Digital Bolshevism

This page is a sub-page of our page on Norm-critical Innovation Algebra.

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The sub-pages of this page are:

New Dark Age
• Rage Inside The Machine

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Related KMR-pages:

Artificial Ethics
Social Algebra
Socially Responsible Algebra

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Books:

Digital Is Destroying Everything, Andrew V. Edwards, 2015.
Data and Goliath – The Hidden Battle to Collect Your Data and Control Your World,
Bruce Schneier, 2015.
Weapons of Math Destruction – How Big Data Increases Inequality And Threatens Democracy, Cathy O’Neil, 2016.
The Shallows – How the internet is changing the way we think, read and remember, Nicholas Carr, 2010.
Utopia Is Creepy – and Other Provocations, Nicholas Carr, 2016.
The Dumbest Generation – How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30), Mark Bauerlein, 2008.
The Attention Merchants – The Epic Struggle To Get Inside Our Heads, Tim Wu, 2016.
Platform Capitalism, Nick Srnicek, 2017.
World Without Mind – The Existential Threat of Big Tech, by Franklin Foer, 2017.
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff, 2019.
Interview with Shoshana Zuboff where she explains how we allowed big tech to create surveillance capitalism:
New Dark Age – Technology and the End of the Future, by James Bridle, 2018.
Irrationality – A History of the Dark Side of Reason, Justin E. H. Smith, 2019.
The Road to Unfreedom, Timothy Snyder, 2018.
How Democracy Ends, David Runciman, Profile Books, 2018.
• How Democracy Ends by David Runciman review – what Trump and Corbyn have in common, Mark Mazower, The Guardian, 21 June 2019.
How Democracy Ends review, Sean Kippin.
How Democracy Ends review – is people politics doomed?, Andrew Rawnsley, The Guardian 30 May 2018.
Rage Inside The Machine: The Prejudice of Algorithms and How to Stop the Internet Making Bigots of Us All, by Robert Elliot Smith, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2019.
Morality By Design – Technology’s Challenge to Human Values, by Wade Rowland, Intellect Ltd, 2019.
Zucked – Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe, by Roger McNamee, Harper Collins, 2019. Review in the Guardian by John Harris, 7 February, 2019.
The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Metropolitan Elite, by Michael Lind, Atlantic Books, 2020

/////// In Swedish:
Det Omätbaras Renässans – En uppgörelse med pedanternas världsherravälde,
Jonna Bornemark, 2018.

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Other relevant sources of information:

The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine,
by Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page, 1998.
Fragmentary Thoughts on Data (and “Analytics”) in Online Distance Education,
Tony Hirst, 8 Febr 2019.
• It’s not that we’ve failed to rein in Facebook and Google. We’ve not even tried,
Shoshana Zuboff, The Guardian, 2 July, 2019.
• Robots Can Do Our Jobs? No: That’s Algorithmic Pseudoscience at Work,
Robert E. Smith, The Startup, 30 September 2019.
The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI: No one really knows how the most advanced algorithms do what they do, Will Knight, MIT Technology Review, April 11, 2017.
Darwin at Home in Ten Minutes, by Gerald de Jong on YouTube, 2011.
The Invention of ‘Ethical’ AI: How Big Tech Manipulates Academia to Avoid Regulation, by Rodrigo Ochigame, December 20 2019.
Learning analytics – or learner surveillance?, by Tony Bates, 26 November 2019.
You Are Now Remotely Controlled: Surveillance capitalists control the science and the scientists, the secrets and the truth, by Shoshana Zuboff, New York Times, 24 Jan 2020.
Disruption’s Legacy, by Martin Weller, The Ed Techie, 28 January 2020.
Freedom in an Age of Algocracy, by John Danaher, (forthcoming in Oxford Handbook on the Philosophy of Technology edited by Shannon Vallor)
Tiktok är inte värre än Google eller Facebook

/////// In Swedish:
Ska vi bara titta på medan städerna dör nätdöden?,
Ann-Charlotte Marteus, Expressen, 5 jan 2019.
Analogisera skolan,
PM Nilsson, Dagens Industri, 9 juni 2019.

