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Samizdata quote of the day – Dipshit: a form of the planner’s delusion

I was actually there when Boris (Yeltsin) freed food prices. Replacing that planned, understood, thing with the complexity – and the impossibility of understanding its complexity – of the market is exactly what filled the shops with food.

Now do you see the point here? The dipshittiness of the basic demand being made about AI? The lawyer is saying that unless we already understand it all we shouldn’t be using it. But the entire point of the use of these complex not-understood things is that we don’t, in fact, know how it all works. Therefore we use this miracle thing to work it out for us.

To say that we can’t use AI until we know what the result will be is the same as saying we’ve got to use economic planning because we don’t know what the market outcome will be. We’ve even that long experiment – the 20th Century – to tell us how that worked out. Those who didn’t use the not-understood complexity remained shit poor.

Tim Worstall

21 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – Dipshit: a form of the planner’s delusion

  • Paul Marks

    Tragically Boris Yeltsin also followed the policy of Credit Money expansion (even financing the other Republics – not just Russia) and Credit Bubble banking.

    He did not intend to do harm, but he followed the “advice” of Keynesians and pro bankers (pro bankers go back long before the late Lord Keynes) sent over by the Western powers – and the result was a terrible tragedy – massive inflation and savage poverty for most Russians.

    To mention Boris Yeltsin without mentioning the terrible suffering of the period plays-into-the-hands of those people who want to pretend that fiat money and Credit Bubble banking are “free market Capitalism” – this discredits free market Capitalism (which is NOT fiat money and Credit Bubble banking).

    Mr Putin used the disaster of the Yeltsin period to usher in his own statism – but the Yeltsin period was (again) not one of free market capitalism – it was a period of fiat money and Credit Bubble banking.

  • Ofnir

    To mention Boris Yeltsin without mentioning the terrible suffering of the period plays-into-the-hands of those people who want to pretend that fiat money and Credit Bubble banking are “free market Capitalism” – this discredits free market Capitalism (which is NOT fiat money and Credit Bubble banking).

    Oh FFS. He introduced markets to a previously total command economy. The rest is gravy. Nowhere in the linked article is the suggestion Yeltsin introduced “free market capitalism”

    To mention Boris Yeltsin without mentioning the terrible suffering of the period…

    That’s not what the article’s about, Yeltsin is not the central point, just a reference. Brevity & succinctness, you should try it.

  • Paul Marks

    Ofnire – no I should not try it.

    Because it was not “brevity and succinctness” – it was horribly misleading, it implied that policy under Mr Yeltisn was a success, when, in reality, it was a terrible failure – and tragically led to the very idea of liberty being discredited in Russia. The policy followed was not free market at all (as I explained), but someone reading the post would think it was – which plays into the hands of Mr Putin.

    Perhaps you, Ofnir, should try not being a shit.

  • Paul Marks

    If someone wants to give an example of the successful removal of price controls – I would suggest Germany in the late 1940s.

    This policy in Germany went hand-in-hand with strict monetary and fiscal polices – just about the opposite of what happened under President Yeltsin in Russia in the 1990s.

  • Ofnir

    it was horribly misleading, it implied that policy under Mr Yeltisn was a success, when, in reality, it was a terrible failure

    So you’re saying food production went DOWN after Yeltsin’s reforms? There were LESS consumer goods?

  • NickM

    I have played a lot with AI over the last few months.It is spooky as Hell. Go to NightCafe and see my creations. I create as “Nick M” (@NickM) They are varied. Nobody really understands it nor (I suspect can they – in principle) especially as it gets more sophisticated. The lawyer is in effect saying it should be banned or regulated to buggery and in the hands of the “wise monkeys” and not us plebs. I would hate that to happen because this is potentially as big a phase-change as the World Wide Web or Guttenberg or Ugg first decorating the cave. It’s way too important a genie to be kept by the Grand Viziers in a bottle. At the least we lose a spectacular opportunity. At worst our Lords and Masters decide to use it for our own good…

    Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.

    -C S Lewis

    PS. If you do look at my stuff comments and “loves” would be very nice.

    PPS. Nightcafe runs a very tight ship as to NSFW (which they allow at the PG-13 level!) and is a really nice online community. It is not deep-fake kiddie porn and all the things our moral guardians like to say AI imagery is used for. Here’s one of mine. Check out the rest and everyone else’s. But be warned! Some folks do a lot of kittens…

  • Jon Mors

    the entire point of the use of these complex not-understood things is that we don’t, in fact, know how it all works

    Like the covid ‘vaccines’? Or, for that matter, covid?

    I think there is a difference between letting people be free to organise their own affairs, and letting people be free to unleash new and poorly understood technologies on the world.

    Yes, if way back when in stone age there was a ‘department of wheel regulation’, most likely we would still be trapped in the stone age. But no matter how overused it has been, the precautionary principle is not entirely without merit.

  • Kirk

    Strikes me that there’s something of a difference between implementing well-known principles of the free market traditional economic system and doing whatever the ‘effing hell it is that they’re doing with Artificial Intelligence.

