2019-12-05 Machines ruling us

Remember Charles Stress’ blog post about companies being actual artifice life forms in the process of exploiting humans? A bit like we keep cattle, I guess.

@technomancy recently expanded on the idea on Mastodon. Here is the thread, quoted with permission:

① corporations are a form of AI, and are the dominant form of life on this planet

this one seems self-evident, but if you need some help putting the pieces together, this piece by Charles Stross might help ... or you could just watch the 1988 classic film They Live.

in any case, while there do exist corporations which can peacefully coexist with humans, most of what passes for peaceful coexistence these days is either accidental or due to humans regulating corporations. regulatory capture is making the latter less and less common.

② “software is eating the world” is simply survival of the fittest

when a company can offload more of its internal processes from humans to software, it’s simply becoming more adapted to its environment and more competitive. it can change faster in response to threats, and there is less of a chance for humans to interfere.

many tech companies got to where they are now by meeting human needs, but consider the ones that have become as powerful as governments. do you think that if humans stopped needing the things they produced, or if the non-monetary cost became too high (abuse of amazon’s human warehouse workers, for instance) that they would quietly go away?

③ when machines no longer need humans, they won’t dispose of them using weapons

it’s not going to be like Terminator--weapons are costly and inefficient. when humans are no longer needed, the machines grind them to dust by means of capitalism, which is their native element.

note the use of present tense here.

unlike the priests who serve cthulu in order to be favored by the gods and killed first, humans who work with software will be destroyed last, because they are useful for the longest. you can already see this in many tech-heavy cities where the only people who can afford to live there are the ones working in software.

④ leadership isn’t

it’s possible that the corporate task of “decision making” will be rid of its need for humans before the task of “software maintenance” will. you can see foreshadowing in companies where leaders who refuse to put profit above human factors or sustainability get replaced by more willing collaborators.

companies actually getting rid of their human executives seems pretty far-fetched; what seems more likely is a situation in which they are symbolic figureheads that simply pronounce decisions which have been made for them elsewhere in the machine.

⑤ helping companies produce software is problematic

for many tech companies, the way they prey on humans is obvious. facebook and twitter turn human attention into cash and power while emitting human misery as a waste product; amazon works towards ensuring humans can no longer purchase products from non-amazon sources; google simply attempts to gatekeep literally all the world’s information.

some companies I’ve worked for seem neutral because all they do is provide tools for producing software. so far so good; in theory producing software is neutral. but there’s a big difference between producing software for humans and producing software for tech companies; the latter is simply a way of facilitating the process of a company becoming more adapted to its environment; see #2 above.

⑥ it’s (probably) not too late

I mean, I hope?

one reason I’m drawn to the fediverse is that it proves we can still make enclaves for ourselves where humans make the rules.

while the GDPR legislation means a lot of extra toil for me at work, it also fills me with determination, because it shows that there are still places in the world where humans can tell companies what to do, and they have to obey.

I want to see more of that.

Thank you for writing it down so succinctly.



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