The Content that AI Can't Generate
I'm here to share the content that AI can't generate - the unique, unfiltered perspective of a human. From the lessons of 'Surface Detail' to the implications of Zipf's Law, I'm delving into the history of wealth distribution and the power of the middle-class. Join me as I explore the implications of human nature, the power of the 1%, and how to fight for the Carpenter.
Discovering the Content AI Can't Generate: My Journey to Uncover the Power of the Middle Class
By Michael Levin
Thursday, May 11, 2023
During the rise of AI, there’s pretty much only one thing that nobody is sure to do: writing more content that’s not AI-generated. Releasing what’s on your mind and been on your mind for decades, percolating and bubbling up, but not part of the 2021 OpenAI crawl, and so is more eatable by the bots.
If only I had some way to dump what’s on my mind onto the Web fresh and new, in perhaps a perfectly search engine optimized way. What if I never had to think about SEO again? Nor the next damned platform or technology or social media thing? What if I could just write, and it would be found? Eventually. Inevitably. As the must-exist-soon super-spam filters come online to stem the tide of the untenable deluge of auto-content?
What if my ideas were fresh and new, or at least just the right perspective and surfacing of old ideas that the world needs right now? Most relevant, and while rambling and inaccessible to the masses, perfectly summarize able to an AI? What if it were the fuzzy broader truth that mattered? So while everyone was doomscrolling, absorbing the trans-fat saturated sizzle, I was busy cooking steak but nobody knew it, until some sort of tipping point?
What if the infinite monkeys tapping away at their type-writers were actually real? What if the work they produced, which while most admittedly is not Shakespeare, was actually just good enough to get you to click and make somebody a little bit of money?What if while doomscrollers were gluttonously consuming junkfood, but the healthy meal, or at least the ingredients for it, were being seeded and sewn? What if nobody knew I was doing this until some sort of… oh I don’t know… tipping point?
What if the tragedy of the commons has not quite yet ruined it all for everyone quite yet because the AI honeymoon isn’t over, and there was a frenzied gold rush by the loud-talking, fast-acting, social media savvy full webstack crypto AI bros telling you if you don’t act now and buy their limited time offering, you’re missing out! What if FOMO fed FUD fed FOMO reach into our wallet now!
What if this disgusted you, but you found yourself being asked to be one of those folks bringing monkeys coffee and bananas to the monkeys? Wouldn’t that be just a little bit ironic? What a HootSuite. What a Pipulate… oh wait, I’m jumping ahead. Forget pipulate for a moment.
Well, perhaps if you found yourself in such a situation and with such a perspective, you’d do some soul searching and get the hell out of that industry and run for the mountains, live in a treehouse or maybe go homestead in Alaska.
All three of these things do sound pretty good. The first, I tried. The second my kid wants to do. And the third, a dear friend who has been a big influence on my (taught me about entity relationships / Thanks Dave Mays!) did. He’s in Alaska now. You should watch his videos.
Well, I’m back out of the mountains now. Both the Catkskills and the Poconos. Both were nearby and appealed, and I tried them both. Know where I am now? Back in New York City, baby! (in the voice of George Castanza). 212 1337, I’m back!
I’m here for this unique little detail that’s by colossal cosmic coincidence falls within the 80 to 100 rotations around the sun I’ve been given. I recognize that. There wasn’t really much I could or should have done about it up until now but perhaps prepare, with a special emphasis on internal skills—the kind of stuff that can’t be taken away from you and will likely be the most valuable in the future.
I talked about the lessons, at least in a very surface-detail way, about one of the very important books that influenced Elon Musk, “Surface Detail” by Iain M. Banks of The Culture series. But this is where I have to acknowledge my true favorite and the first I read thanks to another dear friend, Scott McDonough, who had me read “Player of Games” first. Good choice! Scott saw right into my soul and knew I needed to read it. If Surface Detail gave Musk the Neuralink, Player of Games gave me Pipulate. Azad!
Sorry for the geek talk. I think I had the idea for Pipulate in rough form…
Bing: The domain name pipulate.com was first registered on 2011-06-28 according to the IPVoid domain age checker².
