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Day 973 and Reinforcement

I’ve spent a lot of time this summer thinking about who gets to decide the boundaries of society.

Automation of civic and cultural life has been happening at the speed of capitalism. It’s about to happen at the speed of artificial intelligence’s processing power.

At least during most of techno-capitalism, corporations and governments were still run by humans. You could blame an executive or elected official. What happens when more decisions are snapped into reality by a numerical boundary?

High frequency traders have found many an arbitrage they whittled into nothingness. Who will get whittled away when the machines decide how society should run?

We got a taste of the horrors of treating people like statistics instead of humans during the first Biden era crime bill with mandatory minimum sentencing. And here we are rushing to find new ways to nudge consensus back to hard lines and institutionalization.

I don’t know how we handle virtue in a world without grace. Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue seems prescient. Forgiveness in the face of horrific reality has been the hallmark of humanity’s most enduring religions. But then again so has swift punishment and inscrutable cruelty. Humans are quite a species.

I am, like many others, concerned about reinforcement learning in machine learning and artificial intelligence. How and where we set the boundaries of the machines that determine the course of daily life has been a pressing question since the invention of the spreadsheet.

Marx certainly went on about alienation from our contributions to work. But division of labor keeps dividing. And algorithms seem to only increase the pace of the process.