Why Humans Follow Techno Feudal Lords and Ladies

December 19, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Seduced By The Machine” is an interesting blend of human’s willingness to follow the leader and Silicon Valley revisionism. The article points out:

We’re so obsessed by the question of whether machines are rising to the level of humans that we fail to notice how the humans are becoming more like machines.

I agree. The write up offers an explanation — it’s arriving a little late because the Internet has been around for decades:

Increasingly we also have our goals defined for us by technology and by modern bureaucratic systems (governments, schools, corporations). But instead of providing us with something equally rich and well-fitted, they can only offer us pre-fabricated values, standardized for populations. Apps and employers issue instructions with quantifiable metrics. You want good health – you need to do this many steps, or achieve this BMI. You want expertise? You need to get these grades. You want a promotion? Hit these performance numbers. You want refreshing sleep? Better raise your average number of hours.


A modern high-tech pied piper leads many to a sanitized Burning Man? Sounds like fun. Look at the funny outfit. The music is a TikTok hit. The followers are looking forward to their next “experience.” Thanks, MSFT Copilot. One try for this cartoon. Good enough again.

The idea is that technology offers a short cut. Who doesn’t like a short cut? Do you want to write music in the manner of Herr Bach or do you want to do the loop and sample thing?

The article explores the impact of metrics; that is, the idea of letting Spotify make clear what a hit song requires. Now apply that malleability and success incentive to getting fit, getting start up funding, or any other friction-filled task. Let’s find some Teflon, folks.

The write up concludes with this:

Human beings tend to prefer certainty over doubt, comprehensibility to confusion. Quantified metrics are extremely good at offering certainty and comprehensibility. They seduce us with the promise of what Nguyen calls “value clarity”. Hard and fast numbers enable us to easily set goals, justify decisions, and communicate what we’ve done. But humans reach true fulfilment by way of doubt, error and confusion. We’re odd like that.

Hot button alert! Uncertainty means risk. Therefore, reduce risk. Rely on an “authority,” “data,” or “research.” What if the authority sells advertising? What if the data are intentionally poisoned (a somewhat trivial task according to watchers of disinformation outfits)? What if the research is made up? (I am thinking of the Stanford University president and the Harvard ethic whiz. Both allegedly invented data; both found themselves in hot water. But no one seems to have cared.

With smart software — despite its hyperbolic marketing and its role as the next really Big Thing — finding its way into a wide range of business and specialized systems, just trust the machine output. I went for a routine check up. One machine reported I was near death. The doctor was recommending a number of immediate remediation measures. I pointed out that the data came from a single somewhat older device. No one knew who verified its accuracy. No one knew if the device was repaired. I noted that I was indeed still alive and asked if the somewhat nervous looking medical professional would get a different device to gather the data. Hopefully that will happen.

Is it a positive when the new pied piper of Hamelin wants to have control in order to generate revenue? Is it a positive when education produces individuals who do not ask, “Is the output accurate?” Some day, dinobabies like me will indeed be dead. Will the willingness of humans to follow the pied piper be different?

Absolutely not. This dinobaby is alive and kicking, no matter what the aged diagnostic machine said. Gentle reader, can you identify fake, synthetic, or just plain wrong data? If you answer yes, you may be in the top tier of actual thinkers. Those who are gatekeepers of information will define reality and take your money whether you want to give it up or not.

Stephen E Arnold, December 19, 2023


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