In its house at R'lyeh, dead AI waits Deep Dreaming
February 20, 2018 4:07 PM   Subscribe

The Darkness at the End of the Tunnel: Artificial Intelligence and Neoreaction - by Shuja Haider. A story of: Time travel, a future superintelligence as unavoidably but passionlessly vengeful God, neoreactionaries as the alt-right's intellectual avant-garde, neoreactionaries planning White Flight to Mars, Google's Deep Dream and "the Cathedral", libertarian transhumanism and libertarian fascism, Lyotardian far-rightists, Deleuzian Thatcherism and accelerationism, the Dark Enlightment, superrich supercapitalist super-villains, Silicon Valley hyperracism, Noys, Lovecraft, AI as class disparity amplifier.
And it isn't fiction.
posted by talos (39 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Nazis (or subsets of the Nazis) believed all sorts of insane occult BS. It's not exactly surprising that their spiritual successors do the same. The awakening of fascism produces monsters, and not just those the awakening anticipated.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:15 PM on February 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


It occurs to me that in their focus on Singularity and AI and the like, these folks have essentially created a shared simulation and begun living in it already, one they mistake for reality. Nick Land, too, is a great example of someone drunk on his own rhetoric and now dealing to others.

They'd do well to recall their Baudrillard, and know that the real erupts into simulation where you least expect it to. I'm of the firm belief that reality inevitably takes its revenge against delusion; unfortunately, it does so rather indiscriminately, and a society that has enabled and empowered folks like this will be affected wholesale when the real world persists and begins to obtrude into the fake one.
posted by kewb at 4:41 PM on February 20, 2018 [15 favorites]


Wow, this essay went everywhere. I liked the inclusion and explanation of Roko's Basilisk but I don't see the connections between it, the Neoreactionaries, the alt-right, and capitalism quite as strongly as the author apparently does but it was still a good read. It kind of reminds me William Gibson's Blue Ant books where everything took place in the actual present but was still written as science fiction.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:47 PM on February 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


In this case it's the other way around: it all reads as science fiction but it's the actual present
posted by talos at 5:00 PM on February 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


Anyone else remember that time one of Nick Land's disciples (or possibly Nick Land himself) showed up in a thread and tried to tell us news of dire import through the medium of Star Control quotes?
posted by Iridic at 5:16 PM on February 20, 2018 [11 favorites]


I liked the inclusion and explanation of Roko's Basilisk but I don't see the connections between it, the Neoreactionaries, the alt-right, and capitalism

Wibbily-wobbily evily techy...stuff.
posted by happyroach at 5:22 PM on February 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


This article is basically a precis of Neoreaction A Basilisk.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:10 PM on February 20, 2018 [17 favorites]


I think kewb nails the connection between these subjects more concisely than the author of the essay:

"It occurs to me that in their focus on Singularity and AI and the like, these folks have essentially created a shared simulation and begun living in it already, one they mistake for reality. Nick Land, too, is a great example of someone drunk on his own rhetoric and now dealing to others."

Like ancient Greek philosophers, they've convinced themselves their ideas are so true that they're better than reality, or that reality no longer matters.
posted by Kevin Street at 6:23 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Before I get too deep into this article I want to say right up front, those AI generated images, make my stomach turn with unease. Like they need a trigger warning, for me. But, I am strong, I can take it, however the mind that makes those images, in some ways, rules the world already...
posted by Oyéah at 6:28 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


This was a good article, and following some of its mentions combined with reading the previous Dark Enlightenment thread in light of what's transpired since evokes quite an eerie feeling.

