Keep the Faith
I’m not a man of faith as it’s commonly understood, but I am starting to wonder if we’re getting to a moment where we human beings need to assert just a bit of sacred mystery to the goings on in this dimensional neighborhood we call reality.
I’ve been thinking a lot about technology, automation, robots, and artificial intelligence, and whether some of the transhumanists are correct in their hope that machines can carry on the human project — whatever that may be — after we succumb to climate change or some other disaster of our own making or even just random calamity. Atheist though they may be, the techno-futurists do hope to upload something about themselves or human beings to cloud before going extinct. It’s just that the things they want to infuse into our robot successors are necessarily limited to the aspects of ourselves that can be digitized.
Problem is, at least as I see it, the digitizing may leave a bunch of stuff out. We can encode an awful lot about human beings onto hard drives — Finnegan’s Wake, architectural plans for the pyramids, the Kama Sutra — and those files can be used to reconstitute certain human experiences. But for whom? Will the robots “get” what Kendrick Lamar really means by “I’m Makaveli’s offspring, I’m the king of New York/King of the Coast, one hand, I juggle them both/The juggernaut’s all in your jugular, you take me for jokes.” Do we even know what he means in an exact way? Or do his words flow as more of a sensibility that washes over us–something that comes through when we soften our mental focus and let the words move through our bodies? And is that letting go, itself, an act of faith? A surrender to the possibility of “something more” about human expression and experience than can be defined and quantized?
Face it, technologies can or will do pretty much everything better than we can — other than maybe comforting and loving other living things. (And there’s some evidence they’re getting better at that, too.) Even their ability to take a systems approach to civilization’s many challenges far exceeds anything we can muster. And if we believe that statistics and probabilities are the best tools for making difficult ethical choices about existential risks for the few versus the many, we may as well do…