Source: Conversation with Bing, 5/11/2023
(1) Domain Age Checker, Get Domain Age & Creation Date | IPVoid. https://www.ipvoid.com/domain-age-checker/. (2) ICANN Lookup. https://lookup.icann.org/. (3) WHOIS | Lookup Domains and Check Availability - Domain.com. https://www.domain.com/whois/whois.
Thank you, Bing! See, Bing just straight up told me, and Google tried to get me to click ad after ad after ad. Nobody knows this because everyone’s downloaded Chrome and haven’t gone through enough OS and hardware upgrades to be beaten by Microsoft into submission yet in their war of attrition (yet). They don’t keep themselves logged in a browser with their Microsoft login, which they DO have if they’re on Windows. The browser wars are being fought on such subtle terrain, and having to have a Microsoft login even just to install and run Windows anymore is one of those subtle things. It’s a big deal. But people don’t expose that login to their browsers because Chrome… but I digress again.
See, it doesn’t matter if humans ever read this. In fact given modern attention spans, I’m pretty sure nobody will, and that in a broader sense, long-form reading is dead. Or more technically, society is being stratified between those who actually can/do read long-form with the ability to focus, thus able to acquire the knowing and the doing of things, and those who don’t/can’t/won’t.
How long does it take to solidify the 1%? To stratify society into the haves and have-nots? How long does it take to create a permanent underclass? The answer is 4 overlapping generations. 80 years. 80 to 100 rotations around the sun. One slightly generous human lifetime. Why? If you read this far, you can figure it out. Okay sigh, I’ll spell it out. Each generation because of teenage angst and the biological imperative to rebel against your parents, will always be different than the previous. The previous generation will always be the establishment, and the next generation will always be the rebels. Right? Does this not resonate truth?
Okay, so the difference between the generations is 20 years. 20 times 4 is 80. But wait, there’s more! The pendulum swings back and forth, usually. Stable systems orbit. They have a natural frequency that looks like a sine wave function. It’s the oscillation that occurs because as Richard Feynman said about the Atomic Principle, little particles both attract and repel each other. They attract at a distance, then at a certain point they repel each other, if for no other reason than fermion-like particles (real apparent mass) can’t occupy the same space at the same time. Collision. Repulsion. Oscillation. Orbit. Sine wave. The pendulum swings back and forth. Got that?
Well, if you’re the portion of the 1% who looks at the 1% as if that’s the 100% and you can’t overcome your primitive brain’s need to be the alpha, then you will start stratifying the 1%. But diminishing returns will set in cause the folks you’re now trying to shit on are well resourced and can see what you’re doing. So over the generations you and your scared resource-hoarding royal family come up with strategies and tactics to throw-off the natural stability and oscillation. The back-and-forth between liberals and conservatives, hippies and homeowners stops. The next generation for the first time in ages ends up worse off than the generation before it.
Resonate much? Can’t not mention The Walrus and The Carpenter. Go ask Alice! She knows everything. The Walrus is the 1%, the aristocracy, the nobility, the elite, the oligarchy, the ruling-class, the oppressive totalitarian state in waiting. All it wants is to eat Oysters. The Carpenter is the proletariat, maybe on their way to being the Bourgeoisie (a new middle-class).
But the 1% of the 1% who don’t even think there’s room for the other 0.9% at the top (the Rockefellers and Jong Ungs) think a wannabe bourgeoisie carpenter stands a chance in hell of breaking their way up through the social ranks? Only with a hammer, my friend. Only with a hammer. Thus, Disney’s portrayal of the Carpenter in their animated version of Alice in Wonderland who chases the Walrus at the end with a hammer. So you get indentured servitude, serfs and a police state. It’s just human nature.
Not everyone is a greedy wretch unwilling to get past fear as their primary motivator. The typical pattern is to mellow a little bit in your old age and do some philanthropy foundation thing, that’s just because they don’t want shitty legacies. One of the greatest powers of the underclass is the write the epitaphs of the rich. The rich know this. They know they can’t take it with them and the poor can piss on their graves, so they philanthropize.