I need a stiff drink.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:38 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Oyéah, it is not as bad as all that. The header image they use is from DeepDream, which was this one weird trick that these Google engineers discovered to give one image the art style of another image. The basic idea is simple; you train a neural net to recognize an image A, and then you give the same neural net an image B. But! Rather than asking the neural net to recognize whether B is like A, you instead allow the net to make small changes to B so that it looks more like A. The result is that image B ends up with a similar "micro" structure to A while still retaining the "macro" structure of B. The author used a picture where a building is given the micro structure of a dog, but you can also use it to create much neater and nicer pictures. E.g. here is a Corgi given the micro structure of a Lisa Frank notebook:
https://dreamscopeapp.com/i/2XuZV3HuR3


There's a lot of really neat stuff coming out in image generation, almost on a monthly basis. A few of my favorites are:
https://github.com/NVIDIA/FastPhotoStyle/blob/master/README.md
https://github.com/yunjey/StarGAN
http://paintschainer.preferred.tech/index_en.html
posted by Balna Watya at 7:26 PM on February 20, 2018 [10 favorites]


Better than reality? Uh no it is a substitute for a compelling, meaningful, and delightful reality, such as making and eating dinner with loved ones, or realizing one has friended into love. These people are the ultimate deniers of reality, and they are all on board each others' heads, but no one is going anywhere. However Peter Thiel is one of the tech billionaires who recently bought land in New Zealand. They know their monster will rise, and will leave it for everyone else.

I consider it particularly ugly they take scientific phrasing, and turn it into alt right racist code. I have been around self proclaimed geniuses like these they sit around and mentally pleasure themselves in the absence of being desirable to anyone else IRL. It is a mistake to find them fascinating or try to engage them in conversation, they are not conversing, they are engaging in a fine perversion of sorts, and do not want to be disturbed, but while in their trance they throw out all sorts of names, blathering and connecting and polishing their inner idol self, it is a boring task, I stopped doing it. This bears a strong resemblance to what the men just older than me, engaged in, like that recent video with Kerouac, Buckley, and a couple of others.
posted by Oyéah at 7:29 PM on February 20, 2018 [13 favorites]


It's almost hard to comment on an article that is so wide-ranging, feels like nitpicking to bring up just one topic.

But I want to pick on the Deep Dream point because I think it's way off base: "The desires, conscious and unconscious, of the machine’s creators are inevitably implicated in its ostensibly autonomous development."

All the interesting things about the place of Deep Dream in ML research are in exactly the opposite direction from autonomous development. The "neural nets => Terminator" stuff is based on the idea that neural nets are mysterious and powerful and have unlimited potential through learning. But Deep Dream is treating a neural net as a tool with very specific and limited potential (determined by its inputs and parameters), and trying to understand how the internals of the tool work when presented with different inputs - and it shows that actually the tool can be understood pretty well on various levels.
posted by allegedly at 7:31 PM on February 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


The header image they use is from DeepDream I have seen other images of that sort, and the way they merge makes it look like a manifestation of poor understanding. I am a visual artist, and I go between hand made hyper realism, to magical realism, to abstract nature photographs that are hyper real, and a bunch of things. I work in pastel, oil, watercolor, photography, and even hand made objects. It is just that business of eyes and animals making patterns over stuff, or just in patterns that gives me a visceral reaction.

Algorithms are used in hiring, firing, and assessments all the time, I somehow equate that sort of overlay of misunderstanding to upcoming technology.
posted by Oyéah at 7:39 PM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm of the firm belief that reality inevitably takes its revenge against delusion ...

Was it Philip Dick who said “Reality is that which when you stop believing in it doesn’t go away”? There’s a man who should know.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:05 PM on February 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


The other point that bothered me was the casual equation of Elon Musk to "White Flight to Mars". Of course I see where this is coming from but drawing this link in this context leads the reader to equate the following:

Peter Thiel's "billionaires escape to panic rooms in New Zealand in case society collapses"
Elon Musk's "humanity needs a backup planet because asteroids and other planet-killing threats are real"

I don't think those are the same issue. Colonization would have significant issues of who decides who gets to go and how society allocates the resources to get there, but the Martian frontier is a lousy escape plan for billionaires.
posted by allegedly at 8:22 PM on February 20, 2018 [8 favorites]


Just staying alive would/will be a significant problem on Mars for quite some time after the first base is built. Anybody who goes there will be a trained professional taking on significant risk to themselves. It's sure no safe room.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:45 PM on February 20, 2018


Just staying alive would/will be a significant problem on Mars for quite some time after the first base is built. Anybody who goes there will be a trained professional taking on significant risk to themselves. It's sure no safe room.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:45 PM on February 20 [+] [!]


