cybernetic-utopianism – a hegemonic movement of the “possessed” in the Dostoevskyian sense, to establish a self-sustaining social feedback system(both physical and virtual) based on the meta-model of the hive with a cohort of technological panjandrums ruling sovereign from the apex. Key concepts of this insurgency are a radical form of “technological autonomy” and “inevitablism” , the former a peculiar form of teleology appropriated most immediately from the somewhat more(but not quite) legitimate field of cybernetics and the latter a bald faced canard to cover the tracks of the unilateral appropriations(pilfering and stealing) necessary to achieve the ends of the adherents .Although these adherents and their evangelists are comprised of what could be considered the usual suspects from the new-world-order/”great reset”/international money hoodlums cabals,cybernetic-utopianism separates itself by adding several more ingredients to this bitches brew-some of these elements only yesterday marginalized as bizarre or even pathological;now basking in the mainstream, bug-eyed and licking feverish lips without apology or remorse. A non exhaustive roll call of the latter would consist of : unreconstructed B.F. Skinner devotees at MIT’s Media Lab and Stanford,born again zealots of Technocracy; the procrustean ambitions of Mountain View/Redmond megalomaniacs(Gates,Ellison,et al) and their handlers;and of course the Singularity, Silicon Valley’s answer to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
It should also be stressed here that the cybernetic-utopians although distinct in themselves, are a support auxiliary for a larger movement for the establishment of a totalist control panopticon to enable the theft and agglutination of wealth(not necessarily money) on a heretofore unimaginable scale(this not a “faith based” insurgency despite the constant barrage of disingenuity from its acolytes). How do I know this? Because the perpetrators say so in exactly those words. You just have to listen,as distinct from just hearing.The oligarchs and super-wealthy have stolen so much so fast that money itself is losing its significance. If you have all the money,then money has no more leverage or even meaning(thus the reason so many of the feverishly greedy are petitioning for its abolition,which seems a paradox but is not). Those without money will simply opt out of the system and not participate,and the devil makes work for idle hands. It then becomes necessary to retrace your steps and translate money/debt back into wealth, or tangible assets. Possession of or dominion over physical assets requires control in a way that money/debt(ownership of these same assets) does not.
Some of the peasants will be required to maintain the wealth assets,but orders of magnitude fewer than the wage/debt inflation system. To physically steal all the assets of an island or or city or country(water,land.wildlife,even its biodiversity) as opposed to all of its money through debt arbitrage, is a completely different(and more dangerous) game. It requires reducing the physical threat of the mostly now redundant slaves/peasants superior numbers(no longer pacified by wage slavery,which no longer delivers the goods) through population control, and a draconian foolproof control system to keep the epsilons who are kept around in their places.The smartest of the oligarchical control group obviously saw this coming decades ago. Cybernetic-utopianism is one of their stalking horses and the most dangerous(speaking as a serf). To rob people on the scale envisioned who have vast physical numbers and untold existential menace on their side requires that their minds be boggled and their judgement stupefied preemptively as the very first precondition of success. Thus we have cybernetic-utopiansim.
Although the two well known technological propositions formulated as “laws” , Moore’s Law and Amdahl’s law, may seem superficially tangential to my long term goal of getting to the bottom(or is it the top?) of the software engineering ecosystem as it relates to the subject of cybernetic-utopianism, they are actually central. It should be pointed out first of course, that Moore’s law is essentially a heuristic-a shortcut to describe an empirical context-while Amdahl’s Law is an equation to rigorously describe the limits to any run time improvement that any algorithm can expect by executing the algorithm in parallel on n number of physical devices. Being that I am a lousy mathematician, that’s about as deep as its going to get theory wise. Here we are more concerned with how these two theorems have been interpreted or propagandized or weaponized to support or obscure,what I consider to be dubious, or sinister positions as to the trajectory of our cyber future. And by close coupling,the future of software engineering itself(if there is one). These propositions have also been deployed to support revisionist narratives coincidentally conducive to all manner of Silicon Valley villainy,with Moore’s law being especially polymorphic in this respect.
To the non-engineer all of this may seem arcane, but it is not. Engineers and scientists are no more or less susceptible to propaganda than anyone else-a fact both groups would strenuously deny. But it has been my experience(which is considerable) that these groups may be more susceptible than the average person. This is non-intuitive,but can be deduced from the isolated environments that most scientists and engineers carry out their work. This is hard for outsiders to understand since they constantly see the technological intelligentsia hobnobbing and knoshing at international events,TED talks and institutional conferences. What most don’t realize is that only certain eminences and certain selected representatives are exposed to this arena. Most technological foot soldiers spend their entire careers in isolation and get their narratives from the same place anyone else does-their masters. In 25 years I have never once been dispatched to or attended any sort of collegial meeting or conference sponsored by an employer. Not once. And I was not an anomaly. When a startup I worked for had a spectacular IPO and was still basking in it’s 5 microseconds of public spotlight, they sent a large contingent to COMDEX in Las Vegas. All expenses paid for 40 people. Not one was an engineer-to an engineering trade show. But why propagandize your own minions? For the same reason it’s used anywhere else: to get engineers and scientists to do things they otherwise would not do. Due to the (largely illegal) non-disclosure agreements and (illegal) back-channel hiring practices,even when engineers get together they have nothing to say to each other without running the risk of banishment and public contumely. Another reason that engineers are more susceptible to propaganda is ironically, the result of their universal acceptance and internalization of a single postulate: that they’re the smartest guys or gals in the room,despite all evidence to the contrary. Vanity can corrupt more corrosively than gold.
