As we approach this golden moment, complexity is layered upon complexity, not only a planetary ecosystem, not only language-using cultures, but language-using cultures with high technology, with supercomputers, the ability to sequence our own genome, on and on and on. Equally self-evident is the fact that this process of complexification that informs all nature on all levels is visibly, palpably, obviously accelerating.
I mean viscerally accelerating, so that now, a human life is more than enough of a window to see the entire global system of relationships in transformation. Rather, I would assume that this process of exponential acceleration into what I call novelty, which you might call complexity, is a law of being and cannot be retarded or deflected.
But what does that mean? Because now, a human lifetime is more than enough time to see this process of rampant and spreading, virus-like complexity.
What does it mean? It seems to presage the absolute annihilation of everything familiar, everything with roots in the past. Human beings are the agents of a new order of being. We are mercurially suspended between two different orders of being, and our technologies, our fetishes, our religions — and my definition of technology is sufficiently broad that it includes even spoken language — all of our technologies demand, push toward and make inevitable their own obsolescence, so that we are caught in an evolutionary cascade.
What would it be? Where does Humanity fit into the picture? These machines operating at Megahertz confer automatic immortality on the mammalian nervous system if you can get it somehow uploaded, downloaded, crossloaded into machinery, because ten minutes becomes eternity in a machine like that.
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A kind of pseudo-immortality opens up ahead of us, as a kind of payoff for our devotion to the program of machine evolution and machine intelligence. Some people say that this is appalling, and we should go back to the good old days, whatever the good old days were. It means that the human form, the human possibility is in the process of leaving History behind. History is some kind of adaptation that lasts about — pick a number — 10,, 15,, 20, years, no more than that. What is 20, years in the life of a biological species?
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We know that there were Homo sapiens sapiens types , years ago. Print created a number of ideas which now have to be given up, ideas like the distinct and unique nature of the individual, the necessary hierarchical structuring of society, all of these things are going to — if not have to be given up entirely — be dramatically modified, because the illusion that the self has simple location is now exposed. The self does not have simple location. This is why we all are responsible for each other.
The idea that what happens in distant parts of the world makes no claim on my moral judgment or my moral understanding, is wrong. The world as revealed by quantum physics, as revealed by electronic experience, is what Leibniz called a Plenum. I mentioned earlier this thing about prostheses and how the machines are prosthetic devices extending human consciousness, somewhat like psychedelics. We are their eyes and ears in the world, we provide the code, we provide the constraints, we build the hardware.
It is a relationship of mutual benefit. This distinction between flesh and machinery, which is easily made now, will be less easy to make in the future. As we migrate towards the nanotechnological domains, the methodologies of production become much more like the processes of biology. For example, biology does all its miracles on this planet at temperatures below degrees Fahrenheit. Organic life requires no higher temperature to build great whales, redwood trees, swarms of locusts, what have you.
The high-temperature, heavy-metal technologies that we have become obsessed with are extremely primitive and extremely toxic. That will all disappear as we model and genuflect in our manufacturing process before the methods and style of Nature, which is to pull atomic species from the local environment, and then to assemble them, atom by atom by atom. This AI that is coming into existence, is to my mind not artificial at all, not alien at all.
It really is a new conformation of geometry as the collective self of Humanity. The shaman is someone who simply, through extraordinary perturbation of consciousness, either through taking plant hallucinogens or manipulating diet or through flagellation and ordeal or by some means, perturbs consciousness to the point where the ordinary conformational geometries are blasted through , and then the shaman can see into the culturally forbidden zones of information. If you think about shamanism for a moment, what do shamans do classically? They cure.
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If you could see in hyperspace , you could see where the game will be next week, you could see the weather a month from now, you would know who stole the chicken. Any doctor will tell you this. This is what shamans are. They are 4D people. They are sanctioned members of the society who are allowed to put on the gloves, as it were, pull on the goggles, and look beyond the idols of the tribe, look beyond the myth.
In a way, as culture breaks down in multiculturalism and the rise of the Internet and a generation of people raised on hallucinogenic plants and substances, we all are asked to assimilate some portion of this shamanic potential to ourselves. Nothing comes unannounced. This is the faith. This is not, to my mind, woo-woo. I want to leave you with just one last thought on all of this, which is — and this sort of arcs back to the question of the similarities between the machines and the plants — and it has different levels of being said and being heard.
The world is made of language. The word is primary, more primary than the speed of light, more primary than any of the physical constants that are assumed by science to be the bedrock of reality. Below that, surrounding and enclosing all those constructs of science, is language.leondumoulin.nl/language/journals/the-world-english-bible-web.php
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The act of signifying. But in fact, the entire enterprise of civilization has been about building these virtual realities. Yes, stone and adobe is an intractable material compared to photons moving on a screen, but nevertheless the name of the game is the same, which is to cast an illusion between man and reality, to build a cultural truth in the stead of the natural truth of the animal body and the felt moment of immediate experience. This is where I want to tie it up, with this notion of the felt presence of immediate experience.
This trancends the culture, the machines, the drugs, the history, the momentum of evolution. The felt presence of immediate experience. Everything else arrives as rumor, litigant, advocant, supposition, possibility. The felt moment of immediate experience is actually the mind and the body aware of each other, and aware of the flow of time, and the establishment of being through metabolism.
This, I think, is what the machines cannot assimilate.
It will be for them a mystery as the nature of deities is a mystery for us. I have no doubt that before long there will be machines that will claim to be more intelligent than human beings, and who will brilliantly argue their position, and it will become a matter of philosophical disputation whether they are or are not passing the Turing test , but machines, I do not believe, can come to this felt moment of immediate experience.
That is the contribution of the animal body to this evolutionary symbiosis which I believe will end in the conquest of the universe by organized intelligence. All this is prelude. We are fragile. This Earth is fragile. A tiny slip anywhere along the line and we could end up a smear in the shale , no more than the trilobites or all the rest of those who came and went. But, given the sufficient cultivation of the potential of our technology, we can actually reach toward a kind of immortality.
It will not be like the things which have come from the industrial economy. They will not be profane machines.
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They will be spiritual machines. Alchemical gold. The universal Panacea that Renaissance magic dared to dream at the end of the 16th century. The miracle is that we are present, not only to witness it, but to be part of it, and to be raised up in an epiphany that will redeem the horror of history as nothing else can or could. Redeem the horror of history through a transformation of the human soul into a galaxy-roving vehicle, via our machines and our drugs and the externalization of our souls.