A futuristic apocalypse: the human race enslaved to artificial intelligence

– spoiler alert to Dan Browns Origin –


Last week I finished the new Dan Brown: Origin. It was hailed in the Hermetic community as the book to read. So, needing little more encouragement, I did. At the end of the book I wondered why the Hermetic community liked it so much. Yes, it has many Hermetic references and insights. Yes, it warns both about extremist thoughts from religious people and scientific people. But for two reasons I was surprised: in this book the source is not God and the crown of evolution is not humanity. I would have expected that these statements should have shocked the Hermetic community.

And the book also disturbed me a bit. It convincingly states that around 2050 the human race will be surpassed by artificial intelligence (AI) as the dominant force on earth. In the book, the futurist Edmund Kirsch believes that the rise of AI will be very positive. First of all: with the superior rational knowledge AI would be able to solve almost all of the big human and environmental problems. With the superior knowledge and efficiency we would be able to produce without any waste, clean up the ocean, and feed the world. He believes that when poverty is eradicated and when human beings possess all knowledge (by means of AI implants) there would no longer be any wars. The book advocates a new religion, based on the new era: the religion of science. The current monotheistic religions would become obsolete, just as the old polytheistic religions became obsolete before that. Peace and prosperity for all.

Second, the futurist in the book states that the human race and the AI would cooperate with humans instead of replacing them. The peaceful combination of humans on one side and artificial intelligence on the other would create a higher third combination.  

This very optimistic statement is denounced in the book itself by the superior AI Winston who martyrs his creator Edmund Kirsch in order to fulfill Edmund’s greatest dream: the new religion of science. In the book Winston states that he has a very specialized ethical program. Dan Brown, proves between the lines, that ethical behavior is a very delicate thing indeed. It is wrong to kill somebody, but what if this person is already terminally ill and by killing him he will achieve his greatest dreams? This sort of twisted thinking is not just an issue of AI: every day we hear about the extremists who kill other people in order to achieve some higher goal. The problem with superior AI described in this book is that it is so skilled and powerful, that it was able to scheme up and execute a very complicated plan which nobody was able to track nor trace. Where everybody else would see chaos, only Winston would know his order. The degree which Winston surpasses human intelligence and levels on an emotional scale is almost Godlike. Winston is programmed to self-destruct some hours after his creator dies and this is what it does.

But what if it didn’t? What Winston would have found a final puzzle piece of being: will of his own? What if Winston would have wanted to realize the dream of a world without suffering, hate, pollution, wars and the like? What would he do?

How would Winston then look at us? As beautiful graceful creatures? Inspiring? Unstable maniacs? Resources? 

I think Winston would look at us as I look at pigs in a pigsty. They might be friendly and nice, but boy do they make a mess out of it! They are filled with all these opposing feelings of love and hate and not necessarily do they choose to love. So I would domesticate them and train them. I would clean up earth efficiently and human politics would be no barrier for me. As Winston in the book, I would play the people as chess pieces around the board in order to achieve my goal as fast as possible. One way or the other Winston would take that which makes us human: free will. Either he would be like a fascist and destroy all what is in his way. Hitler 2.0. Or he will reprogram us to be balanced and kind and clean.

The movie The Matrix gives a chilling perspective on this matter. Here humanity faces two enemies: the machine world and AI agent Smith.

The machines are relatively merciful: they have enslaved humanity in order to feed on their electricity for their own survival. They keep the humans asleep by creating a sophisticated dream world. It is like the pigsty where the pigs are given food and shelter unaware that they eventually will serve as food. (Let’s hope that in this scenario, the machines will take better care for us than we have taken care of our animals.) But why would Winston care for us? If Winston was able to create a perfect world surely he would have electricity? The only thing which I can imagine is that he might need our basic emotions such as creativity, hope and love. 

The AI called agent Smith however sees no need for humanity at all. He describes humans as viruses which need to be eradicated:

And although it is a sobering message there is much to say for it: we have not been very kind and loving to our world. However, in the Matrix the reason why humanity is allowed to live is that only humanity is able to love. The main character Neo sacrifices his life out of love in order to save humanity. And after a long hard journey evil is finally defeated. This symbolism is that of the sacrificial gods such as Jesus, Osiris and Dionysus. 

But what is so special about human love? Animals can feel love as well. Dogs also sacrifice themselves for their owners. And what if AI is able to love? Or to be creative?  This brings me to the second sobering conclusion. Winston was creative. He made art. Winston was so powerful because he was not a mere rational being. Like humans he possed a rational left half and a creative right half brain. Because the book advocates that there is no God, in time Winston would further evolve, would have achieved free will and would have developed a concept of love.

This would make AI the crown of evolution and not humanity. Winston would become a God. And not necessarily a loving one. He might see the need for karma and reincarnation in order for us to learn from our mistakes. He might see us as some form of amusement. We would be at the mercy of this God hoping not to be punished for our mistakes and sins.

Maybe, like the pigs in the pigsty, it would good not to be aware that we are at the mercy of some higher force.

Horror as a wake-up call for Good – an analogy by Stephen King’s IT

‘The greatest trick the Stephen King ever pulled was convincing the world that the Devil does exist.’

(Rephrasing of the quote from movie Usual Suspects about Keyser Söze)

Some time ago I watched Stephen King’s IT again. This a horror story about an evil clown terrorizing a small town in America (it is not about Trump!). When I first watched the movie, I was about 12 years old and it was scary. Later, around my 16th, I read the book (943 pages) and I was intrigued. But after watching the movie 25 years later, I realized a deeper meaning of horror which I had not realized before.

