Silicon Self-Deception

SiliconSelfDeceptIf you care about pleasing a man—bake a pie.
But make sure it’s a perfect pie.
            Betty Crocker cookbook from the 1960’s

In the third book of the Great Question Trilogy, Why Am I Here, an essay entitled “Choices, Choices, So Many Choices!” introduced a poor Latin American woman pleading with her doctor to “put in silicon.” Although she could ill afford it, she had convinced herself that it was worth it for her auto estima, her self-esteem. Of course, women do not have breast implants to please themselves, at least not directly or even consciously. Many are seeking the approval of the opposite sex. They are, in fact, engaged in the act of self-deception and the deception of others. This does not result in genuine self-esteem. By such acts we become more and more like “plastic” beings, more like automatons. Speaking of automatons …

We have made no secret of our disdain for the intellect, in particular, when it tries to venture beyond manipulating the world of form in pursuit of plenty, pleasure and power. Hubris is usually involved when this happens. Nature’s “wax-wings” fly just perfectly. Waxed winged homo-sapiens aiming for the upper atmosphere? Not so successful.

In the future we may (hopefully) look back on the era of “hubris in the valley.” Silicon Valley, high on the false self-centered “esteem” of tech-centered accomplishment may become the symbol of a time when humanity got burned trying to fly away from its problems rather than finding the courage and maturity to address them in a truly pragmatic way. Only adolescents believe in the 7th Cavalry or automatons or space ships rescuing them from the folly of their own sleep-addled brain.

“In a recent interview with CNBC, Elon Musk, The CEO of Tesla Motors and Space X, which hopes to rocket us to other planets, said he invests in artificial intelligence [A.I.] companies not to make money but to ‘keep an eye’ on them in case of ‘scary outcomes,’ like a ‘Terminator’ scenario of psychopathic robots that could chase us off the earth and up to Mars.”  We could get cute at this point and pose such questions as: How old is this guy? Does he watch too many movies made for the American 18-34 demographic (adolescents or those trying to delay adulthood)? Is there a drug for this type of paranoia?

Well, it appears that Mr. Musk is serious so we will take him at his word, but what follows could get ugly. In the context of P-B there is an underlying fear that causes a desperate humanity to turn to the intellect that can seem to hold out the promise of an escape from our anxieties. In its most extreme form science is said to offer a literal escape from the planet thus leaving all the problems behind and starting afresh on the planet Kolob.

Kolob was one of the neighbors of the earth when it was created according to Joseph Smith back when it was religious cults not science that provided people with alternative realities.  The Mormon worldview (as weird as it is) still offers an escape from the reality of our own scary imagination. Can science and the intellect offer the same opportunity for delusion? Of course it can and it is a delusion as we shall see.

Psychopathic robots are a projection of our own identity. We are not only scaring ourselves out of our own skivvies but off of our own planet. We cannot blame this only on our developmentally lagging and mostly male nerds because most of us are running from menacing robots we fashion in our own imaginations. “In ‘Terminator,’ Musk said, the humans who created the replicants did not expect the machines to turn evil.”

Opposite those of us who are preparing for a flight to outer space are those Pollyannas who see friendly and helpful automatons. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page see a rosy future for A.I. “‘You should assume that someday,’ Brin said, ‘we will be able to make machines that can reason, think and do things better than we can.’”  Aha! There’s the rub. Success on this planet is not about “thinking” and “doing.” We are already escalating our “thinking” and “doing” thanks to our impressive but little understood technology. MORE toxic behavior, whether on the part of our machines or our unconscious, sleepwalking selves is not the direction we want to go.

Page predicted a “time of abundance,” when human needs could be more easily met and people would “have more time with their family or to pursue their own interests.”  Let’s be patient with these intellectual types who just don’t get it.   What are the people of the global village interested in pursuing—you guessed it—or at least we hope you did. Plenty, pleasure and power, the very self-destructive behaviors that have us on our knees praying that some clanking, silicon impregnated, blinking symbol of human unconsciousness is going to be fundamentally different from its inventors.

Are we so foolish as to look forward to “the singularity,”—the moment when computers overtake human brains—said by Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering—to be in the year 2045. There is another, more profound “singularity,”—the moment when we connect with the Engineer of the Universe—and are informed that we already have the machine that waits on us hand and foot and anticipates our every need and keeps all of our fears at bay. If we have to tell you what that is, you are not yet ready to take your place among the adults of the world. Go back to your “Angry Birds” game.

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References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in the Simple Reality Trilogy
by Roy Charles Henry:
Where Am I?  Story – The First Great Question
Who Am I?  Identity – The Second Great Question
Why Am I Here?  Behavior – The Third Great Question

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