What occurs when physical beings transition to information beings?
You are standing in front of Deep Thought, as in the AI in HitchHicker Guide to the Galaxy. You are tasked with asking the famous question. “What is the answer to the world, the universe and everything?” In Douglas Adams original work, Deep Thought responds by saying, “it will take some time”; before coming back sometime later with the answer “42.” However, this is when data was a statistic, and we were “physical beings” who had not considered what experience would emerge as data became dynamic and we transitioned to “information beings.”
In our new context as informational beings, Deep Thought would not just take our question, go off to think about it but would respond. Deep Thought would do what we do and ask for clarification and to check the understanding of the question. I can imagine Deep Thought asking, “I just wanta check what you mean by ‘the answer to the world the universe and everything’ and do you want a brave answer, comfortable, or courageous answer? I can do a kind, generous or safe one too? What type of answer do you want?”
This is the problem we are facing. The questions that we have learnt for governance and oversight over millennia were fabulous to determine who decides, and who decides who decides in a physical world. It was where a human was held responsible and accountable. The issue of oversight becomes very differnt when we have automation and machines/ AI make decisions for us, how do we know who decides? Our questions will not cut it.
When we apply our old governance, old oversight, old accountable models and old frameworks to new problems, it feels like there is a disconnect and there is a level of dysfunctionality as the old model was not designed for the new problems. There is a forward capability; insomuch that old problems can be addressed better on the new systems, but the old systems cannot help solve or answer new questions. There is a backwards capability issue (not backwards compatibility), just like you cannot run the latest software on the early computers.
We appear to be right now lost (which the media portrays as division or civilisation collapse creating divides to gain clicks and generate revenue). In reality, we are transitioning from "Physical" to "Information" beings. I take comfort that the best minds at MIT cannot decide either: Atoms to Bits OR Bits to Atoms. We know if MIT is wrestling, then we are in a transition.
The transition to information beings is reaching a chasm or hurdle, as the old model, which we depended on for governance and oversight, is at the edge of its limits. Data can perfectly tell us how effective and efficient everything is, including the deviance to plan, but data could not tell us if the plan was right or if we are doing the right thing, efficacy. We depended on the oversight model of humans for this. The former, efficiency, is easy, the latter being really quite tricky as it is so contextual to the moment in time and values/ principles we currently hold. Data can tell us from where we came, our models based on said data can suggest where we will go, but as yet, we cannot determine if we should. As an adventurer, I tend to do it anyway, ignoring should, because it is there, and my scars are evidence that it does not always work out well.
The data, models, algorithms, ML and AI we have now created are capable of informing us if it is the right thing to do, but how do we know?
Writing things down, TV, Radio, Social media, books, screens, and printing created threats to established power structures that the old system of control adapted to embrace the new technology over time. However, I believe that the current oversight, governance, compliance and regulatory controls, which are based on the last 5000 years of adaption as physical beings, which are not bad in truth, CANNOT adapt to the next evolution from physical to information. Indeed our infrastructure gave rise to data, which is creating us as information beings. Our current models of helping us determine if we are doing the right thing fall apart as we evolve to become information beings because of a shift in power and control. Our current oversight was not designed for autonomous decision-making by a non-human, and whilst the old methods have adopted too many situations, this move to information beings appears, right now, to break the capabilities of current governance.
We feel the gap when we read the news but don’t as yet have the language or words to describe it. We deny and hide from this reality by focussing on back to normal growth and trying to create new models.
Governance follows change; it does not lead to a change. Governance and oversight help set up stability when we arrive at a new place. It is a flywheel for path dependency until someone breaks the axel. We are lucky to be alive now, seeing and witnessing this transition and can apply our minds to support this.
as physical beings over generations, we learn that
power and control matter
monopoly and scale in a vertical matter
accountable and responsible limited to the very narrow works, and we can ignore any wider consequences
relationships have limited context
values and principles change slowly, allowing for rules to create an impression of stability
governance and oversight work to determine if we are doing the right thing by slowing decision time, filtering noise and hierarchy to create signals
as informational beings, we have not quite worked out the new game, however;
information and data must have attestation and rights as they matter
real-time learning models with computational power really matters
dependent and inter-dependence ecosystems ensure consequences matter
commons and the quality of the human experience on earth matter
collective and individual accountability and responsibility enable oversight in real-time
I believe we feel lost and vulnerable as we are starting to see that our lack of diversity, biased education, retention of power and control mechanisms, along with oversight and governance, worked for some of us some of the time as physical beings. However, they are not suitable when we arrive at "information beings," wanting everything to work for most people most of the time. Utopia is still a dream. We are at the start of a journey, and right now, we lack language, words, stories, rhetoric, meaning, models, structures, frameworks and a north star.
We know that growth fuels increasing salaries which is a mechanism for control by creating more debt, as you can borrow more. Growth hides and maintains the lie about change for longer. It is the flywheel. Increasing lifestyles create more people who have to remain aligned, the balance of sufficient salary to have enough debt that you remain conformist and will do as needed. Data means we can now pick up signals from employees about who is a conformist because of debt/ trapped. They are the easiest to corrupt, will be the weak link in the security chain, allows someone to control or exert undue influence - keep the model and the belief. The wheels are coming off, and the axels are breaking.
What happens when AI (who is not paid) and is not aligned to the power plays makes decisions for the best outcome. How will you control the AI, like we use salary for humans?
Such interesting times