Monday, September 14, 2015

Baksplaining : Akrasis (alternative title: 'Breaking Bard')

I liked a recent story at Scott Bakker's three pound brain blog, so I thought either A: I'd explain it here (as best I can) if it's confusing for anyone or B: If everyone gets it already, then I just get to talk about what I like on my blog ( lol! ) and also C: Spreading out the talk from TPB to other places to some small degree.


Quick to exploit the discoveries arising out of cognitive science, market economies spontaneously retooled to ever more effectively cue and service consumer demand, eventually reconfiguring the relation between buyer and seller into subpersonal circuits (triggering the notorious shift to ‘whim marketing,’ the data tracking of ‘desires’ independent of the individuals hosting them).

Okay, so here is a compacted bit and so compacted it's hard to understand. What is cue in 'cue and service'? It means an attempt to trigger an urge - see that advert with the mouth watering hamburgers (which in actual fact the ones in the commercial are plastic and not even Representative of the product)? That's trying to cue you - no, they aren't offering a service that you might take up - that's last centuries method! Here it's to trigger you - there's a reason a lot of junk food adverts come up around dinner time! To cue the urge. Then service the urge.

The extra trick that is compacted into this is rather like how if you stood behind bulletproof glass and someone on the other side swung a punch at you, you'd blink. It's a reflex - or it could be described as an urge. But ultimately it happens without you?

So what if A: There are other urge types that go on without you and B: Advertisers start mapping out these urges to trigger them?

It's outlining (in compact form) and referring to the outlined idea of A and B. But presumably more sophisticated than the current form of B.

The human dependency on proximal information to cue what amount to ancestral guesses regarding the nature of their social and natural environments provided sellers with countless ways to game human decision making.
So what's this mean? Well let's go back to the plastic burger. That 'burger' is easier to work with and construct into something that triggers the ways one finds such a food desirable. How do they find out the ways one finds a food desirable or if one even does? Market surveys, focus groups and...coming up more recently, scanning subjects brains while the subject observes the food. But market surveys, focus groups...these are clearly things that everyone agrees they do occur.

But it's a plastic burger! It's awful and nothing like what you actually want.

But it appears delicious.

But you know it's plastic.

You can see how knowledge and urge start to split apart here - which ties into the title.

The global economy was gradually reorganized to optimize what amounted to human cognitive shortcomings.
Burgers but bigger!

the simulation of meaning became the measure of meaning.

Burgers should look like that burger on the advert or they are awful and wrong and possibly a little criminal!

For billions, the only obvious direction of success—the direction of ‘cognitive comfort’—lay away from the world and into technology. So they defected in their billions, embracing signals, environments, manufactured entirely from predatory code.

Diablo, with all it's 'success' feedbacks ("Oh, I found a new, more powerful weapon! I feel great!"), but bigger (and more diverse). The 'world' begins to be gamified. Thousands of success indicators are added to lives, your lives, that have nothing to do with your actual contined heartbeat.

By 2050, we had become an advanced akratic civilization, a species whose ancestral modes of meaning-making had been utterly compromised. Art was an early casualty, though decades would be required to recognize as much. Fantasy, after all, was encouraged in all forms, especially those, like art or religion, laying claim to obsolete authority gradients. To believe in art was to display market vulnerabilities, or to be so poor as to be insignificant.
Not sure I entirely agree with this bit - I think to believe in art would be to be believing in something that could be targeted by attacks. Whether the rich (who would be behind such attacks) would target their own believed in art, I doubt.

However, if it's just suggesting art ceases to be inpenetrable/as invulnerable as a god, then fair enough.

Social akrasis is now generally regarded as a thermodynamic process intrinsic to life, the mechanical outcome of biology falling within the behavioural purview of biology.
Somewhat like how all life on the planet (probably) came from the one life creation event, but then clearly life has gone on to mutate into forms that eat other life (life eating life), here the one species starts to predate upon itself (unlike the animals, who have the decency to be a different species from the one they eat (yes, for those in the back row, it's not literally eating in the case of Akrasis. But go ahead and enjoy confusing literalism for wit)).

I'm not sure I totally agree with 'intrinsic', but as much as a fighter pilot can see a blip and press a launc button without really feeling he's killing a human being (or a drone pilot for that matter), with distance comes the sense you're a seperate species preying on another species.

Numerous simulations have demonstrated that ‘outcome convergent’ or ‘optimizing’ systems, once provided the base capacity required to extract excess capacity from their environments, will simply bootstrap until they reach a point where the system detaches from its environment altogether, begins converging upon the signal of some environmental outcome, rather than any actual environmental outcome.

I'm not sure I agree with the wording here - I'd say it's hardly the system that's detaching. More so it's likely there are many incentives toward the system providing pursuit signals (carrot on a stick) to members of that system that are unrelated to environmental outcomes (survival), but benefit that systems prefered enviromental outcomes. In such a case I'd hardly say the system is detaching from the environment! Unless perhaps one sees system as there for people (rather than the other way around) and so when people are detached from environment outcomes, it seems system would of course go with it.

But perhaps rather like the cells of our own bodies are co-opted individuals who now serve an environment which doesn't tie directly to their survival, what you have is a system where people are becoming the cells of it and are serving success signals which don't tie to their own survival but instead the systems survival.

Hopefully I've explained rather than adding another confusing idea there!

Anyway, to sum up I like the story - they just establish themselves, rather than having to try and convince and use all the academics prefered genre of words (half of which I have to look up!).