Given the way our societies work on Earth, the high levels of risk alone seem like a near guarantee that the first colony will not be all white; not to mention the psychological profiles call for cool, collected behavior and the ability to adapt to the other people in confined spaces, permanently.
posted by eustatic at 10:36 PM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Cool, collective behavior.
posted by Dokterrock at 11:01 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


And it isn't fiction.

Well, no, most of it is fiction, it's just that you have a bunch of semi-clever skeptics, proud of their intellectual powers, reinventing all the trappings of religion and mysticism before going full nazi believing that it's reality.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:57 PM on February 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


Taking Roko's Basilisk seriously is pretty much a guarantee that I won't take you seriously, even though there's a lot of interesting stuff in here in general.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:38 AM on February 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


Also, "as the consumer-oriented liberalism of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs gave way to the the technological authoritarianism of Elon Musk and Peter Thiel" seems pretty... general. Is there any reason to put Elon Musk in the same category as (insane asshole) Thiel, instead of grouping him with Gates and Jobs? He seems pretty Jobsian to me.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:40 AM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


I reckon Musk's a poorly socialised ecomodernist with a huge ego. The fact that he named his drone-ships after Iain Banks characters leans me toward not lumping him in with the neoreactionaries. That may not be a good reason.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 7:58 AM on February 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


My impression is that Musk is a asshole on a personal relations level right up there with Thiel and the others, but isn't an ideological dick to the same level. I.e., he actually believes in global warming, is interested in doing things other than purely capture income streams and political control, et cetera.
posted by tavella at 9:16 AM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don't think that Musk is doing things that don't capture income streams. I think though that he is thinking 2 and 3 steps down the line about the income streams he wants to be part of.

Tunnelling is huge. We aren't building up anymore. The boring company is designed to bury traffic - clean sanitized traffic... because it is electric traffic using him as a principal provider. He provides solar panels to folks #1 because he can, but because it is also in his interest to build emerging markets, and solar panels are to him what business cards are to you and me - its an economy of scale.

With that said - I like Musk. I don't care if he is self serving... he is at least building a future thinking about solving future problems of congestion and air quality. The same cannot be said for Theil. Gates started using his money for good and PR after he left Microsoft. Bezos is looking at a world of convenienced BuyMore from Wall-E... Drones and automated trucks are a way to eliminate the poor, not to improve the quality of life.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:01 PM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


From the article:
Land eventually began to claim he was “inhabited by various ‘entities,’” named Cur, Vauung, and Can Sah. His work increasingly defied comprehension, sometimes departing from language altogether in favor of invented alphabets and number systems. “It’s another life,” Land told MacKay. “I don’t even remember writing half of those things.”
I feel like the article kind of glosses over what the heck this was about. Ten (!) paragraphs earlier, the article quotes Robin MacKay, one of Land's students, as saying Land "[went] mad." Uhhh... so, like, what happened and did he get better or what?
posted by mhum at 3:13 PM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: a bunch of semi-clever skeptics, proud of their intellectual powers

sorry
posted by fader at 4:16 PM on February 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


I feel like the article kind of glosses over what the heck this was about. Ten (!) paragraphs earlier, the article quotes Robin MacKay, one of Land's students, as saying Land "[went] mad." Uhhh... so, like, what happened and did he get better or what?

More from someone still writing in the Mondo2000 mold around 2013.

