“So will computers be smarter than humans? It depends on what you consider to be a computer and what you consider to be human. By the second half of the 21st century, there will be no clear distinction between the two.”
Ray Kurzweil (current Director of Engineering for Google) Time Magazine, June 19, 2000
“The controllers who set up this supermechanism will themselves serve as its final sacrificial victims; for when the planetary megamachine reaches its terminal point of soulless perfection, the originating human intelligence will have become completely absorbed-and thus eliminated. So man’s final achievement, at the summit of his progress, would be to create an ineffable electronic God… this immense, still impending total human sacrifice cannot be appraised in the rational or scientific terms that those who have created this system favor: it is, I stress again, an essentially religious phenomenon.”
Lewis Mumford, in Myth of the Machine, vol. 2 (1970)
Though I am neither an academic or technical “expert,” I hope to share a view point that is widely held among the unpublished masses. The future direction of society is as relevant to them as anyone else.
I have no intention of listing the scientific “facts” of our current situation. Readers of this magazine surely know these facts by now. We all see children turning away from their parents, each other, and the natural world and towards the glowing portals of the network. There has come upon us widespread Internet and video game addiction. The field of robotics has begun to make ominous threats towards ancient notions of human livelihood, freedom, and survival. Increasing demands are being made by technology upon human behavior and consciousness, forcing rapid mental and physical adaptation. Depending upon your perspective, these symptoms may be seen as part of either a spiritual, historical, or evolutionary crisis. Such momentous developments would seem to necessarily demand rapid resolution one way or another. One worldview will survive. One will fall.
The perspective of common people on these matters has been neglected. I will be blunt. There are many of us who do not trust the creators of this modern technology with our children’s future. We have lost faith in the scientific community’s ability or true willingness to save us. This is not to say that we know what to do about this situation. We don’t. We use what tools we need to survive in a world that has become defined by ever-changing technology. Folks like me do not run the world or invent the machines that change society. We adapt to these machines. Now we are the ones intended to be replaced with robots. We are the ones to be intimidated by the drones. Also, like you, we have come under the surveillance of the Mainframe. Finally, however, we have ceased to lie to ourselves about who apparently directs the future and where that future is headed.
The future direction of society is as relevant to the unpublished masses as it is to anyone else.
We’re not as dumb as some may think. We know how technology and society interact. We appreciate refrigeration and anesthesia, certainly, but are well aware that the most historically significant applications of technology have been in the conquest and despoiling of nature and “backward” civilizations. Ask the Native Americans about the “triumph of technology.” Or, for that matter, ask the elephants or the bees.
The idea of inherently neutral or democratic technology is based on a fundamental falsehood, often lodged in misuse of the idea of “choice.” If we “choose” these technologies, they say, we can likewise choose to reject them. This is simply not true.
I chose to ride a bicycle when I was four years old. That is true. But I did not “choose” to learn how to use a telephone. I was instructed how to use a telephone so that I could join society. Our children do not “choose” the network. They are trained to use the network in a world that is simultaneously made dependent on that network. Thus they become part of the network. We do not choose the progression of what I have come to call automatic tyranny any more than we choose to have nuclear power plants. These are not issues one may vote on.
Now we are lured towards an alternate computer-generated reality while concurrently there is constructed an infrastructure of absolute control. The network and its increasingly lurid manifestations are forcing the people of this planet towards an unprecedented conclusion and a desperate choice. The conclusion? It (the network and the powers behind its installation) wants total control, potentially even over our spirits. The choice? Whether or not to one day let it come inside us. This is not paranoia or wild conjecture. It is the obvious vision of those who create this future. It has already hypnotized our eyes and changed our way of thinking. It has nested in our hands. It has staked a claim to raising our children under the watchful gaze of its “ultimate” authority.
This “triumph,” as manifested in the transhumanist impulses of the new technologies, apparently intends to conquer the final boundaries that define us as human. Along the way, it decimates traditional culture and forms of communication, replacing them with a singular, yet maddeningly divisive, digital Tower of Babel.
There is coming a backlash to the new law of the machine. It is the natural result of technologies that impose themselves on man’s consciousness. It will be a biological/spiritual response from a species threatened with extinction by mechanical replacements and technological wonder toys run amok.
It will happen. It is inevitable. A significant portion of the people of this world will reject this new religion, this new norm. They will feel forced to, because it will be seen as not only threatening their lives, but their children’s souls.
Primitive? Perhaps. Unsophisticated? Certainly. But such is the reality of major historical movements. There is coming a great revulsion at these unopposed attempts to blend man and machine, at the hijacking of our collective and individual consciousness. I have no studies to cite, no statistics to repeat. I bring word of what the people in the countryside are saying to each other. The soul of the human race is threatened. We may call this coming peaceful resistance the “rise of the Reals,” a spiritual movement based upon rejection of the new religion of Singularity.
We are witnessing the attempted enthronement of a technological god, one that claims omniscience and omnipotence. Machines are being created to replace us, billions of dollars spent towards an Artificial Intelligence to control us. Its “prophets” insist that soon this machinery will need to come inside us, or we into It. The very notion of free will is under threat. We are living through the process of re-theism. the transition of ultimate earthly and spiritual authority from an invisible Creator God into the developing brain of a great machine. Such an effort will not go unnoticed or unopposed, though I suppose it is heresy to say so.
The network already lends itself to expressions of unchecked desire, violence, and power fantasies. Our lives have not become healthier since its introduction. From cell phone towers on distant mountain ranges to Google’s Internet balloons in Africa, the network seems desperate to cover the planet. These are tremendous clues to the people of Earth about the nature of our situation.
This “brave new world” has been nurtured by governments and industries that have shown little historical precedent for valuing human dignity. Now we are supposed to trust them with our souls? This is the crisis of the 21st century, dwarfing all other dilemmas. It is time to confront what it truly means for the survival of the human race.
Sand Sheff is an American songwriter and entertainer with ten albums to his name. He has written a book entitled Real is Good: Reality, Freedom and the Computer Network. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.