I’m skeptical of computer overlords

This is an interesting idea:

For too long we have watched as automation has cost us blue-collar jobs. Automating government, and getting rid of the politicians and lawyers is something I could really get behind. For a while, there would be an increase in embezzlement, ponzi schemes, cons, thefts, and other non-confrontational crime, as the politicians and lawyers sought out new employment consistent with their psychologies, but once they were all behind bars, the world would be a considerably better place.

But there are a lot of other things to consider as well. Government is power. And people with pay a lot to have access to that power. Detecting the existence of and finding the source of corruption in a computer system may be far more difficult than when you are dealing with people.

Open source and independently operated systems may mitigate the risks. I’ll have to think about this some more… A LOT more.

8 thoughts on “I’m skeptical of computer overlords

  1. The challenge here will be the ubiquitous “mission/feature creep;” if one’s mission is to send birthday greetings to Grandma it’s not necessary to use feature rich (some would reasonably say “feature overloaded”) MS Word, a crude text editor like Notepad will work. When designing “societal control” software to replace politicians – a seemingly worthwhile endeavor – the ability to restrict the options, and lock down the release version, will be imperative (for reference, keep an eye on what happens with customer kiosks in the fast food industry and elsewhere….).

    “It would be simple to add this feature” has been the death knell of many a software effort, a number of which have been “successful” (for some values of “successful”). Think “Constitution,” ‘Congress” and “court system” as an analogy. Our government has been thoroughly corrupted by the “Priests of Politics,” turning it over to a different priesthood would be no less disasterous.

  2. Or, instead of computer overlords hitting the citizenry with an arrest or fine every time they violate any of the myriad regulations and laws, the burden of government could be reduced to the point that a computer was not required for any citizen to follow the laws and avoid violating regulations.

    But first I have to stop laffing out loud at that idea.

  3. Out and about, a thought occured to me about this concept, and reading Mikee’s comment just now caused it to suddenly gel:

    Go the other way – ban – completely, absolutely and permanently – any and all computers and computer systems from any aspect whatsoever of civilian government in the United States. Everything non-military agencies in the U.S. do must be done manually, and all records must be on paper.

    Expensive and inefficient? Certainly. Cumbersome? You betcha. Would government “services” get worse? Of course. Of necessity government would have to be reduced in size to fulfill even a minimal obligation. Would that result in an actual reduction in the size and scope fo government? Hell, no – the clamor for “more government employees” would be deafening; it would be up to the people to enforce spending restraint in Congress by immediately voting out any representative or senator who approved of granting more money to government.

    In the meantime, government would be so inefficient, so far behind the time and performance curves, that the citizens could go about their business without concerns about bureaucratic interference.

    • To that we add: in Washington, D.C., no air conditioning (cooling) at all and no heating until the indoor temp drops to 60 F, in government offices or meeting rooms. Elsewhere in the country no heating/cooling if the indoor temperature is between say 60 F and 85 F.

      Give them an incentive to find _honest_ work.

  4. Design government to be less efficient so that though the wheels of government grind very slowly, they grind exceedingly fine. Same problem, longer time span.

    Now anticipate the issue when it is discovered that the governing software has been infected with malware that diverts a very small percentage of every government transaction to a bank account in the Cayman Islands under the guise of “retirement stability fund” which is then transferred a few more times, turned into bitcoins, disappears completely, and is used to insure my stable retirement somewhere where the sun is warm, the sand is white, the rum is fine, and the young women don’t wear much.

  5. The other problem I see is the “RTFM” one. In this case, “Where is the manual?” and “What the heck does this mean?”

    The U.S. Constitution is written so that any “reasonable person” could understand it, and is short enough that the entire thing — including all the amendments — would only fill the first five pages of your average 1,000 page comprehensive software manual.

    In contrast, laws and regulations (and software manuals) are written by and for specialists who are educated and trained to understand them. They are not written for laymen, and so a layman has little or no ability to provide oversight without explanation and guidance from those same specialists.

    To me, that’s a definite flaw in the proposal. Open-source software provides advantages against back-door hacking/spying only if you can understand the source code well enough to spot the parts that don’t belong. If you can’t, you’re still just as much at the mercy of those who can as you are against the lawyers, regulators, and bureaucrats now.

  6. The idea is total garbage. It clearly was written by someone who doesn’t have a clue.

    First of all, you can’t automate government for the reason that “central planning” cannot work. The number of variables and combinations involved is far too large for any computer that fits in the universe. See “Human Action” by von Mises.

    Second, you can’t program when there isn’t a specification. And while the Constitution was written in plain English and is small, the current federal government cranks out about 200 pages of laws/regulations per day. It is clear that no one knows what the laws are. No one. So obvious that means that ignorance of the law is an excuse (since no other option is possible). It also means you can’t automate it because no one can know the specifications.

    The correct answer has nothing to do with this absurd notion; instead, it is to enforce the plain words of the Constitution.

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