Sunday, December 10, 2017

Blockchain & Social Networking in a Disruptive Future

In a recent post: “Singularity Unchained - Artificial Intelligence & Crypto-Currency” we examined the ramifications of a decentralized computer network, specifically in its use as a networked public ledger for transactions of crypto-currencies. We then looked at the intriguing (if not sinister) development of blockchain technology being combined with, and applied to Artificial Intelligence, in not only in an automated transactional capacity but in an evolving, networked capacity... set free within and upon the world wide web.

Taken in the context of an impending technological singularity, ie: machine sentience… serious questions arise as to how such events will impact humanity. From that earlier post…

“A Crypto-currency’s blockchain is a transaction database that is globally networked and cannot be deleted. Such a blockchain is a constantly evolving and expanding system of transactions. This network operates and grows much the way that our central nervous system works. If such a theory were true, it would be logical that a sentient AI would seek a digital nervous system, beyond the control of its creators.”

In this day and age, it is longer clear that the posts we are reading on our social media feeds are created by humans… or by one of a multitude of now on-line AI...

With that said, the question of how such technological innovation will affect humanity is not as pertinent a question as… how is it affecting humanity, as we speak? The pervasiveness of AI is not some near-future “Terminator” scenario. It ubiquitously exists and impacts all who use modern technology. Many of us have experienced the algorithms used by Amazon, et al to “suggest products” or websites, base upon on-line purchasing history or browsing habits. Another name for such algorithms is… Artificial Intelligence.

We were expecting to be surveilled by HAL and instead have been infiltrated by Alexa.

Yet we continue to grow more dependent upon existent artificial intelligences. Cult of Mac users are increasingly dependent upon Siri for navigation. Use of traditional, paper roadmaps has been completely replaced with Siri’s reassuring dialogue: 500 yards, proceed to merge right onto Highway to Hell.” God help us if our iPhone dies, or worse… we run out of data!

AI is spawning everywhere in modern tek culture. If these algorithmic AI are likened to fish, then the mobile communication infrastructure is water.

It can be argued that blockchain technologies, as well as AI intrusiveness, are examples of an emerging “Disruptive” paradigm. Disruptive innovation is a relativly new term used to describe an innovation that creates a new value network and eventually disrupts an existing market or value network, displacing the market’s established leading firms, products, and alliances. Goodbye Kodak, hello Snapchat.

With algorithmic AI and blockchain networking becoming an increasingly prevalent medium, let us consider how these disruptive innovations are being applied to global politics. At first glance, contemporary politics appears as an internationally reactionary, populist/nationalist/alt-right convulsion. But as current events have unfolded, what appears to be emerging is a disruptive, networked political model of governance.

 In our Brave Noö World, social networking is changing politics forever. Increasingly, political machines such as President Trump’s operate more like a network than a bureaucracy. Political policy is implemented by the whims of an autocratic individual, rather than bureaucratic organizational consensus. With Trump’s weaponized twitter feed, social networking is now a means of governance on par with bureaucracy. In the immediacy of the modern networked world, this is a faster implementation, but more prone to error.

To quote analyst John Robb: “Social networking is changing politics… that fact should be clear by now.  A simple proof:  Trump wouldn't be in the White House without it. Trump used an ‘open source insurgency’ to become president. This insurgency didn't just win the election… it blew up both the Republican and Democrat parties. Trump accomplished this despite overwhelming opposition from the entire media establishment, all of academia and most of Silicon Valley. Trump's insurgency worked like open source insurgencies in the (recent) past… from the Iraq war to Egypt/Tunisia.

An open source insurgency is a loose network (meshed) that is composed of many individuals and small groups working independently, but united by a single purpose (in this case: electing Trump).Open source insurgencies are much more innovative than their bureaucratic counterparts. They are constantly coming up with, and trying out new ideas. For example: the seventy to one hundred groups in the Iraqi insurgency rolled out new innovations (tactics to weapons) in days, while it took months for the US military to counter them.

National governance isn't just in Washington anymore, it's being conducted everywhere at once.  Everyone, from the government bureaucrat to the corporate executive to the owner of a Twitter account is now an active participant.  It is now much more participatory than it has EVER been.”

With the future of political organization being driven by social media, which in turn, increasingly “swims in the same waters” as algorithmic AI, what options are left open for the democratic process? What safeguards can be enacted to assure free elections? Will democracy require a technological communications overlay to participate? The answer may lie in networked, participatory governance.

Again, from Robb: “Within a handful of years after its (networked political party) emergence, all political parties will be networked parties. These networked parties will all feature direct democracy via smartphone voting. This will make it possible for party members to decide how their political representatives vote. Is this potentially dangerous? Sure. However, direct democracy is one of the few ways to rapidly rebuild the legitimacy of a system that has lost it.”

If any wisdom has emerged from recent events, it is the fact that the American two-party political system has lost its legitimacy.

Perhaps the decentralized blockchain technology holds a technological answer to our democratic dilemma. By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data. A blockchain can serve as an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. Perhaps blockchain tek can be implemented in a political framework, to minimize corruption? Perhaps the decentralized, fraud-resistant blockchain node, becomes the voting booth of our near future?

