Dirk Knemeyer

Online: Harassment, Voting & the Future, January 5, 2017

Censoring online harassment hard as well, because that goes right in the face of free speech, and free speech is arguably the most important tenant of the US constitution. Of the rules that govern the United States. What constitutes harassment, when is someone being harassed. One of the most important parts of a free speech policy is the you know, someone, I’ll butcher the quote but, “You may hate what someone is saying, but you’ll defend to your death their right to say it.” So, that is inherently defending the ugliest of speech, the most hurtful of speech. Particularly now that we’re in a social environment where there is hyper sensitivity to anything that comes from one person’s mouth or behaviour and how that’s taken by others, and is translated into hurt, it’s really nettlesome.

The trends are certainly tipping towards what you’re suggesting, however I think Donald Trump’s Presidency and the Republican control of the government will probably ensure that nothing is happening soon. Because, most of the people who are like oh you know, sort of, “F PC,” kind of thing, those are all on the right and the right is in control. We’re probably not going to see anything soon from a legislative perspective, but certainly from social perspective there’s been a huge swing left towards, I think even hyper sensitivity and to the point of not having a sensible filter of let’s not be bruised by every little indirect thing that wasn’t intended for us and has little to do with us.

I don’t know what’s going to happen on the legal side. I’ve said a lot of times on this show before that all of us should expect that anything we are creating digitally on a networked device, is out in the wild. Is known by other people. Is stored somewhere where if we become a politician in the future, it is going to resurface and it is going to shiv us in the back. You just need to take that for granted, and if you’re not taking it for granted, if you’re saying you’re going to be fine or it’s not happening, then you’re being really unfortunately naive and you’re going to be hurt by that at some point.

If the current hegemony keeps marching forward then online voting certainly will happen. It probably isn’t soon. Again, with the US political, and most of my comments on this show are directed towards the US, it’s the culture I’m in it’s the culture I know. With the recent US political changes, it certainly isn’t going to happen for the next four to eight years. Even after that you know who knows, it’s not something that would happen very quickly certainly. As time moves forward on the current path, we’re getting more and more integrated into our machines. I was just reading something else, something recently, that sort of full mind-machine interface integration is less than a decade away, I think that was from the head of robotics at MIT. In that world, simply a lot of things that right now we have to move in physical space to achieve we’re not going to have to move in physical space to achieve anymore. Voting is sort of a clear and obvious example of something that will fall into that.

Now, the other way all of this could go of course is, there’s uncertainty in terms of the effects of global warming, who knows what’s going to happen geo-politically at a macro level. It is not a done deal that technology is going to continue to advance and we’re going to continue heading towards the singularity, to use that particular theory of it. There are things that could happen that definitely that stop that march, and that turns things around or make us manifest in more analog and what some people might even say backward ways. I don’t expect that to happen, but there’s a real chance that that could happen.

With some of the things that are happening around the world, and just our ability and our meaning, sort of an individual human in the generic to impact major damage to other people and to countries and potentially to the whole world. We’ll have to see, but voting will really I think fall out of “does technology keep progressing in the way that is, or are there nasty things happening to civilization that slow the whole boat down in which the last thing we’re going to be worried about at that point is voting online?”.


Truth, Omission, Sovereignty & Capitalism, December 1, 2016

As I’ve grown older and thought about the world a lot from a philosophical perspective, I’m less convinced, than ever that there’s such a thing as truth or objective truth, that it’s all perceptual. It’s all just I am a specific person with very uniquely specific context, you are a person with uniquely specific context and the reality is a consequence of that context and of who and where we are.

The point that I want to make with that is I’ve taken that to also then think about what is lying right? Because if you say there is no truth, lying becomes an interesting concept as well. A lot of the things that are “lying” are what we would say is lying by omission. What’s a good example? Obviously not a real one but I know that I robbed a bank and I don’t tell my wife, right? Most people would say, “Well, you were lying, you didn’t say you robbed a bank?”

Well no, I made a choice not to include that information in the things that I said. What Mark is saying is “Hey, some of the things out there is okay even though there are some things that have been omitted basically and are not available.” I think it depends on what you think about lying and think about the question of, as a person, Jon, as you and I talk, as we have lunch, we had lunch together today, during that lunch I’m going to choose to tell you about certain things and choose to not tell you about other things.