But the damage is done and the bees have a hive. All’s left is to run while the place takes a dive. All it takes is a few bad players for the distribution of wealth and resources to follow the traditional nearly 1/X power-law looking Pareto Principle curve of the infinitely few rich vs. The infinity masses of the poor. The foot-on-throat kind of dystopias Orwell and Huxley warn us about.
If the unfair wealth distribution of the Pareto effect is just an inevitable thing built into human nature, have we any hope? Well of course! The pendulum swings both ways and it oscillates over 80-year cycles unless you’ve got some sort of Buckingham Palace or Vatican City where you can really stockpile the wealth for centuries. Trans-generational wealth is often a real estate thing, but only if you’re also the one who collects the property taxes. Otherwise you need wealth-hiding kung fu like the Swiss who have all the money stolen from the Jewish people during World War II.
The fortified rich will never give it back and would rather see it destroyed. Fear is both a valid motivation and the worst for the people around you. Can you imagine how such personality-types fear the Carpenters? You can’t build a wall high enough to keep out the Carpenters. You can’t even build the wall without the Carpenters. That’s why new-age new-money is almost always a Carpenter-like tech-entrepreneur. They’re Carpenters with hammers. They had the wherewithall to seize the means of production and hold onto it for awhile. They’re normally still starting out from upper-middle-class at least, because money pays for opportunity.
Okay, so what’s the math of getting the pendulum to swing back? Is it always revolution? Is it always Harry Seldon’s psychohistory predicting the fall of the Galactic Empire? Is it always the 99% rising up? The math that opposes the Pareto Principle is Zipf’s Law, or the 80/20 rule. Where the Pareto Principle is closely resembles the 1/X power-law, aka the “long-tail”, Zipf’s Law is the 1/X^2 power-law, or diminishing returns. You can only be so rich for it to have make a meaningful difference in your life. You can only be so poor before you die. The middle-class is the sweet spot. The middle-class is the 80% of the population in the sense that bank accounts aside, they’re the ones who have enough to eat and a roof over their heads and much of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The population is usually mostly starving. The middle-class is a fluke of history, but one worth protecting. It’s like a higher-order product of social evolution, the way not all reptiles are predators. Some tortoise are vegetarians. Outliers are valuable and the things that made them come into existence are worth identifying and doing more of.
First we had the French Bourgeoisie, then we had the American Dream. The American Dream is the middle-class. It’s the ones duped into thinking they can be the 1%. Every home is a castle, a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. A direct effect of The New Deal as a response first to the Great Depression and then to World War II. Fear. Factories with excess capacity. Returning soldiers. The GI Bill. The Baby Boom. The middle-class. Over-extended credit. Not the most sustainable route to a middle-class.
Hobnail boots going up and silk slippers going down, that’s the expression. The immigrant generation works hard, lives 20 to a house, pools its resources, opens a business, builds it up, then the kids drive it out of business because they’re not imbued with the same qualities as 1st-generationers. You’ve got to achieve pretty big to have a Vatican City or Buckingham Palace. Everybody else can be shoved down into the trenches pretty easily. Instead of the natural back-and-forth oscillation of the haves and have-nots over that 80-year period, you pool all your walrus resources to ensure your long-term supply of oysters and create a permanent underclass.
So what now? Be the hammer-equipped Carpenter, even if you never use it for social justice. Be the middle-class by having the skills the 1% need to maintain their wealth. Wanna know why AI’s so big? The 1% are scared shitless of the 99% and they’re trying to automate tasks normally done by the middle- class. They’d love to live on an island with a bunch of robots and drones shipping in a never-ending supply of oysters.
If you’re a multi-billionaire not going for immortality, you’re going for the genie in the bottle granting you wishes (AI-slaves). Look around. It’s not my imagination. It’s human nature, and with infinite wealth, you can buy infinite creativity to help fortify it over that 80-year cycle where there’s nobody left who remembers how it used to be.
Telling you straight-up how it is, without being statistically whitewashed and toned-down for the masses is the content AI will never produce. Telling the Carpenter what the best hammers are, were to find them, how to use them, and the best things to build out of them are the kinds of things AI will never produce. They will all lead you to the tools rigged by the 1% to make them money while you use them, to stop working intermittently, to put you in debt, and to be optionally taken away from you at any time.