In my last post I covered in detail how ideas become ideology.
“Ideas lead technology. Technology leads organizations. Organizations lead institutions. Then ideology brings up the rear, lagging all the rest — that’s when things really get set in concrete.”—Charles Green (2009)
Today, the underlying ideology is capitalism. It drives the actions of governments, such as claiming that companies are job creators.
“There is no such thing as a ‘job creator’. There are employers, who hire employees, *because they need them*. And then employers pay the employees less than the value they generate. That’s the system. How did we get to the point at which people behave as if the wealthy are giving a gift to working people? I realize it’s not a new attitude, but it remains proudly f’d up.” —Mark Sumner
Ideologies do change, and perhaps we will see a shift in the next few decades, if we don’t kill ourselves first.
“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.” —Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018)
When looking at new technologies as they emerge, it can be useful to first look at the underlying ideology that supports them, and the ideas behind them. In the case of generative pre-trained transformers like ChatGPT, the idea behind them is to automate human work. Automation has been a powerful incentive for those running our private enterprises. For example in 2016 43% of senior executives had the “robotic automation of processes” as a high priority over the next two years. Automation and capitalism create a perfect storm.
GPT extends our voices, obsolesces many forms of human writing, retrieves the ancient Oracle of Delphi, and when pushed to its limits reverses into Potemkin villages. GPT provides instant synthesis that may be good enough, but often contains errors. If it gets used to answer all our questions then it becomes a tool for aphoristic nincompoops posing as techno-oracles.
We discussed various aspects of these technologies in our monthly meeting of the coffee club today. It’s a safe space to have deep conversations beyond the hype and noise of consumer social media platforms. Thinking critically about emerging technologies is becoming a lost art.
From The Guardian:
The lesson of the current wave of “artificial” “intelligence”, I feel, is that intelligence is a poor thing when it is imagined by corporations. If your view of the world is one in which profit maximisation is the king of virtues, and all things shall be held to the standard of shareholder value, then of course your artistic, imaginative, aesthetic and emotional expressions will be woefully impoverished. We deserve better from the tools we use, the media we consume and the communities we live within, and we will only get what we deserve when we are capable of participating in them fully. And don’t be intimidated by them either – they’re really not that complicated. As the science-fiction legend Ursula K Le Guin wrote: “Technology is what we can learn to do.”
“But for the bosses and masters, automation’s allure is the possibility of getting rid of workers, shattering their power, and replacing them with meeker, cheaper, more easily replaced labor.” —Cory Doctorow