Artificial Intelligence. Why do we down play the first word and up play (or worship) the second?

In Biographies of Hegemony: The Culture of Smartness and the Recruitment and Construction of Investment Bankers, Karen Zouwen Ho writes:

“The ‘culture of smartness’ is central to understanding Wall Street’s financial agency, how investment bankers are personally and institutionally empowered to enact their worldviews, export their practices, and serve as models for far-reaching socioeconomic change. On Wall Street, ‘smartness’ means much more than individual intelligence; it conveys a naturalized and generic sense of ‘impressiveness,’ of elite, pinnacle status and expertise, which is used to signify, even prove, investment bankers’ worthiness as advisors to corporate America and leaders of the global financial markets. To be considered ‘smart’ on Wall Street is to be implicated in a web of situated practices and ideologies, co produced through the interactions of multiple institutions, processes, and American culture at large, which confer authority and legitimacy on high finance and contribute to the sector’s vast influence. The culture of smartness is not simply a quality of Wall Street, but a currency, a driving force productive of both profit accumulation and global prowess.”

Just about 9 years ago the national movement called Occupy Wall Street emerged to question the intelligence of what Americans give their authority to and who is endowed with the power to decide what’s what. This topic, Artificial Intelligence, is the 8th in the Year of Truth series. It was a topic I didn’t want to write about because the insidious reach of AI is like an invisible cancer killing us from the inside out.

We worship technology for its complex promises to the point of turning a blind eye to the destruction of nature which serves every one of us with a complex simplicity (that may forever escape our desire to master it). The biblical nature of this worship escapes me, but the deluge of sophisticated marketing does not.

Hulu is now showing an ad for an insurance company featuring a centaur like African American — half-man and half-motorcycle — over looking a valley from on high. It is so grossly creepy that I am all set with Hulu for a while, can’t even watch it.

A good friend called me just now to try to make sense of what happened to her today. She spent the past twelve hours figuring out how her one file folder on her computer disappeared. This isn’t just any folder, it is the great folder of folders, holding decades of carefully organized bits of every aspect of her life. Poof, gone.

Come to find out, after wasting money on useless software, a trusted resource her employer works with helped her realize that without her knowledge, her files were moved to the fluffy “cloud” while she believed they were safely stored on her hard drive. What file was hacked first? The one labeled “finances.”

We commiserated a while about how little transparency there seems to be in the world of tech, like a den of rats in a smoke and mirrored haunted house. The stress effects she is experiencing are ones I have experienced many times due to similar cognitively dissonant data losses.

There is so much to say about what is artificial versus what is natural. Ultimately it comes down to building resilience against the zombification of the market.

A few weeks ago a sweet 8 year old girl was showing me how her game world works but could not figure out how to stop herself from dancing in the street and while shopping in the supermarket (alone). I laughed heartily with her about this but slowly the horror of the reality I could see behind this game settled into my awareness and the smile fell from my face. The online children’s game is RoBlox (sounds like road blocks) and the game within a game, Brookhaven, is not only fomenting unconscionable violence by making guns as accessible to children as penthouses with refrigerators stocked with ice cream, pizza and soda (and jobs at their disposal and house fires and car crashes with no consequence), but the pop ups and discussion threads are entirely unsafe physically, mentally, and emotionally for a child’s developing brain.

Please, think a bit beyond the notions of Russian spies, Romanian hacks and cyber security. Question your opinions about Artificial Intelligence. If it seems like escapism from the unbearable pain of being human, try for a good long moment to go outside and touch the earth. She loves you unconditionally.