Tag Archives: world issues

Who Dreams Of Sleeping Sheep

The cyberpunk genre of science fiction explored the moral and ethical dilemmas of humans creating conscious machines and even becoming hybrid biosynthetics. Philip K. Dick gave us “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” and the Blade Runner movies were born. Ian Watson gave us “Whores of Babylon,” which described how we can live in a simulated reality and forget that we are part of a computer program.

Now the idea that humanity can become “enhanced” through synthetic and electric modifications is within our technological grasp. Efforts have redoubled to create a working artificial intelligence (AI) after another winter of obstacles has thawed with fresh ideas.

And yet, these efforts have only challenged our idea of what it means to be human and, more importantly, what it means to live a human life.

We have played out various scenarios through books and movies of how robots can be the best of what humanity has to offer (think of Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation). We have also explored how machines can enslave or destroy humanity in the Matrix and Terminator. Battlestar Galactica made it clear that the tendency to want to create Pinocchio is wired into us just as much as what we wire, and is a cyclic inevitability. But these explorations only point to one fact – that we are grappling with our own identity as the human race.

Because we still do not know who or why we are, we aim to discover ourselves through our creation of synthetic consciousness. In seeking to create life in our likeness, we are only seeking to better understand ourselves. Is this not obvious?

One of the key definitions of artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability to repair or improve itself. But, isn’t that what we do as humans? Are we trying to create a better version of ourselves by investing in AI research? If so, what is wrong with us now? Or, is the desire to birth so powerful that we are willing to die for it?

Companies like Google are funneling serious cash into AI research. DARPA is building killer robot dogs. And, some engineers want to hook our brains into a “cloud” under the pretexts of expanding our smarts. The dangers of human extinction after creating a self-aware life form are pretty clear, and the risks of not being able to control the rapid evolution of what we create are quite high. Still, research perseveres, as if taunting our fate. Only a small fraction of the population is informed about what is going on with this research, and the rest are going about their lives as if – literally – there is no tomorrow.

It seems that our need to procreate is also a need to create, to feel like creators that give life. Is this not an important clue into who we really are? I do not believe that this is simple arrogance, just as I don’t believe that we have babies out of arrogance. There is something more going on here, something deeper that rubs at the root of our reason for being.

We learn by looking in the mirror. Our lives are the ultimate hall of mirrors, revealing us to ourselves day by day. And yet, we have forgotten to look for reflections and believe that we see absolute others.

At this time, humanity lacks the most important skill yet – empathy, or the ability to be conscious of another’s perspective. Once a critical mass of empathy ignites, everything will change. We will cry at the hurts we have caused as if we have experienced these hurts at our own hands, and we will listen as if we are the ones talking. Until we can empathize with our human kind, animals, rocks, and trees, and other types of consciousness interacting with our plane, we dare not create yet another potentially alien consciousness. If we do, it will reflect our ignorance to know another’s perspective – our perspective. It will reflect our current lack of empathy.

Wisdom lies in doing things because they are timely and right, and not simply because we can. Just as the participants in the Manhattan Project expressed great regret in creating a nuclear bomb, those now pushing the AI envelope will feel the same regret when they succeed. And the rest of humanity will live with the careless decisions of the few.

Bottom Up Communities Rise Up!

I read somewhere that, at some point, you begin to be conscious of the Earth through time and in its totality, you see how little things have changed – and you pause. Such is happening to me now, and intensely. I am unable to cry anymore, but I feel an outpouring of the heart intensify and the pain.

The media emphasizes certain stories of human suffering, but this suffering is ongoing for centuries in various corners of the world. Poverty, hunger, disease, infant death, murder, rape, war, growing up parentless or with abusive parents, having fewer natural resources and  wildlife, losing everything to natural disasters, slavery, being of the “wrong” sex, color, race, nationality, or belief system. Even our crops and food is losing nutrition.

Many people barely remember what happened last week, and the media plays on people’s short term memory and emotional reactions with each “Breaking Story.” However, the story broke eons ago and continues across the world. None of this is news, but simple lack of knowledge about our history – or the lack of time to think about it in context. Most of the Earth is in survival mode.

