Sunday, 11 February 2018

Capital as the cutting-edge AI app

At the end of last year, our most prominent scientist was looking to the future 
- and the impact of AI:
Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence 'may replace humans altogether' | The Independent

At the same time, Greece's most prominent economist was looking to the future 
- and the impact of AI:

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has claimed capitalism is coming to an end because it is making itself obsolete. The former economics professor told an audience at University College London that the rise of giant technology corporations and artificial intelligence will cause the current economic system to undermine itself. Mr Varoufakis, who took on EU institutions over Greek debt repayments in 2015, said companies such as Google and Facebook, for the first time ever, are having their capital bought and produced by consumers.

“Firstly the technologies were funded by some government grant; secondly every time you search for something on Google, you contribute to Google’s capital,” he said. “And who gets the returns from capital? Google, not you. So now there is no doubt capital is being socially produced, and the returns are being privatised. This with artificial intelligence is going to be the end of capitalism.”

Capitalism is ending because it has made itself obsolete, former Greek finance minister Yannis Varoufakis says | The Independent

The year before, a prominent writer on AI was looking at the choices
- for our economic future:

“Read The Economic Singularity if you want to think intelligently about the future.” Artificial intelligence (AI) is overtaking our human ability to absorb and process information. Robots are becoming increasingly dextrous, flexible, and safe to be around (except the military ones). It is our most powerful technology, and you need to understand it. This new book from best-selling AI writer Calum Chace argues that within a few decades, most humans will not be able to work for money. Self-driving cars will probably be the canary in the coal mine, providing a wake-up call for everyone who isn’t yet paying attention. All jobs will be affected, from fast food McJobs to lawyers and journalists. This is the single most important development facing humanity in the first half of the 21st century. The fashionable belief that Universal Basic Income is the solution is only partly correct. We are probably going to need an entirely new economic system, and we better start planning soon - for the Economic Singularity! The outcome can be very good – a world in which machines do all the boring jobs and humans do pretty much what they please. But there are major risks, which we can only avoid by being alert to the possible futures and planning how to avoid the negative ones.

Amazon.com: The Economic Singularity: Artificial intelligence and the death of capitalism
The Economic Singularity - Callum Chance

But here is a much more prescient look to the future of AI, writing in last December's Baffler
- on 'AI as capital':

Capital as the cutting-edge AI app

Oculus Grift

Anis Shivani No. 37

© Sally Thurer

MANY FUTURISTS AND TREND-SPOTTERS fret about the advent of artificial intelligence as if it will, in one fell swoop, usher in a brave new dystopian future. But that future has already arrived. On a day-to-day basis, we’re living with the consequences—or rather, the unyielding domination—of the first fully functioning artificial intelligence system known to humankind. It is not secret, it is out in the open, and all of us are a part of it. You may know it as the sprawling, omnivorous system of economic production that goes by the name of capitalism.

We used to think of “capital” as physical goods or infrastructure—something we could wrap our minds around. But as all the main features of this system for extracting surplus value from workers and rentier fees from service networks have become duly digitized, capital itself has become a form of AI. We do not have any control over this system and it is impossible to conceive of unplugging ourselves from it. Isn’t that the trope we most fear about AI from science fiction—that it will reach a point where we cannot imagine life independent of it?

This shift has been anything but sudden. Capitalism’s transformation from a physically organized means of production to pure mathematical abstraction began as computing truly came into its own in the early 1970s. It developed in tandem with the rise of neoliberalism as our reigning economic ideology. Neoliberalism—which really means the resurgence of neoclassical economic orthodoxy—might be called the operating system for capital as artificial intelligence.

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