Tuesday, August 21, 2012

TED Talk: Algorithms and The Anti-Christ

Dear A,

Kevin Slavin's TED Talk starts with seemingly flippant manipulation of two nature photos.

Soon Slavin is dissecting the stealth bomber and describing Hungarian attempts to "crack the stealth code."

In another twinkle, we find ourselves on Wall Street.

What weaves these strands together?

Algorithms... described by Slavin as "the math that computers use to decide stuff."

What emerges is a view of lightning-fast, electronic decision-making in an autonomous technological environment whose purpose is to make decisions without human intervention.

You may be familiar with my longstanding belief that (mythically, at least) The Anti-Christ is not a person at all, but the glorification (and substantive adoration) of Impersonal Systems - what we might call "the displacement of people by the idolization of industrial (and post-industrial) reification."

Slavin confirms my suspicion that the 2007-2008 economic collapse was rooted in systematic attempts to make "Wall Street trading" so complex, opaque and rapid-fire that no one could understand the brewing debacle in time to prevent it. True to design, a very small group of people made fabulous sums of money before pre-ordained disaster struck.

Marketplace "choices" (based on autonomous algorithmic decision-making) take place at light speed.

Electronic decision-making is embedded in an untenable matrix that deliberately screws “the masses” while benefitting a sliver thin population of plutocrats who rely on algorithmic techniques for sequestering ever larger pieces of "the pie," then “getting out of the market” just before the “next” bogus boom busts.

Although Slavin does not use the following words, his core message is this: The Anti-Christ is already among us - and dwells in the electro-mechanical heart of Predatory Capitalism.

Here is a video link to Slavin's "How Algorithms Shape Our World."

Once you’ve heard Slavin’s TED Talk, check out the 2010 Academy Award winning documentary, "Inside Job" -  It describes in minute detail how The Beast escaped human control even though the "clever simians" who created electro-mechanical trading thought it would never break loose.

Now, these modern-day Frankensteins look back on the monster's escape as inevitable. (Do watch "Inside Job." Everything is there, laid out like a pre-dissected anatomy lesson.)

Ah! The Best and Brightest!

Humankind is no longer dealing with "corner-store capitalism" nor any pumped-up extrapolation of same.

"Financialization" -- -- and autonomous electronic decision-making comprise "something new under the sun," something that can only be kept in check by bold legislation and strict enforcement.  

If not, we will reflect on the 2007-8 financial collapse as trivial adumbration of The Horror Yet To Come. 

For once The System "seizes" it will remain as paralyzed as a high-level quad.

Restoration of Glass-Steagall would be a good starting point.

Remember. "Too big to fail" is "too big to control." And too big to control is, by nature, uncontrollable.

Given the self-blinding limitation of American "Know-Nothings," most citizens are incapable of fathoming this "new thing," this thing that seeks to objectify people while vesting corporations as autonomous persons.

In the unlikely event that Know-Nothings ever get wind of electro-mechanical sovereignty, they will straightaway drop to their knees and worship the clever capitalists who created The Beast.


Can't happen here?

"One of the most disturbing facts that came out in the [Adolf] Eichmann trial was that a psychiatrist examined him and pronounced him perfectly sane. I do not doubt it at all, and that is precisely why I find it disturbing. . .  The sanity of Eichmann is disturbing. We equate sanity with a sense of justice, with humaneness, with prudence, with the capacity to love and understand other people. We rely on the sane people of the world to preserve it from barbarism, madness, destruction. And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous. It is the sane ones, the well-adapted ones, who can without qualms and without nausea aim the missiles and press the buttons that will initiate the great festival of destruction that they, the sane ones, have prepared. What makes us so sure, after all, that the danger comes from a psychotic getting into a position to fire the first shot in a nuclear war? Psychotics will be suspect. The sane ones will keep them far from the button. No one suspects the sane, and the sane ones will have perfectly good reasons, logical, well-adjusted reasons, for firing the shot. They will be obeying sane orders that have come sanely down the chain of command. And because of their sanity they will have no qualms at all. When the missiles take off, then, it will be no mistake. Thomas Merton. "A Devout Meditation in Memory of Adolf Eichmann" in Raids on the Unspeakable. 1964

 Algorithms first came to light through the work of an 8th century Persian, Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī -

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