Most of the things I don’t tell you about I’ve made some editorial decision because I think it’s not relevant. You won’t be interested in it you don’t need to hear it. There are some things that perhaps I made a choice not to say because I would be embarrassed or I think you would think badly of me. There’s lots of sort of decision points that get me to these are things that actually came out of my mouth while we were having lunch.

Historically, it’s almost just a gut check thing. When I say, “Hey, I didn’t tell my wife that I robbed a bank.” Somebody says, “Oh Jesus, I mean that’s a lie.” On the other hand, if I say, “Yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t tell my wife that um I put ketchup on my hot dog.” Nobody is going to consider that a lie right? Yet, they are really the same thing. They are me making some editorial choice of what I think is relevant to the other person or not.

From my perspective, it’s all lying in the way that we use lying as a filter for editing, right? There are some that are socially acceptable and some that are not, but it’s total gut check. It’s total lick your finger and put it in the air and whatever way you feel that the wind is blowing. This is very roundabout but now bringing it to Mark Zuckerberg’s contention, he’s saying, “Hey, having the platform there and having some amount of information that a big brother of some kind is restricting people from seeing, that, I’m sure for many of us with more liberal sensibilities, that’s going to get us upset. It flies against what we’ve been taught and what we believe.

At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s … I may not like it, I may wish the world wasn’t that way but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal in reality because there’s editing going on all over the place and we’re mad because it’s some apparatus of the Chinese government as opposed to it’s just Bob on Facebook who happened to put this thing up or that thing up. I get why people are conceptually upset by it but I think it’s really philosophically idealistic as opposed to practical.

We’re getting this mixed bag at best of information because there’s individuals and companies that are incentivized to send us whatever will make them the most money. At the end of the day so much comes down to capitalism.

With Facebook, with this example, the whole reason that Facebook exists, whether we like it or not, and honestly, I don’t like it, I’m anti-capitalist big time, but the reason Facebook exists is to maximize shareholder value. In the context of maximizing shareholder value, there’s no question what they should be doing. They should be trying to get into the Chinese market, monetizing that market, and making more money for the people who own those shares of stock.

Do I wish the world was not that way? I do. Is the world that way? It is. As such, Facebook are going to Facebook. If you have a problem, it’s at the level of capitalism. It shouldn’t be at the level of Facebook. Facebook is just participating in this broken freaking system. The other big pillar to look at from the standpoint of Facebook in China, is the notion of national sovereignty and national governments.

We liberal United States may not believe in the censorship, in the things that are going on in China. That may offend our sensibilities but China is a sovereign nation and unless we’re going to send in the troops and the bombs and it’s so important that everyone have the access that we’re going to conquer that nation, we have to respect what’s happening there to some degree.

There’s a lot of things happening there that don’t make me happy, that I wish we were in Utopia. I wish I could go there and wave my finger and have it go away but it doesn’t work that way. We are in a global environment with different nations, each of which have different beliefs. I think a lot of the Chinese beliefs are wrong. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t think I am but maybe I’m wrong.

Their nation, they can make their own decisions and rules and set that stuff up and look, do we want to be the policemen of the world or not? Now we’re really getting into … I’m talking about the United States here. We’re really getting into a bigger swath of things. It creates untold issues when we try and go in benevolently and impose our will, impose our values, impose our rule over other people, other nations.

To me this is all a big to-do about nothing. It’s funny, I’m so liberal and yet I’m always hammering liberals but it’s true. Its’ all of this liberal angst for things that we shouldn’t be angsty about. If we’re angsty about anything, it should be freaking capitalism, right? If we’re angsty about anything it should be that there’s not a one-world government that is driven by liberal principles and holistic long-reaching thinking. Those are the things to be mad about, but the fact that some company is working within the system, in the rules of the system the way it’s set up and engaging with a sovereign nation in ways that make me feel a little bit icky, but it’s just the freaking system. If you hate the system, let’s attack the system but for all the liberals to be up in arms about Facebook and standing on their soapboxes, I don’t have much respect for it to be honest.


Power, Transparency, & Truth, November 18, 2016

No, we’re not interested in total transparency because we have created these myths and legends around reality that simply aren’t true. The fact is the human fight for power at scale is ugly. It’s ugly. If you are trying to be the leader of a nation, of hundreds of millions of people, that is not going to be a fair fight. It wasn’t in 1790’s when the first U.S. presidents were being elected, and it isn’t today at the much larger scale. The people in power want to keep power. The people going for the power will do whatever they can to get the power. From a more primitive viewpoint, I would take the position of saying, “They should,” right? I mean, the stakes are high. If you’re the president of the United States you can do a lot. A lot to the world, a lot to your personal and family’s financial position, a lot to forwarding the beliefs that you have. Look, I mean we can’t … I don’t know that we can culturally approve dirty dealings, and fighting, and so forth.