    I remain unconvinced that we even know what intelligence is in human beings, and I certainly am not convinced that these hotbox artificial versions are going to be much better.

    From what I’ve seen, all the current AI models do is basically automate navel-gazing; there’s damn little actual synthesis of novel concepts or solutions. From appearances, we are falling into a set of fallacies about what intelligence actually is. It is not the sort of thing that I see coming out of the various AI sources, which are being “trained” by exposure to human-created information models. I’ve yet to see someone letting an AI loose on the actual natural environment and then seeing what happens; it’s all derivative and based on previous human endeavor. As such, the current set of things is mostly “garbage in; garbage out”.

    What I’m getting at here is that they’ve created a bunch of tools to go over what’s actually already been done. You’re going to see a whole lot of copy/paste and some genuine new synthesis come from heretofore unrecognized connections that the programs discover, and that’s about it.

    When they’ve created something that will go out and explore on its own, absent the “human spark”, and which can truly work within the environment to find new and undiscovered facts about our universe, let me know. As it is, these constructs are basically adjuncts to the human mind, not truly “intelligent” in the sense of something that isn’t human-connected.

    This is rather akin to the animal world; domesticated dogs are noble creatures in their own right, but the reality with them is that they’re creations of man, through thousands of generations of highly selective breeding. As such, they’re inevitably reflections of us, in all our flawed glory. Just about everything on the planet is the same, thanks to human intervention and all that goes with it. However, comma… We can get glimpses of genuine independent sentience in some members of the animal kingdom, specifically in the apes and a few others. I’m thinking here of that infamous experiment where the behaviorists stuck a group of chimps into a cage with six different escape paths built into it, and the chimps found a seventh, eighth, and ninth that the grad students hadn’t recognized. That’s an example of an independent intelligence, to a degree; a Border Collie herding sheep through a complex maze of lanes and pastures is demonstrating the other kind of intelligence, the sort that current AI is, basically reflecting human intelligence and sensibilities back at us.

    We’ve yet to really create something new and independent, to my way of thinking about the issue. When we do? That’ll be an interesting moment, for all concerned. I’m not sure that we’ll ever actually do it, to be honest. I don’t know that we’re really capable of being able to conceive of an outside-human-context intelligence, which you’d pretty much have to be able to do in order to even begin work on creating such a thing.

    Modern AI is to actual intelligence as flint-knapping is to advanced CNC toolmaking, and just like how you can’t build a damn tool to do something you haven’t even conceptualized yet, the AI systems are merely going to reflect our thoughts back at us.

    I think it’d be a lot more likely to develop AI from setting the algorithms loose on the natural environment, without any human input at all, as though they were independent organic entities, rather than having them delve through the detritus of centuries of human thought the way we are. All you’re going to get, going down that path, is more humanity in all of its checkered glory.

  • NickM

    Intelligence, “real” or “AI” is essentially unknowable. A Swiss Army knife is a handy tool put you can’t take it apart with itself. AI is spooky because of this. Should we be scared? I think so (that’s half the fun, right?) but I seriously don’t think the fears usually raised are the ones to really worry about. All the “Matrix” inspired doom-mongering is predictable nonsense. What is concerning is the effect AI might have on maths and science because AI doesn’t and can’t in any humanly understandable way show it’s working. Remember maths teachers getting all on their high horses about “showing your working”. There is a reason for that and AI can’t do it.

    Anyway, flint knapping is highly skilled. Move a bit further and a meddieval fletcher was doing something technically much more skillful than the average munitions worker of today.

    The idea that AI is merely a mirror of us is interesting. You make a good point there but then I do suspect there is a lot to be gained from something that recombines existing concepts in different ways. More importantly this is an argument for a free for-all rather than regulation. I’d much rather AI was taking cues from all and sundry rather than being “guided” by our so-called “elites”. I have used Quora’s Poe for questions on computing and Poe is on the money. Helped me make a lot of good decisions building systems. I don’t want, I dunno, AI to have to get all PC (not the computer sense of “PC”!) on me and reporting me to a re-education camp as being “overly binary” for using the words “male” and “female” in the context of computer ports!

  • Alex

    The capitalism vs socialism debate nearly always misses the point, both sides are addicted to force and control and the idea that someone has to control things. The communists and socialists accuse the pro-market side of wanting nothing more than to enrich the few at the expense of the many, the pro-market side rightfully point out that socialism/communism doesn’t work. Unfortunately though very few ordinary people understand the real underlying dynamics. They repeatedly fall victim to the idea that someone must be in control of things, they only differ on who that should be.

    Economic fallacies are so widespread it is essentially hopeless at this point. In the west, an alarming number of people lack even basic mental arithmetic skills so it’s tricky to see how they can be communicated with effectively on more subtle and complex ideas.

