Written Work by Graham T. Baden
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” the Holy Bible says, “the earth was without form, and void.”[Genesis, 1:1-2a, NKJV.] Here, science and theology seem to agree, though science would say it differently. “In the beginning, there was a Big Bang,” seems a more accurate description from our modern standpoint. However, it is important to note that the void wasn’t empty. There was something, but it was everything that existed; formless, infinite, yet singular. In the beginning, everything that could ever exist in the Cosmos– matter, mind, and meaning– existed in one point of space, a singularity, and has evolved its intelligence as a natural mathematical process of development for 13 billion years.
Why begin a paper about technology with a quotation from the Christian Bible? It seems in our modern world, a great portion of the globe has used theological reasoning to decry the progression of Artificial Intelligence and the coming unification of the globe via the web. Whether it is age, religion, or culture that is the culprit, why we suffer from this fear, I cannot say. As we see our word being changed by the Digital Age, many of us worry that by allowing computers to perform functions that used to be reserved for us conscious beings, and through this allowance, our consciousness will be degraded. I would argue in response that to place such value in human consciousness is egotistical and terrifically biased. Humanity’s small version of consciousness may well suffer at the hands of a future digital consciousness, but only if it fears the change and rebels against it.
When we say that our memories have been downgraded because we use technology to remember for us, it is only a half-truth. True, our brains have stopped memorizing phone numbers and directions. Yes, we no longer have to know facts that are easily accessible through Google. However, does this mean that our memories are worse for it? What more information can we store in our brains, and what new uses can we find for our thoughts now that we no longer have to worry about the triviality of data collection? Are we not the most adaptable species on the planet?
When we worry about our identities becoming diffuse, and fear that by sharing our information far and wide, we will become less powerful and important, I disagree. True, we open ourselves– our habits, wishes, desires– to the great data-processing machine of the internet. Yes, our identities are being mined by a cold and soulless machine, but we are also opening ourselves up to a global community of other humans through the digital network. For the first time in our existence as a species, we have access to millions– billions– of other humans, and are able to know and love them, sharing our hearts and having real-time relations with them.
When we fear that our intelligence is becoming handicapped, indebted to the processes made available through technology, I am ashamed. Do we really feel that the old ways of being intelligent are the only ways? Before Gutenberg, monks and craftsmen spent hundreds of hours handwriting manuscripts. Are we less intelligent now because we can print books or read them on our Kindles? Or rather, can we not become intelligent in different ways? Can we not evolve as we have always done? Is the process of technological development making us slaves?
We can be certain of one thing. This process is happening whether we like it or not. At the risk of taking a positivist teleological stance, I say GET OVER IT. Technology is evolving memetically as we once did genetically as a species. I challenge the global community to evolve with it. Is the homo sapiens species so backwards that it cannot continue to adapt? Nicholas Carr, quoting a well known aphorism, says “the medium is not only the message,” but “the medium is the mind.” However, in the recent film Her by Spike Jonze, Alan Watts, a late american philosopher and Zen Buddhist guru-prophet, makes a cameo appearance through an AI reproduction. He asks us in the movie as he asked us during his life, where is the mind? Is it inside the brain? Is it inside the heart? Is it made of matter at all?
Its time for us simple humans to forgo these materialistic representations of what truly “is,” if anything “is” anything at all. It is time for us to use the possibilities of technology to become one with each other; with all humans, animals, plants, rocks, and ideas. There really is no difference anyway. Then maybe (maybe maybe) we can again be joined with the Source of it all. As it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end. [Matthew, 24, NKJV]