Those things are going to happen. Unless the transparency is so bright that there’s no dark corners in which we can plot, and scheme, and do underhanded things. I take for granted the democratic national apparatus is trying to knock out Bernie Sanders, the outside upstart as they change the system and help Hillary Clinton, the ultimate insider. To carry on with the propaganda messages from the campaign. Don’t kid yourself, I mean Republicans are doing the exact same thing, the exact same thing. Different people, different agendas, different power sources, but everybody’s doing it. It’s sort of ridiculous when either party, from my perspective, is exposed and call out on it that we have this sort of Victorian moral shock about what’s going. Of course it’s going on. If you think Bernie Sander’s was getting a fair shake, you don’t understand how the world works. Point blank. Yeah, going on a little bit different direction with the WikiLeaks stuff, the people, liberals, we’re aghast that the Russian government would influence U.S. elections. “Oh my God, Trump is in Cahoots with the Russians.” Shock … first of all, do I think Trump is in cahoots with the Russians? I don’t. Is it possible? I guess, but I don’t think so. What is possible is that major nations influence the internal workings of other major nations all the time.

The U.S. has influenced, and it’s a known fact that the U.S. has influenced elections in a variety of nations. In the Americas, in other places in the world many times in the history of this nation. Again, there’s this shock, “The Russian nation is influencing our …” of course. There’s this whole espionage layer to how major nation states interact with each other, and the Russians are going to be taking advantage of those tools as we do. When, in this case the Democratic party, the supporters of Hillary Clinton, however we want to bucket them, are the victims of it. Again, the Victorian moral outrage goes up.

Come on people, I mean this is the world. This is power at scale, it’s just the way it is.

To me this is not a Facebook issue, it’s an internet issue, right? We do have the New York Times, or any number of editorially curated organizations that have … I don’t even want to say a higher level of credibility because there’s other issues, but some semblance of editorial guidance. The ability to project, we as consumers to project a level of trust that approximates what things used to be like in the print days, in the old media days. Now, they’re still making errors are all over the place, making retractions, yadda, yadda, yadda.

The internet at large, the technologies, whether it be social networking technology, or Wiki technology, or whatever the different online communication technologies are have done a very poor job at editing, at having that layer of authentication. Wikipedia’s a good example of it. Wikipedia is actually quite well edited as these things go. As a relatively heavy Wikipedia user, I’ve found a number of errors. They are generally of the trickster variety, right? A little bit of a tangent, but to frame just how sort of insidious this is. My father was a big fan of boxing, so one of the things he and I would do together was watch some boxing. I was a big fan of the boxer Lennox Lewis, a British guy.

During Lennox’s career there was a fellow he fought named Henry Akinwande, who for a brief time was the number one contender, the next big thing. Then Lennox Lewis beat him, and that ended. For whatever reason I’m jumping around on one of my Wikipedia jumps where I’m reading about lots of different things. I end up on Henry Akinwande’s page, and in his little biography there’s a few sentences talking about this key fight he had against some boxer I had never heard of. It just stunk a little, the way it was written. I researched, and there was no boxer of the name that the Wikipedia page Akinwande fought. As I researched more it was some trickster who had just put himself into the narrative of Henry Akinwande. He had this big key fight in the career of this boxer, so I edited it out.

It was up there for a long time before I saw it. I identified it, I edited it. That kind of stuff is all over Wikipedia. Wikipedia has a tremendous, to the point of almost fascist editorial process to keep things clean and keep things out. That’s sort of at the most extreme case of how editing is being handled in sort of the open transparent web.

Companies like Facebook and those sort of technologies have absolutely none of that. If you have a trickster who’s on Facebook, who’s doing things, there’s not people catching it. Additionally, and I think crucially, we have to think about use cases and what people are doing on the web. When people go onto Wikipedia, for the most part people are going there to learn. It’s not a place where you’re rewarded for being a trickster. This guy probably thought it was really funny putting that thing about fighting Akinwande, but it was meaningless in the big picture of things.