/////// In Norwegian:
Hvor er det faglige lederskapet i digitaliseringsdebattene i akademia?,
Cathrine E. Tømte, 28 mai 2019.

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Digi Me Tangere

Ni torgför nu
mitt hjärtas lust och kval
att skrynklas ned
av obekanta händer.

Jag detekteras
genom bayesianska val
som ger mig nåt bekant som synes ske
i samma stund det obekanta händer.

Er artificiellt intelligenta algoritm
kan räkna ut från var jag kommer
om ni får mata den med mina spår
varhelst jag går.

Under namn av personalisering
och personlig profilering
ska jag bli trygg
men bak min rygg
säljs mina detaljerade beteenden
i form av mina digitala spår.

Ni bjuder mig på kakor
och frågar om ni får.

Se där, nu syns snart homofilen
genom den tydliga profilen
i appen som Uganda föreslår.
Sen är det bara
att skicka drönare som straxt står klara
att verkställa det dödstraff som i landet rår.

/Ambjörn

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Artificial versus Genuine Intelligence:

Artificial versus Genuine Intelligence

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Norm-Critical Innovation/Indication/Intervention/Influence Algebra

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Representation: \, [ \, p_{resentant} \, ]_{B_{ackground}} \, = \, \left< \, r_{epresentant} \, \right>_{B_{ackground}} \,

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Digital Bolshevism:

\, [ \, l_{eader} \, ]_{D_{igital} \, B_{olshevism}} \, = \, \left< \, d_{igitator} \, \right>_{D_{igital} \, B_{olshevism}} \, = \, \left< \, d_{igital} \, a_{gitator} \, \right>_{D_{igital} \, B_{olshevism}}

\, [ \, p_{roclamation} \, ]_{DB} \, = \, \left< \, d_{igital} \, d_{ictum} \, \right>_{DB}

\, [ \, p_{olitics} \, ]_{DB} \, = \, \left< \, p_{atterns} \, o_{f} \, d_{igital} \, d_{icta} \, \right>_{DB}

\, [ \, i_{deology} \, ]_{DB} \, = \, \left< \, a_{ppitalism} \, \right>_{DB}

\, [ \, f_{orm} \, o_{f} \, g_{overnment} \, ]_{DB} \, = \, \left< \, d_{igitatorship} \, \right>_{DB}

\, [ \, s_{ervice} \, s_{tructure} \, ]_{DB} \, = \, \left< \, d_{igitaligopoly} \, \right>_{DB} \, = \, \left< \, d_{igital} \, o_{ligopoly} \, \right>_{DB}

\, { > \, t_{he} \, d_{igitatorization} \, p_{rocess} \, > }_{DB}

/////// in Swedish:

\, [ \, s_{ervice} s_{truktur} \, ]_{DB} \, = \, \left< \, d_{igitaligopol} \, \right>_{DB} \, = \, \left< \, d_{igitalt} \, o_{ligopol} \, \right>_{DB}

\, [ \, i_{deologi} \, ]_{DB} \, = \, \left< \, a_{ppitalism} \, \right>_{DB}

\, [ \, r_{egerings} s_{truktur} \, ]_{DB} \, = \, \left< \, d_{igitatur} \, \right>_{DB}

\, { > \, d_{igitaturiserings}p_{rocessen} \, > }_{DB}

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/////// Quoting Zuboff (2019, p. I):

THE DEFINITION:

SUR-VEIL-LANCE CAP-I-TAL-ISM

1. A new economic order that claims human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction, and sales;

2. A parasitic economic logic in which the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new global architecture of behavioral modifications;

3. A rogue mutation of capitalism marketed by concentrations of wealth, knowledge, and power unprecedented in human history;

4. The foundational framework of a surveillance economy;

5. As significant a threat to human nature in the twenty-first century as industrial capitalism was to the natural world in the nineteenth and twentieth;

