(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")
The Dystopia of Vast Algorithmic Bureaucracies - The Age of Apathy
The algorithmic society is also redefining morality. You are "good" if you obey the rules and regulations, and you are bad if you disobey; and you are "smart" proportional to how well you can play the rules and regulations to your benefit. In 2017 the USA inaugurated a president who didn't seem to have any moral feelings. To him, it was all about playing the rules and then winning or losing. The rules are not right or wrong: they are the rules. Life is a game of using your intelligence to play with those rules and try to win. The people who voted for him were precisely the people who in the old days voted for the most moral candidate. When in May 2017 that president wanted to condemn a terrorist attack in Britain, he said: "I won't call them monsters, because they would like that term. I will call them from now on losers." To him being a "loser" is much worse than being a "monster". Being evil is not such a bad thing, it is in fact a meaningless term; but being a loser... that is easier to define and, in his world, it really hurts.
A perfect example of vast algorithmic bureaucracy is the court trial in the USA. Nobody is truly interested in whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. A court trial is just a performance of rules, as stated and enforced by the judge (who is not there to "judge" the defendant but only to judge whether the attorneys, witnesses and jurors follow the rules). The jury is not allowed to interrogate the witnesses, let alone the defendant. The attorneys follow rules on how to question the witnesses and address the jury. And so on. In some states it is already mandatory for judges to use "computerized risk assessment tools" when deciding the sentence. One such program, Compas (developed by a firm called Northpointe that seems to have changed name to Equivant in 2017), was responsible for a Wisconsin judge sentencing a man (Eric Loomis) to eleven years in prison for minor crimes.
This is the age of the "plea bargain" in which the criminal plays a game with the prosecution. If they find a point of equilibrium, that saves money on both sides and doesn't cost the criminal too much time in jail, there will be no trial. The whole justice system is based on rules and regulations, not on the truth. Whether you have committed the crime, counts far less than how good your attorney is at maneuvering within the maze of laws. If you defend yourself, you'll probably lose, even if you are absolutely innocent.
Morality is rapidly being reduced to defining "good" as the set of rules and regulations. If a rule does not exist, then you are free to behave as you wish. It is not surprising therefore that in July 2017 a group of Florida teenagers watched a man drown in the river and only thought of making a video for YouTube of the scene: there is no law that mandates you should help a fellow human who is drowning.
There is also something fundamentally unfair in the fact that the algorithmic society treats everybody the same way. It makes no difference whether you are polite and gentle soul or an aggressive obnoxious jerk: the rules and regulations are the same, the punishment is the same. The motivation to be nice to other human beings disappears as we are all treated the same. Civility and good manners are useless, and a bit old-fashioned, within vast algorithmic bureaucracies.
The likely consequence of an increasingly algorithmic society is a humankind that, instead of searching for meaning, will be reduced to intellectual, political, spiritual and emotional apathy. Then humankind may become a mere footnote in the history of technology.
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