Thursday, June 21, 2012

Future Thought

Future Thought

The future represents a category of thought paramount today. We live in the present, but our view of the future controls the present. Without an adequate view of the future the present spins out of control. Modern life is lived in light of what people believe the future will bring, for better or worse our expectations of future life determines the course of present events.  Anticipation concerning technological progress that will improve the human condition, say in terms of world peace, prosperity, eliminating hunger and disease or even rapid communications and transportation cause people to embrace technology more readily as a positive force. The idea of progress makes technological advance possible. It is doubtful that people will embrace innovation if it was not thought to bring some improvement to their lives and society as a whole. Likewise thoughts about a coming apocalypse created by technological advance, such an ecological meltdown or global war gives us pause to question the direction technology leads.  Society as a whole behaves much like an individual. The future operates as an organizing principle for daily life. We organize our day in terms of what future goals we wish to accomplish. Those goals provide meaning and direction for the course of the day. If one begins the day with no goals to accomplish he wanders aimlessly accomplishing nothing. So society organizes itself in light of collective goals of production, problem solving, survival, war or peace. In both cases future ends determines present means. This reveals the eschatological nature of our lives and society. Too often eschatology is relegated to an appendix of Christian theology not taken very seriously because of the sensationalism of many of its advocates. But a closer analysis of modern life and thought reveals a thoroughgoing eschatological perspective. The future as a category of thought was largely a creation of Christian eschatology that became secularized in the modern world when it transposed the idea of the coming of the kingdom of God into earthly technological society. In order to change the present we must adjust our view of the future we wish to create.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Welcome to the Artilect War

                                                            The Artilect War

The Artilect War looms over the 21st century like a dark cloud promising to rain death on billions of people if not the entire human race.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) researcher and futurist Professor Hugo de Garis predicts that by the end of the century a major war will be fought between Cosmists and Terrans over the creation of Artilects, involving the death of billions of people or “gigadeath” as he calls it.  If one extrapolates the number of deaths in modern wars from the Napoleonic Era about 5 million through World War One 15 million to World War Two 66 million, one eventually comes to death in the billions by the next major war. This war will be fought with nuclear weapons and other advanced 21st century technology.
The war will be waged over the construction of Artilects or artificial intellects, which are massively intelligent computers which will exceed human intelligence by trillions of times according to de Garis. These Artilects will threaten human existence because they will perceive humanity as a nuisance much the way people consider insects as pests and wish to exterminate them. Their construction will be possible towards the late 21st century. Over the next two decades computers and robotics will increase in intelligence and proliferate everywhere in technological society.  Artificial intelligence will first appear primitive and stupid compared to people, but will continue to grow exponentially until it rivals human capacity. Machines will become teachers, baby sitters, friends and household servants. There will be “teacherbots,” “homebots” and even sexbots. Most people will become alarmed at the ever increasing ability of AI and will want to limit its growth before it exceeds humanity’s. At this point people will divide into three camps. The first, de Garis calls “Comists” who take a cosmic view of AI turning the construction of Artilects into a new technological religion believing these machines should be built because they represent the next stage of evolutionary development. Humanity has the chance to become God Makers. Cosmists will risk human extinction as the price for their construction. One Artilect will be worth the lives of billions of people. The second group de Garis calls “Terrans” because they will oppose the construction of Artilects and identify not with a cosmic perspective, but with the earth, terra. A billion people are worth more than one Artilect. These two groups will be bitterly opposed to each other and will eventually come to blows. The third group will be called “cyborgs” who wish to act as an intermediary between the hostile parties, but will remain largely ineffective.
A species dominance debate will direct the course of the 21st century, which asks “Do we build gods, or do we build our potential exterminators?” ( Hugo de Garis, The Artilect War [California, Palm Springs: Etc Publications, 2005], 231).