I do not hyperlink to Moore’s Law above while I do so for Amdahl’s Law for a reason:Moore’s Law, despite the prima facie and self-evident manner it is usually presented , has been so distorted and offered up in so many custom versions that it can only be used as a reference moniker,i.e, “Moore’s Law , a theory which has something(maybe) to do with silicon chips and computing power…or something”. In preparation for writing this post I must have read 40 articles about Moore’s Law-all with completely different(often illogical or internally contradictory) definitions, explanations and exegesis as to exactly what it is(even the when,where and remarkably, who of it veer wildly from pole to pole). Generally when one finds some supposed law or dogma which has this many origin myths,faith based declarations and “fundamental” implications it usually indicates that you’re actually dealing with a myth-or mythopoesis. And so it is with Moore’s Law, with the most prominent mythology associated with it being the titular one of cybernetic-utopianism/inevitabilism.. For the time being let’s just go with Moore’s Law as: “the observation that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles about every two years” and that it implies an ever escalating expansion of “computer power” at effectively zero engineering cost.
Some parts of this effort will be a trial for non-engineers,but I have decided against bowdlerization for a reason. How things have come to the present state in the software engineering space is not inscrutable(or stochastic as some perpetrators would have you believe) . And the vast majority of these outcomes are not organic, but contrived. Those doing the contriving have erected an enormous edifice of misdirection and gaslighting through media they largely own and control, but with a little effort it can be penetrated. I see no reason that engineers can not talk directly to non-engineers without mediation(which includes such controlled outlets as You Tube,which seems to be an especially fecund source of extremely well done misdirection and misinformation planted by the aforementioned perpetrators as “straight dope”). This is in itself propaganda. As hooks for this effort, I use one “law” that almost certainly isn’t(Moore’s) and another that probably just as certainly is(Amdahl’s). It will be central to everything that follows to demonstrate why certain forces wish to reverse this juxtaposition as an almost existential plank of their ideology. And in weaving what appear to be “unrelated” techno bits and long tern intelligence planning into the story,I am overtly implying that the firewall that has been built up around software engineering in the minds of its minions and managers as some sort of sanitized,inviolate space innocent of the sinister agendas which succor it, is itself highly weaponized propaganda.
How software engineers messed up Moore’s Law by not understanding Amdahl’s Law even though Moore’s Law is an autonomous ,irresistible force of nature
As for Amdahl’s law and its more subtle cousin Gustafson’s Law, their relation to cybernetic-utopianism is more tangential and non-intuitive and derived from our narrative vantage point. We are after all, looking at things through the eyes of a software engineer peering around at his or her existential environment,both locally and structurally. Amdahl’s Law thus usually appears in this context as a form of admonition: attempting to increase throughput by multi-threaded/lock programming on multiple cores–the paradigm which has been pushed aggressively by the large scale tech providers and chip makers since the late 1990’s-is essentially advertised now in 2020 as a fool’s errand of diminishing returns. I have read several articles recently in the C++ trade press(a couple I will reference) which say essentially this, declaring the future is “lock-less” programming which essentially doesn’t do any serialization of code at all(effectively, since 100% parallel code is impossible).
There is nothing wrong with this and the authors are almost certainly right. But the tone and trajectory of the writing strongly imply that the decision to write millions and millions of lines of multi-threaded code synchronized by kernel objects and user space barrier contexts(mutexes and locks) was some sort of collective insurgency by software engineers and architects who are now paying the price for their foolish thread incontinence with unmaintainable and untestable code bases. This is of course directly opposite to how these smoldering code heaps actually came into being:a gift of the aggressive and saturation marketing campaigns of Intel,Microsoft and Google back in the day(I know this for a fact as I was there). Multi-threaded,multiple core application design was advertised as the absolute way to speed up and mega scale applications and anyone who expressed a smidgen of doubt otherwise was branded a techno hillbilly or “lacking in skills”. Now, articles and papers are popping up strategically(suspiciously?) which seem to be attempting a rewrite of the narrative:it was programmers , engineers and architects who wreaked all the havoc,not Intel and AMD trying to flog their chips or Google believing their own propaganda(always disastrous).
But why is this important? Because the narrative is important(even as I mentioned before,existential,for the cybernetic-utopians). And the narrative is technological inevitabilism:software engineering and other cyber domains and producers of cyber artifacts are driven and compelled to create faster and more complex objects to deal with the ever increasing(never diminishing) techno appetites for the cyber universe, which always expands-it never contracts-and the similar big bang of processor chip capabilities. This is the law and mere mortals cannot constrain it. The power of Christ compels you-so to speak. But there is a problem here. Intel began to flog its multi-threaded/multicore paradigm just when it became common to notice that Moore’s Law was falling apart in the early 2000’s. Not only was computing power or chip density not increasing by leaps and bounds anymore, but there were questions being raised about the declining marginal utility of computing itself. Intel’s(and other chip manufacturers) multicore strategy was developed to sell chips it had already designed , allocated capital resources for and manufactured-whether there was really any effective demand or use case. The strategy succeeded by(in cahoots with the likes of Microsoft) compelling a rewrite/refactor/re-something of vast numbers of applications and frameworks using the multi-threaded/multiple core paradigm.”Blazing” speed was the carrot. “Just refactor your code” the tagline.(Again, I was there-this is true. I “refactored” a few myself) .
