Positive Sum, Open Source,
AI, and Socialism:

The intersection between
zero cost distribution, copy left,
and a brighter (?) future

@Smerity

My history is a mix of

linguistics

and

computing

Smerity core principles


1) Positive sum

2) Minimize entropy (complexity)
(Wikipedia, Google Search, ...)

3) Maximize entropy (diversity)
("let a thousand X bloom")

Positive sum

"When resources are somehow increased and an approach is formulated in which the desires and needs of all concerned are satisfied"

 

What changes / rules / suggestions can we add to society to make it better for all?

Tech and large scale impact

Good or bad, this is the tool with the most rapid possibility for influencing society

 

If you believe society already
has what it needs to be good
but it's organized poorly
tech has the scale + speed + potential

Hardware, Moore's law, and scary scale

The iPhone 14 (2022) has
16 billion transistors

The iPhone 6s (2014) has
2 billion transistors

What other products improve this quickly and (comparatively) cheaply?

... and we have hardware to spare

In 2016 there were ~3 new CPUs
per human per year

... but doesn't software cost money?

Open source licenses

Here's source code for a computer program
(or text that I've written)

You can use it however you like
... but if you make improvements you have to share it with everyone

"Copy left" vs copyright

Note: My defn is purposely broad (CC)

"Open source" for more than code

Sharing writing / art / knitting / recipes / ..?

Near zero costs make it possible

If "sharing it with everyone" was costly this wouldn't work.

The cost to transfer bits is practically zero and hence the cost to copy, transfer, and build upon software / knowledge is exceptionally low

Communism, Socialism, *ism

"(a) A common, cooperative pursuit of a goal which (b) provides an improvement to the common good (c) without the inclusion of a trade of benefits for services"

(a) Improve the underlying X (software, article, book, ...)
(b) Must be shared when improved
(c) There's no cost to give or receive

Communism, Socialism, *ism

"It's worth noting that the 'ideal' communism would have succeeded admirably if physical objects (e.g. food, housing, machines) could be cheaply duplicated. Software products can be cheaply duplicated."

Examples of open source / copyleft

English Wikipedia

- 34 million contributors (with 100k most active) with ~6.5 million articles
 

- Cost of an update is near zero (i.e. never an outdated Encyclopedia Galactica 1994)

- Are there problems? Absolutely. Is it still a feat of collaboration, distribution, and human knowledge? Absolutely!

Open source software is everywhere

- Every major web browser
- Software running almost every site you visit
- Many of the layers of your computer
- The programming languages used to write the software in your computer

The bad of Open Source

Open source-ishhhhh

The web at scale

@Smerity was the Lone Engineer at a non profit called CommonCrawl
(2.5 petabytes and 35 billion webpages)


Downloaded a large chunk of the web and gave it away to researchers, companies, hobbyists for free

How? Cost of storage + distribution was low (and gifted free by Amazon), cost of labour was highest
(hence the "Lone Engineer" bit)

AI models

Most software is costly in terms of human labor ... but AI actually is different

Many millions of dollars of compute is used to train modern massive ML models
... but then you can distribute the result for free!

Imagine building a house once and gifting it to everyone for free

Callback to the AI Salon

The bad of Open Source

XKCD
#2347

The bad of Open Source

"Running a successful open source project is Good Will Hunting in reverse, where you start out as a respected genius and end up being a janitor who gets into fights"

The bad of Open Source

Creepy / dangerous / bad uses are

next to impossible to prevent

Most technology is Dual Use (good & bad)

The future geopolitics of it all
(i.e. hand waving then world is a better place)

Imagine I had time to convince you

AI + open source + technology

 allowed for far better societal collaboration / optimization

Still a believer in capitalism

- Australian philosophy: a socialist core with capitalist offshoots that if successful are reabsorbed by the socialist core

- American capitalism: a caricature of capitalism: education / healthcare / housing are all deeply distorted where competition (for both products and workers), choice, and the free market are wonky fiction

Einstein's Why Socialism?

"A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child"

- Universal Basic Income (socialist core++)?

Planned economy and optimization

  • How much of the world's efficiency is lost due to poorly optimized but "locked" processes?
    • How much food goes rotting in fridges or on farms?
    • How many events attended by N people in solo cars?
    • "Filing taxes is a time-consuming, bureaucratic chore that the Internal Revenue Service estimates will take the typical American 11 hours. Nationwide, that works out to some 6 billion lost hours a year."
      (equates to ~250 million hours or ~685,000 years)

The US planned economy

Uber / Amazon / ... are the US solution to the planned economy

"... where investment, production and the allocation of capital goods takes place according to economy-wide economic plans and production plans."

Optimization is amazing - but end up obviated by the middle man

Einstein's Why Socialism?

"Profits generated by these firms would be controlled directly by the workforce of each firm or accrue to society at large in the form of a social dividend"

- US citizens don't trust US govt
- US companies fill in the gap but have even less accountability re: privacy / ethics / ...
- Uber taking 80% of a ride isn't sane
- Amazon's doorbells report to police ...

The hope ...

What has allowed open source to flourish, in software and knowledge, may allow better collaboration at ever higher real world levels.

Technology isn't the cure but it is a tool, allowing for communication, collaboration, low cost sharing, and optimization.

End

Einstein's Why Socialism?

"Profits generated by these firms would be controlled directly by the workforce of each firm or accrue to society at large in the form of a social dividend"

- US citizens don't trust US govt
- US companies fill in the gap but have. even less accountability re: privacy / ethics / ...
- Uber taking 80% of a ride isn't sane
- Amazon's doorbells report to police ...

Beyond wonky capitalism

Deep fear that big data, surveillance, and AI can be best leveraged by authoritarian states

- Planned economy by fear and force
- Govt surveillance + AI gives social dividends
- Play the long(er) game
- Play capitalism when beneficial

The hope ...

What has allowed open source to flourish, in software and knowledge, may allow better collaboration at ever higher real world levels.

Technology isn't the cure but it is the tool.
Communication, collaboration, and optimization.

Open Source and Socialism

By smerity

Open Source and Socialism

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