Sunday, December 10, 2017

Blockchain & Social Networking in a Disruptive Future

In a recent post: “Singularity Unchained - Artificial Intelligence & Crypto-Currency” we examined the ramifications of a decentralized computer network, specifically in its use as a networked public ledger for transactions of crypto-currencies. We then looked at the intriguing (if not sinister) development of blockchain technology being combined with, and applied to Artificial Intelligence, in not only in an automated transactional capacity but in an evolving, networked capacity... set free within and upon the world wide web.

Taken in the context of an impending technological singularity, ie: machine sentience… serious questions arise as to how such events will impact humanity. From that earlier post…

“A Crypto-currency’s blockchain is a transaction database that is globally networked and cannot be deleted. Such a blockchain is a constantly evolving and expanding system of transactions. This network operates and grows much the way that our central nervous system works. If such a theory were true, it would be logical that a sentient AI would seek a digital nervous system, beyond the control of its creators.”

In this day and age, it is no longer clear that the posts we are reading on our social media feeds are created by humans… or by one of a multitude of now on-line AI...

With that said, the question of how such technological innovation will affect humanity is not as pertinent a question as… how is it affecting humanity, as we speak? The pervasiveness of AI is not some near-future “Terminator” scenario. It ubiquitously exists and impacts all who use modern technology. Many of us have experienced the algorithms used by Amazon, et al to “suggest products” or websites, base upon on-line purchasing history or browsing habits. Another name for such algorithms is… Artificial Intelligence.

We were expecting to be surveilled by HAL and instead have been infiltrated by Alexa.

Yet we continue to grow more dependent upon existent artificial intelligences. Cult of Mac users are increasingly dependent upon Siri for navigation. Use of traditional, paper roadmaps has been completely replaced with Siri’s reassuring dialogue: 500 yards, proceed to merge right onto Highway to Hell.” God help us if our iPhone dies, or worse… we run out of data!

AI is spawning everywhere in modern tek culture. If these algorithmic AI are likened to fish, then the mobile communication infrastructure is water.

It can be argued that blockchain technologies, as well as AI intrusiveness, are examples of an emerging “Disruptive” paradigm. Disruptive innovation is a relativly new term used to describe an innovation that creates a new value network and eventually disrupts an existing market or value network, displacing the market’s established leading firms, products, and alliances. Goodbye Kodak, hello Snapchat.

With algorithmic AI and blockchain networking becoming an increasingly prevalent medium, let us consider how these disruptive innovations are being applied to global politics. At first glance, contemporary politics appears as an internationally reactionary, populist/nationalist/alt-right convulsion. But as current events have unfolded, what appears to be emerging is a disruptive, networked political model of governance.

 In our Brave Noö World, social networking is changing politics forever. Increasingly, political machines such as President Trump’s operate more like a network than a bureaucracy. Political policy is implemented by the whims of an autocratic individual, rather than bureaucratic organizational consensus. With Trump’s weaponized twitter feed, social networking is now a means of governance on par with bureaucracy. In the immediacy of the modern networked world, this is a faster implementation, but more prone to error.

To quote analyst John Robb: “Social networking is changing politics… that fact should be clear by now.  A simple proof:  Trump wouldn't be in the White House without it. Trump used an ‘open source insurgency’ to become president. This insurgency didn't just win the election… it blew up both the Republican and Democrat parties. Trump accomplished this despite overwhelming opposition from the entire media establishment, all of academia and most of Silicon Valley. Trump's insurgency worked like open source insurgencies in the (recent) past… from the Iraq war to Egypt/Tunisia.

An open source insurgency is a loose network (meshed) that is composed of many individuals and small groups working independently, but united by a single purpose (in this case: electing Trump).Open source insurgencies are much more innovative than their bureaucratic counterparts. They are constantly coming up with, and trying out new ideas. For example: the seventy to one hundred groups in the Iraqi insurgency rolled out new innovations (tactics to weapons) in days, while it took months for the US military to counter them.

National governance isn't just in Washington anymore, it's being conducted everywhere at once.  Everyone, from the government bureaucrat to the corporate executive to the owner of a Twitter account is now an active participant.  It is now much more participatory than it has EVER been.”

With the future of political organization being driven by social media, which in turn, increasingly “swims in the same waters” as algorithmic AI, what options are left open for the democratic process? What safeguards can be enacted to assure free elections? Will democracy require a technological communications overlay to participate? The answer may lie in networked, participatory governance.

Again, from Robb: “Within a handful of years after its (networked political party) emergence, all political parties will be networked parties. These networked parties will all feature direct democracy via smartphone voting. This will make it possible for party members to decide how their political representatives vote. Is this potentially dangerous? Sure. However, direct democracy is one of the few ways to rapidly rebuild the legitimacy of a system that has lost it.”

If any wisdom has emerged from recent events, it is the fact that the American two-party political system has lost its legitimacy.

Perhaps the decentralized blockchain technology holds a technological answer to our democratic dilemma. By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data. A blockchain can serve as an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. Perhaps blockchain tek can be implemented in a political framework, to minimize corruption? Perhaps the decentralized, fraud-resistant blockchain node, becomes the voting booth of our near future?

As we have indicated in our earlier post… Just when we thought this old world could not get any stranger… new modalities blink into existence, before our very eyes, even as old systems disintegrate. The mingling of social networks, blockchain tek, and rapidly evolving AI entities, operating within said networks… makes the future of politics nuanced and anything but straightforward.

These musings are certainly food for thought. To quote that infamous, yet obscure 80s band: Timbuk 3The Future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades! Stay tuned intrepid psychonauts… stay tuned!

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