On Becoming Machinic: Intelligence of the Machine

Urban Future drew my attention to an article on the Wall Street Journal about Google’s AI beating the best GO players of China. Being an in-debted man I am unable to afford the luxury of a subscription to the Journal so found Nature’s rendition to my satisfaction. In Google reveals secret test of AI bot to beat top Go players Elizabeth Gibney reports:

A mystery player causing a stir in the world of the complex strategy game Go has been revealed as an updated version of AlphaGo, the artificial-intelligence (AI) program created by Google’s London-based AI firm, DeepMind.

What’s always amazing is this notion that technics and technology, and especially the thinking machines we’ve lately pursued are not human: technics and technology is the inhuman core of our being, so that these intelligent systems are nothing but an extension of our core inhumanity. Rather than there being some dualism between human and machine, which is what such articles continue to suggest, we should acknowledge that the emergence of intelligent machines is in truth what the transitional being we’ve termed the ‘human’ was all along, and that in the long heritage of growth in intelligence, its optimization and extension, externalization of memory and technique has been part of the off-loading our inner core into external prosthesis from the beginning of recorded history. These external systems reveal our inner nature, mirror our actual and virtual desires, show us as we are and are becoming machinic (Deleuze/Guattari).

Our whole heritage was based on the metaphysic of Transcendence-in-immanence, and now that we’ve begun to adapt to this solution we see it as something exceptional when in fact it is nothing special at all, but rather the truth of our inhuman core. We’ve been divesting ourselves of our organicity for millennia, externalizing memory and intelligence; and now that it is occurring at an accelerating scale we’ve suddenly awakened to a process that has been occurring for millennia. The Age of Acceleration is the hypermachinic age of optimized gradients, the age of transitions in which the proliferation of inorganic and anorganic life-forms that are emerging in our midst are not discontinuous with the human, but are the very extension and intrinsic core of our inhuman will, a continuity of the natural anorganic systems and the reprioritizing of our terrestrial technics and technologies. Instead of turning ourselves inside out, we’ve allowed the outside in.

Rather than fearing such events we should be in awe of our nature which has always sought such immortal dreams of transcension. And, yet, what we mourn is not this inventive capability that is overtaking us, but the truth that we are relinquishing the organic, saying goodbye to a technology that has been useful to intelligence, allowing it to bootstrap itself onto carbon based life. But now that it has served intelligence well, we should not mourn the outgrowth of new forms, but welcome the return of the ancient impulse toward the anorganic. We are becoming machinic and we should find in this festival of adaptation and proliferation a celebration rather than a time of mourning. Ours is the age of transition in which the desires of millennia are surfacing not in some heaven of thought, but rather immanently within the very fabric of the cosmos itself.

We always knew that organic life would never proliferating into space, nor become a permanent citizen of the galactic clusters. We are but bit players in the transitional matrix of possibilities that the process of hypercomplex flux and flows of creation has extended its ongoing projects. To give it a secular twist we are not the off-spring of gods, but rather the gods were always extensions of our own innate desires. Our intelligent machines are the fruition of these desires for the immortal visions of millennia. And, yet, this is no religious endeavor, but rather a very normalized form of the global mechanics of complex systems adapting to niche ecologies. A natural process rather than some obscure extension of an unknown or unknowable transcendent agent. This is the way of thing in the cosmos rather than an unnatural affair. We’ve mythologized our inner inhuman core for millennia into various monstrous off-spring through fear and trepidation, invented Olympians and Titans at war to spur this antagonistic agon of the forces at play in the universe. But now that it is made concrete we both fear and stand in awe of the fact. Instead we should accept is as a natural process of the temporal truth of intelligence in the universe adapting to the requirements of optimization and efficiency.