Short answer, he got crazier until his self-imposed exile. Now he's re-emerged and is less overtly bizzare, but over the deep end into nationalism and supremacism and infatuation with the sophists of the alt-right who have latched on to "neoreaction."

The old thread linked above is worth reading if you're curious and can stomach MeFites airily dismissing the likelihood of today's disfigured political reality just a few years back.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:02 PM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


Let me reiterate what Pope Guilty said: everything touched on here is dealt with more clearly and in a way that better articulates the connections between these lines of thought and the (US/UK) political everyday in Neoreaction a Basilisk.

It surely could have used an editor, and/or Phil Sandifer could have been ever-so-slightly less self-indulgent, but it is the primer to this domain I didn't know I'd been craving until I'd devoured it, much in the manner of Kronos and his son. You want ammo to support your intuition that there's a meshwork of sympathy that joins Mont Pelerin to sadlord Curtis Yarvin to vile rightards like MILO and Vox Day? In the form of a cracking yarn? That's your book.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:02 AM on February 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


Oh, also:

With that said - I like Musk. I don't care if he is self serving... he is at least building a future thinking about solving future problems of congestion and air quality.

No, he's not. He's bringing a thoroughly unwieldy technical "solution" to bear on a problem that is abundantly susceptible to policy fixes, if only we had the regulatory will to implement them. What He, Musk, proposes has a king-hell case of Engineer's Disease written all over it, and doesn't deserve to be taken remotely seriously as "thought" or a "contribution."

I wish even one-fifth of the enthusiasts currently waxing their throbbing nerdboners over Musk's hyperloop tunnels had bothered to acquaint themselves with the existing state of the art in ways of addressing urban traffic congestion and pollution, prominent among which is this little thing I like to call "public transit." But maybe that's just not technosexy enough.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:10 AM on February 22, 2018 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the post, I like the site generally. Lots of interesting stuff to read.

I was drawn in by the cthulhu reference here but stayed for the neoreactionaries. His other article on this site about Jordan Peterson is helping me start to sort out what that guy is about too
posted by ServSci at 6:43 AM on February 22, 2018


If you want a few moments of sweet, delicious schadenfreude, read the responses to this guy when he tweeted that he was a Toronto Public librarian surreptitiously destroying Jordan Peterson books. (Spoiler: he wasn't and he didn't.)
posted by octobersurprise at 6:58 AM on February 22, 2018


But maybe that's just not technosexy enough.

Put your town on the map!
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:58 AM on February 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


I wish even one-fifth of the enthusiasts currently waxing their throbbing nerdboners over Musk's hyperloop tunnels had bothered to acquaint themselves with the existing state of the art in ways of addressing urban traffic congestion and pollution, prominent among which is this little thing I like to call "public transit." But maybe that's just not technosexy enough.

I actually very much agree with you on this one... Public Transit is 100% necessary. Putting only the rich in tunnels is only a good idea if we fill the tunnels in... But, as a basis of - challenge the size and diameter of a tunnel and cheapen the price for a mile dug - it is a pretty noble cause. Especially if cities can latch on some sort of public transit within this system as well. If it is only for the wealthy - if it is only for a single car at a time - then yes - it is pathetically useless and doesn't solve the future, it just conceals reality and consequences further from the oligarchs.

But cities and countries - not just the US - seem to have no stomach for the greater good any more. It seems that we've promoted people to power who are beholden to power brokers and companies - not to their constituents. We think disentanglement is a solution - hence Brexit. We think isolationism and fascist nationalism is acceptable - hence Trump. The first world talks a good game about leading the way forward... but it seems that first world is just another case of fuck you I've got mine. And yet, despite being surrounded by a culture... Musk is attempting to solve problems... in an increasingly destabilized world.