As has been generally observed,most multi-threaded/multicore implementations are not orders of magnitude faster-most in my experience are slower or at most a wash and harder to understand. And even if they are faster, did the increased speed justify the cost(especially being that processor performance gains are almost immediately gobbled up by expanded application/system requirements,like a new freeway filling up with bumper to bumper traffic 30 days after it was completed to “ease traffic congestion”)? So what actually happened is contrary to the myth of cybernetic inevitabilism on a number of points:
How Moore’s Law actually fell apart all by itself and software engineers took a large piece of the gaff for it
The chip manufacturers strategy of pushing multiple cores,aided and abetted by Sand Hill, was not driven by a new insatiable demand for computing power at maximum output as cybernetic-utopianism would have us believe. It was actually driven by the need to amortize already existing investments in the face of uncertainty. And the cyber-utopians aided and abetted this for selfish and strategic reasons entirely unique to themselves as we shall discuss later. Moore’s Law was not the engine driving all of this.
It is not really believable that the chip makers were not aware of the limitations of the multi-threading/multicore paradigm as far as processing speed is concerned(which is dependent on quite a few factors,not just the number of cores) and that their performance promises for computing and the degree of difficulty for large scale business refactoring were both deceptive(to be overly forgiving). Again, this contradicts the inevitabilist agenda. Not only did the “multi thread everything” band wagon of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s not further the cause;it actually stalemated it. The exponential growth in capability(as opposed to benchmarks) so dear to the cyber utopians, did not materialize on the ground except in extremely targeted areas,such as mobile computing(which used a fairly primitive threading model) or in the rarefied and inscrutable dominions of intelligence , defense and(a new interloper) so called surveillance capitalism;where money(other people’s money for the most part) was no object, enabling sheer computing super scaling and super performance by brute force alone. I also foresee that present day engineers who were not around back in the day doubt the marketing campaign and how immersive and intense it was. I suggest those who have doubts to do some research.
As I will expand on later installments, all this would indicate that the chip hardware and software industries are symbiotic , but not in a metronomic manner. The chip manufacturers especially, have their own internal logic(although this is changing with the hegemony of Google/Langley). At any point in time hardware and software may be moving in different directions-or no direction at all. This violates the messianic portion of the utopians agenda. To cover this discontinuity Moore’s Law has been transformed over the years into a political mantra, not just a technological one. The doubling of transistors on a chip was identified anecdotally with a doubling of “computer power” , with an inverse halfing of the cost of computer equipment and even as a measure of “progress” itself. None of this has ever been proven in anything close to a scientific or rigorous manner and quite probably all of these things were and are untrue(just what is “computer power” exactly?). When all of these sandcastles began to melt , it couldn’t possibly be because it was all pants from the git go-no,kulaks and fifth columnists(engineers) stabbed Moore’s Law in the back with confabulation and treachery by not exploiting in a timely and efficient manner all the goodness brought by the bonanza of ever increasing chip density. This actually happened between about 2000 -2004. This is a good entry point for the concept of technological autonomy:
The notorious notion of ‘‘autonomous technology’’ could be the best example[of a conflict between ethics and technological philosophy-editor] ‘‘Autonomous technology’’ refers to the idea that modern technological development is out of the reach of human control. Any human interference cannot make meaningful changes in the process of technological development, according to this idea. This is a radical or impossible idea to engineers or anybody who has a normal view on technology, as it is taken for granted that technology is an instrument made by human for human purposes……….Although autonomy of technology is often confused with technological determinism, it emphasizes the complex and interconnected mechanism of our contemporary technological society, which renders human intervention to the process of technological development virtually meaningless. One should understand, however, that the autonomy of technology is advocated in the context of the critique of dehumanizing technological society. It should not be taken as a metaphysical claim, but as a plea for realization of the devastating reality….[Philosophy of Technology and Macro-ethics in Engineering , Wha-Chul Son, Journal of Science and Engineering Ethics, January 2008]
We note three very important things derived from the above excerpt from a scholarly paper and fold them into our previous comments:
- That the author at the time the paper is written is assuming that it is generally understood that holding the position that technology is autonomous is an aberrant or unsupportable position that goes against what is generally accepted as logical or true.
- That the only way to explain Moore’s Law not fulfilling its promise is by blaming human agency,in this case the agency of engineering mediocrity. But if Moore’s Law is a law,it’s by definition independent of human agency(that’s the definition of a scientific law) -you can’t discard the Pythagorean Theorem on Thursdays and Boxer’s Day by decree of the city housing authority. You can’t have it both ways. I won’t go into to what kind of law Moore’s Laws is purported to be by its champions,that would lead far off into the wilderness at this point. We’ll go with the only way a law can stop being a law is if it can be shown not to be true. A law can’t be dependent on human agency for its proof(the very first objection to Quantum Mechanics-Schrodinger’s Cat was a paradox formulated by its eponymous creator to troll the Copenhagen interpretation of atomic physics,not support it). That would be like saying that Euclidean geometry is dependent on the shapes the professor chalks up on the blackboard-if you erase them,geometry is no more;or that the earth orbits the sun because that’s the way we like it and what we say goes.This will appear repeatedly in our thread in a surprising number of interpolations and impostures which no matter how complex or ingenious,always seem to reduce to this, a clever and seemingly inexhaustible ruse of advantaging the ambiguity of the word “law”: one day Moore’s laws is scientific,a natural algorithm or constant;the next,it is a compulsion,like the Ten Commandants. Which of these is used depends on the circumstances of the use case(ruse case?) and the credulity of the marks.
