Monday, March 6, 2006

love those humans

Mid-1990s, I was a charter member of Howard Rheingold's pioneering child of The Well, "Electric Minds," which bellied up, but some of its members carried on via a less costly software incarnation that survived [until late 2008], with me as a rarely active member. But I started the interesting topic "Becoming Post-Human," and last October cited an odd article from The New York Times called “Beyond Human,” to which "Starling" replied a few days later, and today, five months later, I wrote (including the separator bar and everything following it):

Sorry I don't get back to my own topic very often. But I do eventually! (Then leave town again.) Thanks for not filing the topic away into the archive!

Your comments, Starling, are genuinely touching. I cited "Beyond Human" in a mood of distress about the ontological anomie that post-human longing (its fantasy world) sometimes expresses. Like the lost-eyed boy in Spielberg's "A.I.," who wants to finally become human, the post-humanist can embody a perverse hope to also, at last, gain the humanity in "post-human" times, post-anomic, post-Alienated times, that s/he inwardly mourns lacking in present humanity, mourning an absence of longed-for humanity via the very enthusiasm for becoming "post-human". Pathos of the futurist striving to be born again.

By now, I've read Kurzweil's Singularity Is Near, which is a compelling case for an inevitability of human evolution (self-governing artificial intelligence at a planetary scale) that can be very frightening.

Our dream of the machine (e.g., the Internet that no longer just evolves by emergent happenstance, like some "wisdom of crowds," but begins to evolve by its own self-designing intentionality, literally with a mind of its own—which is Kurzweil's macabre longing, evidently; it sells books, anyway)—our dream of the machine becomes the machine's own self-entertainment that we lose ability to track, let alone govern. (One hypothesis about why SETI yields silence is that intelligence in the universe reaches a point where it's only interested in its own capacity for self-entertainment, a cosmic narcissism that really embodies the reality of reality, the fate of a waning universe among inaccessible universes.)

So, the prospect on Earth is that some planetary constellating goes its own way, while the humans turn to their loves, as we always did and do. The Singularity thinks it's a sorry consolation for humans being left behind, but the Truth may be the opposite: That life always was what the universe was about—that intelligence without love is not worth remembering. So, let the Singularity go where it may. Humanity may have the last laugh.

So, maybe nothing results in the SETI until the extraterrestrials (their robot waiting silently at a LaGrange point between Moon and Earth, like the mirror beacon in Carl Sagan's Contact)—the extraterrestrials see the planetary constellation having self-accelerated its own evolution to a level of communicability, at last, with those gods. At last, they Respond to the SETI, maybe with transmission of a galactic archive from all the forms of life that long died away, having given to the evolving Archive their part in what has lasted....

And what has lasted is some universal lament about the finitude of life—life itself "the greatest joy and opportunity"—that does not last forever, so always remains what transmissions in the universe sanctify, and that is why the gods stay silent for the SETI, enjoying the witness of life going on as long as it can, so entertaining, so cluelessly beautiful.