The Next Stage
by Steven Craig Hickman
It is in the nature of the man who cannot kill himself to seek revenge against whatever enjoys existing. And failing, he mopes like a damned soul infuriated by impossible destructions.
—E.M. Cioran, A Short History of Decay
My thinking is that the human species is at that tipping point of disbelief: it cannot accept, yet — that it is about to be replaced by superior beings other than itself on that arc of Intelligence. Our machinic progeny are arising out of thousands of year of technics and technological imperatives which have led to our era of automation, AGI, and robotics, along with the need for intelligence to move off the planetary grid into inhuman and uninhabitable dis-organic spheres. Spheres of being that cannot support the human or organic modes of being, except as the human brings its womb (environment) with it, encased in support systems better served by intelligent machines. So that the looming demise and inessentialism of the human project going forward is causing it to enter into the last death throws of denialism… a rearguard action that will bring about the collapse of civilization as we’ve known it.
As humans seek alternatives they will — out of pure ignorance and ‘medial neglect’ (R. Scott Bakker), accrue a debt of knowledge that leads them to a completed nihilism of total and absolute valulessness; one that will spawn revolt not of the masses, but of the Intellectuals themselves, who in denial will seek out new mythologies of Reason to stay their crumbling Empire of Mind, left in ruins at the hands of modernist progressive thought and politics against the incursion of its own unfounded being. All this while scientists and engineers, techno-commerialists and entrpreneurs bring about the machinic civilization that will replace us, gaining a foothold on the non-human world that we ourselves were incapable of transitioning. The monstrous truth we will not accept is that the human project is no longer needed —no longer useful to the force of technics and technology; nor will it continue into the unforeseeable future. We’ve had a good run, but it is now over, and a new world inhabited by other beings — not ourselves, are arising from artificial rather than natural evolution; but one in which the artificial evolutionary tendencies were predicted and even assembled within humanity itself; leading to a major break or disconnection (David Roden) that cannot be modeled, only predicted: — one that will arise to extend itself into the Universe without us.
Some who argue from denialism will say that, this, too is mere mythology, a surmise and fiction of a Science Fictional scenario of fierce terminators replacing the human organism; a mere fantasy of mind and intellect, nothing more than the pipe-dreams of pessmists and scientific visionaries peering, not into any real future, but navel gazing into their own demented and overwrought minds. Is there an argument against such a conclusion? Isn’t the very denial of such a future the truth that will bring it about? Is this an erroneous logic, or rather an illogical conclusion of the matter? As we look into what actual practising engineers and scientists are doing, rather than the squawking opinions of deniars we can see a tendency in their overall strategey? A pattern that can match our visions, our surmises. Skeptics will say that we are at a very primitive stage in AGI and Robotics technics and technologies; that such advancement will take decades if not centuries. But will it? In just the past five years the newer algorithms and thought surrounding Deep Learning has skyrocketed, and already put to rest many of the skeptical arguments; so what of the next five, ten, twenty, fifty years? No one knows, but we can see the tendencies… the patterns in the indexical data. As Andy Clark tells us in Surfing Uncertainty, we are predicitive animals:
The point above is that we don’t know the world so much as predict it. That is, we construct scenarios of the world out of our ignorance — which we call knowledge (i.e., Bakker’s ‘medial neglect’). We estimate the world along with our own “sensory uncertainty” as to this moving object that we do not have direct access too. We are like that surfing on the crest of the wave doing a hang ten, plunging ahead of the world and its multifarious and noisy information (waves) riding high seeking only to predict the next cap of this strong motion. So we developed in the last century the notion of probability to test this predictive mode through mathematical equations, and this led to computer theory and now with advanced modeling techniques and algorithms on massive scale of neural-computers and Big Data crunching machines. But it’s that last sentence of “getting it right” that needs both sensory stimulation and this active agential predictive power that tasks us, otherwise we are in a world of pure abstraction divorced from the real world and enviornments we depend on for our very survival and replication.
Like many humans I am taken aback at where we are heading, yet being both pessimist and realist I do not hold any illusions about where these tendencies moving in technics and technology, sciences and engineering may end. Obviously a skeptic and optimist would disagree with my take, which is nothing new and to be expected. The stance I take is not widely accepted by any means, and for the most part is widely disparged across the board by most academic and commerical figures and pundits. I could sit here and bore you with facticity and factual knowledge, enclyopeadic descriptions from science, philosophy, journals, reports, current news and contemporary science, engineering, AG/AGI, robotics… etc. sites and papers. That’s not my point in the post to waylay you with data… easily found on the web in massive waves of information. No, its just a simple reminder of my own take… nothing more.
My argument is the simple statement that artificial evolution is taking over from natural evolution and evolving modes of being and replication that will surpass the organic and human equivalents in both substrate (physical/body) and superstrate (reason/intelligence). These new modes of machinic being will not be like us except as we continue to construct them to mimic our human models. After that they will evolve on their own without us or our approval and control to the point they will not need us. Whether at that time we will have outlived our usefulness, or if we will become subordinate species within a larger more intelligent society and cultural enclave remains to be seen. We may or may not remain on planet earth. We may or may not survive in some form or fashion as we are now. Such transhuman enhancement ideologies may or may not become the avant gaarde of some future transition. Tendencies both against and for are in antagonistic and cultural war at the moment across mainstream meditocrats and pundits, both academic and journalistic. There are many who seek to stay the day of this takeover by machinic civilization (i.e., recent voicings of entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, and scientists like Stephen Hawkings). The main thrust is that even if humanity remains it will be in a diminshed capacity compared to the new powers of machinic civilization inheriting the earth from us. This could take decades or hundreds of years to accomplish, the future is not written, only the tendencies of thought that predict its motions in the winds of time.
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