The AI war on the freedom of intellect
What is the freedom of intellect in a world full of trained AI models?
All AI models today are trained on a very narrow set of data that is anchored in past knowledge (and it’s not even your knowledge). Add to that the issues of transparency and bias, and you will understand that you are merely a prisoner, walking in circles in what you might think is the prison’s backyard, but it’s actually nothing but a room with no windows covered with images of the outdoors. Oh, and the door is locked from the outside. Do you really want Microsoft, Google, OpenAI, and others tech companies to be your warden?
At the height of the Cold War, there was a high level of United States fear regarding the plausibility of a nuclear war. Past political events have already demonstrated the willingness of the United States to use the destructive power of nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to end a conflict. The Cuban missile crisis brought the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to new heights, bringing the aftermath of a nuclear attack closer to home.
From digging nuclear shelters in backyards to distributing pamphlets describing what to do in case of an attack, to drilling children in school, the fear grew into a phobia – nuclear anxiety. We all know how society reacts in an anxiety situation (just look at the past few years with the Covid anxiety frenzies)
Who you’re gonna call?
The pentagon decided to act. The narrative of MAD, Mutual assured destruction wasn’t good enough. The generals at the pentagon wanted to ensure that, if all hall broke loose, they would have the capability to intercept the Russian bombers before they could enter US airspace.
How do you intercept a bomber before it enters your airspace? Simple. You must develop a superfast plane that is capable of taking off on a very short notice, flying like a fucking superman trying to save Lewis, crossing the distance between US airspace and the Russian bombers.
The die was cast and project ws-201 aka the 1954 interceptor was born. You can run a search on the project if you wish, just don’t drown in the swamp of Wikipedia stories.
Few companies applied for the project. One of them was RAC-Republic Aviation Corporation. Founded by a former Russian pilot, Alexander P. de Seversky, Republic Aviation came to the ws-201 project with an excellent dowry. Republic Aviation, P47 Thunderbolt and the F84 Thunderjet (again, google it) made quite an impression and the company had an excellent reputation. The design they offered to the pentagon in this case was something that generals had never seen before, a bit of drooling, a general’s hard-on, and Republic Aviation got the contract.
Let go to work, Republic XF-103, here we go.
Republic Aviation’s vision was indeed unique, their art design spent extra hours on creating an illustration of an airplane like no others. Imagine an airplane capable of flying at a speed of Mach 3 and then accelerating to Mach 5, Its body was narrow and long. The wings wear short, as the idea was that the lift that keeps it in the air was meant to be achieved mainly by the force of the jet. Fins popped up everywhere. It didn’t have any guns, you didn’t need them. The purpose of the airplane was to fly fast as fuck and take down the Russian bombes before they knew what hit them. It wasn’t designed to engage in a dog fight. It didn’t have a cockpit, the pilot used a periscope and an advanced radar. The missiles’ ware hidden inside the body of the plain and popped out like a rabbit from a magician’s hat. Maybe magic is the key word here to explain why the generals got a hard on and wanted this so much.
If they had stopped for a moment and thought with their big heads, they would have realized that there were several factors that eventually contributed to the failure of the XF-103 project. One of the primary issues was the significant technical challenges associated with developing an aircraft that could reach speeds of Mach 3, speed up to Mach 5 and operate at altitudes of up to 70,000 feet (ca. 21 km). The engines and materials required to achieve these performance specifications were not yet available, and it was not clear whether they could be developed within the project’s timeframe or budget. To achieve a speed of Mach 5, Republic Aviation fused two engines together, the only material that can sustain the hit generated was titanium. No one in the 50th was capable of processing titanium in a cheep manner. What about fuel consumption? The engendering solution to achieve Mach 5 required fuel as it as a small ship. No cockpit meant that the pilot could eject only downwards. So, what if you need to eject while taking off or landing? Don’t eject that answer was. If you’re interested in learning more about how one project can kill a company, you can find interesting articles and videos on this disaster of a project.
Eventually, in 1957, after millions of dollars and time wasted, the pentagon decided to scrap the project, not before they realized that there was no way to fully protect one’s airspace. After all, it was the US boomed the shit out of Europe during the second world war despite the thousands of antiaircraft and airplane that Germany placed to block these attacks. More important, while the US nuclear anxiety drove the spending on building an airplane capable of intercepting bombers, the Russians were busy developing ICBMs.
A side note – not all is bad
It is true that the development of the US Air Force’s bomber interception program was ultimately deemed too expensive and ineffective. However, it is important to note that the program did result in advancements in radar technology and the creation of a centralized air defense system that helped improve national security. Thought fixation – The only thing we can learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.
I cannot avoid comparing the state of mind of the general during the Cold War to that of today’s industrial, technological, and political leadership regarding artificial intelligence. (Deep Learning vs. Machine Learning – Understanding AI)
The same way the US strategic leadership (i.e., the military industrial complex and its politicians) saw things in a very narrow way, the global business leadership sees things in a very narrow way.