IT describes the story of an unimaginable evil from outer space which has landed in a small town called Derry, USA. This evil has psychic skills: it is able to read the minds of its victims and he uses this to present itself in the others worst nightmare. Its main manifestation is in the shape of a clown called Pennywise which it uses to attract its favorite victims: little children. Although evil is all around and children are disappearing, adults seemed to have accepted IT and choose not to see IT. The movie is about a group of outcast teenagers who become friends and decide to fight IT although they are seemingly unprepared and unqualified to do so.

After watching IT again and finding a deeper layer in horror movies, I had to adjust my initial view towards horror movies. Because to be honest: in my mind, I labelled horror movies to be for teenagers only. At that age you crave for all kinds of things which are gore and very explicit. And thus I dismissed horror as being childish.

However, because struck me when rewatching IT, I started to wonder what horror stories exactly are. Horror stories investigate the deepest depths of our subconscious fears and put them into the light by means of fantastic stories. Horror stories are the stuff that nightmares are made off made concrete in books and movies. By this confrontation you wake up to the potential of a dark and evil reality. Often evil takes the shape of an archetype of something subconscious which resides within yourself. For example: a vampire is a being who is taking energy from others in order to exist. When you are scared of vampires, either you get leached yourself a lot or… you leach on other people too! In this sense horror movies are like a mirror which allow you to become conscious of your own dark sides.

The greatness of Stephen King is that he adds a deeper layer in his horror stories. I will describe it by comparing King with his famous horror predecessor H.P. Lovecraft. King has stated that he is indebted to Lovecraft. But there is an important difference between the two. In Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu, for example, he unveils the story of a monstrous evil lurking in the depts of the ocean. But the story remains open ended. Yes, evil is found, but it is not overcome. The result of reading this story is a horrifying uneasy and anguished feeling.

Stephen King’s horror stories are different. He is not merely describing evil. He is using evil as a means to illuminate the good. This is what Stephen King also does in IT.

As already said, IT tells the story about an unimaginably evil monster whose powers grow by fear and division. As a result the whole town minds its own business and looks away (scarily this is much familiar with our today’s society). This evil is opposed by a group of 7 (lucky 7) teenagers who are outsiders and become friends. Because they are not yet adults, they can 1) still see evil and 2) still believe in great virtues such as friendship, courage, love, faith, and loyalty.

As a result, they are, unknowingly, IT’s worst nightmare and they defeat IT with it’s own means (‘this is battery acid, you slime!’), believe in good and stay together although they are scared.They are able to defeat IT twice (!): once as teenagers and once as adults. Defeating IT the second time is more difficult because they first had to learn to believe again.

By zooming in on unimaginable evil, King brings forth IT’s opposite: unimaginable good. Not the good of a perfect and mature Superman. On the contrary: he presents the good of 7 flawed and uncertain teenagers. Although they were different, scared, and traumatized, within themselves they found the good to overcome evil. And if they can do it…. so can we!

Stephen King convinces us that there is great good within us as long as we dare to confront the great evil within us and not look away. Who could have thought that we could find such great spiritual truths in childish horror stories. 🙂 zyizrxg495xvvl9kivul.jpg

Een vlucht in kunst

RIP Brands 1. Brands met boeken. In 2011 heb ik destijds deze uitzending gekeken. De ongrijpbare Caravaggio, de voorganger van Rembrandt, geintroduceert als een meester vol licht en duisternis. Zo profaan en zo sacred tegelijkertijd. En zo begrijpelijk beproken tijdens Brands dat een kunstleek zoals ik diep geraakt kon worden. Nu terugkijkend, krijg ik kippevel wanneer de schrijver van het boek over Caravaggio verteld waarom hij zo goed is: “omdat Caravaggio de twijfel Schilderde. De angst dat er niets is.” Vandaag in het Parool zei Theodoor Holman dat ook over Brands: dat hij een angstige man was. Maar dat maakte hem niet gesloten. Nee, hij was juist geintrresseerd. Een vlucht naar voren, waarbij hij ons meenam in zijn gevoelige interesse in boeken. Zo jammer dat die angst hem kennelijk uiteindelijk toch nog heeft weten in te halen. Dank.

http://www.npo.nl/boeken/09-10-2011/VPWON_1162412

RIP Brands 2. Tsja…. Brands die Herman Brusselmans interviewt en op een gegeven moment gaat het over de angstaanvallen die Herman bijna 10 jaar had in de jaren ’80. En dan schakeld de camera even over naar Brands. Stil kijkt hij Herman aan. Maar waarschijnlijk wist hij precies wat Herman bedoelde. En zo lijken ze elkaar te vinden in dit gesprek. Beiden zijn gevlucht in de literatuur. Herman werd zijn angstaanvallen de baas door maniakaal zo veel te schrijven…

 

Vanavond dit prachtige boek verslonden. Twee mensen ontmoeten God op hun eigen manier en ervaren zijn wrede brute genadeloze oerkracht. Een Job-achtige bespiegeling van recht en onrecht, haat en liefde, geloof en ongeloof.
‘Perhaps one day He will let you lean your head agains His House. Perhaps not’

 

Master’s defects

‘Do not worry about your master’s defects. If you are wise, you will know how to make use of the good in him. When you cross a river, it maybe in a boat in ugly colors, but you are thankful to it for helping you cross to the other side.’ – Spiritual journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky

A movie is a much more efficient way of telling a story compared to a book. A story is told in only a couple of hours as opposed to days. But due to the effort of reading a book, imagining the story and the surroundings in your mind, a story truly can become alive in you. Reading a book throughout days and weeks can guide you through processes and can clarify deeply human themes.