Yes. It is Brands that prove that something in reality, like artificial intelligence, is impossible.
Let’s be clear about what is referred to as artificial intelligence and what is artificial intelligence. Neither definition is static, though. Nothing in the memetic world is static. Each new sensemaking activity makes the object of that activity slightly different.
No one can objectively assert what AI means at any moment. But I would bet that due to the fabulous publicity that Elon Musk has performed for many years now, a majority would accept AI as something that lies behind self-driving cars.
But what lies behind self-driving car intelligence? Isn’t it self-evident that there is some intelligence behind self-driving machines?
Although we tend to see our society as post-industrious, we are still very much members of a post-Renaissance, science-based, fact-driven, and, what is even more critical in this respect, mechanistic society. Post-Renaissance humans believe that there are reducible mechanics behind each act of nature. We (not I, though) believe that should we have a strong enough computer, we could calculate the path of each particle back to the Big Bang.
We believe that it is only a matter of time before the technology will have advanced to the extent that there will be machines able to replicate. We believe that a replication is an activity that is symmetrical to reductivity. We believe what can be reduced to the “initial state” can also be replicated. You only need powerful intelligence (computer) to accomplish the conceivable task, at least in theory.
We believe in strong artificial intelligence (strong AI). We believe that technology is the only thing that prevents us from constructing thinking machines, but also that it is only a matter of time before we can reduce human cognitive abilities to detectable physically observable changes in the brain. When we reduce human cognitive abilities to physically observable changes, we can reproduce abilities from changes and thus construct strong AI.
With such notions, we prove that we still tend to understand our world as complicated but not complex. Complicated machines are reducible and fully manageable. We tend to understand our brands and our companies as such machines. It is consistent with such a view to understand innovation as technological innovation only.
Elon Musk is a perfect embodiment of such a notion. He is thus not only Stalin’s nephew but a zombie as well. For in a complicated world, one needs an additional soul to transform a zombie into a human, while in a complex world, a world that is not reducible, a “soul” rests exactly in imperfection and irreducibility as pure emergence. (please note the comment one below)
Complex world (of brands)
Emergence is something that cannot be explained as a reducible consequence of elements (brand elements) from where emergence emerges.
The emergence and complexity of life are perhaps easiest to explain from a branding perspective, though all examples of life would suit.
Brands as ultimate human creations exist as memes on the substrate of our brains. They exist outside as potentials but embody themselves only “with the little help” of our brains. They are “objective” viruses, but viruses survive only in the body of our brains. Strong memes occupy more brains than weak memes. (please note the comment two below)
Memes combine into meme complexes, brands. String meme complexes occupy more brains than weak meme complexes. (note three)
Although one can define the identity of each brand to a certain degree, it is impossible, in principle, to define the unvarying identity of all brand expressions in all brains. Each brand expression and each infection is different because each host (individual) is different. It is thus impossible to reduce a brand from its particular expressions. Brand as an objective entity can only be induced. This fact is practically proven by the Standard Branding Model I have developed and practiced over the years.
Brands as entities are memetic inductions, holistic and universal, while brands as expressions are particular, local, and time-dependent. (note four)
And what is then intelligence?
Intelligence is not much more than a practical expression of all memes (not only meme complexes like brands) in the head and body of any individual. Such intelligence is highly local, practical, non-repeatable, fragile, and perishable. For all the reasons mentioned, transferring it to anything universal or reconstructing it in any universal Turing Machine is impossible.
Brands as entities are, on the other hand, universal. One could understand them as universal intelligence. But as universal, such intelligence is out of an individual’s reach. Universal intelligence, devoid of individuals, is abstract potential. As I explained in Brandlife, we tend to manage such universal brands as potentials, but ultimately, we always realize that the best brand management is to “let it go.” Brands should live their own life.
Should vehicles live their own life? Would you accept such an unpredictable self-driving intelligence?
Musk as a brand thus denies Musk as a visionary.
It is fun to play with Elon Musk’s visions. It is fun to play with toys that are so limited in scope as his visions.
Elon Musk is a brand. He is a strong brand, and he puts a lot of energy into making his brand even more potent.
But that does not mean that he and many other believers in artificial intelligence understand limitations that separate particular individual, practical intelligence from universal, unattainable one. Neither can they replicate individual intelligence (strong AI) nor construct a universal one.
AI in self-driving cars rests on a presupposition that intelligence is deducted from reality. It rests on the presupposition that more robust algorithms will enable such experience to learn from experience. But as brands prove, intelligence does not come from experience only. Intelligence creates an experience and creates a sense of objectivity. That is real intelligence; no Universal Turing Machine can create such intelligence.
Please note that this post was initially written in June 2019, before Open AI applications became part of our daily routine and before my recent memetics upgrades. So here are some upgrades to the above text:
- Elon Musk from 2019 is not Elon Musk from 2022 or 2023. Reading the updated version of Elon Musk, Stalin’s Nephew (not anymore?) fourth revision, transformation becomes transparent. This blog grows from itself; it is self-replicating, trying to reach equilibrium but failing with each attempt, as does life.
- The paragraph was not wrong, but now I know that brains are substrates of memes, with the additional functionality of memetic fields. Strong memes indeed occupy more brains than weak memes, but memes themselves are as strong as the memetic fields they are part of. The gravity of memetic fields gives the direction of the memetic vector (value) and pull (gravity) of that vector to a particular meme. Memes are indeed potentials, but with the additional twist, that potentiality is quantum-like, meaning that it actualizes with a collapse that happens when memes enter the memetic field.
- Brands do not form meme complexes but are fractals. That means that the size does not matter.
- I was unaware of the difference between strategic and material memes, a separation my mentor David Haig proposed in From Darwin to Derrida: Selfish Genes, Social Selves, and the Meanings of Life, 2020, MIT Press). This division is the starting point for the ontology of memes I’m working on.
Finally, I would again sign the post from 2019 unchanged with the above four upgrades. Quite satisfied, though.