Thursday, 20 June 2019

My move says the machine

Not a post about chess, but chess will do as an introduction. According to this video, no human chess player has beaten a high level chess computer since 2005 under normal chess tournament conditions.

Suppose we take this achievement and use it to indulge in some idle speculation. As it is now 14 years since that last human victory we recall how much cheaper and powerful computers are today. Add that to all the research into artificial intelligence, how likely is it that governments are developing information systems broadly aimed at understanding human behaviour in minute detail?

Crime by area and by street, traffic movements, housing density, house types, house building, road building, industrial development, industrial decline, employment, unemployment, income, welfare, spending patterns, car ownership, population density, drug use, dereliction, gentrification, ethnic mixes, religious adherence, schooling, health services, dentistry, mental welfare, alcohol consumption, tobacco consumption, calorie consumption, animal fat consumption, electricity usage, gas usage, recycling patterns and so on and so on.

It would not be an economic model but more like a gigantic and vastly complex chess computer. In other words it may eventually be possible for governments to play the political game by owning machines which know in enormous detail what is going on. 

Rather like chess computers they would evaluate billions of possible scenarios in order to come up with a favourable move. Favourable to whom? Favourable to the machine owners of course. A policy tweak, a modified regulation, a funding shift, a tax change, a press release, a conference or merely a working lunch to discuss a new policy initiative. A policy initiative suggested by the machine of course.

This would be a form of indirect control rather than the draconian social credit system China seems to be introducing. Because it is indirect it would not be easy to criticise because we all want things to work as well as they can don’t we?


Michael said...

Great post, Mr H!

It's all to be blamed on Excel, which is why, when you go to the docs, they tell you that you have tennis elbow because you did all those things on the school holidays in 1964, and tried to inhale a Capstan Full Strength in front of your mates!

(They weren't all that strong, those Capstan, but I was told that the tar was enough to coat three miles of the M4).

Sam Vega said...

They are certainly up to something, but it's difficult to see any gains for anyone yet. Either we are going to a socialist paradise via a very long process of social disintegration and mass movement of people; or our masters are still clueless despite all that computing power.

A K Haart said...

Scrobs - maybe that why the roads have to be resurfaced so often - not enough motorist smokers giving off lots of fresh new tar.

Sam - yes and they almost seem too clueless to be real. Maybe this is the hint that they are not our masters at all. A common enough thought but impossible to tackle politically. As if living our lives and posting our views on the internet are all we really can do and voting is virtually pointless.