Notes philosophy politics

Chapter 11: The Data Religion (Homo Deus)

Dataism says that everything consists of data flows and the value of any phenomenon or entity is determined by its contribution to data processing. This is not a new idea.

Since Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, scientists have seen organisms as biochemical algorithms. And since the Turing Machine, computer scientists have learned to assemble sophisticated algorithms. Dataism is the combination of both ideas, and thereby collapses the barrier between animals and machines.

Dataism offers the world groundbreaking technologies and a theory that unifies all scientific disciplines. But in doing so, it has inverted the traditional pyramid of learning. We learned by distilling data into information, information into knowledge, and knowledge into wisdom. But Dataists think that people cannot deal with large amounts of data, and thus they cannot distil this data into information, knowledge, or wisdom – it is better to trust Big Data. And they think processing data is a task for algorithms that have greater capacities than us.

When one adopts the dataist perspective, the world looks very different. Capitalism and communism are no longer competing ideologies or political institutions but are at bottom competing data-processing systems. Capitalism uses distributed processing; communism uses centralized processing.

The stock market is the most efficient data processing system humankind has created.

Capitalism beat communism not because it was more ethical, but because distributed data processing works better than centralised data processing.

Dictatorships use centralized processing and democracies prefer distributed processing, in the last few decades, democracy has gained ground because under the conditions of the 20th century, distributed processing works better. But conditions are continuously changing, which is why political systems are continuously disrupted, and this also suggests that we may witness another shift.

Today, governments cannot keep up with overwhelming data of the internet. By the time the government comes up with a plan to restructure the internet, the latter would have morphed ten times.

The NSA may be spying on your every word, but to judge by the repeated failures of American foreign policy, nobody in Washington knows what to do with all the data. Never in history did a government know so much about what’s going on in the world – yet few empires have botched things up as clumsily as the contemporary United States. It’s like a poker player who knows what cards his opponents hold, yet somehow still manages to lose round after round.

History in a Nutshell

The Dataist perspective of history is a process of improving the efficiency of the human data-processing system, through four methods.

  1. Increasing number of processors: 100,000 people in a city > 1,000 people in a village. This stage began during the Cognitive Revolution.
  2. Increasing variety of processors: Different processors in the same system leads to creativity. This stage began during the Agricultural Revolution.
  3. Increasing number of connections between processors: A poor connection is fatal to the system. This stage started with the advent of money and writing.
  4. Increasing freedom of movement along existing connections: If data cannot flow freely, connecting processors is barely useful. This stage began around 1492, with the first explorers and conquerors to connect the whole world.

Information Wants to be Free

According to Dataism, human experiences are not sacred and Homo sapiens isn’t the apex of creation or a precursor of some future Homo deus. Humans are merely tools for creating the Internet-of-All-Things, which may eventually spread out from planet Earth to cover the whole galaxy and even the whole universe. This cosmic data-processing system would be like God. It will be everywhere and will control everything, and humans are destined to merge into it.

Read Homodeus

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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