Writing for Bloomberg, Cathy O'Neil, a mathematician and author of Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, offers and compelling and frightening thesis: Donald Trump is the singularity. (For the non-geeks out there, "the singularity" designates a human-created computer system that grows intelligent enough to outwit and turn again humans. The prime example is Skynet from the Terminator movies.) O'Neil's thesis rests as the curious way that Trump, especially through his Twitter account, behave like an algorithm. Read an excerpt from the piece below, or the full article here.
I think Trump is Skynet, or at least a good dry run. To make my case, I’ll first explain why Trump can be interpreted as an artificial intelligence. Then I’ll explain why the analogy works perfectly for our current dystopia.
Trump is pure id, with no abiding agenda or beliefs, similar to a machine-learning algorithm. It’s a mistake to think he has a strategy, beyond doing what works for him in a strictly narrow sense of what gets him attention.
As a presidential nominee, Trump was widely known for his spirited, rambling and chaotic rallies. His speeches are comparable to random walks in statistics: He’d try something out, see how the crowd reacted, and if it was a success -- defined by a strong reaction, not necessarily a positive one -- he’d try it again at the next rally, with some added outrage. His goal, like all TV personalities, was to entertain: A bored reaction was worse than grief, which after all gives you free airtime. This is why he could never stick to any script or teleprompter -- too boring.
This is exactly how an algorithm is trained. It starts out neutral, an empty slate if you will, but slowly “learns” depending critically on the path it takes through its training data.
Image via Bloomberg.