Wednesday, December 20, 2023

What Happens When the AI Bubble Pops

We've had lots of market bubbles, some more harmful than others. The tech dotcom bust was bad and in some ways we still have not recovered. The mortage crisis, the crypto market, NFTs and now AI.

The problem is you start out with a useful thing and it gets abused, rideshare apps turn into Ubers, blockchain into Bitcoins, LLMs into ChatGPTs.  But, like abandoned malls, each bubble left something useful behind.  Cory Doctorow wrote a Locus column about this stuff
Think about some 21st century bubbles. The dotcom bubble was a terrible tragedy, one that drained the coffers of pension funds and other institutional investors and wiped out retail investors who were gulled by Superbowl Ads. But there was a lot left behind after the dotcoms were wiped out: cheap servers, office furniture and space, but far more importantly, a generation of young people who'd been trained as web makers, leaving nontechnical degree programs to learn HTML, perl and python. This created a whole cohort of technologists from non-technical backgrounds, a first in technological history. Many of these people became the vanguard of a more inclusive and humane tech development movement, and they were able to make interesting and useful services and products in an environment where raw materials – compute, bandwidth, space and talent – were available at firesale prices.
Cory goes on about crypto and NFTs and AI and notes that all of these things are incredibly energy intensive and requires water hog server farms which  require lots of people with  high technical skills. When you consider the average human brain runs on 40 watts of power, AI doesn't look so super in terms of computation over energy use. For that matter, the sheer computational waste on useless mining calculations or frivolous queries is tantamount to just worst kind of circle jerks. 

Take self-driving cars, which have blown through 100 billion dollars and still require supervision. It has been estimated that we could have (had) commercial nuclear fusion for 200 billion dollars and yet the amount spent on fusion research is a pittance compared to replacing reliable but expensive human drivers with flawed robots.

What is the real problem is that all of these bubbles are based upon fraud, grift and lies. (Not surprising as the salient of capitalism is force and fraud. There is little to be done about this so long as it is profitable.)\

What Cory points out it what is left afterwards? In some cases, like his example above, obstacles become opportunities, and in others, nothing goods comes from it:
Or think of Worldcom vs Enron. Both bubbles were built on pure fraud, but Enron's fraud left nothing behind but a string of suspicious deaths. By contrast, Worldcom's fraud was a Big Store con that required laying a ton of fiber that is still in the ground to this day, and is being bought and used at pennies on the dollar.
So, what about AI?  There are useful applications, the equivalent of crows and wolves that can efficiently and effectively disassemble a real world problem into data carrion. Others? If the bubble pops and the companies deflate or bust entirely, what of some actually useful applications no longer supported? I keep thinking of people with medical technology in them that is orphaned by bankrupt tech companies or organizations gutted by private equity. 

The reason there is a scare about AGI or human or superhuman level AI is because the companies with very large investments would like very much for the open source methods to go away and they can earn/hide their profits by good old fashioned bullying or theft, via the time-tested rentier system. 

I  have pointed out somewhere in this memory hut, we've had AGI for thousands of years and it is called government. In smaller more specialized versions called corportations. We have already seen these entities to pursue their own utility functions to he detriment of us regular folks. 

I'm less worried about AI safety and more worried about fairness, privacy, criminality and bias than I am about robot overlords.  

Other things. I keep thinking of the weird right wing religous bullshit that seems to be getting more stirdent, or more press. Given the woeful state of journalism, (and AI hasn't helped, but it s not AIs fault, its greedy executives are pulling this turd) I'm guess just sensationalist press. Still, this shit fest with abortion and fetus as a person.

I should note that most human embryos naturally die after conception. Spontaneous abortion is perfetly natural. Nonviable cell clusters disintegrate before attaching to the uterus. 

So the quesion I have to ask those who believe that life begins at conception: why are so many people commiting suicide? That's a sin, right? Why does God permit this unless it is part of His Plan. Maybe God just really likes killing babies.

Also, I got spiffed up for a holiday party.

I clean up well.

I think I accidentally go some powerful tattoos. Or maybe it is me.

If I were playing a part, the obvious one is Hitler's butler, because I bet you I could pass.

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