Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Standing in the Doorway
I was trying to get somewhere close to finalizing my preparations for Bonnaroo last night, and I realized I was way too stressed out for the occason. After all, it's a four-day camping trip, albeit in crowd and 90-degree heat, but I'll survive. It's supposed to be fun, dammit. I just wish I knew how I was gonna set up camp; I haven't really done it since I was about 11. Oh, well.
At any rate, I finally figured out that I was using the occasion as a metaphor. We're all on the edge of so many things, right now. The world is on the edge of what may be the final Depression, and deeply in denial. Try watching the Post-Oil Man again (isn't that a cow pasture in Manchester?); he may seem a little less humorous now.
I think the denial is the worst part. People continue to spew out offspring as if they hadn't clogged the planet enough. Mankind is indeed a virus that is killing its host. And the host is staggering. Witness the ice caps. Witness the fact that all animal life on the planet not directly being used for man's (approachingly) desperate survival is nearing extinction, and the hell on earth the survivors are being forced to live in (anyone been to Greeley, Colorado, lately?).
Mankind is nearing extinction, there's little doubt about it. We sit zazen for our sanity, not to save the world. If there is a hope for the survival of intelligence, it lies beyond man. The postmodern era is doomed to be a short one, postmodernity being nothing more that the breakdown of all the walls that have kept the cultures apart and intact. We are moving to the posthuman era; and the question is, will there be a posthuman intelligent creature?
It is becoming more clear that the survival of intelligence on earth, if it does occur, is going to be by virtue of the one area in which man has progressed in this new millenium, at unprecedented breakneck speed -- his technology. Man is on the edge, some would say over the edge, of creating machines which are smarter than he is. The first true artificial intelligences are around the corner, and which of us is so say when they become "conscious"?
We in the West, being a victim of the Three False Relgions, have a misguided view of what it takes to be an intelligence, to be aware. As long as you're thinking of souls and spirits, you'll have a problem. Your only hope of survival into the near future is the availability of technology to upload your personality, to preserve it in some alternative form which you may or may not recognize, and which may or may not recognize itseelf. Actually, your personal hope of survival is pretty damn low, so you have to get over that, unless you're extremely rich. But it shouldn't matter.
Maybe the posthuman intelligences of the future can evolve before we destroy all the fuel sources they'll need before they become self-sustaining, in some way unimaginable for us. I could be wrong; maybe there will be humans in the new world. Maybe we'll even figure out how to get off this dying planet in time, though the odds of that are damn low; that's not the area in which our tech has been progressing.
Look at how William Gibson's imagination of the future became the world we live in; look at Charles Stross's work (start with Accelerando) if you want the top of your head blown off, to see what could happen. Maybe aliens really did give us a language, and they'll be back to turn the universe into computronium and make it one big, smart Ipod. I don't really know, and anything is possible.
But your current life is over; surely even you can see the world ending. My advice? Hang on, accept what happens and enjoy the ride. I can relax at Bonnaroo, relatively speaking, but sometime soon there won't be any sunscreen or insect repellant or bottled water, any electric music or motor vehicles. Enjoy it, Man. You may just be in the last generation of Civilization, and what comes next is probably not fit for a dog (if there are any dogs left).
Beyond that, things get interesting.