3 Sacred Rules of Coming Dystopia

“If AI went bad, and 95 percent of humans were killed,” he said, “then the remaining five percent would be extinguished soon after. So despite its uncertainty, it has certain features of very bad risks.”

Stuart Armstrong
  • Humans will lose their economic and military usefulness
  • The system will find value in humans collectively, but not as individuals
  • A new elite of upgraded humans will be found useful by the system

3 Rules from Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

After spending the first half of the book Homo Deus (by Yuval Noah Harari) giving historical background to how we got here, the author launches into his vision of the daunting future in which well over 90% of the human race will be considered superfluous, expendable. Unless a human has been upgraded to perform a role that machines cannot do better, he is likely to find himself dumped into the vast and dangerous ghettos of the nonessential biological supernumary.

At this time on Earth the elite and super-elite are determined as much by luck and ruthlessness as by merit and competence. In the future, anyone who wants to be wealthy and powerful will have to know how to utilize machine intelligence to the outer limits. Use, be used, or be discarded….

Now At the Brink of Immortality, Humans At Risk of Losing Control

Yes, humans are at the brink of immortality, regardless of what you may have heard differently. It is ironic that after passing through a number of population bottlenecks over the past few hundreds of thousands of years, humanity’s fiercest challenge may come from a confrontation with a non-conscious intelligence. An intelligence of its own creation.

Immortality in theory is one thing. In practice it will be more difficult to attain and hold onto. Even more difficult will be managing immortality to make it better than the best alternative — dying after a long and vigorous life.

In a society controlled by more intelligent entities that are beyond challenge from the masses of humans, access to the tools of immortality is likely to be strictly controlled. Persons who are of value to the system will be kept alive and healthy just as long as they remain useful.

Many of the world’s top scientists, entrepreneurs, and futurists have predicted dire consequences from research and development in artificial intelligence if it is not closely watched and controlled by human overseers. Some predict that the consequences of a takeover by artificial intelligence would be more deadly to humans than a global thermonuclear war.

The Allure of Super-Intelligent AI is Too Strong to Resist

Super-intelligent machine intelligence offers a level of power to those who control it which is impossible to resist for most powerful and power-hungry individuals. Once past a certain threshold of control, humans who find themselves in the driver’s seat are unlikely to retain most of their prior scruples, if the past is any guide.

I am not talking about human-equivalent AI, which is unlikely to ever arise — no matter what people such as Ray Kurzweil may predict. Machines will not attain human-level consciousness, nor will they develop human-type emotions. But high levels of intelligence do not require either consciousness or emotions.

It is the combination of human consciousness with machine super-intelligence which is likely to tip the balance toward a coming dystopia. We are already seeing the intimations of such a dark world with the ugly partisan censorship of public education, information, and entertainment which is facilitated by tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, and others. We see the traces of such control in faked elections, in ginned up global catastrophes and shortages, and in badly mismanaged pandemics and economic disruptions.

The elites who are currently on top will only stay there if they can manage the vicious rogue waves and undercurrents which will accompany ever more intelligent — but not conscious — machine intelligence. But if they survive the coming tumultuous instability, they are likely to pull out every stop they can in order to eliminate new threats to their ascendancy.

Machine intelligence will be able to do things that humans cannot, and to do other things so much better than humans can do them that humans are likely to stop trying. But these intelligences will need conscious guidance, and at this time humans are the only conscious intelligence capable of the planning and decision making that complex systems require.

But again, once those particular minimally scrupulous humans attain both the power of machine super-intelligence and meaningful immortality — or something close to it — they are likely to do whatever it takes to eliminate challenges to their reign. As I said, we are already seeing the early signs.

What to Do About It?

First, whatever can go wrong will go wrong. That is true for you and for your enemies as well. The timing of these various catastrophes may favor one warring group over another — temporarily. But in the long run it evens out. There will be no eternal empire. You must be prepared to hold out.

It is much easier for a machine intelligence to replace a human specialist than to replace a human generalist. You may think that the age of the generalist is long past, but that would be a mistake — and it makes you much easier to replace.

In the Dangerous Child curriculum, each child learns to be a generalist — first at primitive levels, then at higher and higher levels of technological sophistication. You could say that the Dangerous Child education recapitulates the history of humanity’s rise in scientific and technological sophistication over time.

In an induction into The Society for Creative Apocalyptology, enthusiasts develop expertise first into the most primitive forms of surviving the elements, and learn to master ever more difficult and complex means of individual and group survival.

The long-term goal of the Al Fin blogs since 2005 has been to encourage the development of widely separated “islands of competence” which can collaborate on various scales of time and space to meet a wide variety of existential challenges.

Our current “elites” have attained a likeness of control — thanks to new and powerful technologies — which gives them a combination of real and delusional control that appears beyond contesting. With the support of a mendacious media, educational establishment, and corrupt government, these elites have tried to close off all means by which ordinary people might call them to answer for their misdeeds.