6. The origin of a new instrumentarian power that asserts dominance over society and presents startling challenges to market democracy;

7. A movement that aims to impose a new collective order based on total certainty;

8. An expropriation of critical human rights that is best understood as a coup from above: an overthrow of the people’s sovereignty

/////// End of Quote from Zuboff (2019)

/////// Quoting (Rowland, 2019, p.16)

Many western religious philosophers, drawing on Plato, have described good (or sometimes, the good, or good itself) as existing in the metaphysical realm beyond ordinary material reality, as a genuine, though intangible, dimension of existence. Here’s the general idea: everything in the concrete and material world as we know it is merely an indistinct image of an ideal form in a higher realm of being. As a perfect realization, the ideal form embodies good. It’s an idea technically called ‘Platonic idealism’, or Plato’s theory of forms, and it has had an important influence on western philosophy and theology.

Descriptions like Plato’s are evocative, beautiful, even compelling, but they are not very serviceable. The result is that the issue of good’s existence has been neglected in modern moral philosophy. To correct this problem and re-incorporate the good into everyday ethical discourse, a growing number of today’s moral thinkers have taken a position that does not deny the validity of idealism as a hypothesis, but tries to bring it up-to-date. What they propose is that rather than (or perhaps in addition to) existing ‘beyond being’, good is actually a thing – ineffable, perhaps, but as much a part of everyday existence as gravity. The hypothesis is that, like gravity, good exists in the world and influences events in ways that are readily observable, even though, like gravity, its precise nature remains mysterious. According to this view, good would exist even if we didn’t – or as philosophers say, good is mind-independent. It has objective reality.

This perspective, if it’s true, makes the consideration of good and its place in the world impossible to avoid in any coherent description of existence, science included. It means that in this world in which good is as much an everyday reality as gravity – in the world we experience as human beings – meaning and purpose are possible, even inescapable. The existence of good makes it so; it injects a goal, an endpoint, into the conversation. Aristotle said it well:

If there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake, clearly this must be the good. Will not knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what we should? If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is.[3]

This approach to morality has a name in academia – it’s called ‘critical moral realism‘.[4] It proposes that good is a fundamental, though ultimately indescribable, element of our reality, a mind-independent feature of the universe. The adjective ‘critical’ is important: it is intended to signify that the affirmation of the reality of good is something more than just a theoretical proposition, and that it is possible to test or critique its validity in much the same way as we might test a scientific hypothesis.[5]

Taken as a whole, the name ‘critical moral realism’ suggests that there are such things as moral facts, which can be verified through a process directly analogous to the one used in science, where provisional facts are tested by a formal process of replicating observations by experiments. In practice, this process amounts to an effectively unending attempt to either confirm (always provisionally) or falsify (often definitively) established fact. It’s a process that has led us, in physics and astronomy, from one revolution to another – from Ptolemy to Copernicus to Galileo to Newton to Einstein, to the quantum mechanics of the early twentieth century and beyond, into territory where today’s hard-nosed physicists are unnerved by mathematical models that seem to point to something like an underlying metaphysical reality.

In science, and in moral thought, those facts which first of all seem to accurately describe reality as we experience it, and then successfully resist repeated attempts at falsification, are the ones in which we can place the most confidence. These reliable facts have achieved a broad and deep consensus within their respective fields of interest. As the philosopher Mary Midgley says: ‘Facts are data – material which, for purposes of a particular inquiry, does not need to be reconsidered [...]. The word fact, in its normal usage, is indeed not properly opposed to value, but to something more like conjecture or opinion’.[6] In other words, a fact in any realm of human inquiry amounts to a discussion frozen in time, halted where a particular line of inquiry has come to a standstill, for want of further data or novel new insight.

