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IEET > Security > SciTech > Vision > Philosophy > Futurism > Affiliate Scholar > Melanie Swan

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Cloudworld: A Hegelian Theory of Complexity and Algorithmic Reality

Melanie Swan
By Melanie Swan

Posted: Feb 1, 2016

Philosophy could be an important conceptual resource in the determination of human-technology interactions for several reasons. First, philosophy concerns the topics of world, reality, self, society, aspirations, and meaning, all of which we are hoping to reconfigure and accentuate in our relations with technology. Improving human lives is after all one of the main purposes of technology. Second, philosophy relates to thinking, logic, reasoning, and being, which are the key properties of what we would like our technology entities to do.

We would like our technology entities to be more like persons: pre-uncanny valley but fully-fledged tech others; thinker helpers, empathic listeners, coaches, optimizers; a new kind of technology-presenced companion. However, ensconced in recent computational advances, it has been neglected to look to thinking about thinking as a primary resource. Third, philosophy treats the grasping and naming of new things in the world, which is precisely helpful in the case of new and quickly-emerging technological realities.

Hegel could be a potentially helpful position in the consideration of the governance of emerging technologies. This is because the Hegelian reference point is specifically a moving dialogical expanding and not a pre-specified moment in response to unfolding situations. The Hegelian method involves triads: there is the thing itself, its negation, and a bigger third position that sublates the truth content out of the two previous positions into a new shape of its own consciousness. This kind of conceptual robustness could help in articulating more nuanced positions regarding emerging technologies and moving beyond stark binaries like ‘adopt-or-don’t adopt,’ technological dualism that ‘any technology has both good and evil uses,’ and a seemingly inevitable hopelessness in the face of existential risk.

The current situation of emerging technology is one of algorithmic reality. Not only are more new kinds of technology entities having a substantial presence in our human reality, where we are interacting with them on a regular basis, there is a sense of a quickening progression of these entities. There are drones, self-driving cars, personal home robots, quantified-self gadgets, Siri-commanded mobile phones, blockchain smart contract DACs, tradenets, deep-learning algorithms, big data clouds, brain-computer interfaces, neural hacking devices, augmented reality headsets, and deep-learning gaming worlds. Further, each of these technology classes is itself a platform, network, and app store, where the implication is cloudworld. Cloudworld is the notion of a deep multiplicity of networks as a compositional element of new algorithmic realities, where every network is a Turing-complete general computational substrate for every other. Any technology can immediately ‘grok,’ simulate, and run any other; the meaning of which from our human standpoint is vastly unclear. Derivatively, any sort of cloudmind (clustered interactions between multiple human minds or entities (e.g.; artificial intelligence) coordinated via the Internet cloud) might run on any platform.

A Hegelian theory of algorithmic reality is a complexity philosophy position, meaning that it has the properties of a complex adaptive system in being nonlinear, emergent, dynamic, open, unknowable, self-organizing, and interdependent. A complexity philosophy position is required to congruently correspond to the underlying reality which is itself complex. Algorithmic reality is not just an increasing degree of human-technology entity interaction but a multiplicity and proliferation of classes of network technology entities. The Hegelian position is exactly one that might constitute a bigger yes-and collaboration space that expansively accommodates all parties.

Inspiration: Minsky’s legacy in the context of contemporary and near-future AI

Melanie Swan, MBA, is an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET. Ms. Swan, principal of the MS Futures Group, is a philosopher, science and technology futurist, and options trader.
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