However, on Facebook if you can put a fake story out there that forwards a political agenda that you have and it takes off, not only are you having real impact on pervading your political agenda into society, but you’re also getting social reinforcement feedback. You’re getting liked, and up voted, and you’re becoming more important in the culture. That’s not great, and it’s rewarded by Facebook and by the very behaviors. You don’t go on Facebook to learn, I don’t think. It’s a social kind of learning-ish I guess. You’re going on there to connect, to amplify, to blow off steam, to do human emotional things that often can be negative, or not well thought.

The design of Facebook allows those things to take off, and be treated as truth, and build on a lot of social dynamics, even getting into sort of crowd … the sort of thing that leads to riots and that kind of crowd behavior. To me it’s not a Facebook issue … it is a Facebook issue as far as it’s an issue for everyone on the internet who hasn’t solved it well, which is pretty much everyone. I don’t think it’s native to Facebook, it’s just the size of Facebook, and the influence of Facebook allows it to have more of an impact.

How much those things impacted our election, I’m not qualified to answer. I mean maybe we should be upset with Facebook about it, but to treat it like this is some problem that Facebook has created. It’s just kind of Facebook participating in this Zeitgeist of openness, transparency, freedom of information, not oppressing it or holding things that has led to that. That’s an internet problem.

There’s this ideal that “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, of voting for the best person. It’s all bullshit. I mean, at the end of the day in our current system, the way we’re structured now. The democrats can get 40 something percent, the republicans getting 40 something percent. It doesn’t matter if the republican, or the democrat, I don’t think … although I think the criteria are probably different. Let’s use the concrete example we have with Donald Trump. The republican goes out there, says a lot of ridiculous things. Says a lot of things, like if you look at one of the big voting blocks within a Republican party, their conservative right is talking about these very immoral things those people should be horrified by. They’re going in a Republican camp for other reasons regardless of the specifics of that candidate.

Politics, there’s this sheen of truth, idealism … I know I sound really cynical today but I think these things are true. It’s all shit, right? It’s all crap. People are just voting for their thing. Whatever that trigger is. The gun side, the abortion side, whatever it is, the candidate can go out there and be a total zero and they’re going to put their vote in that camp. On the Democratic side, we could I think also come up with very unflattering examples of the candidate. Maybe we could even do it with Hillary Clinton if we step back and thought about it and tried, but who really in some sort of objective humanistic way isn’t a great person, isn’t a great candidate. Same things that shouldn’t be appealing to that base, but at the end of the day they’re going to tick the box, whether it be for one reason or another.

That’s also part of it. On Facebook it’s not about truth, it’s not about, “Oh, I’m trying to learn something, I’m trying to.” It’s, “I have this agenda, I’m slashing away at it.” It’s people with agendas pushing it up, and other people share the agenda. They don’t care if it’s true or not, they’re like, “Ah, Ah, Ah,” you know? Then it takes off. A lot of this, it comes back to human nature and it comes back to really understanding … I think we just need to be more honest about what we are as an animal, as a species, and operating in more honest ways. I think a lot of this is just, it’s just dishonesty.

Truth, nobody cares about truth, people just want it their way. We’re big, spoiled, tantruming children at the end of the day. We try and act like we’re these wise, smart, considerate people but we’re not. I mean we’re checking our box every damn time no matter what, and this election just proves it.

 


The Ethics of Designer Babies, Wealth & Power, October 10, 2016

For a long time we’ve taken an egg from a different woman and planted a sperm from a father and put it in the wife of the father as the host mother for an egg that she didn’t produce, or were taking sperm from another man, putting it into an egg of the mother from someone other than her husband. Of course, marriage is not a prerequisite for any of these things. Now, it’s taking essentially the egg and taking part of it out from a genetic perspective and replacing it with something else.

It seems newer, scarier maybe, but it’s really not that different. It’s really making a decision based on the viability of the biological material of one of the parents and making an alteration for the viability or the health of a baby. In and of itself it’s doing it at the genetic level as opposed to the sort of substitution of an egg or a sperm cell, which makes it different, but it’s pretty similar from an outcome perspective. Where this becomes more compelling is the slippery slope problem, because it’s easy to sit back and say, “Oh, yeah, you know, we don’t want to have this child born with this congenital problem. We want it to be born healthy.”

Most people are going to nod their heads with that and say, “Yeah, that makes sense,” making that replacement okay, but the path isn’t that long to the superman, the supermensch model, where you’re not replacing to avoid some disease or some condition. You’re replacing to enhance. You’re replacing to go and not just get healthy, but to healthy superstar. Right? I think that’s where it becomes more interesting. Certainly, this technology is on a path to allow that to happen, even though in the sort of concrete sense that we imagine it probably not able to happen today.

