Lately I’ve been consumed in conversation about the limitations and pain inherent in the human body. This is equally being met with discussions of Artificial Intelligence and technology, many people’s hope and dreams for the future. Soon, many believe we will replace our dirty, wimpy, scary, hairy, fat, skinny, disease-ridden, overloaded, mushy, addiction-prone meat bags that we unfortunately have to live in. A vote for physical “betterment” is a vote for the future!!! Where we don’t have to think about global warming’s effects, because we can program a light Bahama breeze into our robotic sensation palate, whether we are on planet earth or whether we’ve launched our space bodies into the stratosphere. Isn’t it a beautiful view? We can watch the earth globe with crystalline memories packed into our digital brains. We no longer have all those pesky problems of being human, so we can turn our attention toward higher spiritual ideals, or if you’re not spiritual, then higher SCIENCE- minded ideals. It’s a perfect utopia! And yet…
WHAT DO WE HAVE TO LOSE?
There is a certain beauty and necessity in the imperfect now that I argue goes under-realized. This is the reason we’re in said meat-sacks in the first place, and how we’re going to get to the next level up. In the recent special issue of Time called, “Artificial Intelligence: The Future of Humankind”, AI pioneer David Gelernter talks about the differences between human minds and their tech counterparts. Unlike computer’s “high focus’, people move through a spectrum of clarity, from high to low, like the information we process psychologically and emotionally through dreams. Much of this information is taken in through the senses, and the mind alters as the body changes. These are not isolated parts, the human is a gestalt work. So is his art and vision process.
In the “high and low” classification there is a natural positive/ negative, better-or-worse connotation that may have you thinking...Of course!! Higher processing is better! Do away with my messy brain, it causes way too many problems as it is!!
What if the problems of the world are only echoed in the technology we create? What if we don’t learn the lessons that the body has to teach us in time to integrate them into a “higher” intelligence? I find myself losing faith in the future of pure technology because I still think the body has lessons to teach us about the world we should develop. Gelernter remarks on how difficult it is for humans to deal with long-term consequences, to cope with things like chronic conditions. Each one of us has stories buried in our flesh, in our genetics, that we can learn from… and if we don’t let the body speak, then we risk building repression into the system. I think the fetishization of science and the illusion that some benevolent tech genius will engineer us out of our worldly problems is far too “easy” to attach to. There is still more messy, gritty, shitty work to do. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE science fiction! For all the fantasies, the speculation, the drama, fear, and grandeur that it reveals about our current state and future possibilities. But the fact is, our current state is a mess, and if one of the earth’s super powers can’t help but elect a narcissist, then I’m doubtful that our human species has the capacity to engineer a future that is in touch with the soul potential of the human race. Not as we are now.
There are many possibilities and uncertainty is a fact we live with. Artificial intelligence could be our salvation or annihilation. Perhaps if we aim for “neutral” we might enter a pact with the devil in the cloud, and come out tech zombies. Is that better or worse than what’s current? It is my hope, and my effort, whether or not we have a future as droids, to make the point that we are still to be saved by digging deeper, through the muck down to the bottom of the pond so that the lotus of the future can bloom. Through embodiment, we both understand our history and write/ right/ rite our future.
Written from the perspective of an artist and philosophizer. Onward.