People like to talk about science and technology as if it is some grand, helpful, ultima weapon, that it progresses to the advantage only. Technology is a multifaceted avenue that has given us computers and automatic rifles, coal-fired engines and the Manhattan Project, nuclear power and nuclear weapons, oh I mean nucular. We are creatures that utilize for good or ill at every opportunity. I’ve been told I’m too pessimistic, Mr Negative negarino. I can be this way and I make no excuses for my cynicism and misanthropy, but I also see good and hope and what I believe is if you still get angry you still believe in the good of man, if you stave off apathy you have care in you.
Reading about AI (or AGI and ASI) in James Barrat’s book Our Final Invention, I ponder the mysteries and vagaries of the not-to-distant future and find myself veering back and forth between the pro and con sides. I certainly think super intelligent sentient machines is a possibility and there definitely could be danger to that future. We take too much stock in ourselves thinking we’re so important or vital to the world when really we are just here for the moment and them blammo we out. This same thinking goes with the whole ET thing, why should any intelligent being give a shit about us? Who cares who we are, other beings may not be as curious or interested in our little time machine with the eurocentric knick knacks floating in space. We have use of each other but that doesn’t always translate to other creatures, only the bacteria that live off us would miss us.
But we cannot stop the driveshaft of the tech boom, science marches and we settle in for the unexpected, futurism is prevalent among us. It is exciting even if it leads to our demise or enslavement a la The Matrix (sci-fi nerds refrain from berating me with better analogies). I can’t be a Luddite, I love the gizmos and computers, I’m a big ass nerd and all the news and specs of technologies gives me solace and awakens that childlike wonder I thought had dissipated with the shock and awe. Just the fact of supreme graphics on video games takes me back, I mean growing up with Atari and Nintendo and the 8 bit world and now we have character models that look better than real life (oh those glorious flowing hair textures). We seem to crave complexity in a number of ways, ever evolving modes of existence that blot the screen like Tetris blocks and when is the top reached? I just can’t give it up, too useful. I have tried to unplug before, sometimes succeeded, and of course climate change and the need to slow down energy use will necessitate using less electronics, unless wind and solar ramp up exponentially and the NIMBY assholes get what’s what.
This has always been a part of us, our evolution was synonymous with technology, we are creators and innovators, we build the future and the future as a concept only exists to us. Those lazy snails don’t care about the future. Filthy mucus leaking jerks. So we make strides towards Singularity as it were. We’ve set the toast and hope it doesn’t burn in the end, meanwhile we fiddle with the setting never knowing how much or little we’re helping. If we don’t get bogged down or dragged down by commercialism and corrupt politics we could achieve something objectively great. Energy is the first factor, renewables is the primary concern, enough with the overpowered smartphones to occupy our twiddling thumbs and jewel-matching inclinations. I always feel everyone getting on the same page and focusing in one direction will foster what is lacking. Let’s not divide our attention on so many avenues, let’s not fill up on bread and miss the escargot. Fucking snails!
So, where are we going? Does Hawking know? Kurzweil? That snail-lover Obama? We usually need leaders but perhaps this time the invention comes about through cloud computing and joint efforts, customer feedback and feed ins, the mass of internet communications filling the infinite godhead of robosapien. No single technology or utility can bring us to this pivotal point, even though many hang their hopes on the miraculous propositions and prophecies of nanotechnology. We’re stuck in a hustle and losing ground to electronics, charged and nullified all the same, imperative and disparaging depending on which side you’re on. And we must always take sides mustn’t we? The happy medium seems the Holy Grail of choices, forever buried in the crypt of politics and differentiation, variation, obfuscation. Will people get along enough to achieve something so grand as we imagine? What are we hoping for, what is this missing piece that binds us? Could be we’re just doing it for the hell of it. Not everything needs rhyme and reason in this Mad Hatter world. Perhaps progress is an end in itself, leading one down a road to freedom and not knowing what to do at the cross-section. Before a leap must come a decision. One small step…