(2023-06-23) Davies Its All Artificial

Dan Davies: it's all artificial. I recommend you all to read this essay in The Economist by Farrell & Shalizi. ((2023-06-21) Farrell Shalizi Artificial Intelligence Is A Familiar-looking Monster)

the idea that organisations (corporations, states, bureaucracies in general) are themselves forms of artificial intelligence (AI).

nobody is really prepared to say that General Motors is literally an intelligent agent, potentially capable of feeling remorse or joy. But, as Stafford Beer used to say, there is an important sense in which “The Purpose Of A System Is What It Does” (POSIWID); you can be agnostic about inner states and still say that if something behaves so as to achieve particular outcomes, and adjusts its organisation to maintain this outcome-directed behaviour in a changing world, it’s acting in a way that is reasonable to describe in the same sorts of language you use to describe a person with goals

mainly talking about the relationship between these jokily-attributed, not-quite artificial intelligences, and the normal kind like ChatGPT.

I think they’ve got that relationship spot-on; the robots are likely to become our colleagues not our overlords.

They will become our colleagues and our middle managers, because they do the same thing as us. (middle management)

*In a recent post about history, I tried to introduce a concept that Stafford Beer calls "variety amplification." (cf Law Of Requisite Variety)

The simple example would be that of an annoying boss, who realises that “saying no” is a cognitively cheap operation compared to “making a useful suggestion”, and consequently spends the whole working day forcing his subordinates to come up with ideas until they find one he likes. (Bring me a rock)

AI and management are doing a lot of the same thing – they are techniques for taking unimaginably huge lumps of information and (literally) making them manageable.

Even people who hate management science often have a soft spot for Alfred Chandler. In his book “Strategy and Structure”, in the course of a history of the development of the modern American corporation, he formed a theory that (massive oversimplification incoming) the one determines the other – companies (and by extension, bureaucracies in general) restructure and reorganise themselves because they have strategic goals (either explicit or emergent), and in order to achieve these goals, they need to be able to handle their flow of information.

Consequently, the best organisational structure at any given time – which you’d guess would be the one that organisations would tend to under mild pressure – will very much depend on what other techniques of information handling are available.

the current generation of AI should be seen first and foremost as a new technique for the amplification of management capacity. And this means that it’s likely to drive significant organisational change.

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