- That up until almost right this minute, accusing someone of holding the position of “technological autonomy” would be contumelious. Now, the reverse is actually true. Scions of the MIT Medial Lab and Google beam and cheese at the video cameras for TED talks and online seminars staking out the position that technology honoring no limits from human agency is not only sweet and becoming, but imperative. But the “laws” they maintain replace history are to say the very least,unconvincing. Calling constructs like the doubling of transistors on chips “laws” is transparently devious and disingenuous,since heuristics is what they obviously are,if that-a far less exalted logical conceit. Confusing the less rigorous minds among us with this is premeditated and purposeful(the word “law” having a judeo-christian resonance that proposition or postulate or theorem do not carry,which the cybernetic-utopians are well aware of). As a final note , I draw your attention to a statement from the selection above” ..Any human interference cannot make meaningful changes in the process of technological development”. The cybernetic-utopians have cunningly modified this ludicrous statement to mean something on the order of: Any interference from factions not vetted by the technological mandarins cannot make meaningful changes in the process of technological development”. Remarkably,this equally ludicrous statement is now accepted without question by virtually the entire population(Covid).
- Corollary to this, such a position intimates that not only is technology supra-human,but supernatural. We can see clearly then why so much of the cybernetic-utopian/Singularity/pandemic hysteria visions represented in the media,books and movies and their own propaganda appear to be indistinguishable from science fiction or old horror movies: by deconstructing things in the manner we have just done,we can see this as hardly surprising being that by its own definition and dedication to technological autonomy,cybernetic-utopianism is science fiction. The difference between fiction and non-fiction after all, can be most clearly be stated as narratives with history and narratives without. That some of the fictional bits may actually come true does not affect this conclusion(that there may at some point in the future be flying cars does not change the fact it is fiction now). Since the people perpetuating cybernetic-utopiansim are far too greedy and remorseless to mistake fiction for reality, this almost completely outs it as some sort of highly purposeful and directed rollocks to sandbag the rubes-both the pedestrian and professional varieties.
So getting back to Amdahl’s Law, the “no more locks because the software engineers didn’t really understand the law itself and goofitized/foobared all the goodness that the multicores(and by implication Moore’s Law) had to offer” meme can be seen as a script rewrite to keep the cybernetic-utopian story logically consistent at least. This requires that both Janus faces of Moore’s Law mentioned above be used simultaneously. Moore’s Law is now both a technologically autonomous law floating above the ether immune to mortal restraint and a compulsory imprecation that must be followed to receive the bounty of the autonomous law. The relation is exactly the same as religious varieties.These contortions preserve some semblance of consistency if you talk fast enough and wave your hands while you’re doing it. If this seems confusing,just remember that we assume again almost axiomatically, that cybernetic-utopiansim is some manner of purposeful deception to camouflage illicit behavior or a program unacceptable to those who may be the victims of the con.
Following from this,also remember that both Moore’s Law and Amdahl’s Law are over a half century old. Whatever game is afoot therefore,has been afoot for some time. The narratives from the beginning(which may even have been true to some extent) have not aged well,as most narratives do not. It is useful to think of narratives in this context as palimpsests. Bits and pieces of the narrative are erased and other bits and pieces are added to compensate for well..history-events on the ground not foreseen when the original tale was told. This strategy takes advantage of the complete media saturation of the present time, where historical memory is measured in hours for the majority of the population. It is only necessary for the narrative to seem logical or coherent for however long it takes to achieve the immediate needs of the con. The new bits may be kept or discarded,depending on their staying power. What is important for us is that to neutralize the narrative so to speak,one has to start at the beginning. But in these times, nothing could be more unpopular: yesterday’s gone;let’s think about tomorrow. And the villains breath another sigh of relief.
Now that who gets the blame has been cleared up for the multicore performance fiasco, innovation and progress can resume their inexorable march towards the house of the rising sun(Moore’s Law). But wait. The same people who brought you multicore multi-threading lightning in a bottle have a new product-asynchronous single threaded programming(which I actually think is pretty good), Get yours now! And if this doesn’t work either to boost productivity and let the sunshine in,you’ll have to take the pipe again for the team. Software engineering is a lot more dangerous that most people realize.