Public Transportation, like all endeavors, requires continuous expansion and growth - even unprofitable growth. It is not a profitable system - it should never be run for even a net 0. It should always be a loss. Why? because at a certain point, you have to turn around and fix the stuff you built as well as continue to expand. We seem to get to a point of expansion, then finally look and see stuff is decaying, and then and only then go to address it and claim we need to stop expanding as soon as we do. Meaing: Bridgework today, that is fucking up your commute, could have been done for less time and cost as maintenance... but *we* voted folks in that didn't want to expand that budget and have us pay those taxes. We voted in folks that said "you don't really want to expand that line, even thought we said we were going to 30 years ago, and you are saying you want us to expand that line today."

Like everything, the cost to fix and maintain isn't baked in - or is ignored - or is kicked down the line to the next administration to deal with even though the promise is 'made' today... or, in our case of what we face today, was made 30-40 years ago. Then when we finally do service an area, we say - well - that land is now worth more - let's jack up the property value! Which drives the poor, once again, out of the reach of public transportation, and the rich who nickle and dimed a project to futility, can swoop in and buy overpriced real-estate to turn into a Starbucks, a 110 Grille, and probably a few stores that already exist in the next town over. Moreover, the places that do this justify this cookie cutter commercial mecca will the tagline that it give jobs to people AND will grow tax revenue from all the shopping. The reality is, the jobs it gives are substandard, and the tax revenue is absorbed because of the tax break incentives given to the conglomerates all coming in. So we've now lost housing, moved the poor line further away from public transportation, given tax breaks to corporations incentivized by underpaying minimum wages in already saturated market for dead-end unskilled labor, which millenials are forced to take because - college loans!, and collected income from this via the parents of aforementioned baristas and clerks...

So. The good news though is, once this shit goes in, those parents of millenials won't need to stop at said strip mall since they can take Musk's underground railroad for the rich, which means even the unskilled service jobs won't be necessary and we'll each get to have a stripmall museum which folks 2000 years from now can investigate and assume were temples to the almighty corporate dollar... which in effect they are.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:52 AM on February 23, 2018


Pssh, it's not meant to actually be a transit system -- the survivors are going to live in the Hyperloop after Skynet becomes self aware.

Tunnel Snakes rule.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:13 AM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Public Transportation, like all endeavors, requires continuous expansion and growth - even unprofitable growth. It is not a profitable system - it should never be run for even a net 0. It should always be a loss.

I'm sorry, but unless I'm badly mistaking your meaning, this doesn't make the slightest bit of sense. "Profit" and "loss" are terms that should never enter into any discussion of what a people organized as a polity choose to provide as services for the public benefit. Government is not a business and should not be run as one. Even on strictly economic terms, furthermore, fully-subsidized public transit generates extraordinary value for the communities that invest in it.

I apologize if that is indeed what you meant and I have simply misunderstood you.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:06 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think you two are making similar points if not exactly the same point -- I think Nanuk was saying that if a transit system is showing a profit in a conventional business sense then it's either underserving its riders or shortchanging maintenance or otherwise failing to put that revenue to some better public use.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:10 AM on February 24, 2018


Let me reiterate what Pope Guilty said: everything touched on here is dealt with more clearly and in a way that better articulates the connections between these lines of thought and the (US/UK) political everyday in Neoreaction a Basilisk.... You want ammo to support your intuition that there's a meshwork of sympathy that joins Mont Pelerin to sadlord Curtis Yarvin to vile rightards like MILO and Vox Day? In the form of a cracking yarn? That's your book.

I'm trying to read this and so far it's more tedious and preachy than it is "cracking." Except maybe in the sense of cracking open the sarcophagi of various Marxists one more time. Not to mention Milton. With a disturbing incidence of words like "obviously" and "clearly" and "must."
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:13 AM on February 24, 2018


OK, it's getting a bit more fun but it took ~100 pages and keeps wanting to backslide into being a seminar on other literature (and other criticism of that other literature) and philosophy for ten to twenty pages at a time.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:12 PM on February 24, 2018


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