The Circle Of An Imperfect Decade

7 min

Every 10 years, some 200 million stars slip over the edge of theoretical availability, due to the speed at which dark energy affects the expansion of the universe. To exist therefore requires more than just mass and energy. It also requires an observable snippet of information of that very same mass/energy. I dare conclude that reality without information about that reality itself doesn’t exist.

What we are facing meanwhile is the absurdity of fabricating and glorifying disinformation. That which did not exist suddenly starts to exist, even more, it starts to matter to us. Technology makes it easier to manipulate information, it is a tool used to alter reality.

“All warfare is based on deception”, Sun Tzu said a long time ago, so it should not strike us as a novelty. But I believe that this paradigm culminated in the decade behind us, and the trend is not waning.

If I were to sum the 2010s with a single word, I’d say disinformation.

Miscellaneous Musings

What follows are some reflections I’ve been engaged in these days. I don’t intend to sum up time that’s passed, it’s not that kind of a retrospective. Think of it more as notes jotted down on the margins of a page, too short for an article of its own, and yet worth mentioning. Geronimo!

Did you know that almost the same amount of time has passed between the Apollo 11 Moon landing and the first Java version and since the first Java version up to today? The advent of WWW is far closer (in temporal terms) to the Apollo 11 Moon landing than to this day. The Apollo 11 Moon landing is something I often think about; for me, it’s one of the greatest achievements of the humankind, that almost went awry due to the unexpected (and justified) software alarm 1202. The creation of WWW is an achievement of similar proportions. And yet, the year 2010 started with the announcement of the first iPad. Not sure what this tells us, but I feel there is something to be said about it. Have we gone far or just further?

Midway into the previous decade, SpaceX managed to successfully land a space rocket for the first time. A lot of money was invested in that project, you don’t need to be Elon to reach that conclusion. What left me speechless is the astronomical valuation of another startup, estimated at $47 billion, roughly about 50% more than SpaceX. But, as the saying goes—twice the pride, double the fall. WeWork has been flying on the wings of Icarus throughout the decade, only to implode in the end. There is an almost grotesque fascination with the WeWork story; you want to avert your gaze, but you can’t manage to do so. The saddest part was that the premise was fine, but Adam was more focused on showing everyone what lies beneath his fig leaf, rather than actually think big. How could it be that something like that lasts for so long, I wonder. Heck, I think that my vision of the Heapspace work ecosystem is more far-reaching and humane. Oh well.

The cover page of the latest issue of the Time magazine is quite illustrative. It features the “person of the year”, a traditional choice by the magazine deemed to be attention-worthy. Young Gretha shines undoubtedly inspiring sentiment and loud anger that brought her worldwide popularity. And yet, she spends it on proving she’s right, given that she isn’t a scientist, that’s all she can do. And we get off on that. We really get off on that. Some 85-million-Google-hits really. Another kid from this same decade has only reached the 600k hits. All he did was construct a system to cleanse the oceans, at the same age as young Gretha. We create value through overload information in places where there is no information. I’m sorry, I don’t want “to be Gretha.” I want to be Boyan.

Turing’s party is in full force: here’s Watson chit-chatting with Siri, over there in the corner Go is playing, and Neon is hanging on a wall, playing cool. A large amount of data and advancement of computational powers are a spawning ground for new algorithms and dedicated hardware; the party’s getting crowded. Although AI technology has been in use since the 80s, we experience its evolution; it’s certainly impressive, but not unexpected. The question wasn’t when the deep blue would ‘learn’ to play chess, rather when it would be able to calculate 200 million moves in a second. Anyways, today, AI exceeds our abilities (intelligence) in specialized activities, which is what it was built to do. But the real question isn’t what we can do with AI, but what the <swear word> to do with AI? We kill, track, Cambridge-analytics-ise (a new word for the dictionary), fire people, annihilate privacy, and finally… erase humanity. Not in a romantic-dystopian way, but in mere restricting of the context in which intelligence rules. To put it vividly: if (Deus-ex-)Machina has the information (context) only on apples, do pears cease to exist? What then should we do in the area of ethics with regards to our new, all-knowing… well, Deus, who’s expectedly and irresistibly emerging? In that sense, let me answer the topical question: no, artificial intelligence can’t create art, only artificial art. Yes, it can evoke emotions, but the ‘real’ art is the trio of the receiver, the work, and the author. Art is not a question of quality of production, but the need and finding ourselves.

In 1963, Andy Warhol gave a succinct and direct answer to the question “What’s Pop art?” Half a century later, Andy’s answer is smiling back at us, in its emoji-yellow hues: “It’s liking things”. Liking, without discernible judgement. Pop went further than art or has since its infancy been what it is — a way of life, and the art served to help describe it. The technology of the decade fitted perfectly into the extension of pop, transforming us into what we always wanted to be: Marilyn Monroe. Or it has made us want to become her.

The myriads of everything, mostly (dis)information, which anyone can create, as, for the love of God, we have an opinion and a solid internet connection, so now we’re able to share it on social networks, has brought about the accumulation of mediocre content, that we not only consume it but devour it. If we scale this up to the operation of companies upon which the Internet rests, it gets even more serious. The only sensible defence, as far as I can tell, isn’t the ‘mindfoolness’ that suddenly everyone is brimming with, but critical thinking. If there’s a single, personal, mental tool that we need to be developing, then that’s the one. Be careful with the term, though: it’s not about criticizing, but establishing your own personal opinion: intellectual bravery, rationality, scepticism, discipline, and awareness. Just to be clear, I’m far from it, but at least I’m working on it.

A Question In Lieu Of A Conclusion

We still think on the margins of the pages; there’s only room left for the following question:

What kind of a technological world do we want to live in by 2031?

Whatever the answer, let’s get down to work.

Nisam definisan svojim stavovima. Stavove usvajamo, menjamo, nadograđujemo, ali oni ne čine nas same. Manje je važno da li se slažemo, koliko da se razumemo.