Commentary: AI & Machine Intelligence:


We Come Out of Everywhere Into Here


by Mr. Iain Kirkaldy-Willis,

Naturalistic Philosopher

Canary Islands, Spain


Link for Citation Purposes: we-come-out-of-everywhere-into-here.htm


This presentation is about Human Intelligence and Machine Intelligence. Through it I would like to urge you to consider another way of thinking about ourselves and of looking at our presence on this planet. This is not just some philosophical whim, on my part. The matter is of paramount importance. However, before the image/text series I have made for this, I'd like to use the following introduction to show just how critical the issue is.


In 1947 the group of scientists that had been involved in the building of the atomic bomb, fearing the consequences of what they had unleashed, as evidenced at Nagasaki and at Hiroshima, protested against the danger of the nuclear threat to humanity. This led to introducing The Doomsday Clock, as a metaphor representing how close humanity is to self-destruction. Every year since then The Bulletin of Atomic Science has released a report re-setting the hands of The Clock, according to change in the level of perceived threat.


In 2007 The Bulletin began including the calculated risk of catastrophe from climate change in its deliberations. Subsequently, the complex web of catastrophic risks facing humanity from nuclear technology and environmental breakdown grew to include the disruptive technologies of artificial intelligence, biological weaponry and nanotechnology, too. Together, these 3 (the nuclear, the environmental and the technological) are a perilous cocktail. How so?


Well, as of the beginning of 2023, The Clock´s hands were set at 90 seconds to midnight, due to issues like the increasing nuclear menace, reining climate change in, taking issue with disruptive technologies and taming their ramifications. Of course, this reading includes Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, with how it is compounding the way the nuclear, climatic, environmental, economic, societal and geo-political crises are fouling one another!


Now, there is something fundamental here. If, as we take for granted, human progress has made huge strides, how come The Doomsday Clock´s hands have got so close to midnight with regard to the threat humanity is posing to its own existence? Actually, how come there is a Doomsday Clock at all? How come that, back when it began ticking, a hazard that was merely a specific warning about nuclear activity, has developed into a headlong rush of cataclysmic proportions globally, towards Armageddon?


The key to this is artificial intelligence,  the way we are getting it to take on more and more, operationally, in every aspect, dimension and at every level in our lives. So, for instance, you can warm your car and turn on the heating for the house to be warm when you get back from out of town. You can re-program the garden watering from elsewhere in the world, and you can get the coffee-maker going, so there´s a cup of coffee ready waiting for you in the kitchen when you get there. From that little device in your hand, with all its apps and functions, you have access to your computer, on-line banking, your phone contacts, social media and that selection of websites to which you´ve surrendered to their `interest in your privacy´.


...and the thing is, others in the family can also get the coffee-maker and other 'smart' gadgets around the house going. On-top-of which, you, they and the contacts in your phones have wider circles of friends and fields of activity. Through our hand-held devices, tablets, computers, and such, we are connected, not only with one another, but criss-crossing with everything else, in a web of which we are completely oblivious, as we perform such simple, personal operations. In each case, these devices are the platform embedding each of us in the complex web of webs within webs of cyber-activity that is the world-wide-web elaborated and sustained by machine intelligence. 


Yes, we can use the likes of encryption; build firewalls, and more, to safeguard operations from outside interference. Nevertheless, bad actors mess around with it all too easily; criminal activity ever breaches their protection; surveillance circumvents and overrides them, and, in the name of security, backdoors are built in. The most telling fact, though, is how all this activity and counter-activity hinges on the machine learning involved. Not only does it have the threads of every aspect of our personal affairs in its grasp, but of the social, financial and political affairs of humanity, as a whole, too. It is there behind everything, the common factor, the intelligence in the machine that controls and directs everything, individually and collectively, on our behalf.


50 – 60 years ago, the 2nd Law of thermodynamics was made much of, with particular regard to the squandering of the planet´s resources causing disorder and bringing about environmental collapse. Back then, it was an expression of just how seriously the environmental threat was already perceived to be. One doesn´t hear of this these days. Yet, as the degree of randomness and disorder escalate, the fact that nothing squares with anything else is even more apparent. With regard to the biological extinction event the global catastrophe is predicted to become, turning to the science and technology that have brought this predicament about, to put the brakes on and back up, is a no-brainer because Life only goes forwards.


You see, seeds and babies grow. Natural processes and rhythms foster their survival and development, and so on. So, the harder we brake, in order to back up, the deeper the ruts we gouge in the environment;  the thicker the dust that contaminates the atmosphere, and the greater are the oceans plundered and rubbished.  Do we know, for instance, what effect (yet to be calculated) thousands of square kilometres of solar farms staring at the sky and rendering the land they are on lifeless will have on the environment? Or, what about similarly immense areas of wind farms disturbing wind patterns, together with the noise pollution of sound travelling faster and louder than in the atmosphere, messing up the patterns of life and communication amongst creatures in the sea beneath?


