chaos is human – order is machine

Is it possible that we have yet to see breakthroughs in artificial general intelligence – or AGI – because machines are the epitome of order and humans are the epitome of chaos, and until machines can handle chaos, then they can never be human – or human-like?

I’ve been reading a tome called Seeing Like A State, a fascinating book (it’s on my 2021 book recommendation list) that tries to unpack why so many attempts to organize and improve a lot of humanity tend to fail.

The thesis is that every attempt to improve humanity tend to fail because the organization which is attempting to do the organizing – be it a government, organization, or corporation, is always attempting to develop systems which make it easier for the organization to provide the help that it wishes to provide.

Instead of delivering the promised help by going to the humans who need the help and helping them in the way they wish to be helped, they build systems that make it easier for them to help the humans, then try to shoehorn the humans into this orderly organization.

Examples aplenty are in the book (everything from the concepts and the failure of Brasilia – the purported “city of the future” built by Brazil to house their government, to how Lenin and the other Soviet revolutionaries were attempting to create workers paradise), but let me provide one of my own. Let’s say, for example; you wanted to help the homeless, you could:

  1. Give the homeless food, meds, and better shelter where they are, which requires physically going to all of the places they currently are and giving it to them.
  2. Build a community of tiny homes and physically move the homeless into them because it would be easier to help them if they were all in the same place near the helping organization

Which sounds better to you? This type of activity extends to business as well – how many times do businesses make their customers jump through hoops that the business has put in place to make it easier for the business to do business? Do you go where your customer is, or do you force him to come to you?

There are plenty of parallels here. One of the main reasons organizations wish to “organize” their customers is to make it easy on themselves, not on their customers. The state doesn’t encourage the building of uniform, grid pattern cities to make it easier for the humans to live in them – it does it to make it easier to label, process, track and tax them.

But does it tell them that? No, the state expounds on the benefits of organizing to make it easier for humans to get services and things, but in reality, the side effects are worse than the benefits.

Humans have been self-organizing forever, so while it may look like chaos from the outside – it’s actually very effective.

We need to “get over” the way things look and focus on how they work, therefore building more human systems.


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