They say there’s no such thing as bad press. Nowadays, there is no alternative to bad press. Putting the two together, Silicon Valley Tech Giants (SVTG) are taking the “high volume” approach to bad press by generating as much of it as possible. To merely scratch the surface of SVTGs’ awful behavior, they have bought politicians, deplatformed conservatives, manipulated search results and promised to do more as the election approaches, collaborated with China on its social credit system and IP theft, and developed tech dystopias here and abroad. These Orwellian tech megacorps jockey for the lead position in the “first of the worst” category. One week, it’s Google. The next, it may be Facebook. The following week, Uber might take the lead. Many Americans believe that despite all the drawbacks, SVTGs are bringing us closer to a technological utopian eschaton when the opposite is the truth. To the extent that any technological progress happens, it’s moving us towards a dystopian Brave New World. The greater truth is that the technical innovations by the WWII and Silent Generation that made Silicon Valley what it is have stagnated in recent decades. Recent technical progress, such as the internet and cellular communication, owe much of their existence to DARPA. Lacking any real innovation, Silicon Valley has shifted to a confidence game with its guidance to investors. The goal has been to convince investors to buy stocks (especially IPOs) based the mere promise of technologies that will eventually make these companies profitable.
Tech giants promise technologies that amount to a naked emperor. Let’s examine recent examples of these promises, such as AI which Scott Locklin hilariously describes as a “human informational centipede“. The United States has had an AI terror every 10 years since Claude Shannon invented information theory at Bells Labs, yet here we all are going to work every day. This round of AI hype is mercifully coming to an end, but not before it siphoned-off billions from credulous dupes. There are some legitimate worries surrounding “AI,” which is just machine-learning and statistics, but being out of work due to robots is not one of them. Closely coupled to the AI fever is quantum computing, which threatens even better AI. I’ve been reading about quantum computing for 30 years and it has yet to materialize and never will. First of all, qubits are only stable when sucked down to a perfect vacuum or cooled to near-zero Kelvin. This is why pictures of qubits look like some sort of steam engine. Any free molecules disturb the state of the qubit – a state which is not deterministic as it is. The qubit states are changed through radio waves through the vacuum. No one knows how to make this into a useful computer. Like scramjet engines, quantum computers enter yet-another decade of research with nothing to show for it. Driverless cars are another no-hope promise of AI as any radar engineer will tell you. Human driving relies on several sensors in our body as well as cognition: eyesight, inner-ear equilibrium, sensory feedback through our skin, and many other inputs doctors can describe. Morons like Elon Musk claim they can drive a car with a camera and some software. Musk believes that since eyesight is the only thing required for a human to drive, a camera should be the only sensor required for an autonomous vehicle. He fails to even understand how eyesight and a camera are different, much less the other sensory inputs humans rely on to drive. Other companies like Google’s WayMo are using LIDAR, which is better at measuring distance and angle for this application as long as environmental conditions aren’t too bad, but still does not make a driverless car. As the Germans figured out a decade ago and any radar engineer could’ve told Google and Tesla, radar is a great sensor to prevent collisions on the road but no substitute for an attentive driver. The real promise of “AI” – and I use the term loosely – is to augment human abilities. For example, Gary Kasparov used it in chess matches to allow the computer to compute tactics while he focused on strategy.
This post may seem like a broadside against all technology, but it’s not. I work in tech and would like to see scientific progress resuscitated for the purpose of saving labor and curing illness. However, this will never happen as long as the Silicon Reich is seen as a solution and is diverting resources towards its dystopian vision. I have thoughts on how to re-start science which will require a synthesis of several concepts in previous articles and new research in the fields of wicked learning and general aptitude.