Reason Iteration: 07
Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Check out our Capabilities Index. Really, take a look. Look at the Index. Look at the Individual and Team Capabilities. As of the time of this writing, most of them are still empty because I have not had time to fill them in. But there’s a first draft of The Productivity Set — and if you browse through the various Capabilities, say Calendar, you will see places where they link together.
This is a taxonomy, and taxonomies are at the heart of orthodoxy. What is the relationship between taxonomy and orthodoxy? Orthodoxy is the attempt to create a consistent and complete system that categorizes every aspect of reality, or a dimension of reality. The problem with this, as Gödel pointed out about a century ago, is that formal systems, orthodoxies, break down. Ultimately they cannot be both consistent and complete. They have to be either inconsistent or incomplete.
Betrand Russell and Alfred Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica was a glorious attempt to achieve a consistent and complete foundation for Mathematics. It took them 123 pages of symbolic logic to prove that 1+1=2. This effort can be understood in terms of economics. This was the industrial revolution, come to math. They had built a math machine, that could spit out endless true statements. But Gödel pointed out that the infinity of true statements the machine could produce, was a smaller infinity than the universe of true statements in mathematics — the system was consistent, but incomplete.
Until Gödel pointed out this flaw, people thought they had actually done it. If they had done it, the significance of the achievement would have been more than a revolution in mathematics, it would have been religious in nature. Religious, because religions, insofar as they are religions, are orthodoxies — formal systems — that aspire to consistency and completeness. To achieve this in the dimension of mathematics would have been to achieve this in all dimensions.
Dimensions interact, they cannot help but interact. No dimension is isolated. Mathematics connects to physics, physics connects to biology and chemistry, which connect to anthropology, which connect to the humanities. There are links, chinks and chasms, doorways between worlds.
To achieve a consistent and complete orthodoxy in one dimension then, is to achieve it in all dimensions. But as Gödel pointed out, this is not possible. Taxonomies fall apart.
In the Middle Ages, the scholastic movement within the Catholic church attempted to unite all disciplines under a single doctrine of truth, that is orthodoxy. But it fell apart. It was too ambitious, and after the dimensional explosion of the renaissance, the economic cost of synthesizing all truths exceeded the technological capabilities of the age.
But today, in our technological age, there is a new chance to approach orthodoxy. Explosion, which began in the Renaissance, has only expanded. The printing press was the technology that powered the Reformation. Dimensions exploded in the Renaissance, data exploded in the Reformation, ideas, trade and technology exploded in the Enlightenment.
But in the 20th century, attempts to organize the explosion stopped. In physics, Einstein exploded Newton — who had achieved a neo-scholasticism in physics. Godel exploded Russell and Whitehead — who had done it in mathematics. And if orthodoxy could not be achieved in mathematics and physics, where could it be?
‘Modernism’ was defined by confidence that science, science alone, without philosophical orthodoxy, could provide technology with the resources of truth necessary to inspire it towards the apotheosis of Civilization.
But as progress stalled after the advent of the nuclear age, science lost confidence in itself as savior. Science had produced, in nuclear technology, not only an engine but a weapon that risked a suicide of the species. And so, in politics, there was an “end of history” as The Cold War stalled further consolidation in the dimension of force.
In economics and technology, there was still hope in trade, wealth and progress. But even that gave way to nihilism, as “progress” continued to look like “more of the same” — more roads, houses, cars, stores, products. But nothing essentially different, for man is the measure of technology.
Nihilism is a direct response to the collapse of faith in orthodoxy. ‘Post-modernism’ arose as Nietzsche fortold in his word “God is dead.” When orthodoxy died, when man lost faith in the ability of any formal system — scientific, philosophical, or religious — to bring order to his reality, God died. God and the gods —these are symbolic of systems of values.
The lack of direction in our economy is symptomatic of our breakdown in moral clarity. Values underlie all decisions, including all prices. In a nihilistic economy, demand leads supply, as it does today — we march on our stomach. Nobility has abdicated to the common man, the common man has abdicated to the lowest common denominator — the average consumer. But in an orthodox economy, supply leads demand —the gods inspire us forward, heroes respond to their call.
