, and the “History of Stupidity”

Following on from the very brief post on Adam Curtis’ #Hyper-Normalisation, which is riveting viewing despite its length being around 166 minutes, and despite the fact that it, like most of Curtis’ productions IMO, leaves you feeling oddly numb as the end credits roll, kind of like you’ve seen too much and can’t quite process the wave after wave of stupid human behaviour being presented to you in film format, it’s fascinating to hear Professor Stephen Hawking’s view that: “We [humans] spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let’s face it, is mostly the history of stupidity.” And you’d have to admit, he’s got a point here.

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So, with that in mind, and very much “on-trend” in terms of what’s going on in the world, and as was touched on in Hyper-Normalisation, what’s the deal-i-o with AI? Is it likely to be, as Pro Hawking (can we just call him the Hawk?) predicts, “either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity?” Now, surely that will depend on your viewpoint in the first instance. Watching @Gemma_Chan1 on How to Build a Human the other night, it was interesting to hear views from experts who feel we may need to curb AI’s remit before it even comes into existence, and that AI needs to be for our benefit – but curb it from doing what, precisely, and who are the “we” that we are speaking of?

For instance, AI may reach a level where it decides that we are truly a very stupid species and that things need to change. But what things might it want to change, and how would that impact upon “humanity?” The show gave us a brief glimpse of AI gone rogue, with an example of a Twitter account run by AI that ended up all misogynistic and racist and stuff – so that’s not a great future.

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But what if a supremely intelligent form of AI were to come into existence, take a bit of time to look around and do its research before coming up with the following list of things that need changing:

  • The practice of thinking that the best way of keeping peace on the planet (even though that seems never to have happened, thus far) is to invent the deadliest weapons you can think of that would annihilate the population if used in sufficient numbers.
  • The practice of allowing “humane” end-of-life procedures for animals you care for, whilst at the same time leaving humans to suffer some awful and agonisingly slow deaths through sickness/illness, and the like.
  • The practice of encouraging/forcing the bulk of “civilised” populations to be placated into doing endless tasks that are, and always will be, meaningless – whether that be shopping, working (unless it’s a job that truly benefits society), or engaging in forms of entertainment.
  • The practice of viewing some humans as less human than others, and therefore less worthy of basic human rights – like adequate access to healthy sources of food and water, and the provision of shelter and a safe environment.

And those are just four examples of things that we might consider to be stupid ways of living. What if AI messed with those things? What would that look like, and, more to the point, who would object?

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Adam Curtis’ #Hyper-Normalisation

Only part-way through this film, but there’s sufficient substance to start a post, and the most intriguing thing about Curtis’ film, Hyper-Normalisation, so far, is the use of the phrase “collective action,” as opposed to what appears to be a scathing critique of the “individual” who observes life with a kind of “hip irony.” The sentiment, here, and remember that the film isn’t finished yet, seems to be one aimed at pricking the senses, perhaps stirring viewers to a form of collective action. The questions that keep popping up with respect to this are: but what kind of collective action can we imagine when we have to make a film that spells out the state of hyper-normalisation? What, if any, collective action is possible when, for instance, and here’s a seasonal reminder, we have the whole weight of corporate marketing aimed at convincing us that we need to give things to each other in excess, or to buy those things for ourselves, and often with credit (money that we don’t have), because that’s a good way to celebrate the life of Jesus Christ?

Side note: Some of the things that we could buy right now – drones with cameras (up to £1300); VR (virtual reality) goggles (up to £100); and, showing how desperate corporate marketing is when it comes to not letting us rest for even a moment, wireless headphones (up to £250), with the accompanying tag-line: “Run off that Christmas Pudding.” And, on a separate note, we can also see the ways in which we are kept pigeon-holed when we stop to consider the sections that tell us which gifts are acceptable/suitable “For Him,” and “For Her,” each with the very simple colour scheme of blue for boy, pink for girl.

Anyway, back to the film for now.


Just So Many Reasons to Not Accept the #Lockerroom Excuse

In light of #DonaldTrump’s recent comments, where he attempts to excuse away the vile comments he made about the ways in which he professes to grab females by their genitalia, here are a few reminders of why such talk should not merely be excused as “locker room” banter.

  • Reminder 1: Judge #AaronPersky continues to be lenient in his sentencing of abusive people, such as #BrockTurner. If we excuse such comments, the Aaron Perskys and Brock Turners of the world feel justified in their actions when they should be horrified by them.
  • Reminder 2: The levels of violence aimed at women around the globe, like the news item in Argentina, are far too many to be excused, and so Trump’s comments should not be tolerated, nor should they be excused.
  • Reminder 3: Convicted rapists, such as Brock Turner, simply fade from memory as news items move on. Unfortunately, the survivors of such crimes do not get to have their memory of events fade away so simply, and therefore we must continue to hold at the forefront of our minds the horrendous things that humans do to one another when they feel they can justify their actions away as “locker room” behaviour, for example (a very basic internet search of “Brock Turner update” brings back items that date no later than early September 2016 – so his story of raping an unconscious person fades away from public view).

(Lucia Perez (pictured above) died as a result of some person/s justifying their behaviour to themselves – it’s never right to treat another human in this manner, nor is it okay to excuse their behaviour) The preceding article is extremely disturbing – all the more reason to read it and contribute to ending such behaviour, however you can.


(Still) Troubled by #MrRobot and the #Infinite Loop of Insanity

On the 4th or perhaps 5th time of watching, Mr. Robot, Series 1, episodes 1-3 still do not disappoint, and so the question remains… at what point will the show start to fail its subversive underpinnings and come crashing down to reveal nothing but rubble with no sign of the essential footings required to maintain the kind of integral structure I’d once imagined was possible? (Architecture metaphor?).

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There’s just no other word for it. Subversive. That’s what it is. It’s just so subversive in its first incarnation that it’s almost impossible to fail to notice its subversiveness. So, what went wrong with Series 2.0? A question I’ve been grappling with all summer, and until attending a Rosi Braidotti masterclass I’d imagined I’d be struggling with such a question a good while longer.

But now a glimmer of hope.

Perhaps there’s a need to apply Deleuzian principles in order to make sense of the shift from subversiveness to a kind of style over substance? But, better check back later when more reading has been done…


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