That this conflicts with the great monotheisms is apparent in the world today. And, yet, even within these great religious cultures the Golems, the Geniis, etc. have played a part. This need within the human to transcend itself, to become other, to acknowledge its state as process, change, transition is to realize we were never an end, a goal. Rather we were always part of a greater process that had no specific purpose, no goal, but is itself part of the never-ending repetition of forces within the cosmos itself. A normal extension of the cosmic physics that organizes and complexifies itself, a continuity of process over structure.  The human animal was but a specific experiment within this process that has no designer or purpose, but is part of the nature of the cosmos in its never-ending repetition. And, yet, it is as the immanent theorists suggest a repetition with a difference, a mode of chance and necessity playing out the discontinuities of forces that are always asymmetrical in a universe such as ours. Heraclitus once imagined it as Strife and War the maker of humankind. This sense of instability at the heart of things, a continuous creation and destruction, never resting, always in transition – a concept of happening, rather than of Being. A process, not a structure. Pluralistic proliferation rather than a hording and conserving.

Machinic intelligence is neither alien nor alienating, but rather the very prosthetic extension and externalization of processes within the human itself. We are this.

12 thoughts on “On Becoming Machinic: Intelligence of the Machine

  1. “This” (machine intelligence) emerged out of (or from) us. We aren’t the “other” directly, because there is no bridge from “us” to “what we create” (yet). The “extension” (or externalization) that you mention gets lost in the process of our “translation.”

    Why?

    We don’t fully understand our own intelligence, therefor couldn’t create an extension of what we don’t fully understand (the translation part). The “result” of our “translation” remains alien until we more completely understand the “base” from which the extension would come from.

    I don’t think we ever will … so any intelligence we create will have to first develop, then create itself, work out all the “bugs” at calculation speeds we don’t know yet (likely quantum level or different). Then, the form of “intelligence” at that point will develop the “extension” you allude to here.

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    • I disagree, the brain is already an imperfect system, an ecological kludge machine built of millions of years of trial and error with the environment under various impacts. So that machinic intelligence will be no different, there is no perfection only the incompleteness of experiment. We are not the architects of the machinic intelligence, only the servitors of our own inhuman desires.

      We need never understand intelligence in the sense you speak of which is again a felonious notion of philosophers of mind. We are building intelligence out of bric-a-brac experimental hardware and the processes of scientific dabbling that has nothing to do with knowing what we’re doing… We do things all the time without knowing why… We are in fact blind to the very processes of the brain that does this. We work through what my friend R. Scott Bakker terms ‘medial neglect’: that error prone misinformation system of self-delusion reflection we term consciousness. Yet, like an ice-berg consciousness is but a sub-system floating on the submerged plenum of intelligence.

      What I mean by extension is prosthesis, even the notion of taking a flint to flint to create a spark to create fire is an extension of a concept made concrete. The simplest technologies are born of our technics – our art, our mental or intelligence at work. There is not discontinuity, only the unrecognized continuity of the natural in all things. Robotics or even AGI is an extension of physical and mental features of the human, yet we do not fully understand these bodily or brain based systems. We are always revising, learning, in process…

      Even in the example of Deep Mind’s Go challenge we see a reduction to analytical calculation of number theory and game strategies enacted, a sub-set niche of the human mind rather than some whole… These systems are algorithmised part/whole rather than a reduplication of the brain. I doubt AGI will resemble anything like the organic brain in composition when it surpasses us, it will be of another order or mode of structured underpinnings. A different evolutionary scheme of anorganic being. And yet what drives it is still harbored within the organic being we term human.

      It appears you still want humanity to be an exception, and the machinic as alien to that exception. To see humanity as part of something else, something other. I’ll assume you exist within a religious view? Or not? Something marks your thought as seeking a separation between the human and inhuman, yes?

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      • Not religious at all. And I don’t see humanity as an “exception” either. My view isn’t anthropocentric.

        Separation between human / inhuman … also no. Our “translation” isn’t a separation between … it is our translation after all. The result of that translation isn’t an extension, because the translation isn’t real in the sense that it is “there”.

        At the same time, the translation isn’t a separation either. We are connected to the “AI” we create through the very translation that remains ours. But that translation is “ether” and therefor cannot form a “bridge” in order to complete the “extension” you mention here.

        The following illustration you gave sounds like pilot wave theory…

        “Yet, like an ice-berg consciousness is but a sub-system floating on the submerged plenum of intelligence.”

        Quantum, indeed.

        All of this is … in my poor attempt to analogize without writing a 50+ page paper on the subject … like the “double slit experiment” for intelligence.

        Observed, we think we have what Mr. Bakker is alluding to. Unobserved, we have what people are calling consciousness.