Fifteen years ago, multicore multi-threaded programming was viewed as the “inevitable” for future high performance computing. It has now been replaced(having died on the vine, at least as energizer and raw material for the insatiable Silicon Valley hype factory) by a new inevitability for high performance transformational computing: an internet of things powered by asynchronous input/output running on custom AI optimized chips made to the specifications of elves working in the black forest surrounding Northern Virginia-who really know how to program in parallel with multicores,unlike those knuckleheads from back in the day.This new hardware matrix is energized by the software model just mentioned. But,since as others have pointed out,inevitability is the opposite of history-how is it that the inevitabilities of the cybernetic-utopians seem to be burdened by so much of it? We now can segue into the other linchpin of the cybernetic-utopians, inevitablism,to sketch out the outlines of an answer to that question:
Now the proselytizers of ubiquitous computing join Marx and other modern utopianists in postulating a new phase of history, like Paradiso’s[Joseph Paradiso MIT Media Lab professor-editor] “revolutionary phase shift,” in which all of society is reassembled in a novel and superior pattern. Despite the fact that inevitability is the opposite of politics and history, apostles of the apparatus routinely hijack historical metaphors that lend a veneer of gravitas to their claims. The rise of the apparatus is alternatively cast as the inauguration of a new “age,” “era,” “wave,” “phase,” or “stage.” This kind of historical framing conveys the futility of opposition to the categorical inevitability of the march toward ubiquity. from [The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,Shoshana Zuboff,Public Affairs Publishers,2019]
Between 2012 and 2015, I interviewed 52 data scientists and specialists in the “internet of things.” They came from 19 different companies with a combined 586 years of experience in high-technology corporations and startups, primarily in Silicon Valley. I spoke with them about the prominence of inevitability rhetoric among the purveyors of the new apparatus, and I posed the same question to each one: why do so many people say that ubiquitous computing is inevitable? The agreement among their responses was striking. Although they did not have the language of surveillance capitalism, nearly every interviewee regarded inevitability rhetoric as a Trojan horse for powerful economic imperatives, and each one of them lamented the lack of any critical discussion of these assumptions.[Zuboff,ibid]
Zuboff and others insinuate that “technological autonomy” and “inevitablism” are essentially the same things. I will try to make the case that they are used differently by the cybernetic-utopians as two pincer movements of the same campaign. The utopians are a real insurgency,not a fake or academic one. They are actually emplacing and effectuating their tortured and greedy ambitions as we speak. The mythopoesis they are using to shield their actions is weaponized,i.e.,highly polished.professionally rendered,disseminated by saturation and deployed with malice. As I have stated,myths do not necessarily have to be completely logically coherent at all times-only expediently so. This is why myths are mutable. The utopians are vastly cunning with virtually infinite resources and realize what they require for their success is a myth that supplies both a supernatural hierarchy(“technological autonomy”-one pincer) which is above the fray of human agency, and a mechanism of intervention which serves to whimsically exploit that autonomy to explain or intervene in the actual world we are seeing-the second pincer. But these whimsical events are whimsical only to those artifacts and their creators which exist the in the realm of “technological autonomy”. To the “mortals” these happenings are “inevitable”; as they must be:for the very definition of natural autonomy is predestination. What ever the Gods do is intrinsically just or at least true in and of itself ,because if wasn’t,t they wouldn’t be gods. Deus lo volt.
Literary readers will already have concluded that I’m identifying the essential framework of cybernetic-utopiansim with Greek mythology. And I will go further in stating that this is exactly how the whole project-for it is a project with the ominous overtones that word now has after three quarters of a century of intelligence gaslights and misdirections sold as truth-being sold to its victims. Technology now lives on a godlike Olympus,its whims can only be delayed or obfuscated or obstructed by mortal fiends-never denied(this connects directly with my assertion that cybernetic-utopiansim is science fiction-which does not mean it’s harmless,actually,the opposite.Greek mythology is essentially science fiction from the Bronze Age). Two pincers that once closed,encompass all the reality there is. The final realization of cybernetic-utopia.
Even the stories they tell are framed exactly like a Greek myth. The Olympians and Titans are perpetual(historically autonomous), but can be temporarily derailed or inconvenienced by human agency to explain some natural anomaly or conundrum. The gods(autonomous technology) created multiprocessors and multi-cores to perpetuate the gift of ever mounting processor goodness. They even formulated a mandate etched on a stone tablet(Moore’s Law). But human agency in its foolishness,abused the gift and wreaked havoc(the engineer’s ignorance of Amdahl’s Law)-invalidating the gift of the gods(the temporarily mutable portion of the myth). The perpetrators were punished and order restored. Moore’s Law always worked and always will;the mortals who don’t know how to use it were broken. And their punishment was to sit forever in tiny cubicles with only the hum of the electric water cooler in the office of the manager who was never there to keep them company,clearing Jira tickets that no matter how many times they were marked “closed” , materialized again in their email inboxes the very next day-forever and ever and ever. The software engineering version of the myth of Sisyphus.
And if the Titans and Olympians fail, there’s always the millennium and the Witnesses as a fall back position:
The state they depict appears virtually ordained either by God or by history; there is a carry-over of millenarian certainty, and if disciples, second religious or secular, discover that a specific timetable has not been realized, they manage to revise it ingeniously and preserve the credibility of the whole unfulfilled prophecy”-from Utopian Thought in the Western World,Frank & Fritzie Manuel
Why this is personal…
The installments that follow will essentially be part jeremiad/part revelation that I hope will provide the long and essentially untold back story of the events which I experienced as instantiation of the two above segments( “How software engineers messed up Moore’s Law by not understanding Amdahl’s Law even though Moore’s Law is an autonomous ,irresistible force of nature” and “How Moore’s Law actually fell apart all by itself and software engineers took a large piece of the gaff for it”). “Technological autonomy” and “inevitablism” will be our warp and woof, while opening up the lens aperture to include some characters visible only on the periphery,but carry a weight inverse to that visibility. And always keep in mind the most important thing:the endgame described in our introductory definition.
What is truly remarkable from my personal standpoint is that virtually no software engineers in recent memory have ever written anything within recent memory not vetted or restrained by the industry concerning what they are actually doing(as opposed to how they are doing it) and for what reason for fear of “never working again”. Few public images are as carefully manicured and ruthlessly enforced as that surrounding the production of high tech artifacts. It would not be an exaggeration to state the number and volume of public relations/information massagers working the tech beat rival those surrounding the entertainment industry-and for much the same reasons. What little engineers do write is so tepid and provincial in scope as to be of virtually no value except to tell us things we already know-which I guess is the point(software engineering is completely “captured” in the parlance of sociology). I am operating under no such restraints. This “capture” is so total that it is extraordinary that the question of whether the world that the cybernetic-utopians are making and the artifacts they are using to construct it are even necessary from the standpoint of human society as a whole is never even broached. Anywhere. The only discussion allowed is how these schemes will be implemented;when they will implemented;and by who. The very real possibility that the agenda of the cybernetic-utopians may have no social value at all and may be purely hegemonic(as I believe), has never been discussed in any public discourse I have encountered.