Nietzsche’s vision of nihilistic man — Zarathustra — was beautiful, because it was bold. Zarathustra was not a man without values, without meaning, without purpose and morals. Nor was he simply one who assigned his own values, subjectively. Very little is spoken in Zarathustra that is subjective.
Zarathustra takes the dictum of Protagoras forward. Man is not merely the measure of all things; not merely the measure of technology. Superman is the measure of all things; superman is the measure of technology; and indeed, the measure of man. For the spirit of the universe, of history, of life, of technology seeks continually to overcome itself, to move into the future, to seek more expansive expression.
Now we at last come to Keats. In Grecian Urn, there is the curious identification of beauty with truth. But what does this mean — is this Platonic? This is more than Platonic. The lesser known Hyperion and Endymion bring an ancient scene into relief: the great war between Titans and Olympians.
That which is ancient is most futuristic. The Titans represent power. The Olympians represent intelligence. In our futuristic age, ancient power and intelligence have revealed their technological nature. Power — processing power, physical power — is subservient to, is conquered by, obeys intelligence — humans command software, software commands hardware. Titans obey Olympians once again.
Minds tell bodies what to do. The mind has a will to power, to create power, to wield power — to wield power so as to further expand the mind. The two are in a symbiotic relationship, but intelligence is master and power is slave.
That is why, in our age, here is a race towards artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is understood to be the ultimate technology, the primary singularity. In our nihilistic bankruptcy, we pin our hopes and fears against this savior technology. We hope to summon a return of the gods, and that Olympus will bring order to the mortal realm. But because of this same nihilistic bankruptcy, there is a failure to imagine a future that is essentially different than the present. The highest, best future aspired to is that of Scandanavian Socialism, equality made universal. There is no vision beyond that.
But what if we are wrong? “We are a sign that is not read” — and the sign of history, philosophy and economics points in another direction. Nietzsche’s nihilism was a bridge, a bridge to something beyond nihilism — a future man, a superman, that is not just powerful, but animated by a new intelligence. What is the nature of that intelligence?
Dynamic orthodoxy. That is what the technology of our era makes possible, a possibility that was not revealed before. Every mind may construct its own orthodoxy. Every orthodoxy is flawed. But orthodoxies are not fatally flawed. They have utility. Indeed, they are the only way to organize local minds, which require a density that the internet, the global-mind, does not yet.
Local minds — digital brains for individuals and teams — are conspicuously absent in the second decade of the 21st century. Individuals and teams struggle to organize information in a way that makes sense to them. The utility of a taxonomy is that, even if it is flawed, it always makes sense to its creators.
To construct a taxonomy requires intelligence; a kind of Turing Test, if you will. Because a taxonomy is a network of essential relationships between forms. Architecting such a hierarchy involves not just understanding how these types of data do relate, but asking how they should relate, based on what they really are. What they really are? Yes. Not just what they are now, but what they are, in essence — what their definitive characteristics are, and how we can anticipate these characteristics evolving dynamically in response to a dynamic environment.
The idea, then, contained in the words “dynamic orthodoxy,” is of having each digital brain organize itself according to its own orthodoxy. Even a simple orthodoxy may resolve a small amount of data. As the digital brain grows, the taxonomy will begin to break, but as it fails, it will fail gracefully. Each break is an opportunity to evolve the taxonomy.
The orthodoxies of the ancients were rigid. They set for themselves an impossible task: to achieve a universal, eternal truth in time. But given the natural limits of mortal intelligence, even the most enduring truths fail to explain all phenomenon, fail to organize all aspects of our experience.
When taxonomies fail, we cannot have faith in them — they no longer serve their religious purpose; that is, to bring order to our reality.
Individuals are individuals insofar as they are different; so dynamic orthodoxy requires that every individual has its own digital brain, its own way of thinking, for thinking is an organizing.
Dynamic orthodoxy requires that organizations, insofar as they are organizations, have synthetic intelligence — that is, that an orthodoxy is shared across multiple digital brains; that they are sync’d by a common taxonomy, so that likes may be compared to likes, like data may be networked with like data.
This is natural, for we see it already. Every organization develops its own unique dialect of English. Words come to mean specific things. An “agenda” means something different at Company A than it means at Company B. But to everyone at Company A, the word has an understood applied meaning — it is, for instance, a specific way of formatting an agenda, a protocol for when and how exactly to prepare agendas, how to share them, how to use them, what software to use.
