A New Shell Game

Your house is a shell. Your car, a mobile shell. Your clothes, your preconceptions, your choice of news websites, your LLC, all form shells around the gooey center that is you.

And even if you believe, as many do, that the self is an illusion, the no-thing hallucinating the self still loves shells around it.

These shells form protection from the elements, from bad ideas, and hopefully from actual crimes against you. The largest crime that goes unanswered right now is theft of your attention.

The trouble as I see it is that we have built machine learning tools that provide easy ways to crack our shells, by for instance spreading misinformation on trusted channels for advertising, but machine learning hasn’t been shown to actually protect us from much of anything.

Nobody has built an AI shell for us. Yet. Sure, there are firewalls and anomoly detection for financial security that might use machine learning, but what I am talking about is an AI that knows you, and only you. That is, in effect, the information shell you will wear throughout your life.

That will protect you, and only you. That is trained to identify you, by learning all of your biological and information patterns.

I am a user of the Titan security key, which ensures that only devices I physically authorize can access my Google accounts. Now imagine a system that does this one better and removes the key itself. The key is the AI who knows you on millions of factors of authentication.

And deep fakes become irrelevant. Without your true signature, provided by your AI shell, all is ignored.

Because when we have absolute security of ourselves as individuals, when spreading information requires knowledge of the people behind the spread, we can halt the flood of disinformation. And we can rebuild Government and Corporations to serve humans better.

There are those that believe that anonymity is still needed to allow leakers to speak truth to power. I disagree. Two points here: what happens when wikileaks gets taken over by Russians, or any other supposed anonymous bastion like the press is compromised? Being anonymous really only has power when the megaphone is trustworthy. And while I don’t agree with the president on much, I believe if you blindly accept what is on the front page of the NY Times after the second Iraq War then you are living in a seriously compromised shell. If an anonymous leak appeared there from this White House, I would assume nothing but malfeasance first.

Secondly, the idea of anonymity has a lot more relevance when there is less noise. But right now, when bots create so much noise as semi-anonymous or fraudulent actors, we need more authentic humans to stand and be heard.

It sometimes hurts, but we need to take the hits it takes to change the world. I realize my ideas in this blog, for instance, are beyond controversial. I am suggesting that we need to rebuild society based on a new understanding of the self and equality and technology. And while I believe we can do this successfully only without violence, so I am not really a traditional revolutionary, if you don’t think someone advocating replacing traditional governance with something completely different using self-focused machine learning isn’t sort of crazy, then it just proves my point that we are all over-saturated with information. Nothing shocks.

But my point isn’t to shock, or convince people that the robots or people who build them are winning and inspire change through fear alone. My point is to tell you that there is a way forward if we place the individual Singleton human at the center of the change to come. If the shell we build for information protection becomes our second skin, filtering out the noise, giving our voices more and more power.

Then we build a whole new shell game, an operating system for the world with encryption for individuals on by default.

Painting by Simon Stålenhag

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