We were having a conversation about Trump’s tax return, and the fact that if you look at over all of human history, there’s always been an elite. Always is too absolute, but by and large, in civilization there’s haves and there’s have-nots.

That’s been the case whether it’s been a democracy, whether it’s been a hereditary monarchy, whether it’s been communism. Regardless of the social structure, there is a small group that has a vast majority of the wealth and power that tends to propagate generation over generation over generation, whether it be because it’s supposedly by divine right or whether it’s because you just have a shit ton of money that you keep passing down to the following generations.

To me, if we’re concerned about it being only elite are going to use this and their children are going to be more powerful, more successful, more set up, it’s already the case. It’s just manifesting in different ways. Now, it’s just they have the millions of dollars that they pass down, which gives the children ginormous advantages that sets them up to more likely to be in charge. This is just a different flavor of that.

Not that that is necessarily to advocate for or excuse it, but I don’t know that it’s such a different state of affairs than we already have in the world. The fact is, there is a power elite in virtually every organized manifestation of civilization as far back as recorded history goes, and that power elite generally tends to stay in place generation over generation. One of the things that’s remarkable about the experience in the United States of America, where we are, is that unlike the European countries, where many of us came from originally, it’s much easier to go from having nothing to make it for yourself and to get into that elite at one level or another.

The question is, would this make it harder? Would the sort of promise of America of, “I have nothing, but I’m going to work hard and be ingenious and make something for myself that starts to move me into a place of power and could move my family into a place of power,” do the hurdles of designer babies and technology create a system that is less penetrable by the lower classes? I think it may, but I think there’s a lot of unknowns, too, so I’m not sure.

Business is always way, way ahead of legislation on this stuff. There’s no question about it. Way ahead. The government’s going to be really slow to catch up. I don’t know that this technology is all that different from things that we take for granted now. What I mean by that is the wealthy now take their children and put them in private schools. They take them and put them in schools that are demonstrably better than the public schools that everyone else is in.

What is more impactful on the outcome of a child as they’re advancing? Is it more impactful that they get the super smart genes, or is it more impactful that they get the private schooling? I think it’s well within the realm of possibility that the environmental and network benefits of the existing old-school infrastructure that the money buys actually is the thing that should be more intimidating and frightening to the have-nots in terms of the advantages that the children are getting.

It’s just that the designer baby aspect of it is the sort of sci-fi. It’s not here yet. It’s a little bit scary. It’s easier to feel fear toward … I suspect that the very analog, very old-school advantages that the money of the power elite provide are really putting in harder-to-overcome obstacles for the rest of us ultimately, at least certainly in the short term until that technology is super-perfected and is creating more holistic uber-people.


Driverless Cars, Ethics & The Flawed Human Animal, September 30, 2016

Tesla with their autopilot feature, they’re explicit to drivers, “Keep your hands on the wheel, keep your foot on the brakes and stay alert the whole time,” right? That’s one of the reasons why when we talked about the technology before I was very critical of it. I was like, “Why bother? Just drive your fricking car,” at that point. This individual was given those warnings, and despite those warnings, presumably through inattention or not having the foot or not having the hands, something didn’t override and keep himself safe, keep himself alive. It’s sort of an over-trust in the technology, like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, those warnings, those are just … They’re being overly careful.” It’s like 10 and 2, we don’t really do 10 and 2, that’s overly careful. The guy’s dead because of it, and that’s really unfortunate.

I’d be interested to know what’s happening on the litigation side. If the traffic light malfunctions and someone dies in a car crash due to the malfunction, can you sue the … I don’t know how all that is set up, but can you sue the city, or can you sue the engineer, or can you sue the manufacturer? I ask those questions because I think the highways are a great place to talk about all this stuff, because we have this illusion of control. Right now we’re driving our car, we crash, it’s someone else’s fault or it’s our fault. However that’s figured out, humans are blamed. We’re heading towards a future of driverless cars. In that scenario, it’s very likely that cars will be far more safe and less people will die on the highways. A lot of people die on highways, I don’t know what the number is. It’s certainly tens of thousands a year in the United States, maybe in the hundreds.

