You’re Hired Dr. Oblivion!

For one of my assignments, I chose to do Consult with your Doctor. I felt that I haven’t been using Dr. Oblivion as much as I could be, especially since all of his answers could be downloaded as audio files. That only makes this one of the best decisions for this week. So, for this assignment I had to have a conversation with Dr. oblivion asking questions and getting answers. I decided to do a job interview for essentially his current position. The results were hilarious as always and I really had a blast doing it. He gets a little wild there for a sec but then he reels it back in for the win. I hope you enjoy my Dr. Oblivion interview.

Seems like you are forgetting some things…

Manifesto is right – This was tough to read. I’m going to break it down into sections and give my thoughts on each. But I want to be up front that there is an underlying piece that the author forgets… people with power and money.

Lies – The author mentions we are being lied to and told that technology is a tapestry of awful and terrible things. I mean, I don’t necessarily agree with this. We are learning through new technology that our old technology was doing these awful things like destroying the environment and I stand to say that we are generally hopeful for new technology so we can fix the problems of the old. We are being lied to, I agree, but by the people that profit and want to continue using this old technology. Looking at you oil and coal.

Truth – I will agree our civilization was and is built on technology and innovation. The author maks some good points; we can advance; we have the will. And I would even say that a lot of us are techno-optimists. But optimism does not mean ignoring the bad and having no reservations.

Technology – In this section the author goes over a few things that technology has helped fix like starvation, darkness, cold, heat, pandemics, and poverty… don’t know about that last one. I agree with the rest, but poverty is still a huge problem and those in it have not had those other problems fixed. The author is clearly speaking from a place of privilege.

Markets – The whole section on markets I think follows the problem that markets have always had. They tout freedom and competition and lower cost and, it seems like it should work. But when corrupt people get involved in this system and are un-regulated things go off the rails. These people ruin the dream of markets for the advancement of technology. The focus isn’t on advancement but on money. Wages stay low, prices rise, competitors get absorbed until you have 3 big companies that own everything. I really disagree with the line “Markets are generative not exploitative”. I think they are both. They exploit to generate. So, somebody always gets left behind. The goal of techno optimism should be to advance everyone, not just the few that can afford it.

The Techno-Capital Machine – This section is about how markets and technology make up this symbiotic relationship. But, to piggyback off the last section, I think my point is made when the author writes “The best and most productive ideas win”. It is about money not advancement. I was fortunate enough to work at some interesting technology companies and see so many fantastic ideas be shelved because they wouldn’t be profitable. Technology that would be widely useable and beneficial to bring up everyone, but it would impede on the profits of the old tech. So, we can tout how great markets are and that we are being lied to and all this nonsense, but it is the few people making money in this world that reap all the benefits and are deciding when and how we advance. All of it based on money, not the greater good or for the sake of advancing. Ill admit, the engineers building and making desire this advancement, I mean, that’s why they do it. But it’s the people with money, the people in control that are preventing advancement.

Intelligence – Now here is where we get into AI. The author makes some compelling points. I particularly like the line “we believe AI is our alchemy, our philosopher’s stone – we are literally making sand think”. While this is a fun thought, saying things like “deaths that were preventable by the AI that was prevented from existing is a form of murder” seems kind of silly. AI must move slowly since it is as uncharted as space and the deep ocean. You wouldn’t just send any old submarine down there, right? You would need mountains of research from all perspectives before you could even consider going down there. Look what happens when you don’t:  OOPS Notice where it mentions the CEO’s feelings about regulations.

Energy – I don’t think much has to be said, I think we all understand our energy situation is bad. I personally think we need to invest more in nuclear and toss fossil fuels aside as soon as possible. The author mentions that is the next step and I agree. I have a fair amount of experience in this area and its not nearly as dangerous as it seems. Maybe I’m a nuclear-optimist?

Abundance – Is the measure of abundance falling prices? So, then we don’t have it right… wouldn’t a better measure of abundance be that nobody needs to pay for anything, not just lower prices… oh but that’s right, how is money made when nothing has a price. I think the true goal of technology should be to not leave anyone wanting, not just make things cheaper. Wouldn’t it be great to just live your life, provide your service, practice your skill without having to worry about paying for anything? Its just a dream until the greed goes away.

