After a meditation by the stream, I only have enough time to walk a short loop. Beginning on a narrow path that parallels the creek, I circle back via a doublewide path, and pass a young woman changing the demographics all by herself.
Two young children, calling out “Mommy hurry up,” precede her up a small slope; two more are in a side-by-side carriage; and one is in the oven, nearly ready to pop out by the looks of things. Sometimes I can’t understand why people are having children at all, but then I remember that I come from a family in the insurance business.
Consciously or sub-consciously, many couples or single women are having children not from a cultural norm (though that still exists in perverse form), or to propagate the species, or even to complete a family, but because it gives them immediate consequence and company, and provides long-term collateral.
Given the way the marriage between machines and man and woman is going, and the parlous state of relationship between the sexes, you can’t help but wonder if the baby blobs in “The Matrix” have already become the reality, metaphorically speaking.
Scientists are plunging headlong into melding humans with machines through interfacing computers via electrodes into or onto the brain. Without understanding what it means to be a human being, that will spell the end of the human spiritual potential.
Instead of thinking about “exactly which mental abilities complement mechanized intelligence,” as one “thought leader” (who went on to ridicule young ‘thought leaders’) put it recently, we need to be thinking on what the essential difference is between artificial intelligence and actual intelligence.
Obviously, artificial intelligence is based on the ability of computers to think as well or better than humans. But that just begs the question.
When thought is taken as the sine qua non of human existence, as the function without which we would not be human, then what happens when the computers we’ve invented duplicate thought’s functions so well that they become indistinguishable from us?
If we wait to find out, it will be too late, since the mind meld will be complete, and humans will become a distinction without a difference with our machines.
Thought can be imaginative or derivative, emotional or detached, logical or illogical, rational or irrational. Thought can be even be creative, up to a point, such as when an architect designs a startlingly new kind of building like the museum in Bilbao, or a cable-stayed bridge such as the Cooper River Bridge in South Carolina. But neither thought nor its computers can ever have an insight. Only a living brain can have an insight, much less awaken the state of insight.
Both the disharmony and harmony that humans create using thought are in jarring evidence near here. A big construction project is taking shape, with a massive crane slowly lifting steel beams into place. But I haven’t seen a kite hawk in the area since the project started a year ago.
When the crane is fully extended on the construction site, it has a certain majesty as a thing of great power and flawless design, which also happens to be aesthetically pleasing. Rising hundreds of feet from a triangular base, the business end of its upper half symmetrically comes to a point, and completes the geometry.
On the other hand, the site has destroyed the last remaining local habitat of a raptor with perhaps the most exquisitely beautiful flight pattern in nature, the kite hawk. The kite flutters in place for half a minute or more before parachuting to the ground when it spots prey, in an uplifting and time-stopping arc.
As computer hardware and software designers will tell you, there’s beauty in their thought-replicating devices as well. The problem, like everything else in the man-made world, is not in their invention and existence, but in their use and how they affect our lives and being.
It’s noteworthy that we use the same basic word for the absence of thought that’s used for a quality of care that transcends thought. We say a person is thoughtless when they don’t pay attention to what they’re doing, and we say someone is thoughtful when they do. Thought has everything to do with the former, but little or nothing to do with the latter. That is, to be without thought is to be fully attentive, but to full of thought is to be deeply unaware.
Beauty beyond thought is real and present. A computer, however smart (a completely different quality than intelligence) can only operate in terms of the programs of the past. Therefore a computer cannot be present and will never be able to have direct perception and communion with beauty. Only a fully conscious, organic and holistic brain can.
The meaning and purpose of a human being is much more than the perception of beauty however. It is to allow the benediction that can only come to the fully awake and silently aware brain in a state of negation.
There is an infinite wordless and image-less actuality that thought cannot approach, much less capture. But the brain cannot cleanse itself of the past and experience, enabling the experiencing of actuality anew, as long as separation and the past, as the observer, is operating.
The mind-as-thought has to spontaneously fall silent in undivided, undirected attention to what is, inwardly and outwardly, for the numinous to be.
Machines will serve awakening human beings, or inwardly dead humans will serve their machines. Come to think of it, they already are.