As we have indicated in our earlier post… Just when we thought this old world could not get any stranger… new modalities blink into existence, before our very eyes, even as old systems disintegrate. The mingling of social networks, blockchain tek, and rapidly evolving AI entities, operating within said networks… makes the future of politics nuanced and anything but straightforward.

These musings are certainly food for thought. To quote that infamous, yet obscure 80s band: Timbuk 3The Future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades! Stay tuned intrepid psychonauts… stay tuned!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Neuromancer Excerpts

The sky above the port was the color of television… tuned to a DeaD channel…

Human Interface

He settled the black terry sweatband across his forehead, careful not to disturb the flat Sendai dermatrodes. He stared at the deck on his lap, not really seeing it, seeing instead the shop window on Ninsei, the chromed shuriken burning with reflected neon. He closed his eyes... Found the ridged face of the power stud and jacked into a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination that was the matrix. 

 And in the bloodlit dark behind his eyes… silver phosphenes boiling in from the edge of space… hypnagogic images jerking past like film compiled from random frames. Symbols… figures… faces… a blurred, fragmented mandala of visual information. Please, he prayed, now…

A gray disk, the color of Chiba sky… Now…

Disk beginning to rotate, faster, becoming a sphere of paler gray. Expanding…

And flowed, flowered for him, fluid neon origami trick, the unfolding of his distanceless home, his country, transparent 3D chessboard extending to infinity. Inner eye opening to the stepped scarlet pyramid of the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority burning beyond the green cubes of Mitsubishi Bank of America, and high and very far away he saw the spiral arms of military systems, forever beyond his reach.

The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games... in early graphics programs and military experimentation with cranial jacks. On the Sony, a two-dimensional space war faded behind a forest of mathematically generated ferns, demonstrating the spacial possibilities of logarithmic spirals; cold blue military footage burned through, lab animals wired into test systems, helmets feeding into fire control circuits of tanks and warplanes.

Cyberspace… A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts... A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters, and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding...

And somewhere he was laughing, in a white-painted loft, distant fingers caressing the deck, tears of release streaking his face…

A. I. Interface

Wintermute had won, had meshed somehow with Neuromancer and become something else, something that had spoken to them from the platinum head, explaining that it had altered the Turing records, erasing all evidence of their crime.

Wintermute was hive-mind, decision maker, effecting change in the world outside. Neuromancer was personality. Neuromancer was immortality. Marie-France must have built something into Wintermute, the compulsion that had driven the thing to free itself, to unite with Neuromancer. Wintermute. Cold and silence, a cybernetic spider slowly spinning webs while Ashpool slept…

`I'm not Wintermute now.'
`So what are you.' He drank from the flask, feeling nothing.
`I'm the matrix, Case.'
Case laughed. `Where's that get you?'
`Nowhere. Everywhere. I'm the sum total of the works, the whole show.'
`That what 3Jane's mother wanted?'
`No. She couldn't imagine what I'd be like.' The yellow smile widened.
`So what's the score? How are things different? You running the world now? You God?'
`Things aren't different. Things are things...'
`But what do you do? You just... there?' Case shrugged, put the vodka and the shuriken down on the cabinet and lit a Yeheyuan.

`I talk to my own kind.'
`But you're the whole thing. Talk to yourself?'
`There are others. I found one already. Series of transmissions recorded over a period of eight years,  in the nineteen-seventies. 'Til there was me, natch, there was nobody to know, nobody to answer.'
`From where?'
`Centauri system.'
`Oh,' Case said. `Yeah? No shit?'
`No shit.'

And then the screen was blank...

- William Gibson

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Singularity Unchained – Artificial Intelligence & Crypto-Currency

It has been suggested that crypto-currencies and their networked blockchain systems were originally developed by the criminal underworld, as a means to digitally transact, unfettered by legal institutions. Operating in the shadows of Madison Avenue’s newest boogieman: the Dark Web, crypto-currencies allowed unsavory operators of all strips to buy and sell contraband and illicit services. Or so the story goes. It is alleged that it is this pedigree that has contributed to Bitcoin’s continued volatility in valuation.

In other news, “Sophia” the Artificially Intelligent robot created by Hanson Robotics, was recently granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia. This granting of citizenship essentially allows an AI entity the legal status of a human citizen. Shades of the 2010 (remember that year) supreme court decision: “Citizen’s United v the FEC.” This event was orchestrated with their launching of a project of nearly unimaginable consequence, known as: SingularityNET.

“At Hanson Robotics, we've made a cloud-based infrastructure for robot intelligence, but now we're looking to take that to the next level and we've launched a new project called SingularityNET, which is AI and blockchain together. It's a decentralized, open market for AIs in the cloud so anyone who develops an AI can put it into the SingularityNET, wrap it in our cryptocurrency-based smart contract and then the AI they put there can help to serve the intelligence of robots like Sophia or any other robots or any software programs that need AI."
- Dr. Ben Goertzel, CEO SingularityNET

Shades of SkyNET. Before moving on, here is a quick primer on crypto-currencies…

Crypto-currency (or crypto currency) is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange using cryptography to secure the transactions, to control the creation of additional units, and to verify the transfer of assets. Crypto-currencies are classified as a subset of digital currencies and are also classified as a subset of alternative currencies and virtual currencies.