With the exception of say Joseph Weizanbaum and a few others , all of the references I quote and excerpt from or whose writings have deeply influenced me are non-engineers or academics. It is again truly remarkable that I can’t find a single book of any true value written by a working software engineer in the last ten years about the wider implications of what the majority of software engineers actually are doing-and for who. Working engineers as a group are completely unorganized and mute. Most are afraid to even post anything mildly eccentric for fear the Silicon Valley thought police will put a back channel demerit on their record. As a group, software engineers are deeply possessed by a sort of Stockholm Syndrome-the more they are abused by their intellectual and technical inferiors(management) the more they identify with their world views. Most software engineers I have worked and dealt with are essentially cowards-in my definition,not an emotional category but a heuristic one:someone who won’t even stand up for themselves,certainly can’t be trusted to stand up for you. I do not qualify this statement. In my experience(25 years-35 if you count my time as a machinist programming machine tools)-which is all I can speak from-this is true. A very sick friend deserves strong medicine. This cowardice is tragic-for who could tell us more about the dystopia currently under construction(and the maintenance of the one we are already living in) than the people who are actually laying the bricks and banging in the nails? These posts and this site in general are a pitiful attempt to make amends for my part in it all(which is trivial in the overall scheme of things, but writ large in the only book kept that matters:the palimpsest of your own life-of which a few un-edifiying morsels are related below). In unraveling the deceit surrounding such “fundamental” laws as Moore’s Law and Amdahl’s Law I hope to make apparent how this connects directly to the conduct and behavior of engineers themselves.
In my career I have: designed and written a capital accounts database for the most prominent medical institution in America to cover-up the theft and misappropriation of donated capital funds;designed and implemented a software replication project for a company that was laundering intelligence money passed to several African countries and using the project as a front;worked for a huge software combine on Wall Street with a household name that gypped the government and credulous corporations out of tens of millions by billing out contractors at $300/hr for sitting 10 to small hot rooms in Tribeca (myself included) pretending to “solve” the non-existent Y2K “crisis”;worked as a contractor for a project developing web interfaces for the FBI’s fingerprint database and discovered that NIST’s fingerprint recognition technology is borderline fraudulent-we used it anyway;worked as a contractor for a Virginia DOD outfit that was swindling the client(Navy) on a project that was supposed to deliver software for ships at sea. One day while working in the office in Alexandria, the owner of the office were were working in burst in and threatened to ‘beat our asses’ if he wasn’t paid his back rent(5 months). 4 days later the Navy chained the doors(which I discovered only when reporting for work), confiscated all the machines and indicted the owner;was a full time employee for a company that was contracted to develop one of the earliest mobile wireless trading applications for a prominent brokerage. We discovered after working on it for months that the true purpose of the application was it was to be used as a tool to cover-up illegal in-house transactions by ‘putting them out in the ether’. This company. which had only 15 employees when I was hired, had a 2 billion dollar IPO two years later, blew 25 million dollars on a Super Bowl commercial and had most of the rest of the loot mismanaged/stolen by the owner who built a Vegas style palace in one of the area’s most upscale old money neighborhoods and was cited by the state historical society for tearing down trees planted when George Washington was president and went effectively tits up(the company ,not the owner) as a software company in 2002. A year later with only 30 million dollars worth of benjamins left that someone must have hidden in an old file cabinet during the drunken IPO party and discovered only when the Sheriff and some Mexicans came to reclaim the office furniture, they became a mortgage company. There’s more(the previous laundry list only brings us up to about 2010), but you get the picture and the frame(I was an accessory to more crimes and debacles than Henry Kissinger). I believe that any software engineer of similar longevity that is honest with themselves and not in a delusional bubble or encased in a cocoon or amber behind a DOD/NDA firewall of deniability, will come up with a similar rap sheet/CV of shame-especially if they were active in the same era as myself. For extra credit,go back to the beginning of this paragraph and read out loud only the bolded parts. It will give you a far more honest idea of what the software engineering space has really been about over the last 25 years than anything you’ll ever get from Wired magazine.
Also take note that I do not absolve myself because “I was just writing code”. This would have been a disingenuous defense then; it would be a fraudulent one now. I know several engineers(or used to know,now I just know of them) who the last I heard were working on terrible things. And if you’re working on terrible things, you’re doing terrible things(I’ll bring in here a few of the characters lurking at the edge of the scene as I mentioned above). It takes a progressively degenerative form of mental gymnastics to avoid this conclusion and continue to think of yourself as a “good” person. The psychiatrist/government mind control double agent Robert Jay Lifton ( most recently seen crying crocodile tears on NPR) popularized the concept of “psychic doubling” , i.e., how to maintain psychic equilibrium when committing atrocities-a “good” person(that is an apparently good person) working on “bad things- in his book The Nazi Doctors years ago. And if there’s anybody who should know it would be Lifton, a long time intelligence staffer/asset/stooge who actually trained people to be Nazi doctors(another well known central intelligence tactic-the limited hangout. Lifton covers for the atrocities and the people responsible by disingenuously “figuring out how its done”,thus controlling and limiting the information exposed to what ever he can get the credulous-usually self styled crusaders-to believe. Think Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden). In the case of software engineering I think this kind of degeneration is now so widely accepted as “normal”, that it’s probably irreversible.
