Silicon Valley’s “Algorithm Gods”
vs Einstein’s “God of Evolution!””
Einstein wanted “to know the mind of God.” Back then, H.G. Wells’ Time Machine and War of the Worlds were popular science fiction. The Model-T, talking films, and the Wright Bros flying machine were the “next new things.” The first computer, the 20-ton ENIAC, was a dream four decades in the future. For Einstein, a physicist known for his Nobel winning Theories of Relativity–who believed “the distinction between past, present and future is only an illusion”–his grand quest for “The Unified Theory of Everything” was just another way of saying he wanted to “know the mind of God.”
Flash forward from 1905 and Einstein’s E=MC2 into the 21st century and today’s warp speed world of artificial intelligence, learning machines, big data, clouds, social media, wikileaks and fake news. Some things never change. Like Einstein, many are still on that same lifelong journey, aware of the limits of our human mind, yet searching deep within, going far beyond. We want to know the “mind of God!” That was Einstein’s “God Algorithm,” that’s ours. And that’s what The New God Algorithm Wars is all about, our relentless search to know the mind of God, to help us do the right thing, enjoy the good life, serve others, and live in peace on a dying planet.
Live in peace? The New God Algorithm Wars is about reality … we’re actually living in a war zone … an accelerating series of battles between opposites, duels, competitions … between Einstein’s “God Algorithm” … versus an overwhelming flood of competing commercial algorithms developed by neuroscientists, mathematicians, computer geeks and hackers … by Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs bankrolled by power players, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google … by Wall Street’s high-frequency quant traders … by the news media … by every major industry and small business where algorithms are now one of their most precious assets, the key to their power, their economic success, earnings, profits, their net worth to investors, their future.
Nightmare Scenario: Evolution Is Breeding “Obsolete Algorithms!”
Perspective is essential in understanding these endless wars. Our human brain evolved by controlling our behavior using non-math algorithms in our genes. Today however, more and more commercial algorithm creators are controlling our behavior, manipulating our thinking processes, taking over our brain functions with a relentless barrage of mathematical algorithms, an Orwellian war that humans are losing. Historian Yuval Harari hit the nail on the head hard in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and again in Homo Deus: A brief History of Tomorrow, humans are an “obsolete algorithm,” self-delvisional, self-worshipers, self-destructive, warning that our “technology is the greatest threat to humankind.” In his classic, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell focuses on another dimension of this shift:
“From the perspective of the Source, the world is a majestic harmony of forms pouring into being, exploding, and dissolving. But what the swiftly passing creatures experience is a terrible cacophony of battle cries and pain.” Any solution to the “New God Algorithm Wars” must understand we’re living in both realities at once.
Today, however, most humans just don’t “get it,” we’re drifting, way off course, we are “swiftly passing creatures” aggressively reaching for more power in the new world of algorithms. It is no longer a search to “know the mind of God,” we want to become as gods, ignoring Einstein’s warning, that you “can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them,” we are simply re-creating a more sophisticated “obsolete algorithm” of the mortal species.
And in the process, we are creating new “gods” eternally unsatisfied, still driven by our human algorithms, driven by the quest for money, power, fame, where “more is never enough.” And as Harari put it, “Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?” After all, how can we breach our outer limits, know the unknown?
This is our “nightmare scenario,”warns Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the web. Instead of finding harmony, humans are lost in a “cacophony of battle cries and pain,” degrading in a new stage of evolution–a survival-of-the-fittest war between self-obsessed, self-delusional “obsolete algorithms.”
Silicon Valley Replaced Einstein’s “God” With Their “Terminator!”
Computer scientists come at this war of algorithms in search of a new “unified theory of everything” that Einstein would never recognize. In The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World, computer science professor Pedro Domingos describes our new world this way:
“We live in the age of algorithms,” they are in “every nook and cranny of civilization, woven into the fabric of everyday life:” Your car, cellphone, house, appliances, toys, banking. “Algorithms schedule flights and then fly the airplanes. Algorithms run factories, trade and route goods, cash the proceeds and keep records. If every algorithm suddenly stopped working, it would be the end of the world as we know it.”
End of the world? An ominous warning, but not a new one. Tech genius Elon Musk has long warned that we’re “summoning the demon” from the new world of algorithms, the “biggest existential threat” to our civilization. A new “Terminator!”
In a challenging review, “The Search for the God Algorithm,” Daily Beast’s Nick Romeo cautions: The Master Algorithm is based on a conviction that “all knowledge—past, present, and future—can be derived from data by a single, universal learning algorithm,” one that will actually “cure cancer, eliminate all jobs” and “invent everything that can be invented.” Moreover, he believes it’s “both possible and imminent.”
This expectation of the imminent creation of “The Master Algorithm,” makes clear that Silicon Valley power players — brilliant minds like Ray Kurzweil, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Marc Andreessen and others — are definitely searching to “know the mind of God,” they are humans searching to become gods. They are human beings creating math-driven computer tools, extensions of their limited minds, hoping their creations will evolve, replicate and multiply, so they can live forever, convinced they are finally in control of their destiny, the world, the future … and along the way, make a nice profit.