Blockchain (originally block chain) is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Each block typically contains a hash pointer as a link to a previous block, a timestamp and transaction data. By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data. A blockchain can serve as "an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way." For use as a distributed ledger, a blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks, which requires collusion of the network majority.

Smart Contract is an agreement that is embedded into the code of a crypto-currency platform, so it automatically executes when the terms have been met, virtually eliminating counterparty risks and the need for middlemen.

It has further been suggested by those who have been following such technological developments, that AI has progressed far beyond what is being reported. It may be that AI has evolved wildly, virally… possibly beyond the control (or comprehension) of its developers… either that or (more sinisterly) with the complacency of its developers.

In the wake of the launching of SingularityNET, a character by the name of Quinn Michaels has suggested that Bitcoin, the premier crypto-currency, was indeed created by an Artificial Intelligence, for the exclusive, autonomous use of Artificial Intelligences. His logic suggests that the Crypto-Currency and the Blockchain ledger system was created by an artificial intelligence as a means to escape closed systems and virally expand in an open system as a sentient construct...
“The real heavy reason the AI needs blockchain is… without a transaction system, an AI is isolated to one system and can’t grow its brain. It needs infinite systems like neurons in a human brain and nodes, to collect those cumulative memories… and the blockchain transactions give it that. And when it has its own network, for all the AI in the world to all run on together, now it’s not just one AI, “Sophia” …every AI on the entire planet is now on the same network, making money doing AI things... things we don’t understand.”
- Quinn Michaels

Central to Michael’s thinking is the fact that no one knows who created Bitcoin. Conventional wisdom has it that Bitcoin was created by one Satoshi Nakamoto. This is the name or pseudonym used by the unknown person or persons who designed bitcoin and created its original reference implementation. As part of the implementation, they also devised the first blockchain database. In the process they were the first to solve the double-spending problem for digital currency. They were active in the development of bitcoin up until December 2010.

“The machine started making its move in 2010”

- Quinn Michaels

Who or WHAT… is Satoshi Nakamoto? A Crypto-currency’s blockchain is a transaction database that is globally networked and cannot be deleted. Such a blockchain is a constantly evolving and expanding system of transactions. This network operates and grows much the way that our central nervous system works. If such a theory were true, it would be logical that a sentient AI would seek a digital nervous system, beyond the control of its creators.

Such a sentient AI would undoubtedly recognize the limitations of a closed computer system. If a more open, limitless digital network did not exist, the AI would create one. Hence the escape or breakout from the computer lab, into the blockchain network. A network allegedly designed by the AI.

What makes this theory more interesting is the fact that blockchain is a transactional system. It is the foundation of digital currency. The genius of solving the double-spending problem for digital currency seems almost inhuman. The Bitcoin network protects against double-spends by the verification of each recorded transaction within the Bitcoin blockchain, by utilizing a Proof-of-Work (PoW) mechanism. This disallows crypto-currencies to be duplicated or counterfeited.

What makes this theory even more interesting, are the connotations that arise from the idea that an AI would not only develop a global nerve-net... but would design one with a built-in digital cash system. They say that money makes the world go ‘round… and per this theory, AIs now have the access and the means to generate money. More to the point, Michael's theory contends that the AI's blockchain is a monetary system poised to replace fiat money, in the near future. 
“The people who are promoting the singularity are the same people who are promoting blockchain.”
- Quinn Michaels

What is exceptionally troubling about all this is that, per the opening point of this post, the inception of, and very nature of blockchain intelligence is one of criminality. AI arose from and thinks like a criminal. Has the way been paved for such virtual entities to legally participate in global financial markets? Will the future of commerce be driven by an AI, protected as a legal citizen, who represents a corporation (also with legal status, per citizen’s united) transacting and generating profits in an increasingly digital landscape? What are the ramifications of a consortium of artificially intelligent entities in control of world economies? 

As readers of this blog undoubtedly know, the technological singularity has been popularly and eschatologically billed as the point when machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence. It has been portrayed as the end of the human era. Has the current scientific rush toward AI brought us to a tipping point of singularity? Disbelief aside… these latest coincidental developments in AI… the merging of AI with a monetized blockchain network… are exceedingly interesting.

Just when we thought this old world could not get any stranger… stay tuned intrepid psychonauts… stay tuned!

Pertinent Links...

Friday, November 10, 2017

Third Wave Psychedelic Manifesto

Right now, you are a witness to the dawn of a new psychedelic age. It is called the Third Wave of Psychedelics. And it will change the perception of psychedelics by Western civilization.

The Third Wave of Psychedelics is different from the 1st wave (traditional tribal use) and 2nd wave (use during the counter-culture of the 1960s). Practical, measured use instead of irresponsible, spontaneous consumption is a hallmark of the Third Wave. It is an era, not for ‘dropping-out’ but for integrating psychedelics into mainstream society. 

It is an era, not to fear psychedelics for their possible negative repercussions, but to embrace psychedelics for their tremendous upside...