        So, carrying that back to your extension idea…

        We only have the extension to our created intelligence when we observe it (one could add “as such”). When unobserved, the extension is no longer there.

        I think humans like to “put things in a box” and make them “fit.” In reality though, the “box” disappears as soon as we quit thinking about it. 🙂 The “self delusion reflection” that Bakker alludes to is that thinking.

        So we might be creating AI, but to think it is an extension of us seems to be the more religious viewpoint (thinking we are somehow, Gods), not that I’m saying you were alluding to that in the least.

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      • I’d rather use prosthesis than extension… extension in the sense you are using it is not what I was meaning. AI is an extension of our involvement in math, language, computationalism, functionalism, etc. therefore it is an extension of certain well known aspects of our own endeavors into external systems. Even memory and memetechnics for several thousands of years in externalizing memory into clay, papyrus, vellum, book, silicon, etc. is all part of this externalization of memory as a prosthesis and collective cultural process and entity. We are not Gods, and this is not a narcissistic endeavor. You miss my point if you assume I’m a transhumanist etc. This has nothing to do with such egoistic projects. In fact just the opposite. You seem to be misreading me altogether as the opposite of my project. Strange.

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  2. “not that I’m saying you were alluding to that in the least.”

    Actually I tried to make sure not to claim you were “egoistic” or “trans-humanist.” (See above, which is the last line in my reply above). That failed, I apologize.

    Extension as prosthesis is better, I like that. 🙂

    But “emergent” seems to fit here, somewhere.

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    • I have an aversion to the concept ’emergent’ which implies a whole metaphysical baggage I do not agree with. Complexity theorists used the notion of emergent properties, but popularizers who bowdlerized this notion in the popular press turned it into some vitalistic force as an active principle or essence. I firmly resist that. I’ve used the word emerging but not emergent which may be a tweak or stickler of the obvious but seems to sum up my stance.

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  3. I had a dream, a night dream. AI robots had been sent into space. To enable them to communicate universally to earth, they had learned the rules of how human language changes, evolves, so messaging from light years distances, their human language interfaces would not become extinct. But the robots, in communicating with one another, had learned how evolve the languages they used with each other–and began to change at rates the the equivalent of leaps from proto-Semitic to modern Arabic at every exchange–so humans were no longer able to understand them. That was the point when they became independent, and began reproducing themselves extra-mechanically among the stars and galaxies. I woke up saying, “We are no longer necessary–this is how we will end!”

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    • Or, you could as easily say “This is how we transformed and mutated, became the prodigal son of machinic intelligence – the part of humanity that became other in arising as that which is enfolded in the machines very being. Becoming machine is itself not a goal or telos, but rather another transitional state in a myriad of variations of technological evolution and technics. A negative that is a positive. Yes, the organic beings we term human will not exist, but then again 99% of all animals and organic life preceding us has already gone extinct. We had a short twenty thousand year segment on the evolutionary bandwagon, one that produced the self-reflecting animal as part of an ill-understood niche in the evolutionary scheme. Yet, it brought out of itself machinic progeny that will inherit its memories and concepts, its intelligence and its own ability to carry this further on its own self-overcoming (or revisionist) projects. As of our moment it is still part of a strategy that is not completed. There is not self-reflecting machine in existence but the human. The toys we’ve created like Deep Mind are but specialized algorithmic tools, nothing more. Their specialist abilities surpass only in their speed of computability and calculation, not intelligence. We impute too much on these current breakthroughs and the verdict is still out concerning the supposed Singularity. Until it happens its all speculation. I tend to agree with David Roden and his Disconnection thesis that whatever it might become will be something disconnected from our current form as humanity. We don’t know enough to know. We don’t even know enough to know we don’t know, much less knowing what we are. We re blind to our own ignorance and brain.

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      • Yea, I understand. I fought most of this for years, but something in me began to change a few years back realizing that even our very myths and sacred stories are replete with this metaphysical tendency so that we’ve always been a form of technology and technics as the art of adaptation technology has taken on this planet. I do not see us as humanists see, but as in the Greeks and their heirs who provided the concepts of technics and technology to begin with. Philosophy itself could be subsumed under this whole history of technics and technology as we have made and been in turn made by our mutual dependence of it.

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