Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Media's Spin On Anarchists

There has recently been a growing and disturbing trend whereby right-wing idealogues, organizations, and terrorists have been presented in the media as being “anti-government” or even anarchists. This effectively serves to confuse the public about the philosophy of anarchism and what anarchists actually stand for. And this practice will, undoubtedly, have negative consequences for actual anarchist communities.

This inaccurate media portrayal of right wing extremists really caught my attention after the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin – when Amy Goodman subsequently interviewed a former DHS analyst on the subject of “right-wing extremists.” In that interview her guest dismissed the idea that Timothy McVeigh was a racist and no mention of his Christian fundamentalism was put forward. He was described primarily as being involved with “anti-government” militias. This despite the fact that McVeigh constantly praised the Turner Diaries (a novel that romanticizes a race war), which he sold below cost at gun shows, and despite the fact that he was associated with the fundamentalist Christian Identity movement. And, actually, McVeigh was not really anti-government. Rather, he was merely opposed to certain aspects of the government currently in charge. So, while I am a frequent member of DemocracyNow's audience, I think Ms.Goodman dropped the ball in this particular interview and should have been a little more challenging with her questions.

More to the point along these lines... a prominent headline in the news recently has been about a supposed “anarchist” cell within the U.S. military which was allegedly planning to carry out political assassinations, blow up dams, and poison Washington state's apple orchards. However, despite numerous headline's referring to them as “anarchists,” when one looked a little deeper it was discovered that these "anarchists" were actually just “true patriots” who were essentially looking to take the country back. Later it was revealed that the alleged ringleader of the group was an usher at the RNC in 2008. Like McVeigh, this group seems to be comprised of fairly typical right-wing militants – who are not really "anti-government" and certainly not anarchists.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The System Currently In Place

The CEO of a prominent group promoting the manifestation of a technological singularity, Luke Muehlhauser from the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, recently came out with a very surprising statement regarding the dangers which would accompany the creation of artificial super-intelligence:

“Unfortunately, the singularity may not be what you're hoping for. By default the singularity (intelligence explosion) will go very badly for humans, because what humans want is a very, very specific set of things in the vast space of possible motivations, and it's very hard to translate what we want into sufficiently precise math, so by default superhuman AIs will end up optimizing the world around us for something other than what we want, and using up all our resources to do so.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of the technological singularity... it has to do (generally speaking) with programming a thinking computer that initially has the same cognitive abilities as a human being. Due to computers regularly becoming able to process evermore information faster, in a very short time, after a computer achieved a human level of intellect, it would, conceivably, surpass that level – arguably in the next moment and almost certainly within the next few years. What would start with a computer being able to pass a Turing test (basically being able to fool human observers as to whether or not they were having a dialogue with a human or a computer) would then shortly be followed by a type of self-consciousness machine that would intellectually be capable of manipulating humans and taking human rationality to its furthest degree.