Trying to figure out money

My search for contemporary morality led me into some seriously slow reading. I’m looking to scientists for definitions of right and wrong, and scientists speak weird language. They talk in mathematics. I think there are clues to the appropriate meanings of ‘life’ and ‘consciousness’ in the work of the artificial intelligence people, but after three or four pages of propositional logic, I feel a  blissful and irresistible sleepiness.

At any rate, it’s instructive to think about an intelligence that’s not self-reflective. Sort of like being aware of everything except yourself. So here you are, and the things to do turn out to be the most rational things to do, and ‘rational’ means simply, sort of, things you can do. So if you’re equipped to be appreciative or gregarious, be those things to flex the associated circuitry. Choice of action (which starts sounding like knowing right from wrong) gets figured out according to the sorts of rules and objects you run into.

I think about this because I’ve asked a lot of people about specific moral dilemmas and they don’t answer (or they go oblique or argumentative), and I’ve just about figured out: people really don’t know. Well, it might not be the right and wrong they don’t know about. We might all be confused by the rapidly changing rules and objects.

What’s happening to money gets interesting when I apply this sort of thinking, because money is kind of the quintessential way in which people have sought worldly expressiveness over the generations. (A guy pays twenty laborers to put in a garden for him, and sweeps his arm across his horizon, proclaiming, ‘see the wonderful garden I’ve planted!’)

Money is also about real value, it’s about what people hope something is truly worth, in a way similar to wanting to know what they do is right, because it’s provably true – we’re all trying to force a certain reliability into our futures largely because, unlike many machines, we do self-reflect. And yet, just like morality, money is a fiction; it’s just a story people agree to believe to better organize their lives. The fiction loses power as soon as the rules and objects make it unbelievable.

I wonder if this could happen in the stock market. Haphazardly, I was reading about adversarial search in my Artificial Intelligence handbook about the same time a piece of stock I own started ‘inexplicably’ going up in value. Since I know most stock trades today are chosen by computer programs using lots more than simple adversarial search algorithms, I realized – as I sat there watching a particular trading screen – I was watching a machine game; like computers playing chess. Computers play chess much better than humans now, and no-one would even think of trying to win.

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