Nothing I did in all those years is even criminal-but this may only be because of historical whimsy. The police/national security state currently running things has succeeded in placing what amounts to a pre-emptive absolution over all of its minions(software engineering, being completely “captured” ,is included). But who knows how long the fickle finger of fate will be pointing in the other direction-away from the “innocents” of the engineering diaspora who perform their “psychic doubling” by seeing only a “wild and crazy guy” holding a can of Red Bull in the mirror instead of the loyal retainer of Mammon and Mars that is actually staring back at them.
Do not underestimate the people conducting this train who learn from intelligentsia grifters like Lifton( by proxy through the less exalted and not so cleverly disguised “productivity consultants” and “efficiency planners”), an “expert” and “teacher” and “academic” in the field of controlled psychological trauma who became all these things by perpetrating the psychopathy of his study. That’s the American way. Learn by doing. Nothing to do with software engineering?-think again friends. At some point it was realized that to achieve their ends the cybernetic-utopians would require not just outsized influence over software engineering and its artifacts, but the engineers themselves. Something along the line of what transpired with the mass media outlets the in 1950’s and 1960’s. Like Operation Mockingbird, the long term and spectacularly successful intelligence operation to “influence” American media. At some point it was realized it was more efficient and cost effective to simply supervise the whole operation directly-fooey on the influence. Central intelligence “advisors” now sit openly in the putative newsrooms of every media entity in the country(black brogans and white socks hidden under their desks) and every Hollywood production has a credited “script consultant”[tee hee] or some such tasked with keeping the product on the reservation,so to speak. Similarly, the upstream controllers seem to have reached an identical conclusion about software engineering:simply swallow it whole, like a python and forget the nibbling and shadow chicanery. I don’t know what the actual code name for the software engineering operation actually is, but hats off to the perpetrators for another smash hit. The devil must always be given his due.
And just like astronomers can deduce the presence of an unseen object by how it perturbs fields or deflects other observable objects,we can be sure something of the “Mockingbird” sort has taken place in engineering by observing the otherwise inscrutable behavior of the principals. In software engineering, I believe the “script consultants” are usually called “technical evangelists” or “product visionaries” and wear Nikes and skinny jeans instead of brogans and white socks. There has never been a Church Committee to look into the dirty laundry of who is really calling the shots in Silicon Valley on the ground. I think most software engineers would be shocked at what such a committee would find. And most even severe critics of Silicon Valley stop at criticizing Google’s “involvement” with say, China’s credit score surveillance panopticon,as if they have any choice. I believe that software engineering doesn’t have enough autonomy from central intelligence to make the word “involvement” even make any sense except as a diversion. And in relation to Project Mockingbird, remember what central intelligence arch-villain Frank Wisner had to say about the media and the Mighty Wurlitzer. I wonder what instrument is the metaphor for how engineers are played? A xylophone?
The train conductors have carefully assisted software engineers in distancing themselves from their own deeds(to the point that its is now a requirement for most positions-asking about any even innocent non-technical matters concerning the enterprise in an interview is the kiss of death) and spread this paradigm like dengue fever far and wide. What better way to help your minions psychologically “double”/isolate themselves from their actions then to atomize these actions into an incoherent micro managed stew, denying anyone the ability to not only see the big picture, but to see any picture of what they’re actually doing at all. And complement this with a daily regime of micro humiliations which include detailed “confessions” and begging for ritualized “forgiveness” if one has failed-publicly in front of your peers to dissolve and suppress any counter-responses from the id. And to dissolve any pretensions to a meritocracy into the “team” ,which always knows best. And what is always right is the “goal/promised land”, which is supplied by the “customer/leader”, who is always even righter.My actions are always for the team. There can be no validation outside of the team for my actions. And this team and its efforts must be ahistorical-every day is a new day and every day you are a new person who must justify your actions,and even themselves-to the team.Which precludes peer solidarity,since you can’t build a community of friends and colleagues acting with a common purpose when everybody is a new and different person from one day to the next. And the only wrong is “team” wrong.
But such a mind control/social engineering system would never work on software engineers. Would it? Even if this sounds exactly like Agile,advertised as a software development system but in practice is actually a methodology to manage/stupefy/(mind?)control engineers, “invented” in 2001 suddenly at a resort in Utah by some people who just “came together”(their words not mine)? And when the conference concluded, they didn’t issue a report like most conferences,but a manifesto-like Trotskyites or Falangists or Jacobins . And like work space infantilization, Agile arrived suddenly and full blown-at exactly the same time. So many coincidences. I remember distinctly at the time that the visceral reaction to Agile by myself and a significant number of my engineering contemporaries was that Agile was some sort of mind control program/Skinner Box-in exactly those words. Even those who didn’t go that far ,thought it at the very least,bizarre and disturbing. But like most recent history,the opinions and thoughts of any orthogonal contemporaneous subjects are whited-out and only the voice of the “narrative” is preserved.
In ensuing years Agile has tried unsurprisingly to rewrite its own history,declaring itself an organic growth from previous methods. I demure. Agile arrived suddenly and consummate by declaration in the early 2000’s, never missing an opportunity to derogate its predecessors who despite all their putative faults, had produced the software and processing engines that ran the world while Agile’s bona fides were threadbare. And so Agile joined a virtual unbroken chain of vaporous technological origin myths stretching all the way back to Silicon Valley itself which was born of a blood clot or extracted from Adam’s rib-or something. And, yes(tiresomely I know), I was there and that’s my story of it. I don’t have the resources to do it myself, but I am practically certain that if you dig deep enough under the floorboards of that Colorado conference and keep digging until you see light;you’ll end up in Langley,Virginia-maybe in Satoshi Nakamoto’s office.