I don’t know scale, but it’s a lot of people die on the highways right now. If those technologies cut that number in half, objectively safer, objectively better. The people who die in those accidents, now they’re dying because something went wrong with somebody’s technology, it was my car’s software, or your car’s software, or something else other than my agency of me as a driver, you as a driver, and we’re taking responsibility for what’s going on. Now it’s something totally different. I’m really curious on the litigation side how that’s going to pan out. I think there’s going to be a lot of people that hate the technology because they were the unlucky lottery winners of their loved ones being killed. Less people die overall, but my person’s dead. If they were allowed to hold their steering wheel, they wouldn’t be dead.

I think those are knotty legal and ethical things that are going to be great strawmen, great first to the fight in how we’re thinking about all the implications of turning various parts of the world over to artificial intelligence.

We’re going to be in danger, because humans are careless, we are. There was one time, I don’t know, it’s probably been a year or 2 even, so I think it’s worse now most likely. I drove down the road and just said, “How many people are texting or on their device?” I passed 12 people, every 12 of them, every one, 12 out of 12, were on this device. It’s certainly under 100%, but that sample size is a perfect example of it. I say we are careless, because look, I’m on my device sometimes too, unfortunately, on the road. It’s been communicated to us, we know, “Hey dumb dumb, you are much more likely to die whizzing at a high rate of speed in this big, heavy metal thing if you’re doing that,” but we still do it. We make this little calculation based on incomplete understanding, incomplete … really grocking what the danger is. We thrust ourselves into further danger, for what?

For nothing, for the difficulty of being bored, for the draw of the little serotonin rush, of the little thing. That way of behaving is going to continue to haunt us moving forward. It’s why we use easy passwords, it’s why we’re not secure with our online information, while many of us probably, unbeknownst to us, all of our goodies are out there already and people could be using those against us, and leveraging even today if they really wanted to. We’re careless. That carelessness is going to add risk to the future of AI.


Science, Ethics & The Future, August 25, 2016

Now, as science and technology, engineering, business are thrusting us into these applied real world complicated situations that take what used to be these lofty theoretical things and make them concrete and real and applied, and things that we’re not figuring out proactively ahead of time to get to a smart place but trying to reactively scramble to in real time. Probably often behind … the commercialization is dragging the ethicists and philosophers behind which probably isn’t super smart but the problem again is you have nation states like China, Russia that are going to dive into the grey ethical areas with both feet and it sucks us all along for the ride.


Engineering the Human Animal, June 2, 2016

We’ve mapped the genome, of course we’re going to fabricate a genome. There’s going to be some ethicists that are wringing their hands, but science is well on its way here.

Where I’m going with this, and tying back into this conversation, is I’ve talked a number of times on the show about humans having bad programming. Let me get into that with more specificity. When we were unsophisticated beings going back, I probably need to know my history of human biology better, but going back many thousands or millions of years, it was important that essential in our programming was drive to procreate, for example. For that to be just this inherently important code in how we behaved as a creature was essential, and it’s what allowed our species to continue and to reach a point of dominance over the rest of the animal kingdom and get to the point today where our ability to think and reason and logic is incredibly evolved and sophisticated.

That old, human code was important for that moment, but in today’s world with the way that we’re able to see the world, the way that we function in societies in the world, that code is garbage code. It’s like if you were looking at the latest and greatest software today, it would be like getting an app that’s totally coded in basic. People would be like, “What the hell are they doing? It’s using this code that is so unsophisticated, such bullshit.” We can’t use that code. We need to be using the latest and greatest code. Human programming is still done in fricking basic. I talked about male sexual urges and the deleterious impact that those have on other people in the society specifically but then in the society in total. That’s bad fricking programming. That’s a lot of basic code that is still crumming up how we behave and how we function in the world.

My saying this today is going to sound to most people like it’s crazy. It’s going to sound to most people like I’ve gone off my rocker, but as these technologies around the genome progress, as we learn to fabricate the genome, as we learn to fabricate a human being, as we learn to engineer babies, as we learn to reverse and re-engineer children and adults and humans, that’s going to come in the future. That’s a ways down the road. I’m going to tell you right now, at the point that that becomes a reality, all these other things in the world will have changed to the point where people are going to shrug and say, “Yeah, of course we have bad code. Of course we have crummy code. Of course we should be taking advantage of those technologies.”