The notion of a dichotomy between fact and value, or more accurately, between moral and scientific fact, turns out to be fictitious. Fact and value are unavoidably ‘entangled’, simply because human experience and endeavor, including observation and data collection and computation, is always to some greater or lesser degree value-laden. We are not robots and cannot avoid the infiltration of issues of value into everything we do, even the design of the algorithms we write to govern the actions of machines. Not, on the other hand, can scientific realities be excluded from thinking about values, if that thought is to have any practical application to the world we live in. Why, then, do we continue to talk about a fact/value dichotomy? Philosopher Hilary Putnam explains:

For one thing, it is much easier to say, ‘that’s a value judgment’, meaning ‘that’s just a matter of subjective preference’, than to do what Socrates tried to teach us: to examine who we are and what our deepest convictions are and hold those convictions up to the searching test of reflective examination [...] The worst thing about the fact/value dichotomy is that in practice it functions as a discussion-stopper, and not just a discussion-stopper, but a thought-stopper.[7]

From the perspective of critical moral realism, basic value judgments such as ‘genocide is wrong’ cannot be both true and false. They are either true (or false) for reasons offered, or for reasons not yet fully uncovered. For the moral realist, ethical claims are similar to statements like ‘the sky is blue’. They can be verified by real-world observations and experience, and demonstrated to be true or false. That is, they meet the same criteria of fact as material facts do. Assertions that slavery is defensible, or the handicapped ought to be destroyed at birth, or that adulterers ought to be stoned to death, or that animals have no right to humane treatment, are quite as false as the statement that water flows uphill. Their falsity is not just a matter of somebody’s opinion: it is a fact.

It is worth pointing out, parenthetically, that no fact in modern science is more than about 450 years old, while consensus on moral issues can and often does stretch back to the beginnings of recorded history. It is also noteworthy that when shifts in moral consensus occur – when slavery is abolished, or torture is outlawed, or the right of animals to humane treatment is recognized, or women’s suffrage is enacted – they tend to have a much more significant impact on daily life than even a genuine scientific revolution like the displacement of Newton’s physics by Einstein’s relativity.

The claim, then, is that both moral and scientific facts are established by consensus, and the broader and deeper and longer-lasting that consensus is, the more confidence we can have in the associated body of knowledge. When a significant shift in that consensus occurs, we do not expect to go back to earlier views, especially when moral knowledge is concerned. At the same time, however, the possibility of falsification is never completely extinguished.

The truth or falsity of a statement, either moral or scientific, does not depend on how well it fits with some theoretical, a priori assumptions that must be accepted on faith – though these may well lurk in the background, for instance a belief in the real existence of good, or in the ability of reason to see deep into nature’s workings. The truth and reliability of these statements of fact depends, instead, on a network of prior knowledge linking the statement we want to verify with others of the same kind that have their own network of evidence, and ultimately to ‘the whole map of our experience and of the world which we believe to surround us.[8]

And so, in the end, the body of fact that makes up our total understanding of the world is like a vast crossword puzzle, in which having the correct answer to the clue for 1 Down may depend on knowing the correct answer to 3 Across, and so on until the puzzle is complete.

Finally, Hilary Putnam makes a salient point in arguing for the factual nature of moral knowledge, via the pragmatic philosopher John Dewey:

If it is possible to do science without supposing that one needs a metaphysical foundation for the enterprise, it is equally possible to live an ethical life without supposing that one needs a metaphysical foundation. [...] As John Dewey urged long ago, the objectivity that ethical claims require is not the kind that is provided by a Platonic or other foundation that is there in advance of our engaging in ethical life and ethical reflection; it is the ability to withstand the sort of criticism that arises in the problematic situations that we actually encounter [...].[9]

If the moral realists are correct, as I believe they are, then it is crucial that moral fact be integrated into the formal matrix of knowledge so that the two kinds of fact – both tested sources of knowledge – can be made explicitly supportive of one another, creating a more robust and resilient structure, one that is less likely to conceal catastrophic flaws, one that reliably reflects reality in all its complexity.[10].

/////// End of Quote from (Rowland, 2019)

5 thoughts on “Digital Bolshevism

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