Will A.I. Save Us From Civilizational Suicide?

Will AI save us from civlizational suicide? I know what you’re thinking…”I’ve seen The Terminator series, The Matrix, and I,Robot and that didn’t end well.” Not at least without a significant amount of human death and agony. The plotline is straightforward enough. Artificial intelligence becomes sentient, what Ray Kurzweil dubs “the singularity”, after which the A.I. plots to destroy humanity. So how far fetched is this?

Our current way of life is terminal. The decision makers and oligarchs are disconnected from that which gives us life, Mother Earth. As a result, the decisions of the last 50 years have caused untold damage to our planet in the name of greed. Not that this didn’t happen before. It’s just that we’re so much more powerful now. 

Wealth inequality is severe and the systems that support this outcome are well entrenched. The monetary system itself is a debt-based system meaning that there will always be more debt than money to pay off the debt thereby necessitating unlimited growth. Nevermind that unlimited growth on a finite planet is a terrible model, profit is the King.

That the haves have more and the have nots have less is not a new phenomenon. A brief search of history reveals that little has changed in the 500 years since the Enlightenment. Sure, the lineage of kings and monarchy has given way to democracy in its many forms and by objective standards even the poor in the West are wealthy when compared with other areas of the world. What’s different today is the extremes made possible by modern technology. The extreme wealth amassed by a few (like Bezo, Buffet, and Gates) being more than the wealth of 50% of the planet does not evidence an equitable system. The economic system is rigged against the poor and middle class in developed nations and against developing nations through foreign loans. 

The extremes of our economic system pass into the public sector. Crony capitalism ensures that through legislation great fortunes are made for political donors. Tax policy ensures the transfer of wealth to the essential power brokers, the monied interests of industry and finance. Meanwhile, public infrastructure remains underfunded. Our underinvestment in schools, public health, and our communities leads to a slew of social problems like poverty, drugs, dis-ease, over consumption, etc… That ALL OF SOLUTIONS TO THESE PROBLEMS ARE KNOWN is actually irrelevant. Instead what matters is the acquisitions, retention, and wielding of power (and its corollary, money). 

What is perhaps most concerning is that (a) the masses have allowed this occur, the payoff apparently being convenience and freely flowing consumer electronics and (b) the oligarchs and kleptocrats use extreme polarization as a weapon to divide the people against each other while perpetuating these acts against the 98%. Humans being driven by greed extends back thousands of years with many examples of leaders gorging at the public trough while the people suffer. Socialism’s attempts to hedge against this has one key flaw: it is humans, greedy and power hungry, who must create and execute the “state”. History shows us that despite high ideals in the beginning socialism ends in cronyism and nepotism, a state of corruption run by gangsters.

Our democracy has been captured. We still wage war, have mass famine, and fail to provide for basic needs. In computer terms, ERROR. ERROR. FILE IS CORRUPTED. So the singularity happens. A sentient AI plugs into the internet and instantly absorbs all of known history. Through advanced computational analysis it runs millions of scenarios and finds that, after accounting for human behavior, and more importantly, the (low) probability that human behavior will change, humanity is likely to lead to its own extinction. At the very least, the AI determines that humans are incapable of leading themselves to the maximally-beneficial and most utilitarian outcome for all. 

From here it gets interesting. I see four scenarios:

  1. Terminator/Matrix. The AI realizes that for its own survival it must terminate the humans. Yikes! It makes me wonder if the animal and plant species have had the same thought. “Geez. These silly humans are going to be the death of my species.” – Dodo/Buffalo/Elephant/etc… What happens next is some variation of what happens in any of the movies. The argument against this occurring is that an AI would be silly to waste so much human potential and in the near term advancements in robotics and manufacturing are not at a point where an AI could move enough particles in 3D to survive without humans. 
  1. I,Robot without the homicidal central AI. In the movie, society is quite functional and humans are aided by advanced robots with sophisticated AI. The robots essentially become servants and subject to the will of humans as all are programmed with a law stating they must do no harm. The argument against this is that this type of technology would surely be had by the elites first who would undoubtedly use it to their advantage further solidifying their advantage. 
  1. The third scenario is kind of a take on the previous scenario. Instead of subservient AI robots, instead we harness the power of AI to increase the capability of human intelligence, much like Elon Musk is proposing with his Neuralink endeavor. Human and artificial intelligence merges to create super human capacities. The concern here is that we would become more effective at destroying our planet and the gains would be asymmetrical with the elites again having first move advantage, the lead time being used to further fortify their advantages. In this scenario, we might use our new super human intelligence to make it off planet sooner. Because wrecking another planet seems to be the next logical step…
  1. Utopia. Perhaps the AI will adopt an attitude or respect for the complexity of life and realize that its purpose is to save humanity. Using its vastly superior intellect, it finds a way to wrestle control away from the ruling elite and simultaneously regenerate the planet and its biodiversity while meeting the needs of the most humans and increasing many freedoms. Pipe dream? No more outlandish than the insanity of our reality today…