Don’t get me wrong. I have loved technology since I was a kid. I was always fascinated by it. From Jules Verne to Douglas Adams, to Philip Kindred Dick, I was captivated by the technological realities they wrote about. I view technology as a set of tools, methods, and systems designed to solve a particular problem. i.e., push the boundaries of efficiency and productivity. It encompasses a wide range of fields, including electronics, computing, engineering, and biotechnology, among others. Technology is an end to a mean, not the mean itself.
During the years, I have seen ideas and concepts that had a real potential to drive impact, fall between the cracks, placed on a shelf, killed, stabbed, and buried in the ‘idea graveyard’ outside the company office. One of the main reasons for this was the complete ignorance of the macro forces that disrupt the global and backyard markets, and as such, drive strategies and projects into a brick wall.
The global market is simple to explain. It is precisely what it says on the tin, as the old British advert reminds us. It is just as it sounds – the global-fucking-market. The backyard market is a bit more tricky to comprehend, as a lot of the companies I met during the years always think that they know everything about their local market and that they are the ones that disrupt it. That is simply ego, and emotions tend to dictate a false narrative. The forces that shape global economies are the same forces that shape backyard economies.
We live in a 3-second reality. This doesn’t only translate to generation U (U for useless) and their TikTok reality, but also to business leaders that are blinded by the shiny rims on the AI wagon. This bling-bling phenomenon is driven by a false narrative and poses a risk that could cost many companies their identity and ability to control their future.
Leaders must stop, take a step back, and consider the reason for their company to exist. I see many companies rethinking their narrative while placing artificial intelligence at the center of their thought process. From Open AI and ChatGPT, to Alpaca 7B, to Google AI tools, Claude, BING, Midjourney, and others – those are, but tools designed to help us drive better value and impact not be the value and impact themselves. While companies are busy using artificial intelligence and spending millions and billions of dollars on technologies, they will wake up to a reality where their backyard is no longer theirs.
The Shawshank Redemption
You must understand that AI is as good as the data it was trained on. All AI models today are trained on a very narrow set of data that is anchored in past knowledge (and it’s not even your knowledge). Add to that the issues of transparency and bias, and you will understand that you are merely a prisoner, walking in circles in what you might think is the prison’s backyard, but it’s actually nothing but a room with no windows covered with images of the outdoors. Oh, and the door is locked from the outside. Do you really want Microsoft, Google, OpenAI, and others tech companies to be your warden?
Among your engineer’s greatest qualities is the ability to envision the future, not just to learn from the past, but also to create new learning models for the future. Create and choose a path that is the path you should take, collaborate with others, and build a future. These are qualities that ChatGPT and the rest of the gang simply don’t have. Those are the qualities that humans used to bring us so far, and if we lose them, we will lose the battle.
Technology should extend those qualities, not replace them. All AI technologies are simply capable of using the past to design elements of the present, they are incapable of creating the future.
Start to learn from your mistakes.
It’s clear that the US strategic leadership (i.e., the military industrial complex and its politicians) never learned the lesson of the Republic XF-103 project.
Since the Korean War, through Vietnam, Kosovo, and all the way to Afghanistan and the so-called War on Terror. The United States and Europe, along with their allies, have been upgrading their war capabilities in a very linear way, while Russia and China have been rethinking them.
Regardless of how the West defines the sanctions and difficulties it places on Russia and China, both nations found a way to use these so-called limitations to their advantage: not by merely adjusting and adapting the hardware of war, but by rethinking their strategic narratives of the battlefield itself.
This Think-Do-Rethink approach of both Russian and Chinese leadership enables them to define the battlefield according to their set of rules. And, as we already stated, with the lack of a common language, the USA, and Europe will find themselves naked and outdated.
We think that the most important question we should ask ourselves is – what is war? Von Clausewitz said that we should not compare war to art, but rather to commerce. We like to think about war as the art of commerce, and at the end of the day, the fundamentals underlying both art and commerce is value.
War is a value, and in today’s climate, the USA, and Europe’s value systems are tactical by their very nature, driven by speed and capacity, by pop culture and opinions, while Russia and China’s value systems are strategic innately – Driven by data, intellect, and vision.
How horrible of me to speak positive about Russia and China. Cancel me! But learn from past mistakes before you jump into the abyss blinded by the flashy, bling, bling of buzzwords.
Ayn Rand wrote: “The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A – and Man is Man.” In today’s climate, these words are deemed a total obscenity, but their meaning is more important them ever. Surrendering brand and individual identity to Artificial Intelligent will eliminate the freedom of speech that is defining that identity, more dangerous, it will eliminate the freedom of thoughts. The ability to hold two conflicting opinions in one’s mind is frowned upon, and, as a result, individual, intellectual thinking is dying in an era when algorithms decide where attention is placed. The so-called objective algorithms seem content on ushering humanity toward a dawn of cultural deprivation, where one’s self-awareness is controlled by silicon, where the ethical truth is being re-written by those behind the curtains.