That stuff today in 2016, or 10 or 15 years ago when I first started talking about this stuff, might sound crazy, but in 20-blabbity blah, decades up the road when this shit is reality, it’s not going to sound crazy at all. The kind of work that’s being done now by people like George Church, by companies like Gen9, by these things the mainstream media are totally ignoring and people are not aware of are going to be the technologies that allow us to evolve beyond our broken basic crappy code that was necessary when we were thoughtless, stupid creatures just trying to battle our way to the top of the animal kingdom. That’s going to all go away and be replaced by something else that is coming from these kinds of technologies, possibly or probably, and the world is going to be ready for it and not only accept it, but embrace it because in the context of our evolution as a species, it simply makes sense.


Social Controls to Reduce Crime, March 10, 2016

It’s easy to dismiss this as a China thing. Right? Totalitarian state regularly oppresses the liberties of the citizens. For me what’s compelling about this story is the fact that it’s a foreshadowing of things that we’re going to be dealing with in the United States, both in ways similar to what are being outlined here in a Chinese context, but also things far, far beyond that I believe. We are likely headed for a future where the government is using data to predict future behavior and takes preemptive action to control [criminal] behavior. Look, even thirty years ago we knew very little about the human animal. We would rely on things like characteristics that go back to classical times that we would bestow upon people. That’s a person with character. That’s a person with self-control. That’s a person with honor. That’s a person who is trustworthy.

I think we’re heading for this sort of tipping point, if you will, where we are going to have so much knowledge around human motivation and behavior, scientifically, not armchair theory, that comes together with our finally saying, “You know what? It is not acceptable for one in four women to have to deal with an attempted sexual violence.” These things are going to come together, and I think it’s going to result in at least the consideration, at the highest levels, and potentially in public forums, of prediction and control, and controlling people from doing those things that once upon a time were tolerated. Now they’re not tolerated, but they’re still not being forcefully addressed. I think we’ll forcefully address them, and I think something akin to pre-crime may be part of that.

The fact is, if you go above humanity and you look at it in some objective way and you say, “You know, for one of these two genders, this super high percentage is being abused by the other one in ways that can fundamentally shatter their sense of self and the rest of their lives,” that ain’t acceptable. It’s not acceptable. Up to now we haven’t been able to see it. We haven’t been able to understand it. We haven’t been able to control it, but science is moving so fast that we’re going to understand the human animal very well. We’re going to grok what it is that results in that stuff happening, the combination of physiology, psychology, sociology, the whole nine yards. We’re going to be able to control it. That control is going to look invasive and intrusive and like something out of a science fiction movie, but is it better to put those controls on to protect the half of the people who are being imposed upon and violated? To me it’s a no brainer. It’s just a question of what does that look like when the time comes.


Ethical Treatment of AI, March 1, 2016

I think people will figure [how to properly interact] with the human representations just like they’ve figured it out with dealing better with women and racial minorities. Certainly not that everyone does all the time, to be sure, but certainly in a public forum, in companies, in restaurants, in places where societies come together, the bad behavior is largely eliminated now. I think it will be the same with robots as well. It represents a continuing evolution of us as animals to treat things better, to not have expressions of rage, anger, disrespect, violence. Those are things that are part of our less evolved selves. Those are part of the Stone Age human, and as we become increasingly a different manifestation of humanity in a context that is wildly different, our behaviors will similarly come to be much more admirable.

There’s so many possibilities of the future, what different robots will look like, or how they’ll manifest writ large, but I think that at the end of the day, people will be treating them well just as a natural byproduct of our continuing evolution forward.


Pre-Crime & Social Engineering, August 13, 2015

This is a great example of where big data is so powerful. If you have science, if you have an infrastructure that you can pour a lot of data into, that it has some validity to it, suddenly you can determine some really interesting and powerful things. One of those, potentially, is the likelihood of people to commit crimes again.

If you know that I have an 82% chance of committing another violent crime, for me, as a citizen, and considering human rights, and the rights of the citizens, I want me as the 82% future violator to be controlled. I don’t want the 82% future violator to be given that 82% chance to harm and destroy other people. That doesn’t seem equitable to me. My saying that, probably to a number of people listening to this show, is very controversial, which gets to the complexity of the issue.

I think it’s really interesting stuff, and we’re heading toward a whole new moral battleground that we haven’t had to deal with in our culture in the past. It’s coming fast, and it has the potential of doing much more good for the society, and for our citizens. Probably if we go down that path at the expense of individual rights, in ways we become accustomed to taking for granted. I’m fascinated to see how this all plays out.