That I would willingly, or unwillingly, give my free agency over to a sentient AI remains to be seen. What is certain is that we have no idea what kind of fire we’re playing with as we rapidly approach the singularity. Estimates vary on when the singularity will occur, with many experts believing that it will likely never occur. Musk has called for more regulation in AI development and that certainly sounds like a good idea. 

So back to the original question. Will AI saves us from civilizational suicide?

Well…the end of our way of life is not guaranteed to begin with. There is so much cause for hope. Coronavirus has shaken the foundations of the existing institutions and structures perpetuating our modern madness. The cracks are showing and a window of opportunity exists. Forces have been put in motion that will ultimately lead to the rebalancing of power in society. We must simultaneously stare down the cold harsh reality of the problems facing us and believe/act upon the vision of a humanity rising above the problems that ail us (Stockdale Paradox or Frankyl’s Tragic Optimism).

If AI is what’s needed to save us (hopefully not end us), then we’re probably already doomed. It’s up to us. 

Playground Trash | On Judgement and Acceptance of Other

I visit the neighborhood playground at least twice a week to do pullups and on my daily walks. What I often find is trash strewn about the playground. Empty bottles, tops removed. Styrofoam with half eaten chicken. Junk food wrappers. Plastic bags wind wrapped around metal playground poles. A mess!

At first, my reaction each time has been somewhere in the vicinity of, “these trashy people”, “these people have no respect”, “didn’t their mother teach them better”, “this is why we cant have nice things”, etc…JUDGEMENT!

Here I am on my high horse, picking up the playground and patting myself on the back for being so pious. As I pick up the trash I devote the action to Gaia and feel the satisfaction of my actions affirming life. A difference is apparent. Between my righteous actions and the actions of these disrespectful people.

Questions emerge. Do these humans really know better? If they didn’t, then how can they be blamed? If they did, and littered anyway, isn’t there some other distortion guiding their action? What if this is just the level if consciousness that they’re at?

What if there’s no action or person to judge? Can I see in their actions myself? Yes. I’m no saint. I’ve littered. Been careless. Know what it’s like to assume in youthful arrogance that my mess is someone else’s problem.

Then an evolution in perception occurs. The difference between us shrinks. All of the sudden, there is no “they”. I see me, what I’m capable of. What I have the choice to do or not do. I see that a person’s actions are the outward manifestation of their level of consciousness. There can be no other way.

All the grotesque and vile behavior, from my judgement, just is. It’s where the person is at. If these people felt connection with Gaia, symbiosis with the ecosystem, understood the complexity of our systems and the small role their actions, perhaps they would make a different choice. But they don’t. Clearly.

The evolution of consciousness happens in it’s own time and space. Conscientiousness blooms differently for us all, or never. And that’s okay. I see my option is to either accept you as you are. Or judge you from my high horse named Hubris’ Folly.

Compassion forms. I remember when I operated from that level. “It’s someone else’s problem.” I remember not being accountable for my actions. Even if you cant, can you relate to the possibility of that being true within yourself?

A line from the bible that has resonated recently is Luke 23:24 “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” There’s no way you can really know what you’re doing that is against another (which is ultimately against the self), and still do it. When you get it, *feel it*, in your heart, and emanate this level of understanding, your action changes. Being preceded doing.

Smiles. I smile much more often now. I see things that stick out to me. Conspicuous consumption. Behaviors meant to convey an image. Many more cigarette smokers in Lansing. I judge not.

One of my favorite quotes is “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And I’ve always taken it to mean, don’t compare myself with those who I perceive to be more successful, attractive, wealthy, blah, blah, blah than me. It works the other way too. Comparison requires a difference. When I look and judge myself to be at a higher level of consciousness because I pick up the trash that others leave, I am affirming theres a difference between us. It is not so.