  • Ferox

    People in the West are enamored of the concept of “fairness”; I see this even in members of my extended family. Why should one person have two cars when someone else doesn’t even have one? Unfair. Why should one family have two houses when another family doesn’t have a place to live? Unfair. Why should one person make 10x what another makes, when the lower wage worker physically works harder than the higher wage one? Unfair.

    And when they look at unequal outcomes through a lens of fairness, it’s an easy next step to advocate for “repairing” the unfair situation using the force of law. It seems right to them that it be done that way.

    The problem is that arguing against unfairness is very easy. Its very hard to argue that those outcomes create incentives to increase production, lower prices, and promote the general welfare. Its hard to see if you don’t have some education in the mechanisms which drive the market.

    On top of which, our current corporation-captured state is not a good example of free market capitalism in any event.

  • JDN

    NickM: I don’t want, I dunno, AI to have to get all PC … for using the words “male” and “female”

    See what it does with “master” and “slave”

  • NickM

    “Master and slave”. For drives, right? Now that takes me back. That takes me back to the IDEs of March 🙂 And all those fiddly little pins at the back…

  • cranston

    Worstalls’ substack piece is quite incredible. It contains the worst argument that I have ever seen, based on the worst analogy. It is fallacious, and entirely superficial (despite the digression about bananas).
    I can only conclude that it was written by an AI.

  • jgh

    At a fundamental level we don’t actually understand how electricity works, yet engineers have been able to make it do useful things for almost two centuries. If we stuck to “don’t use until understood” we wouldn’t be using electricity. Hell, we don’t know how the human brain works, therefore we shouldn’t be allowed to use the human brain.

  • Alex

    The politically correct went on a spree renaming branches in version control systems a few years ago because the trunk branch is usually, conventionally called “master”. There weren’t even any “slave” branches to be offended by but the mere idea of “master” branches was apparently “triggering” so most companies renamed their trunk branches “main” or similar. Of course, this meant a lot of unproductive work in renaming branches and updating bits of software that used the old convention that the trunk branch was called “master” to allow for “main” or whatever other names were used by various companies (most went with “main”, I think).

    The modern world is so idiotic I really miss the old days, and I’m not even that old.

  • GregWA

    Maybe the worry about AI is implementing it in systems that control important parts of our lives: the grid, air traffic control, self driving cars, surgery (by robots), etc., etc. IMO, the only worry would be if we thought AI could become autonomous, embedded in our systems like a brain cancer, and only then we discover it has aims different from ours. Whether or not it is “intelligent”.

    But the other, nearer term thing is data processing. Isn’t that what AI is being implemented for? New ways to collect, analyze, and visualize data? Data of all kinds. At many scales. In many settings: on your phone, in the bank’s code, and of course helping our friends in the three letter agencies!) Except for the latter, that seems safer…and very valuable.

    I wonder how much AI is in the climate models? Maybe that could explain some things since we know AI can often have our biases (the Earth is warming! And that is VERY bad! Something MUST be done about it!). We trained it after all. 🙂

  • Paul Marks

    Boris Yeltsin meant well – he did not want the terrible poverty that massive inflation produced, he was badly advised (to put the matter mildly).

    As for Artificial Intelligence – I missed out that reference, but the use of language does not make any sense.

    If it really is an artificial “intelligence” (a rational being) than it is a person – and we have no right to “use” it.

    We might trade with the being (if it wants to trade – it is an intelligence – a free will being, we should not engage with it without its informed consent) – but that is not same thing as “using” another person (in this case a non biological person).

    However, presently the term “Artificial Intelligence” or “AI” is used for things that clearly are NOT persons (have no free will – are not intelligences) – the misuse of language is very misleading, it is very bad. That is NOT the fault of Tim Worstall – it is a general fault, the term “Artificial Intelligence” is tossed about in the media without clear definition.

    If it is an intelligence we have no right to “use” it – and if it is not an intelligence (a person – a free will being, subject-not-just-object) then we should not call it one.

  • NickM

    You have a good point. AI is a buzz term. It is over-used for a lot of things that are in no way an intelligence of any description. In fact a lot are things that aren’t even new at all. They’ve just been rebranded. As to whether you can have intelligence of a sort without personhood… That’s a biggy. But… OK, I’ll make a prediction. AI is booming. It will bust and then grow back more slowly but more solidly (much as the web did – the same curve). This will take time so my prediction is that sometime in the early 2030s there will be serious campaigns and legislation to protect AI rights. Where we are at now is systems that can aace a Turing Test but that is really a test of appearing sentient. I mention the Turing test but what Alan Turing never foresaw when he formulated the idea was that the system would have practically instant access to a global database. That, right now, is why AI is a useful tool.

  • Paul Marks


    Interesting – yes, you present a lot to think about Sir.

  • Nicholas (Locals, Rule!) Gray

    AI is just a tool, like a super abacus. Neither AI or robots have nerves, and thus no sense of self-preservation. If we planted bombs in them, and told them to destroy themselves, they would obey. If we gave them something like nerves, and some concept of self-preservation, THEN we would have something to worry about!

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