Top 5 Rules for Your Posthuman World
1: Hanlon’s Razor
“Don’t attribute to villainy what is more easily explainable by stupidity.” One of Heinlein’s lines, or a variation. Did Bushie Neo-Cons engineer the short-selling of airline stock on September 9th and 10th 2001? Were thermite caps planted in Building 7? We may never know — but it would be a mistake to assume cogent malice where blunder, bumble, and luck explain the horrors just as well, right? Or is that Occam’s Razor I’m thinking of? In any case, this New Age has been midwifed by at least as much stupidity as it has villainy.
2: Clark’s Law
Not to be confused with Arthur C. Clarke’s Laws of Prediction (“…any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”), Clark’s is similar in structure: sufficiently advanced cluelessness is indistinguishable from malice. (See also Hanlon’s Razor.)
3: Classen’s Law
A recent rule of thumb — a scant 12 years old — Classen’s is a law that says innovations need to happen in multiple factors of the original metrics of usefulness to be understood as “worth it”. A ferry is a ferry is a ferry — whether a RoRo or a RoPax, you’re going to cross the channel in a similar time frame with similar horsepower. Taking an aircraft across a body of water, however, represents a leap of multiples in efficiency and usefulness. We don’t experience “the leap” until it’s underscored in terms of multiples. Having 2 GB of memory on a flash drive smaller than a car key is such an experience… if you were (less than a generation ago) used to “gigabytes” as bleeding edge university-and-government level storage.
4: Laws of Robotics… Forget it
You know, what Asimov said:
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law
Now that Boston Dynamics and DARPA are putting real robots in the battlefield, the naive dream of three hard and life-affirming laws are tossed out like the garbage Haliburton is contracted to collect from XE’s barracks.
Go read your Peter W. Singer. [https://hplusmagazine.com/articles/robotics/wired-war-or-how-we-learned-stop-worrying-and-let-dystopian-sf-movies-inspire-our- “War porn”, roboporn: it’s all on the table now, and it all hinges on the programming. You want the 3 laws hardwired into every robot? Ha. The Israelis, the Iranians, the Americans, Hamas… these entities have different kinds of “laws” in mind: collision-avoidance, path-planning, and target-acquisition algorithms.
I guess Moore’s Law’s would shrink all them “emotion chips” we’re waiting for down to vestigial nubs, anyway.
5: Kerckhoff’s Principle
Assume that your competitors and enemies know almost everything about you. Auguste Kereckhoff and Claude Shannon (in different times, and in different ways) rightly remind us that “the enemy knows the system.”
The enemy does know the system, but that makes protecting the key more important than it has ever been. Even if the whole system isn’t laid bare for all to see, as in the open and collaborative models that run the engines of so many sites and services today, you must assume that even the private workings of your organization are just as visible.
Claude Shannon suggested that perfect secrecy is only possible when the map is as large as the territory (when the cryptographic key is as long as the message intended to be obfuscated). That’s one hell of a key to keep up with and let’s just hope “the enemy” won’t still be checking doormats once we don’t need doors anymore.
Have a happy singularity.
Honorable Mention: Murphy’s Law
It’s not responsible to talk about the future without mentioning Murphy. Whatever can go wrong, will.
Woody Evans is a writer and private researcher from southern Mississippi. You can find his work in American Libraries, Searcher Magazine, Juked, 971 Menu, Rain Taxi Review of Books, The Journal of Evolution and Technology, and others. His next book, Information Dynamics in Virtual Worlds, is due out from Chandos next Spring. Find him on woodyevans.com.