Notes On Attention Paid

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Analogia, George Dyson 02

… at last, we get to an idea of intelligent and evolving machines…

Erewhon contained three central massages: machine intelligence will supervene upon human intelligence as surely as our own intelligence supervened upon that of our individual cells; self reproduction is inevitable once evolution takes hold among machines; and there is no future in trying to turn back the clock.1

… and, quoting Canon Thomas Butler…

Our plan is to turn man’s besotted enthusiasm to our own advantage, to make him develop us to the utmost, and find himself enslaved unawares2

… and…

Butler concluded that it was impossible to draw a precise distinction between living and nonliving things, or to give a precise definition of life that would not, sooner or later, include machines. “Then only thing of which I am sure,” he argued in 1880, “is that the distinction between the organic and inorganic is arbitrary; that it is more coherent with our other ideas, and therefore more acceptable, to start with every molecule as a living thing, and then deduce death as the breaking up of an association or corporation, than to start with inanimate molecules and smuggle life into them.”3

… and this…

Automata, advertising, and natural selection are an explosive mix. Google’s introduction of AdWords, nonetizing not just language, already coded, but also meaning, not fully coded yet, was the equivalent of Lee de Forest’s introducing the control grid into Fleming’s vacuum tube. Internet advertising drives a global high-gain amplifier connecting the reward sought by computers (more machine cycles and instructions) to the reward sought by humans (more of the stimulation now returned with every click). We set loose an evolutionary system that rewards machines that learn to control both how we feel and what we think4


  1. George Dyson, Analogia, The Emergence of Technology Beyond Programmable Control [return]
  2. Ibid [return]
  3. Ibid [return]
  4. Ibid [return]