Quotable (#137)

How Google Inbox “is the Trojan Horse for your personal AI”:

This kind of assistance will quickly seem like a superpower. You’ll have a level of productivity that’s astonishing; near-perfect recall. Administrative assistants and middle managers will be quick to vanish, once these agents catch up.

This is how the average consumer gets shallow AI. You can avoid smart agents and stick with traditional systems, but you’ll quickly be outpaced. For Google, Inbox is the Trojan Horse with which everyone’s going to adopt machine learning. In other words, Google is slowly, inexorably turning using the Internet into talking with an AI.

(Emphasis in original.)

Internet Fragmentation

Technical, political, and commercial trends to Cyberspace disintegration are thematized by the WEF. It’s unmistakably an important topic. The report explains:

The purpose of this document is to contribute to the emergence of a common baseline understanding of Internet fragmentation. It maps the landscape of some of the key trends and practices that have been variously described as constituting Internet fragmentation and highlights 28 examples. A distinction is made between cases of technical, governmental and commercial fragmentation. The technical cases generally can be said to involve fragmentation “of” the Internet, or its underlying physical and logical infrastructures. The governmental and commercial cases often more directly involve fragmentation “on” the Internet, or the transactions and cyberspace it conveys, although they also can involve the infrastructure as well. With the examples cited placed in these three conjoined baskets, we can get a holistic overview of their nature and scope and more readily engage in the sort of dialogue and cooperation that is needed.

By addressing a constituency involved in the Internet’s “distributed collective management” it preserves (at least superficial) ideological neutrality.

Twelve “kinds of fragmentation” are enumerated:

1. Network Address Translation
2. IPv4 and IPv6 incompatibility and the dual-stack requirement
3. Routing corruption
4. Firewall protections
5. Virtual private network isolation and blocking
6. TOR “onion space” and the “dark web”
7. Internationalized Domain Name technical errors
8. Blocking of new gTLDs
9. Private name servers and the split-horizon DNS
10. Segmented Wi-Fi services in hotels, restaurants, etc.
11. Possibility of significant alternate DNS roots
12. Certificate authorities producing false certificates

The Internet has been implicitly conceived as the new Oecumene since its emergence. The globalist ideal has been almost wholly subsumed into it. Yet tidal trends — “technical, governmental and commercial” — are testing the assumptions underlying that conception, and converting them into objects of explicit attention. If the secularized Universal now finds its most compelling incarnation in the Idea of the Internet, the WEA report is bound to anticipate a wide swathe of 21st century discussions.

Brain-Net

… and suddenly, the age of the networked brain has arrived:

Miguel Nicolelis, the Duke University scientist behind the work, has previously pioneered the development of brain-machine interfaces that could allow amputees and paralysed people to directly control prosthetic limbs and exoskeletons. His latest advance may have clinical benefits in brain rehabilitation, he predicts, but could also pave the way for “organic computers” – collectives of animal brains linked together to solve problems. […] “Essentially we created a super-brain,” he said. “A collective brain created from three monkey brains. Nobody has ever done that before.” […] He dismissed comparisons with science fiction plots, however, saying: “We’re conditioned by movies and Hollywood to think that everything related to science is dangerous and scary. These scary scenarios never crossed my mind and I’m the one doing the experiments.”

Neural interface technology has been hurtling forwards recently. The step from lunatic science fiction speculation to established technoscientific procedure is increasingly taken in advance of any engaged discussion, without an interval for serious social reflection. That’s acceleration as it concretely happens. It’s not a new topic for prolonged thought, it’s the fact that the time for prolonged thought — and its associated space for collective ethico-political consideration — is no longer ever going to be available.