I’ve been reading up on quite a bit of transhumanist literature recently, both arguments for and against it. I must say, I’m beginning to think that the biggest hurdle to any kind of transhumanist and historical/technological singularity ideas is the shallow naivety of the transhumanism/singularity proponents themselves.
Technology will not magically fix the ailing of the world, and the nature of intelligence and consciousness will take much longer to understand fully; it is only that we will be capable of simulating such characteristics using artificial medium. Electric networks certainly catalyzed some great changes for the system of the world, but in the end it was merely catalyzing of the potential already there. The human network and corresponding complex system of human-nodes and social-economic-cultural links were already put in place long time ago, to the extent that we classify such trait as a fundamental part of humanity as organisms. This also means that simple increase in technological capacity will not be enough to surpass the nature of the human network itself, only speed the process already in place.
Mind you, I am very enthusiastic about the future potential of humanity. And I do certainly believe that some sort of chapter-opening change of human civilization will take place sometime soon, not necessarily while I’m alive (I’m 21 by the way) but definitely soon when viewed from the scales of world history. I am simply becoming increasingly skeptical of the kind of change expected to take place by the transhumanist community at large (if there can be such a thing). Massive information processing and storage ability does not translate into intellectual capacity without human input. There simply aren’t enough scientific evidence to support such a claim. The very idea that some sort of external intelligence engine would be able to fix the world’s problems is a vague notion that makes me want to question the degree of understanding possessed by some of the more radical supporters of transhumanism regarding matters of intelligence, brain physiology, and complex system dynamics. Certain degree of performance boost in brain capacities will definitely change the face of human civilization. Artificial intelligence in its ideal form will transform everyone’s lives. There is no doubt about that. I am just very irked about the underlying notion that such advances would be the singular answer to the singular problem of the world. Does anyone remember the concept of legacy anymore? I suggest you to find and read Jaron Lanier‘s essay on irreducible complexity (I’ve read it in a book) if you don’t know what I am talking about.
I believe in singularity-esque future, and all the good things it will bring. I also believe in reasonable ideas and sound scientific basis for reality, something some people seem to be forgetting in their rush to live forever.
I’ve been trying to write a post regarding the parallel between the art and sciences, only to come to multitudes of conclusions and thoughts all contrasting against each other. So I thought I would write them all. Sort of collected sketches of my thought regarding the issue. Maybe I would be able to see some pattern in my divergent thoughts should I carry on doing it for a long time.
The subtle parallel between the art and the sciences are readily available everywhere I see. Modern practices of art, such as some of the experiments of the abstract expressionists from coincidences and random outcomes of color and pattern to Tara Donovan’s styrofoam and foil constructs, the similarities in goal and practices of the medium abound everywhere. The fetishes and gods emerge out of their woodwork and stony silences frozen in their attempt to walk and talk among their worshippers and creators, the blotches on canvases look as if they would soon drop on the world into an ever spreading smudge. All pieces seem to be wanting to walk out into the world and speak of things in their hearts, but what really is life in the eyes of their artistic creators? Is the life-like qualities of the results and practices of art wholly intentional or something merely accidental, an evolutionary dead end in pursuit of something else? What is the trait of life that ties itself to the art in so many fields and actions, regardless of their truth?
I’d say the artist’s description of life is a system in eternal transition without destroying self. Constant change while maintaining unique characteristic that defines itself is the universal trait of life-like things most closely related to their artificial cousins. Tara Donovan’s pieces are formed of simple elements repeated ad nauseum, a process that begins to turn them into something different, while still maintaining and even exploring the nature of its components, to the extent that the new forms begin to act as a strange extension to the nature of the original components. This is a process startlingly similar to some of the approaches taken by artificial life students and certain schools of modern music. Such characteristic is instilled in the basic fabric of the modern art. Take a look at Hans Hoffman. The powerful brushstrokes and colors lend weight to the painting and the energy and form are coalesced into something powerful, and yet soft and almost random while being able to maintain certain thematic vision, a quintessence of the painting capable of metamophosise the colors and the masses into refreshing waterfalls and flowers of a ravine.
The significance of the life in art as being a system in endless state of transition while being able to maintain itself is in the meeting between the medium and the definition such interpretation can provide us. Modern arts, through its tireless search for form and beauty, have provided us wit an understanding that certain things are able to maintain the illusive trait of ‘self’ while going through a total disembodiment of its usual medium and composition. The integrity of the medium combined with the definition, the ‘being’, at the horizon between a thing and its definition lies the concept of life from inanimate.
Now, think of such a construct, not drawn on canvas but beating and breathing, walking among us. A graffiti on the fabric of biosphere.