Andrew Carnegie was a ruthless and heartless industrialist who used murder and brutality as well as corruption to become one of the richest men in the world. However, put aside the idea that morality has any intrinsic value and it’s easy to see how this man could be considered one of the most successful ever. He used the systems that were in place, systems that operated banking, work place rules, the ease of buying politicians, the how the public perceived men with money, and he used these systems perfectly. Those systems are still in place and they are still being used for the very same reasons for the very same ends today. Nothing has changed.
In the later years of his life, Carnegie gave away a great deal of his wealth and established libraries and all sorts of trust funds to help educate people, even though the lives and blood of his workers were the lubricant that make the flow of this money possible, but again, all of this was done within a previously built system that was already running before Carnegie arrived on the scene.
We have to understand that money is a system of beliefs held by all people who use it. We believe that money will work, that we can trade pieces of paper for goods and service, illegal drugs and illicit sex, and the transaction will be honored by all parties. Moreover, and here’s the tricky part, we’ve devised another system that requires nothing but electronic transfers of information to be included in this so that with nothing at all more than a sixteen digit number and an expiration date, we can buy anything we want and never so much as leave our sofas.
The real problem in these systems that we have created is that they were created, ostensibly as systems that would serve the community of humankind. However, once they became so large they became unstoppable and there also became subject to gaming. One person, or a group of people, could use that system to exploit other people and the people with the most toys would win. But the system itself serves no one as it is amoral and uncaring, blind and deaf. It’s like a river running through a town; how it is used doesn’t matter to the river only to those who use it.
Now, if we can see, feel, and experience the problems with these systems as we did in the 1930’s during the Great Depression and the late 00’s with the Great Recession, we might consider how a few people, or a few companies, might use these systems to control and exploit the vast majority of common people but we had no idea what to do about it at all and we still don’t. It’s there and we know it’s harmful to us but there’s no real and practical solution anyone can come up with to help and we all understand it might be too late.
Then, suddenly, it gets very weird.
What we have not planned on happening and we cannot control once it does, is the fact that one day computers are going to become systems that behave in a manner that is consistent with their own understanding of the existing systems. We see this already in computer programs that chose stocks to buy and sell, buy tickets for concerts online to sell later for great profit, and even computer programs that rent apartments to sublet later at great profit, but the code inside of the computer is the same code inside the monetary system; greed is good. More is better. The whole thing is beginning to give birth to machine who are coded to create an infinite amount of wealth with no considerations outside that thought. If artificial intelligence is a profit drive and profit based system then we can expect that this system will serve us as poorly as but with more efficiency than the last.
What I think is lost on most people is that they trust money so they trust the people who have the most, even to the detriment of their own families. This is much like trusting the people with the most food, who have hoarded and cheated others out of good, during a famine. The big difference in what is coming is there’s ways and means to deal with other people but the systems that are in place and those that are going to be in place sooner than later, aren’t human and the resources they hoard and cheat from us aren’t exactly accessible no matter what we do. If a computer decides to drain every private bank account in America tomorrow, and hides the money in a billion different computers all over the world, what exactly is it that can or will be done?
And it might get even worse.
We know that artificial intelligence is being coded for greed but what if these systems begin to become self-aware and decide that, like Andrew Carnegie that the systems that are in place can be gamed and those gaming the systems know best? What will the system see or know or want or like or be programmed to do and how can we how to do anything but serve it, as we have in the past?
We can scoff and declare such thoughts as science fiction but it’s already happening. We are already held hostage when someone hacks our accounts. We are already helpless when computers go down. We already know that all our machines can be controlled by third parties if they have the right codes. This is happening right now. This is going on today.
The idea that we are creating systems that cannot and will not leave our control is as big a fallacy now as it was one hundred years ago but now those systems are larger and they move a lot faster. They are being gamed not by human beings with ideas of being the richest man in the world but by systems within the systems, and we have no idea if those systems are being controlled by people or if those people are being controlled by the systems. We have no way of knowing.
The idea that we might already be influenced by an odd sense of computer philology that isn’t quite conscience yet still is pushing us towards one thing or another has never really been spoken aloud. Yet we serve computers in a manner we would not any other machine. We allow them their flaws and faults and as much as we complain, each and every day we buy deeper into their control of the systems we’ve already bought into.
And when the day comes, and it may already have arrived, can we hope for more compassion from them than we received from Andrew Carnegie?