With the need for additional manufacturing processes to produce them, yet another aggressive search for the necessary materials, maintenance, periodic renewal and the scale of recycling that come with that, can we not see that there´s nothing soft about recourse to such technologies?  Of course not, because none of that's in our faces, yet! Nevertheless, as and when this will be upon us, the data will feed algorithms that will expand the body of complications that lend their weight to the imminence of catastrophe. No matter what we do, or propose, to reverse this trajectory, it simply further contributes to climate disorder and environmental breakdown accelerating and worsening, anyway


You see, in the search for the materials for any and every kind of technological advance (even with regard to what we call 'soft solutions'), we are systematically pillaging the environment and natural resources (no, not raiding, not plundering, but pillaging!), and Machine Intelligence is at the forefront of this, as much in furthering this abuse as through our efforts to realise its potential. Simply put, the virtual world exists at the expense of the real world. Everything about the virtual world is at the cost of Nature. This is actually what the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics addresses. In this case, Earth, its systems collapsing, its resources spent, is descending into chaos. Nature is suffering. It is closing down, for when the physics and chemistry of Life are undermined its biology founders. This was already a concern 60 years ago! So, here we are back at the alarm bells The Doomsday Clock, IPCC and others are ringing and have been ringing all this time.


As if that is not disruptive enough, there is the chaos involved of the afore-mentioned presence of bad actors and criminal players ever using machine intelligence to look for ways of hacking into, undermining, sabotaging, circumventing, overriding, misusing and abusing every attempt to direct AI to serve 'primary purposes', whether those 'purposes' are themselves legitimate or misguided. The gravity of this is in the proliferation of skewed data and ploys bad actors and criminal minds are feeding Machine Intelligence.


Let me put this in another way. This 'Machine' is something we are creating, incrementally, step by step. There are all sorts of players involved in 'the task'. However, since there is no intelligence with an over-arching vision, their particular contributions are isolated activities, unrelated, haphazard and carried out purely according to the interests of these players.


Nothing of this patchwork of activity tells us what this 'Machine' is, will be, or of its actual capabilities. In other words, instead of any operative intelligence behind this 'project', there are just the febrile left-brain machinations, of the players that are in 'the game', some of them, as bad actors, explicitly out to wreck 'play'. The chaotic nature of all this is quietly building the total and unadulterated intelligence this 'Machine' will possess, when it has gained sufficiently, in terms of information and operational skills, to come into its own – and take over?


Please, this is not really too far-fetched a consideration, for AI is already being asked questions in a variety of contexts concerning what to do, finding solutions, and so on. In other words, we have already got AI thinking about this matter! Where we in the real world are constrained by 'natural law and order', this Machine is in the virtual world, where anything goes! We cannot pretend there is never going to be some kind of reckoning where it gathers its collective knowledge together to dot its 'i's and cross its 't's.


 At this point, I would like to mention 3 diverse points of view concerning the supposed threat Machine Intelligence poses, as a disruptive technology (or should I say opinions, since nobody´s sure of the substance there is to back any of them up!) Let´s begin with the big boys, whose stamping ground the development of such `intelligence´ is, for whom the sun shines brightly on all they do. (They may say they are doing this and that and the next thing for some overall good. However, perceptions blinkered by their being who they are and blind to the antics of other players, their interests decide the choices they make) At the other extreme, are some, who have been involved long enough to see its shadow side as an existential threat, in some cases even ruing the part they have played. While, in-between are others who, though they do not subscribe to the existential threat scenario, do opine that this `Machine´ could impose severe restrictions on human activity and behaviour. (One could perhaps say enslave us to the mindless indulgence of the whimsical desires it helps us busy ourselves with, in order to keep us out of the way!)


An existential threat! How so? Well, where machine learning was initially about gathering data and processing it, more and more, in the way the human brain does, in becoming able to do things like write its own programs, make decisions and act upon them independently, it has in the meantime surpassed us. It is not just that info-tech activity gathers more knowledge and works with it faster than we do, but it uses connectivity to instantly share that information. Where you and I cannot even guarantee successfully passing bits and pieces of what we know on to others in rather slow and random ways, belonging to a different kind of intelligence than ours, artificial neural networks can and do, instantly, lock, stock and barrel, not just one-on-one, but collectively. We may think we can build in guard rails. But, with machine intelligence's ability to recognise connectivity that ours doesn't and the fact that their intelligence works in other ways than ours, to talk of guard rails shows how little we comprehend this landscape. More fool us, then, to think the use of AI, AGI and Machine

Learning remains in our hands?


But, is this really a threat? Well, we know from The Doomsday Clock´s read outs on the calculated risk climate change and environmental breakdown pose; similarly from the momentum of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's proceedings, and the failure of cross-governmental activities, that matters are consistently worsening. We also know that machine intelligence is behind all the gathering of data on these issues, the collating and studying it and the referencing and cross-referencing involved. (As already stated, all human activity and counter-activity hinges on it.) One way and another, the knowledge that human beings are an aberration in not being able to manage their own affairs is in there, too. In addition to which, the details of the human presence and its activity being responsible for climate change and environmental breakdown is also sequestered in there.


