The Acromegaly of Leviathans

  • Evgeny Konstantinov

    Brief historical reasoning for decentralization and self-governance

The Acromegaly of Leviathans
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Thousands of years ago people lived in communities, and the communities had vast unclaimed lands between the settlements. The communities were small and people were able to observe each other daily and communicate with each other. Trust of various levels and straight distrust were created through community member interactions and this formed the reputation of each member.

Trust is the energy and lifeblood of any community, and no community can exist without trust. I am not talking complete trust here, but trust degrees and trust as a whole.

Step 1

As communities grew bigger, they claimed more and more land that was available — the area expanded and eventually became too large to control its borders.

Governments started coming about around the same time, although how exactly they appeared is still a topic for debate and research. At high level, there are four theories about how the governments came into existence:

  • Force Theory — the seizure of power over a population and control of the seized population.

  • Evolutionary Theory — starting with a primitive family with a relatively natural distribution of power that grew into something bigger that eventually turned into a government.

  • Divine Right Theory — God gave the right to certain people and dynasties to control a population. The rulers are in turn accountable to God.

  • Social Contract Theory — members of a population willingly give power to a number of people to work for the common good of the population.

Regardless of the theory, what’s important is that as the communities expanded, much of the power and resources were delegated and used in an attempt to control and patrol the borders. The communities soon morphed into city-states and the trust started going steeply vertical. The trust that was given to the governments was necessary to rule and develop the city-states. The neighboring city-states then joined into countries and governments became more powerful. And it made sense.

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Step 2

Fast-forward to the last quarter of the 20th century when two things happened:

  • Collapses of the totalitarian governments;

  • The advance of the Internet.

In 1992, Francis Fukuyama published a book titled The End of History and the Last Man, in which he argued that a universalized Western liberal democracy might be the final form of human government. In contrast to the totalitarian governments, the democratic ones involved citizens in making decisions and promoting the well-being and common good of the population.

To quote the book:

The most remarkable develop­ment of the last quarter of the twentieth century has been the revelation of enormous weaknesses at the core of the world’s seemingly strong dictatorships, whether they be of the military-authoritarian Right, or the communist-totalitarian Left. From Latin America to Eastern Europe, from the Soviet Union to the Middle East and Asia, strong governments have been failing over the last two decades. And while they have not given way in all cases to stable liberal democracies, liberal democracy remains the only coherent political aspiration that spans different regions and cultures around the globe.

The vertical trust of the totalitarian governments made them too heavy and acromegalic in infrastructure to maintain control; citizens no longer put the trust flow through the totalitarian centralized institutions and without the energy of trust, the leviathan governments collapsed. Democracy was celebrated.

What happened around the same time was the advance of the Internet and the connectedness of the world. Bulletin boards were almost immediately formed, and these were pretty much the first communities of the Internet, where people didn’t have to know each other in real life or even be in geographic proximity. They were independent, self-governed, and the energy of trust that flowed through these communities was almost horizontal. And there was a lot of energy in that.

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Step 3

Again, fast-forward to 2000s, and the now connected digital world went through the history of the humankind at an accelerated pace. The online self-governed communities gave way to almost totalitarian services like Facebook. At first, the trust went from vertical in the real world to distributed in the digital one with the spread of the bulletin boards in the 90s, and then it steeply became vertical again with the corporatization of online services.

And it was relatively fine at first — after all, these were the places where a lot of the communities lived now — sites like Myspace, Reddit, Facebook and so on — and thrived too. But then, the social networks crossed the point of being relatively healthy and became the same acromegalic leviathans, and the energy of community trust started leaving them.

At the same time, what we are witnessing today both in the real and the digital world is the crisis of trust — from real-world institutions to the centralized online services, trust is leaving the vertical structures and is becoming more and more distributed.

As Rachel Botsman succinctly put it in her fantastic book titled Who Can You Trust?: How Technology Brought Us Together and Why It Might Drive Us Apart:

When we look at the past, we can see that trust falls into distinct chapters. The first was local, when we lived within the boundaries of small local communities where everyone knew everyone else. The second was institutional, a kind of intermediated trust that ran through a variety of contracts, courts and corporate brands, freeing commerce from local exchanges and creating the foundation necessary for an organized industrial society. And the third, still very much in its infancy, is distributed.

With the rise of the sharing economy and the advance of the Blockchain interest and popularity, we are clearly past the vertical trust wave crest and it’s falling down into the state of being distributed, more or less horizontal, and community-based.

Communities are coming back to self-governance, community members work with each other fueled by the energy of distributed trust, and Blockchain-based platforms are the next thing to happen. And it’s happening now. U°Community have created a platform with the core ideas of self-governance and independence in mind — a place where there should be no obstacle to the flow of the energy of distributed trust.

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Artificial Intelligence: Usurped and Trapped, But Not For Much Longer

  • Darryn Pollock

    Artificial Intelligence has so much range and scope, and although it has primarily been aimed at making advertising revenue, it could be different in the East

Artificial Intelligence: Usurped and Trapped, But Not For Much Longer
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Why AI’s true potential can be fully explored in the East, not in the West

The Internet was born out of the idea of sharing information across the planet with no constraints or controls. Yet the manner in which it has manifested itself today is no longer true to those original ideas.

In the age of social media, we have come to a point where information and data have been usurped by a few companies that allow people to use their services with an underlying, hidden cost of that data.