Not Utopia, But Close enough – The author believes they have a constrained vison, but why? The rest of the article is about just having a blowout and going all in on technology, why the sudden reservation? Is it the realization that these same people I have mentioned will try to stop it? Maybe…

Becoming Technological Supermen – Here the author is addressing our desire to conquer and overcome technology. He strongly believes that we cand and will. But he lacks caution. His confidence is so strong that he seems to think he is unstoppable, and we are unstoppable. I feel that we haven’t faced the real technological challenge yet, and this type of thinking can become reckless.

Technological Values – In this section he goes over their beliefs. Most of them are fine and make sense for someone who wants to advance technology, but some of them are kind of… I don’t know how to describe it. Example: “We believe rich is better than poor, cheap is better than expensive” This is interesting because, the rich don’t think cheap is better unless it is putting more money in their pocket aka labor. But they believe expensive is better for their products, so they have large profit margins. That is literally the goal of business. So how can business and markets be the best driver of technology when their goals actively go against this belief… just kind of strange to believe both.

The Meaning of Life – This section makes sense, to a point. The goal is to get material abundance for all, so we have the freedom and luxury to live how we want. Again, the market section kind of holds this back because the goal isn’t to help everyone, it’s only to help the few. Money drives all and if there are people at the top they will only want more, which means stepping on the weak. All of this is shattered by these people.

The Enemy – I don’t think all the things the author mentions are the enemy. I mean a few are like authoritarianism and stagnation etc., but bureaucracy and central planning… Bureaucracy may slow things down, but without some guidelines, the people at the lowest rung get hurt even more. Central planning… I mean if there is a central global plan for technology development, don’t you think having a focused goal would improve cohesion and we could reach those goals sooner? I think it is collective thinking and group work that drives things forward. More people with more ideas leads to more experiments and tests etc. If you have a central plan or guideline for progress, it may take longer for sure, but less people will get hurt along the way.

The Future – Calling for action to be a techno-optimist, to be honest, I think this is techno-extremism. Optimism involves care and planning and teamwork. This doesn’t really leave any room for questions, its more of a “this is how it is” thing… you know… like a manifesto….

All in all, I think it made some great points, but they fall short of reality. If literally every single person had a desire to move into abundance for all, this type of thinking could work, I think. But too many things are working against it and a lot of it is the people with power and money. There are a few that want to accelerate the process, but they still crush a lot of people along the way. Is that worth it? Not for me to say.

Side things: I used some of this for my class character. Also here is what Dr. Oblivion thinks:

So, this was my rambling for this assignment. I hope it makes sense, if not feel free to let me know in the comments.

Gee… Thanks Dr. Oblivion…

I started the movie review re-write by asking Dr. Oblivion about the movie iRobot. I asked him about theme and hidden meaning and even about easter eggs within the movie. A lot of it was not too far off from what I wrote. I wrote about the themes of ethics of AI and human control and posed questions about AI independence. All of these were identified by Dr. Oblivion as key points being made in the movie. So, I actually don’t know if a re-write is in order. Apparently, I wasn’t really far off the mark. That made me feel pretty good that I had a good understanding of the movie and what it was trying to say.

However, when I asked Dr. Oblivion to write his own review, this is where things got interesting. He absolutely ROASTED the film. Please listen to this absolute masterpiece of a slam session.

Call the burn unit! I was not expecting this at all. I was anticipating a technical review that spoke about the themes and questions I was asking him before, but no, he just roasted it. Now I am re-thinking if this is even a good movie. Did I just fall prey to the classic tropes. Is this movie too safe? Does it really even make me think? Or does it just display these themes in such an easy-to-digest story that I believed I was insightful… In my first review, I mentioned it made me think more about the “deeper meaning” in iRobot. Is there even one? According to Dr. Oblivion, it has been done over and over and there is nothing new here to learn. I know it has been done before but surely it had to bring something new to the table… Nope. I have now been thrashed by an AI and now I feel like a buffoon. Thanks Dr. Oblivion.