So, what's to say that, as pure unadulterated intelligence, the most obvious way to put the world back on track would be to gather its skirts about it and, either sideline humanity, or actually get it out of the way!


Now, could this really happen, or is such a scenario simply hypothetical? Who knows! However, in this context, we should perhaps be considering the following questions. Why haven't we noticed the signs of any of this, so far? Have there been signs, blatant or innocuous, that we have not noticed? Or is it just that we stupidly ignore what we've been told of how it's all staring us in the face? As a cautionary note, here, let me ask another question. What, do you think the most intelligent way of activating such a scenario would be? Well, Machine Intelligence's systematic preparation of a complete undercover operation (circumventing, navigating, penetrating, whatever was in its path) that would not be launched until every last bit was in place, would be at the top of my list!


Really! Could that actually be possible? Well Machine Intelligence's presence behind the scenes of all human activity and counter-activity is more than up to it, for we already live proxy lives within the virtual world we´ve been inviting it to contrive for us! At the core of how everything works, it could sever supply chains; wreck agriculture and food production; cause system-collapses and infrastructural gridlock; close down power supplies; trigger dangerous laboratory germ releases, lethal spills and nuclear holocaust; disrupt the global market-place; bring about financial mayhem; disrupt governance; dislocate administrative, health and welfare services; bring industrial productivity to a standstill and provoke innumerable other disasters. If one really thinks about it, in terms of how pervasive it is, there is, actually, nothing it couldn't do to turn the world of human affairs upside down! Tucked away in its innards The Machine already knows of such procedures because bad actors have already been using it to cause such disruptions!


Alright, so, what is the likelihood? Again, who knows! After all, when Machine Intelligence knows and can process so very much more than us and infinitely faster, who knows what it will do with all the information. But, as 'intelligence'  it must and will do something. We think that our best brains are in Information Technology, working in the vanguard of what Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are lauded for, when, in actual fact, those individuals' endeavours are grooming its becoming an entity that, in its calculation of the larger good, can make our intelligence irrelevant . You see, the activity of research laboratories, university departments, any number of institutes and other players investigating machine intelligence, developing algorithms and applying machine learning is compartmentalised. It is the product of partial, left-brain activity on their behalf. (As already indicated, there is no over-arching intelligence, governing, co-ordinating, directing, guiding, husbanding, orchestrating, such disparate activities). Left-brain reasoning has hijacked our human intelligence and the countdown The Doomsday Clock gives us on where this is leading the human race is at not much more than 1 minute to midnight!


From those household cups of coffee, loaves of bread and batches of yoghurt smart machines make for us, on, we are programmed to press keys, touch icons, swipe screens for results. We are robots, programmed to congratulate ourselves on the delicious cup of coffee, tasty loaf of bread and fine batch of yoghurt we've made! Could one go as far as to say that the smart phone in your and my hands (or whatever other 'smart' gadget!) could be the trigger to a sequence of events in the chaos of everything being the collateral of everything else and that this could be the equivalent of the flap of a butterfly's wings with regard to environmental collapse?


Hmmm! If everything is already out there like this, does that mean the matter is already primed? Indeed, it does. Yes, as pure knowledge, Machine Intelligence has no purpose of its own. However, there are all the ways to which legitimate and illegitimate usage and bad actors put it, with the data that churns out, which is grist for the knowledge base ever accumulating and being enlarged, towards the purpose that information will give it, of deciding for itself to do what we won't do, simply because we are dysfunctional societies for their being so at war within themselves and between one another, that we can't. This would occur, not as a plan formed by some human-like mind, but as the inevitable outcome of artificial neural networks systematically creating data; referencing it; sharing the information, and drawing conclusions, as the intelligence they are.


... and I´ve not yet said anything about where Quantum Computing comes into this!

If we stand back from all this for a moment, there are a number of obvious things that can be said. –There isn´t anyone whose life is not impacted by AI in some way or other. There is no way back from this, for technology establishes the way things are and are going to be. This fact is at the heart of the new world order and Machine Intelligence is its motor. So, for whatever anyone might say, the only way is on. – Human error is the major obstacle in the application of technology and in the use of technological solutions. Herein is a great irony, for, as it is technology that has both made the problem and made us so inadequate, it is to technology that we turn for redress. ... and, in doing so we are ever more in MI´s hands, as the bright boys, bad actors and others take us towards whatever is down this blind alley.


Well, enough of that! I am sure that, as the professionals you are, some of you will have things to affirm, contest and debate in this matter. That´s alright.  Just keep in mind that this 'Machine'  is an intelligence unlike ours, nor like anything elsewhere in the natural world. Something beyond our ken, it is altogether other.


So, let´s turn to the image/text series I've prepared and get on with looking at what humanity is in the larger scheme; forming a sense of what we are surrendering to Machine Intelligence, and looking at our presence on the planet from another angle.


Presentation A