Why we need good computational models of peace and love
by Sebastian Benthall
“Data science” doesn’t refer to any particular technique.
It refers to the cusp of the diffusion of computational methods from computer science, statistics, and applied math (the “methodologists”) to other domains.
The background theory of these disciplines–whose origin we can trace at least as far back at cybernetics research in the 1940’s–is required to understand the validity of these “data science” technologies as scientific instruments, just as a theory of optics is necessary to know the validity of what is seen through a microscope. Kuhn calls these kinds of theoretical commitments “instrumental commitments.”
For most domain sciences, instrumental commitment to information theory, computer science, etc. is not problematic. It is more so with some social sciences which oppose the validity of totalizing physics or formalism.
There aren’t a lot of them left because our mobile phones more or less instrumentally commit us to the cybernetic worldview. Where there is room for alternative metaphysics, it is because of the complexity of emergent/functional properties of the cybernetic substrate. Brier’s Cybersemiotics is one formulation of how richer communicative meaning can be seen as a evolved structure on top of cybernetic information processing.
If “software is eating the world” and we don’t want it to eat us (metaphorically! I don’t think the robots are going to kill us–I think that corporations are going to build robots that make our lives miserable by accident), then we are going to need to have software that understands us. That requires building out cybernetic models of human communication to be more understanding of our social reality and what’s desirable in it.
That’s going to require cooperation between techies and humanists in a way that will be trying for both sides but worth the effort I think.
“That requires building out cybernetic models of human communication to be more understanding of our social reality and what’s desirable in it.”
Dont we need to understand this ourselves, before we build cybernetic models to understand it for us?
I think we need better people, not better machines. Its unclear whether the latter leads to the former, but the former could lead to the latter.
I also dont see how “mobile phones more or less instrumentally commit us to the cybernetic worldview”.
I have to buy in to cybernetics to want to call my family and loved ones?
> Dont we need to understand this ourselves, before we build cybernetic models to understand it for us?
Yeah, that’s a good goal to get us part of the way there.
You only need one person to understand it to build the machine though, as opposed to getting everybody involved without machines that know any better.
> I think we need better people, not better machines. Its unclear whether the latter leads to the former, but the former could lead to the latter.
I think it’s pretty clear that the latter lead to the former. Virtuous cycle.
> I also dont see how “mobile phones more or less instrumentally commit us to the cybernetic worldview”.
By ‘instrumental commitment’, I mean that the instruments you use are constructed with a particular set of theoretical assumptions, and that your use of them commits you epistemically to those theories. You might believe that all the technology you use works by magic instead of by the scientific principles used in their design, but that is dumb in a very deep way.
> You might believe that all the technology you use works by magic instead of by the scientific principles used in their design, but that is dumb in a very deep way.
If your “love machine” has any chance of success, it would have to work in exactly this way – because if we understood how it worked, it wouldnt feel very much like love at all.
Tap, those would make great song lyrics. But I think they are terrible science.
You are conflating agents here. Why would the love machine need to feel like love to the designer of the love machine?
Again, the point of a love machine is scalable love technology. Preferably web-scale. The MongoDB of love.
People don’t have to know how love works to feel loved. The machine doesn’t have to understand how it works in order to love. This phenomenology is irrelevant to the design logic.
To the love machine designer, presumably their love phenomenology and machinist phenomenology are distinct. Or, maybe they are wizards, Tap. You become a wizard when you can both feel and intellectualize about magic. (This distinguishes them from sorcerers and theoretical magicians.)
I’ve got to say…if this was trolling, then it was damn good. This is my comeuppance.
> “The MongoDB of love”
It makes sense that you’d chose a document-based storage system, because clearly love cant be structured.
You are too much :)
Can’t we have both? Corporations building robots to accidentally make us miserable AND eventually accidentally building robots to kill us too?
Sure. I suppose the same robots could first make us miserable, then kill us. So many options.