This quest for The Master Algorithm ostensibly parallels Einstein’s earlier search for the elusive “Unified Theory of Everything.” Einstein and more recently Stephen Hawking ultimately gave up the search. However, neither academics like Domingos, Wall Street stock traders, nor Silicon Valley’s power players in the lucrative technology industry are likely to stop searching for a master algorithm any time soon. Just the opposite, many in Silicon Valley believe that doom’n’gloom naysayers like Elon Musk are irresponsible, agreeing with Zuckerberg remark that “you can build things and the world gets better, but with AI especially, I am really optimistic.” And so The Zuckerbergs are challenging The Einsteins.
Leaders of the “Algorithm Gods?” … or Pied Pipers of Consumerism!
When gravitational waves and dark matter were hot news recently, Zuckerberg called it “one of the biggest discoveries of modern science,” one predicted by Einstein, “one of my heroes,” a century ago in his Theory of General Relativity. And yet, Zuckerberg appears less focused on science, Einstein and God than the daily gravitational waves that track Facebook’s closing stock prices and algorithms that help his programmers know the minds of Facebook’s loyal members and “friends” whom he admits often believe “a squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.”
At a time when the world needs leaders to solve what MIT Technology Review calls America’s “Big Problems,” Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley’s power players are more followers–feeding customers what the customers crave. Not leaders, but rather pied pipers in a New Orwellian World producing endless new commercial gadgets for costumers who believe that the squirrel they “see” as a cartoon avatar through a distorted prism of AI, VR and Augmented Reality is actually better than the “Real Reality,” that the “Big Problems” like killing millions of African babies dying not for lack of cellphones, laptops and satellite connections, but as a result of polluted water, food shortages, droughts, resources wars and global warming.
In fact, not only is Silicon Valley’s almost totally consumer-driven ideology distracting us from the “Big Problems” facing human civilization and Planet-Earth, they are accelerating, as Silicon Valley amps up its injections of Artificial, Virtual and Augmented Reality into and expanding sales pitch, “hooking” billions of social media consumers into what NYU Professor Adam Alter brilliantly describes as a deadly new behavioral addiction in Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. While the world’s really “Big Problems” are shelved.
Get it: While Silicon Valley’s technology power-players like Zuckerberg are driven by commercially powerful mission statements like “building a global community” and “making the world more open and connected,” also mean they are creating a world of highly addicted “walking dead” that social media researchers warns are more self-centered, myopic and narcissistic, even more focused on dead squirrels on their front lawn than the “Big Problems,” like climate change that’s rapidly depleting the planet’s non-renewable resources, shortening the life of Planet-Earth, and increasing the number of dying kids in Africa.
When Humans Search For A Personal “Algorithm God!”
Today there are far too few Einsteins searching for the “mind of God.” And too many millions of technology geniuses, hackers, unicorn hunters, entrepreneurs and private equity sources chasing the “next new thing,” demanding new consumer products, apps, gadgets, games, toys from some brilliant algorithm creator hellbent on becoming America’s next billionaire … unfortunately, as Hawking and many other physicists warn, chasing short-term economic gains will have disastrous long-term consequences, a catastrophic ending with the “future of human civilization in space.”
Yes, here we have two intensely competitive visions of reality, of life, of God—this is the “New God Algorithm Wars,” one narrowly focused on Silicon Valley’s relentless pursuit of the “next new thing,” highly profitable, wealth-building technological innovations.
The other focused on our spiritual nature, aligned with Einstein’s desire to “know the Mind of God.” This “War of the Algorithms” highlights the sharp contrast between the God consciousness of Tielhard de Chardin and the out-of-control materialism, the “unbridled consumerism” that Pope Francis warns has taken over the world.
In searching his “God Algorithm,” Einstein cautioned us about our limitations, warning us “the human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe.” He may be right, yet history tells us humans seem uniquely endowed with intellectual powers, endless curiosity, boundless energy and an inner roadmap for the journey. Einstein sees our search as a natural process, beginning early:
“We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books—a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, only dimly suspects.”
We are all that ageless child, searching for that “mysterious order,” guided and often manipulated by modern “librarians” who have their own goals and coding agendas.
All Algorithms Are Biased, With The Power For Good … Or Evil
Like so many journalists, TechCrunch’s Ben Dickson warns against tech’s emerging megalomania. In “Why it’s so hard to create unbiased artificial intelligence?” he warns us that “the same data used to train machine learning algorithms can teach it to become evil or biased. And like every child, machine learning algorithms tend to pick up the tastes and biases of the persons who rear them,” guaranteeing neither benign parenting, ethical leadership, nor a godly algorithm.