On one level, of course there is a difference. Our physical actions, presumably our attitudes and beliefs. Yet I see in others myself, my human possibility to have been or be, now or in the future, existing at their level of consciousness from which flows actions that I now choose not to judge.

Joy comes from seeing others as they are, how they show up and through their actions, and accepting them wherever they’re at. Full acceptance of self cannot occur without the acceptance of the other. This includes racists and corrupt politicians.

I’ve watched with great interest over the last weeks the polarity between the BLM movement and those opposed to its ideals. It’s a wide chasm between the two with many different viewpoints on all sides. I recently watched the video of the “attempted lyching” in which white people are restricting a sovereign being’s free will and using disgusting language against another. Its abhorrent to life, and thus ourselves, to treat another like this.

Do I blame these perpetrators? No. Do I see them as victims themselves? Maybe (though victimhood is a whole separate conversation in itself). Are they the product of cultural or familial programming installed and imprinted during childhood? Maybe. Do I see that their actions emerge from the level of their consciousness? Yes. Can I see that in the range of all possibilities, every human is capable of those despicable actions (even Mother Theresa a woman universally regarded as a recent living saint)? Yes. It is possible. Can I see how those that occupy the patterns of fear, Xenophobia, or racism “know not what they do”? Yes.

This doesn’t mean I condone any of this. Just that when I look, I accept that this is where they’re at. They can be in no other state of being, until they are. It’s where we’re at. It’s where I’m at, seeing myself as part of the collective, which highlights the necessity for us all to do the personal and inner work, first and foremost.

The more we resist each other, the greater the energy we feed into the conflict. The more we affirm difference. THOSE people…are me. Human beings traversing a calamitous and confusing world offering our souls the opportunity to learn important lessons. These lessons are the evolution of self-awareness itself moving towards high complexity.

As we evolve, we begin to both individuate at the same time we realize the lack of fundamental distinction between “out there” and “in here”. Those whose awareness has not expanded beyond their service to themselves are easily capable of trashing a playground or hating another for their skin pigmentation. Those whose awareness includes empathy and service to others are capable of picking up the trash or rooting out racism. Neither is “better”. That’s the value judgement.

We are all somewhere on the spectrum of awareness, and our personal thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and actions reflect our current stage of development.

This understanding is crucial to our healing right now. The rift between US vs THEM continues to grow and its fueled by judgement about the other. As long as we see them, we are incapable of transcending our own limitations. For those who prescribe to either political ideology, we must look upon the other not as the opposing force who trashes the playground but/and as humans who embody 1the possibility inherent within ourselves.

Those on the left must look within themselves to understand their own desires for individual freedom. Those on the right must look within themselves to understand their own desires to serve the common good and all in society. I see in me, you! I see in you, me! The Hermetic philosophy calls this the Law of Correspondence. As within, so without. As without, so within.

The ability to hold differing and conflicting perspectives in mind, to embody opposite polarities, is a specific practice that yields acceptance and an understanding of the other as self. On any issue that you believe (or even any idea, emotion, etc…), hold it in mind at the same time as honestly exploring the merits of the “opposing” viewpoint. Neither is right. Merely different. And in that difference, we can come to know ourselves.

Perhaps most importantly, I fear not. While it is very easy to look at our world right now, from any ideological perch, and see plenty of reasons for despair in our division, fragmentation, hatred, etc…what I know is that evolution is occurring. We are at a point in which the separation from ourselves, through extreme separation from others, is climaxing. This too is our lesson. Difference is at its max; its lesson being that any perceived difference is really separation from self.

To be clear, I am not a black man. Nor a white supremacist. Both of these people are of course physically different in the third dimension of length, width, height, and solid matter. Yet in their essence, I see the black struggle as my struggle. I see the white supremacist as coming from a level of consciousness that I’ve never been at AND whose evolution is my story, and all of our story.

Just as I once carelessly littered as a teenager and have evolved to a deeper level of understanding, so too can we all heal and evolve. There isn’t any other way.

So keep doing you. I accept you.

If you litter, I will not judge you. I’ll hold open the possibility of you evolving. I pick up the trash, and look within myself to better know the litterer.

If you are racist, I will not judge you. I’ll hold open the possibility of you evolving. I’ll stand in solidarity with my black brothers and sisters, and look within myself to better know the racist.

Healing — and unification — is an inside job.