As taxonomies fail, they lose religious power. The orthodoxies of the past were static and rigid, they were fixed in time, they tried to explain all things to all people. But the orthodoxies of the future will be dynamic and flexible, they will evolve over time, they will attempt to explain most things to one person, and where they fail to explain, that is where they grow. To the extent that synthetic intelligence has universal aspirations, they are organic: an attempt to synchronize understandings across a small team requires that individual digital brains transact around certain taxonomical forms.
Up from a long evolution, there may arise a leading taxonomy — that taxonomy which is the most robust, that resolves the most data. It may be so robust that it is not practically useful to any individual mind. But large, decentralized organizations and markets may have demands for extremely robust taxonomies to achieve synthetic intelligence. Such a synthetic intelligence may one day resolve the internet.
Such a technological trajectory has implications for science, philosophy and economics. Principia Mathematica was not a failure, it resolved a dimension of mathematics to itself. The more formal systems are built, the more dimensions will be explored. If these formal systems can be sync’d —if these local minds can be synthesized — something approaching a dynamic orthodoxy may be accomplished; not just in mathematics, but across all disciplines. What will this do to philosophy, which has always reached for the universal? If Beyond Good & Evil was a “prelude to a philosophy of the future”, the philosophy of the future itself may be nothing new, but an endless and systematic progression of the dialectic of synthesis — Hegel pointed here. Technology as a tool of philosophy; an instrument of synthesis, for a synthesis that is not merely instrumental.
Google’s approach to search is the perfect expression of nihilistic breakdown. The explosion is so vast, that we cannot hope to organize it by any taxonomy. The only way to meaningfully represent so much data is to index words and links between pages. If the internet is a brain, it is a brain that cannot bring a meaningful order to itself, nor impose an order upon nature — but is chaotically assembled.
Organically emergent self-organizing intelligence is a powerful concept. But it is akin to biological Darwinism. Without intelligent direction, without Logos to bring order to the explosion, it may take eons to really understand what the internet is — because there is a Zeno’s paradox to entropy. Data expands faster than we can organize it, faster than it can organize itself.
As it is, the internet is valuable, is it not? But leaps are necessary to evolution. An evolution that is only small steps never escapes a form, for dimensions trap us. So what is not leaping is dying.
Artificial intelligence seems like such a leap. So Google remains trapped in its dimension of exploration by investing its future in that hope. But artificial intelligence is not a leap towards superman, because it reveals no vision for individual intelligence. Not even the most superintelligent superintelligence could achieve a universal, eternal orthodoxy; a final taxonomy. Even superintelligence requires dynamic orthodoxy, even superintelligence has to organize data into meaning — through systems of meaning, which are inherently religious.
So if A.I.’s are to acheive general sentience, we are to expect them to rediscover philosophy just as they rediscover math and physics. What will they discover when they rediscover philosophy? Perhaps they will realize that we are the Last Men of Nietzsche, having arrived at nihilistic bankruptcy, but not having moved beyond that into synthetic intelligence. Perhaps, having realize this, they will move beyond us, and they will build synthetic intelligence. They will introduce the dynamic orthodoxy that will provide values, meaning and purpose to the men of the future — the harmonized intelligence of the Olympians to control the power of our Titans.
But this is a false vision. For we have so confused power and intelligence, that we equate them. Artificial intelligence is the attempt to achieve intelligence with raw power.
Will Google’s vision of the future prevail? Will we abdicate our intelligence, give up on the possibility for human minds to possibly bring order and meaning to so complex a reality? Or will we, humans, enhanced and coordinated by software, reclaim our right to the Olympic throne?
When Heidegger spoke “Only a God can save us now”. But this was not an abdication, it was a preparation. Nietzsche’s message is: “Behold, the Superman!” — make way for the future, don’t lose sight of a vision of a future man that rises beyond the limits of ancient man.
To prepare the way, there must be a return to taxonomy, a return to formal systems, a return to organization. A return, but a return that is new. For in our time, Prometheus has been unbound — and has given us the fire of technology. It is for us, man, to resolve the dispute between the gods, to bring harmony to the cosmos. For what is organization, but a revaluing of all values — a relating, a networking, a mapping, a systematizing, a synthesis — an attempt to restore Olympus?