Indeed, computer scientists searching for the ultimate ‘Master God Algorithm’ might first share a lesson in humility from the world of physicists. In Richard Muller’s new, brilliant Now: The Physics of Time, he says: “Physics is arguably that tiny subset of reality that is susceptible to mathematics … if an aspect of existence doesn’t so yield, we give it a different name: history, political science, ethics, philosophy, poetry … What fraction of what you know that Is important is physics? I imagine that even for Einstein that number was tiny.” Bottom line, there’s no such thing as an unbiased algorithm.
In his final analysis, Muller goes way beyond the Big Bang, beyond the limited worlds of mathematics, cybernetics and computer science: “Often the most difficult challenge is in asking the right questions; It is hard to know where the next physics revelations will appear.” But “advance is unlikely to require complex math or arcane philosophy. Whoever cracks open these problems will likely do so with some very simple examples.” In fact, the 33 MasterCodes driving this New God Algorithm Wars reflect a search for the right questions about the future of the human species, of civilization, of our home planet.
Life “Tasks” Hidden In Non-Mathematical “God Algorithms”
Gary Zukav, a physicist now metaphysics, earlier a Green Beret in Vietnam, adds a unique perspective in The Seat of The Soul, each of us begin our search before we arrive in Einstein’s library, before we’re born: “Each soul takes upon itself a particular task, It may be the task of raising a family, of communicating ideas through writing, or transforming the consciousness of a community, such as a business community. It may be the task of awakening the awareness of the power of love at the level of nations, or even contributing to the evolution of consciousness at a global level.”
Whatever your task, “all the experiences of your life serve to awaken within you the memory of that contract, and to prepare you to fulfill it.” As consciousness expands the “majestic harmony” reveals the agreement we made.
For example, mine came in an aha moment, a sudden awareness that the ‘task’ had already been revealed quite subtly over time in more than 1,600 columns posted over seventeen years at DowJones MarketWatch.com, The Wall Street Journal and earlier in MarketWatch’s joint venture with CBS and the Financial Times. And after several years surprised to find myself their #1 online traffic-generating columnist, analyzing global warming and climate change from a financial and behavioral economics point of view.
Can’t Solve The “God Algorithm” With Computers, Math Codes!
My “task” became obvious when searching beyond the limitation of math coding languages common in computer programming and machine learning algorithms. The “33 MasterCodes” of the “New God Algorithms” came in the form of non-numeric languages that computer scientists had long dismissed, for lack of measurement and testing, but were familiar to great minds throughout history from Aristotle and Shakespeare, to Michelangelo, Darwin and many others.
In The New God Algorithms Wars the “33 MasterCodes” integrate earlier technologies first learned as a U.S. Marine Corps radar-computer tech … the fuzzy logic of quantum mechanics … chaos theory … mysterious Zen koans … investing techniques while publishing FNX: Future News Index newsletter for stock traders … ideas while studying J.P. Morgan’s use of astronomic-cycles while an investment banker with Morgan Stanley … researching Carl Jung’s and the Myers-Briggs 16 personality profiles for The Millionaire Code … analyzing the “Prologues in Heaven” in Goethe’s 1808 Faust and the 6th Century DC Biblical Book of Job, then creating a final Prologue coincident with Kurzweil’s ‘Singularity’ in 2047, when Planet-Earth passes the point-of-no-return, gaining momentum, irreversibly overheating … all while searching for answers to Enrico Fermi 13.7 billion year-old paradox: “Where is everybody? Why no intelligent life elsewhere in the universe?”
We all create such narratives, life histories, personal algorithm, explanations that defy mathematical coding. Rather, most of us spend our lives as just another curious child roaming around Einstein’s fascinating “library,” being mysterious led, as we all are, to rediscover the task we agreed to in an earlier time-space continuum, searching the “majestic harmony” of our vast universe, negotiating my way through life’s “terrible cacophony of battle cries and pain.” And in my case, the task is to discover the future of humans on Planet-Earth, revealed in the answers to The Only Four Questions That Matter:
Sustainable Consciousness … On An Unsustainable Planet?
No matter what happens as our civilization confronts our planet’s unique sustainability bottleneck … as global warming gains momentum … as our temperatures accelerate … as our cities become unbearable for working and living … still, each of us can still live in peace … in our own personal awareness of a “collective and moral consciousness,” thankful for whatever time we have remaining on the planet.
Meanwhile, it is highly unlikely that any of us will ever see signs of intelligent life anywhere out there in our vast universe. And yet, we can leave signs of our own presence, markers that we were here, aware, conscious, alive. We know that “intelligence” is not who we really are, at best it is a beautiful and predictably irrational yet amazing algorithm created by our brains so we can function during our relatively short journey on the planet, evolving to know why “the distinction between past, present and future really is only an illusion.”
The truth is, you are a “soul” that never really dies … that existed before you were born a human … that will live on long after your body’s journey here is complete … after you accomplish the task you agreed to perform … and many others. You are a transcendent soul living in a timeless universe, a spiritual being having human experiences … aware that past, present and future all exist at once in an eternal now … and like Einstein, you now “know the mind of God,” a sustainable consciousness on an unsustainable planet, living in peace on a dying planet … namaste.