Once I felt the totality of the situation through time in a glimpse of insight, my head dropped. My heart aches for the ones suffering.

Humanity is a honeycomb of echochambers, each preaching to its own choir and each reinforcing the sound of a particular rhetoric – whether true and tested by time, or not. But, as the old adage goes, talk is cheap and rarely sensitive to the big picture. People can argue with each other all day long on social media, but that never moves anything forward.

Children are growing up with increased anxiety and suicides are on the rise. In fact, more and more people are having a hard time just getting out of bed to go to their jobs and take care of responsibilities. Chronic pain conditions, autoimmune diseases, mental illness, and obesity are on the rise and have been  a way of life for many, and in different cultures. Not all cultures view human pain the same way, and some ostracize and punish those in need of help.

So, no breaking news here – only Earth as usual, with small oasis pockets. And yet, our population is growing, the income gap is widening, and our resources are dwindling. Powerful nations are becoming extremely competitive because they know they will fight for resources eventually. Weaker nations are banding together and appealing to humanitarianism.

Unlike the bees in the honeycombs, we do not stand as one for all and all for one. Instead, we characterize others as idiots, deplorable, ignorant, selfish, and go on our merry way as if we are the ones carrying the torch. However, inside, there is fear and insecurity – just as in most others. We fail to see that we are all the same – not on the outside, but as the sparks of One Life that lives us all. That’s not New Age bullshit – this is a core truth that does not require you to buy anything, just learn to meditate proper.

But so few are interested in transceding the illusion of separation – probably because it’s a tough thing to do. And what does it mean anyway? Many just need to live out their lives and balance their karma and reincarnate (these word and concepts existed for a lot longer than any current spiritual thought and are worth thorough study). Unfortunately, karma and reincarnation become clear and cease to evoke fear when you transcend your personality and no longer get emotional.

So, what do we do in the meantime? How do we live our days with the knowledge that war rages in the hearts of men, masking fear. How do we give of ourselves to change the way we value each other and life?

First, more people have to educate themselves about how changing something always changes something else. We can’t just cheer when taxes are lower, we have to ask what programs will be cut. We can’t just cheer that coal miners may start working again, we need to ask at the expense of what – specifically? We can’t just look at other countries and refugees as “others,” but we do need to have untarnished information how our lives will change if we help and what we can do.

We live in a complex world, and the US (aka Divided States) elects presidents based on one-line promises. However, few ask “What will that change affect? Who will it affect?” It is clear that the US is not a democracy because few stop to think about the long-term consequences of any decision, let alone define our role of global responsibility. “America First” = “America Alone” in an increasingly larger and competitive world. 

We need to go back into our local communities and get involved. Offer basic services for trade to help with children, infrastructure, food, medical care, mental health professionals, and other basic living arrangements. Local communities need honest people with integrity to support one another. People need to start making goid decisions about how many children they can support (2 is personally my max). 

Sure, we can just take care of what we have on our plates, but that mindset will eventually lead to further degradation of our society and crash. We must learn to setup networks of help for one another and engage in them with a generous heart. 

Our plight will not get fixed from the top down. Isn’t that clear by now? We must start gathering ourselves, organizing ourselves – one town at a time, and growing into a powerful network that eventually will affect the bottom line of large corporations who truly run our countries. When we refuse to support and buy certain products, we make a statements that hits their bottom line while taking care if each other.

There are atrocities in other nations, but there are also atrocities here. Next time you see a child being hit in public, for example, band together and step in to let the parent know that he or she is done with that – peacefully.

Let’s forget enlightenment for a bit, and just practice opening our hearts. There are a number of Apps to exchange goods and services. For example, the 5 Apps here help others give ir trade stuff so that we cut down on waste. 

Trading services is a bit trickier. Apps do exist, and my next step is to research them thoroughly. I used to manage large scale projects in the software industry and have experienced with this sort of thing. Of course, vetting people and services for safety and quality is key. Maybe I can start a nonprofit that will do bavkground checks and interviews… Who’s up to get this process moving? Does anyone want to try this? Leave a comment if you are into the possibility! 😀