Do Not Let Yourself Be Enslaved

In the ghettos and in the hinterlands, drugs, alcohol, illicit sex, gambling, and other perversions of the human reward system have led to the enslaving of large numbers of people. If a person confuses transient pleasures with true happiness, he is over halfway on the road to slavery already. It is an easy way for the elites to take out most of their potential competition. Smartphones and social media are other ways.

The first step away from the downward path of almost all human flesh, is being honest with yourself about who you are and what you want. Honesty is fleetingly rare these days, but it is crucial. Take stock of your strengths and your real shortcomings. But don’t beat yourself up with the innate negativity bias of your brain. Happiness is born of competence and connectivity and comes from inside yourself — but you need to clear out the cobwebs and take an honest assessment. And be kind to yourself.

The challenge that is coming will require the best that you can manage. You can’t help yourself or others if you lose your unique strengths in all the paralyzing traps laid all about us.

This entry was posted in Coming Anarchy, Dangerous Child, Future, Machine Intelligence, Philosophy, Superfluous Humans. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to 3 Sacred Rules of Coming Dystopia

  1. Abelard Lindsey says:

    I can tell you David Sinclair is a bit behind the curve on life extension. So is nearly everyone else, including Aubrey de Grey.

    Here’s where its really at:





    I did the mitochondrial one with good results last summer. By good results I mean having a body as tightly sculpted as I had 30 years ago. Of course I do weight training 4 times a week (2 day split) and swim/bike/hike 3-4 times per week as well. So its probably all synergistic in my case. I have done 5 rounds of the stem cell/senolytics one and will wait some months to see what results. I will do more once in the new year.

    It is worth noting that “Turbuckle’s” protocol is out ahead of the much ballyhooed Aubrey de Grey/Ichor announcement of their stem cell/senolytic protocol

  2. Abelard Lindsey says:

    One more thing. We’re not going to see real AI for a long time to come. All of this recent AI hype is based on deep multi-layered neuro-nets, which were actually invented in 1986! The only reason people didn’t start working with them until about 10 years ago is because the computing technology had to catch up. Deep layered neuro-nets are extremely demanding of computing resources. This was noted in 1986 when they were first developed.

    If any thing, we are already entering another AI “winter” that will likely last for some decades, until the next conceptual breakthrough occurs in computing architecture. It is also worth noting that Moore’s Law is reaching a hard limit. Semiconductor scaling is reaching the molecular level, and it can’t any smaller than that.

    This is why I’m not much worried about strong AI.

    Semiconductors and computing technology are reaching the hard limits. Future technological advances will be in materials science and bio-engineering. The future of physics is exotic matter.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Yes. All powerful AI is mostly hype. But “strong AI” or “human level AI” is not necessary for humans to become fatally dependent on advancing technologies which are capable of displacing more categories of the human workforce every year. Will look at the old idea of “the technology trap” soon.

      • Abelard Lindsey says:

        Perhaps. But I’m an automation and control system integrator and I can tell you we’re not anywhere close to overcoming Moravec’s paradox anytime soon. This means most jobs are not in any danger of replacement anytime soon.

        • alfin2101 says:

          Good comment.

          If only all we had to worry about was a straight up replacement of human jobs by automation. Unfortunately there are several other ways — ultimately perhaps more significant — that similar kinds of societal evolution hinted at in books like Homo Deus can help bring about massive job loss and an increasing dependency on centralized disbursal of financial life support. Consider all the kinds of critical infrastructure that are required to support our current economic and industrial system. Europe is facing a winter of low effective energy supplies which will cripple industry and temporarily remove a lot of jobs up and down the supply chains.

          The ongoing demographic transformation of the world will not help much either, over time.

  3. Craig says:

    Great, great discussion you are having. Automation was the hot watchword the last 7-8 years of my working years. I was in Network Engineering/Security. Most of the automation projects took teams of engineers and operators and were rarely full auto in practice. Toward the end (I’m retired now) some of the AWS and Microsoft Azure offerings were getting very good but still needed a lot of care and feeding.

    I had been told since the 2010s that automation was going to take my job and was told to learn Python or some other coding language quickly… I did, but never did they come for my job.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Glad you survived the threat. Not everyone did. As the economy worsens under perpetual mismanagement, the constraint propagation mass effect is apt to get very ugly. The straight up replacement of jobs by automation and advanced computation will be only one small part of the ugliness.
      You made it through during a time of relative economic prosperity, with a few road bumps like 2008/2009 and the COVID own goal (plus the massive outsourcing to China). But now the idiots and saboteurs are the new controllers, and momentum can only get us so far when the elites are actively trying to wreck things and destroy people.

Comments are closed.