Up until about 15 years ago I was also a coward until I became seriously concerned with the world I was helping to build,seemingly oblivious of the consequences. And oblivion is where most software engineers currently exist. They believe they’re riding down the highway while actually they’re just slip sliding away. Maybe reading these posts will make a couple pull back from the brink and head for the exits. Despite the industry brainwashing, they have nothing to lose. I have come to sincerely believe that modern software engineers have become a species of drone or even more sinister, a virtualized sonderkommando – when the dirty work is done(and the global panoptic dystopia seems all but complete), the perpetrators(software engineers) may know too much to keep around. Although the case of the atomic scientists is illustrative-many were given lucrative government make work or cushy academic sinecures to keep them out of trouble after cold war demobilization(the devil makes work for idle hands…) – software engineers are too numerous and too voluble for this treatment. It will take only one serious breach for their masters to turn on them(and I’m not talking about some psyop phony misdirection like Edward Snowden, I mean somebody actually spilling the detailed c++/golang code beans on something like the Lockheed Martin/Homeland Security/FBI nationwide realtime gang stalking network-largely a software operation). But as Rice Miller used to sing: don’t start me to talking-I’ll tell everything I know. And I know plenty.
In expressing hope that software engineers might change course,I am not holding my breath. Let me be explicit here. I am not a Cassandra,but the opposite.For at the present time a Cassandra will almost certainly be some sort of agent or provocateur. Why? Because all the things the Cassandras warn about happening in the future-complete lack of privacy,cyber slavery,techno-feudalism,etc.-have already happened.And they happened decades or generations ago. So anyone trying to goad you into action to “fight the man,before it’s tool late” is by definition a deceiver and manipulator[Maybe if Daniel Ellsberg had had the courage to leak evidence of the events at the time he was helping to instigate them instead of 10 years after when he “bravely” dumped the Pentagon Papers,the three million people who got gazpachoed in the interim would have lived to tell the tale. I feel the same about Snowden.]Their role is to keep you immobilized by exploiting fundamental human nature:as long as you know there’s “time to act”, you’ll probably do absolutely nothing. Which is what they want you to do. Most human beings only react to existential threats in a unilateral,unmediated manner in the present , not the future. When I talk about the coming dystopia, I actually mean the end of the current dystopia and its replacement with its ideal, now,this minute:the end of history where the the “actions” of the un-anointed will have no possible consequences at all. If you’re not receiving advice to stop whatever you’re doing now and change course, you’re being deceived. The control grid I will talk about tirelessly already exists,and has for generations,but not in this form. What I will be pointing out essentially is that its upgrade(currently under construction) will be the last dystopia,since this one will obviate human agency itself. I will also admit that “fight the man;it’s already too late!” is a less than inspirational rallying cry,but I just go where the truth takes me-I never said I was Spartacus. And I agree there are always options. But there is no requisite guarantee that any of them are good ones.
Mixing in names like Ellsberg and Snowden and Lifton and Sisyphus may seem eccentric to the average engineer, but only because “Operation Software Engineer Disassociation” or whatever it’s actually called, has worked so well and for so long. And because so many do believe that software engineering is walled off from the rest of society and that the machinations and plots of their employers are native to their bubble only and not simply fallout from upstream or blowback from downstream. To those well versed in the history and mechanism of the these kind of intelligence projects,the smoking guns are laughably obvious. The origin myths of the companies and personalities of the Silicon Valley dream machine are so transparently false and contrived they don’t even qualify as “cover” in most cases. So it should come as no surprise that the epiphenomena of these creations,like software engineering and software engineers,inherit their attributes in a manner of speaking. We’ll leave that Stygian stable to be shoveled another day.
The cocoon of “worker bee” immunity that most engineers drape themselves in is little more than a fantasy and a talisman,like a small child’s security blanket. The world of software engineering is vastly more intimately connected to the deeds of the security/panopticon state than its constituents wish to even admit to themselves,with all the import that those connections carry. As a coda derived from this, I add that “compartmentalization” in intelligence circles(on which Agile and similar “management” systems are modeled) serves a dual role:the well known one of restricting access to information to only those who have a “need to know”;and the less advertised one of atomizing the information so that each piece is discrete and has no meaning unless fitted into a larger context known only to a few,effectively disconnecting the mechanism by which humans decide right from wrong by limiting the scope of information available to make such a determination to a non sequitur-a sort of game theory with different outcomes depending on where you stand in the hierarchy. And if you are at the bottom of the hierarchy,like engineers,when the games goes sour,how will you mount a defense without information? And how do you know if you have not already been apportioned the blame when it comes time to pay the devil? Yes,it’s high tide for the cybernetic-utopians,and it’s a solid bet that most engineers will never have to deal with the consequences of such questions. But history is cunning,and the old Vegas bromide that the house always wins is true. But what Vegas doesn’t tell you is who the losers were.
Ok.Let’s get moving.
Next time , we’ll get deeper into what exactly is cybernetic-utopianism and how its agenda relates to both Moore’s law and Amdahl’s Law. We’ll necessarily pick up Amdahl’s Law again in part 4.