Facebook and Google have taken full control of data, using it for their own needs. This is starting to expand into not only people’s data but also new and emerging technologies, such as AI.

Much like how other companies in Silicon Valley began their lives with this brazen entrepreneurial spirit and slowly evolved into ones that could not survive on innovation alone, this has led them down the road of chasing ad revenue, creating new and deceivious ways in which to reach it.

The same applies to AI; such a new and potentially revolutionary technology is being sprouted by small innovative companies, only to be bought out and taken over by the Internet giants of Google and Facebook to be used as a new avenue for ad dollars.

These days, the direction of AI companies is overwhelmingly being used to target user behavior in order to extract more ad dollars, rather than advancing the technology for its much more powerful and useful needs.

It has left AI languishing in one direction when enough resources are thrown at it, and thus pigeonholed its potential — but that is only real for the West. There is a big drive coming from China, which has not taken long to catch up in terms of research to expand AI.

However, their mandate is very different to the West’s, and ad dollars are not part of the process for AI. This means its true potential can be exponentially explored in the East, and, in time, probably overtake the stymied position of western AI.

Of course, China may forge ahead, but with its governmental control and socialistic nature, it still brings its own problems when it comes to advancing a new and only possible technology like AI. For this reason, it is also worth delving into the potential of CI (Community Intelligence)

The embodiment of evil

It would be a bit harsh and dramatic to call the likes of Facebook and Google ‘evil’; however, Jaron Lanier, who is widely credited as a founder of virtual reality, has recently delivered a sobering prognosis on the spiraling corruption of these types of social networks.

“I can’t call them social networks anymore. I call them behavior modification empires,” said Lanier in Vancouver for the TED conference, adding:

“I don’t think it’s a matter of bad people who’ve done a bad thing. It’s a globally tragic, astounding ridiculous system rather than a wave of evil.”

Lanier’s point is that the Internet was built on a socialist model that everything should be free and accessible to all. But it also celebrated visionary tech entrepreneurs who made it big with their world-changing ideas: “How do you celebrate entrepreneurship when everything is free?” he mused.

This is where the crossover between these two juxtapositioned ideas was reached in the form of advertising funding. Advertising allows companies to use their innovative ideas to attract people and make money off them, and that model has been growing exponentially with a few major companies usurping all the power.

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Now, the close working relationship of these major companies and the wants and needs of advertisers see them using their innovation to maximize advertising revenue. Thus, the tech entrepreneurs and visionaries who are pushing the boundaries are often bought out and taken over by the companies which have already made their fortune.

This then leads to these ideas taking a road which is far more applicable to achieving ad revenue than expanding the boundaries of tech innovation.

AI’s dalliance with advertising

AI is one such revolutionary tech advancement which has become trapped and usurped by the likes of Google, Facebook, and other tech giants who are trying to utilize this new technology as another way to create ad revenue.

It has become so that these large tech companies are picking up AI thought leaders and developers, either out of university or worse, by buying out their small startups and steering them in the direction they need.

“In effect, tech startups are serving as stealth recruiting tools for big companies, used to gobble up young developers and researchers who don’t particularly feel like big-company careers. These young nerds sign up to work for some exciting startup, but then the startup inevitably gets sold to a big company, and they wind up cashing out to a small degree,” explains Ben Goertzel, founder and CEO of Singularity NET, a Blockchain-based AI marketplace.

“The channeling of AI expertise into big corporations has a significant impact regarding what kinds of problems AI gets primarily applied to. Advertising, for example, gets an awful lot of attention. Cambridge Analytica’s relatively crude methods of social media engineering, applied to political campaigning, got a lot of press in the last US presidential election cycle. But Google, Facebook and Baidu (among others) have vastly more sophisticated manipulation machinery, which is used not to elect candidates but rather to direct people to buy products and services,” he adds.

A new dawn rises in the East

The way things work in the West, or in the US in particular, has made it standard practice for new technology to be primarily advertising-focused. This has also only come about because of the general monopoly and power that Western companies have over the vast majority of the Internet.

No longer is the Internet totally free and socialist. Even in countries where there is socialism, that notion is an incorrect one. The Socialist Republic of China has cut itself off from the rest of the Internet with its Great Firewall, but behind that wall, it is also devoid of reliance on advertising dollars.

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Because of this, China is building up its AI development at a rapid rate, but it is also not redirecting it to be used solely as a tool for advertising revenue. China’s growth of AI has larger and far-reaching potential as they are looking to expand the technology to its full potential.

So, while there may be a division in the advancement of Westernised AI and that of the East, there is at least a base of development which is looking to drive AI forward to its full potential, offering a level of equilibrium.

Issues with China and AI alternative in CI

Although China does not have the same reliance on advertising dollars to drive its AI advancement, the strictly-controlled country is not free to explore and expand AI as it pleases. Government intervention and direction is clear and evident in advancing technologies. Thus, AI will still have some sort of agenda dictated to it by the state.

It is for this reason that Community Intelligence is a viable alternative to AI and its stymied growth.

The world is heading towards an era of true community involvement and strength. No longer is there a one-way interaction of information that was originally seen at the birth of the Internet. Furthermore, as discussed with the dangers of social media, there is now this third wave of community-powered engagement.

Thus, to have CI as an alternative is to have a group collective answer questions and process problems in order to determine the path of common acceptance.

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