Large Language are Archives for the Future Humans
I will keep this brief, as in short as hell, because for many today will feel like a circle within a nested circle of that suffering realm. Political unrest; got it all over — see Iran, Israel, France for examples. Rising authoritarianism seeking to disenfranchise young people? — check, and reference efforts to quash student voting in the US, and see the Taliban decision to jail Matiullah Wesa for educating girls in Afghanistan. Check and checkmate all over the place.
What does this social and political upheaval have to do with artificial intelligence? Well, let’s talk about the threshold of peak climate stability; which as we pass through it, leads us to the age of consistent climate instability. What? Let’s put it like this, we can’t have an ending without a beginning, and the ending of the world we knew, the one with stable seasons, well that is pretty much assured. Does that mean the bots are a sign of our upcoming enslavement? Maybe, but let’s walk ourselves back from that jumpy conclusion. The bots did not, to this point, make themselves.
The key question to ask is not will the bots replace us, but how will the bots keep the best of us in existence. How could they help the best of us persist?
What if, the AI bots of today, are tomorrow’s lifelines to who we were and what we achieved during the period that led up to this Anthropocene? What if the AI bots that are learning to expand their capacity to obtain and explain information become the multi-dimensional key to the humans who do end up surviving having a decent crack at having very decent lives?
What if the humans of tomorrow whether they be homo sapiens or some other evolved version of hominid with their own fancy moniker — what if they rely on the AI to provide them with the basis for forming their own societies? What if our mistakes and our triumphs are destroyed and destabilized, physically, to the point that large libraries and collections are most easily accessed not by pilgrimages to these centers, but by sense-making machines able to scour the digital reserves? What if…?
The scientists say that Neanderthals didn’t die out the way we previously thought they did. In fact, they bred into another state of being by interacting with the Cro-Magnons. That model of evolutionary die-off might be our best instruction guide for what is upcoming.
The Neanderthal DNA still resides in some of us, and in that way, the Neanderthals are quite realistically part of our heritage, and we are walking libraries of their genetic code. Maybe the AI of tomorrow will physically merge and be part of the humans of tomorrow, but let’s not be so literal.
Let’s imagine that DNA is a kind of operating system, a type of source code for the body. If society is an extension of the body, a super-body of sorts, then it makes some sense that our cultural DNA, our thousands of years of knowledge and our centuries of recorded texts and inquiry, become a type of DNA, one very useful for the super organism called society. You could use a big “S” for that if you like or just call it “Civilization.” Civillization relies on some steadiness, some capacity for accumulation.
So here we are today, with the heat sink known as the Southern Ocean, showing quantifiable problems, in the form of a slow down of circulation of around 42% in recent years. That is a profound indicator of circulatory health in our biological support system, the one that is both helpmate and mother. Without that amniotic current functioning well, we can expect that we and all the myriad organisms that support us, not functioning well.
Truth is that our biological super organism of Earth is in a transitional period and we as its inhabitants, are along for the ride. Now I can hear someone muttering from the sidelines “Play stupid games…” and I could complete it under my breath “…Win stupid prizes.” We as a human race have been playing a very willful and in some ways stupid game. Who knew? We could have, and should have avoided this situation, but we haven’t. We can’t dwell on that lest we die from melancholy. So, let’s buck up.
I know that some well-meaning scientists and academics have called to a slowdown on the development of AI. I know they are duly alarmed. In a stable world they are exactly correct to advise us to go slowly, collectively towards the AI future. Yet, we have not the socio-political will to receive the words of these intelligent and learned people. We haven’t learned and listened since Rachel Carson’s was alerting us to the upcoming climate problems in her 1962 book, Silent Spring. We did not properly teach every child Oppenheimer’s quotation from the epic, Bhagavad-Gita, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” With great power, comes great responsibility. With the death of one type of human, comes the birth of another.
We once had a sense of deep stewardship but that too has gone the way of clean water.
I am not an AI and so my forms of pattern recognition are much smaller than any bot’s. I do however possess emotions and a lived history just like you do. I know I want humanity to persist, and to adapt to whatever we have wrought so that future generations of conscious, human-style beings can blink into the morning sun, receive a hug from a cherished loved one. I know how to see patterns according to my individual life experience, and I know that they are precious to me. At their best, my personal experiences are also universally human and so for personal reasons and for this shared experience I want to offer a pattern I see. In my humble biological pattern recognition system, I see that the AI can’t stop and won’t stop even if it should slow down because we are not modeling this.
We need to slow down the buying and selling. We need to slow down the consumption and the exploitation. We need to slow down so we can catch up to this momentous period in history. We need to slow down to focus on imbalances that are so profound that currency and creative power no longer circulate properly.
We have no will to do this type of slowdown. We have no collective will to look squarely at the problems of today because anyone with true power has no capacity, no willingness to truly change a system that provides them with status and riches. Sure, the scientists want to change things but they are famous for hiding inside their silos. I have yet to see a scientific luminary take on the mantle of leadership in anything but their field. I don’t blame them. I’m just noticing, which is another way of saying, I’m noticing a pattern.
Maybe today’s problems change by moratoriums on new technologies but maybe that’s a path too impossible, too sane to imagine. Without intersectional changes; granting all sentient humans equal rights to basic resources, to homes, to education and to an existence without the constant threat of state and corporate violence we can not reign in AI and maybe we shouldn’t. We need someone left to share our stories and to provide windows into the technologies we did create and we need these stories to be accessible to future generations.
You may say I’m a pessimist or some dystopian dreamer of sorts, but I am just an artist displaced by digital technology in the first major wave of digital image creation. I am just a writer, displaced by the need for constant content.
Time and again, I and others like me have been the canaries in the coal mines of culture. I and other artists like me might also serve as the robins of a cultural spring. We can invite you to think ever more creatively, to engage in a hopeful approach to our collective problems because we have been at the center of a blithe call from others to “reinvent” ourselves.
In all of Earth there is only one story we can rely on, and that is a tale of renewal. So pick a side, any side, but know that the arguments change and evolve at the rate of technology; and that you couldn’t possibly know all there is to know about any big problem or challenge. All you can know and act from is your creativity and from your own pattern recognition. You must demand a lot from yourself. You must be willing to regenerate entire areas of your mind to address the blindspots, the stereotypes, the easy framing that places us in a state of powerlessness and its best friend, fear.
Nothing can exist in the cyber realms without a solid, biological and chemical foundation. The future ahead of us will only be its worst version if we humans do not recognize that we are the source code of all that AI might do. Now is the time to consider our code, to see ourselves within this mesh of intersections and to commit to values of creativity, equality and dignity for all. That is our best hope for working with the fire of AI and all it and we will have unleashed into the future of Earth. We are not only the power of death, we are the power of renewal. Perhaps the call of this spring is to break down the silos and have all the great thinkers come out, come out from their towers and into the current of life.
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