“Machines Are Not Capable of Creativity”

(p. A11) New York
“I rarely have an urge to whisper,” says George Gilder–loudly–as he settles onto a divan by the window of his Times Square hotel room. I’d asked him to speak as audibly as possible into my recording device, and his response, while literal, could also serve as a metaphor: Nothing Mr. Gilder says or writes is ever delivered at anything less than the fullest philosophical decibel.
. . .
Citing Claude Shannon, the American mathematician acknowledged as the father of information theory, Mr. Gilder says that “information is surprise. Creativity always comes as a surprise to us. If it wasn’t surprising, we wouldn’t need it.” However useful they may be, “machines are not capable of creativity.” Human minds can generate counterfactuals, imaginative flights, dreams. By contrast, “a surprise in a machine is a breakdown. You don’t want your machines to have surprising outcomes!”
The narrative of human obsolescence, Mr. Gilder says, is giving rise to a belief that the only way forward is to provide redundant citizens with some sort of “guaranteed annual income,” which would mean the end of the market economy: . . .
. . .
For all the gloom about Silicon Valley that appears to suffuse his new book, Mr. Gilder insists that he’s not a tech-pessimist. “I think technology has fabulous promise,” he says, as he describes blockchain and cryptocurrency as “a new technological revolution that is rising up as we speak.” He says it has generated “a huge efflorescence of peer-to-peer technology and creativity, and new companies.” The decline of initial public offerings in the U.S., he adds, has been “redressed already by the rise of the ICO, the ‘initial coin offering,’ which has raised some $12 billion for several thousand companies in the last year.”
It is clear that Mr. Gilder is smitten with what he calls “this cryptographic revolution,” and believes that it will heal some of the damage to humanity that has been inflicted by the “machine obsessed” denizens of Silicon Valley. Blockchain “endows individuals with control of their data, their identity, the truths that they want to assert, their transactions, their visions, their content and their security.” Here Mr. Gilder sounds less like a tech guru than a poet, and his words tumble out in a romantic cascade.

For the full interview, see:
Tunku Varadarajan, interviewer. “Sage Against the Machine; A leading Google critic on why he thinks the era of ‘big data’ is done, why he opposes Trump’s talk of regulation, and the promise of blockchain.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018): A11.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the interview has the date Aug. 31, 2018.)

The “new book” by Gilder, mentioned above, is:
Gilder, George. Life after Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 2018.

One thought on ““Machines Are Not Capable of Creativity””

  1. The “Machines Are Not Capable of Creativity” argument and the no-human-obsolescence argument seem to talk directly past each other. After all, the present-day world is stuffed to the brim (and well beyond) with government and other regulations expressly designed to suppress “creativity” at all cost, in the name of “safety”. That is, in a context of irrationally radical risk aversion – the quest for absolutely zero risk – the societal “we” often seek to rid ourselves of “creativity”.

    Thus, “creativity” has become largely restricted to a minuscule minority (further shrunken by metastasizing copyright and patent regulations that concentrate funds ever more narrowly), and/or, sometimes, to tasks that matter little, such as entertainment. Most “jobs” or “gigs” are left as tightly controlled drone work. “True” artificial intelligence is thus utterly unnecessary to obsolete most of the humans performing them. “Big Data” and “Big Software” will completely suffice. (The last thing you want in a self-driving taxi, or even in a political-correctness-driven professorship, is “true” AI: at least for now, it would be a lawsuit magnet, far too unpredictable.)

    With the definition of “safety” steadily metastasizing to include even the most utterly trivial discomforts (viz. the campus ‘snowflakes’), the only excuse left for most jobs to exist might be a desire for “the human touch”. Indeed, the lack of said touch is one complaint about kiosks that replace restaurant counter clerks or waiters.

    But once the primary justification for jobs to exist is to enable the most affluent to go on receiving “the human touch” – i.e. to enable them to pull rank – the process will not end well. People hate to be on the receiving end of rank-pulling. We will become stuck with either a guaranteed-income approach, or else a widespread, intensely Luddite reaction.

    This is all destined to become “interesting” – but likely, alas, mainly in the accursed sense.

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