“The drive to have ‘mastery’ over creation has resulted in the senseless exploitation of natural resources, the alienation of the land from people and the destruction of indigenous cultures. … Though human eyes may not always discern it, every creature and the whole creation in chorus bear witness to the glorious unity and harmony with which creation is endowed.” 1
We’ve been exploring the promise and dangers of enhancing human intelligence towards God-like status and now the question arises: Which road shall we take?
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Perhaps the ultimate aim of developing artificial intelligence is to create a functional human (in some form) that did not arise from the union of egg and sperm. Or, to revive a former human. Futurist Ray Kurzweil has a goal: “In the film “Transcendent Man,” I talk about bringing back my father, Frederick Kurzweil. I’m writing a book now called The Singularity Is Nearer, and I’m talking about this concept of a replicant, where we bring back someone who has passed away. It’ll go through several different stages. First, we’ll create an avatar based on emails, text messages, letters, video, audio and memories of the person. Let’s say in 2025, it’ll be somewhat realistic but not really the same. But some people do actually have an interest in bringing back an unrealistic replicant of someone they loved.” 2
How fascinating! Imagine bringing a deceased family member or an old best friend back to life and being able to make adjustments. “I loved him so… but there was this one thing he did, let’s just change that, shall we?” What’s really intriguing is to wonder what changes someone might make before bringing us back!? That question is enough to prompt some deep soul searching.
Kurzweil continues, referencing the possible impact of artificial intelligence (AI): “By the 2030s, the AIs will be able to create avatars that will seem very close to a human who actually lived. We can take into consideration their DNA. In the 2030s, we will be able to send nanobots into living people’s brains and extract memories of people who have passed away. Then you can really make them very realistic.” 3
It may seem intimidating to consider the immense transformational power of technology to change not only our way of living but essential livingness itself, who we are. Just reading what Kurzweil is dreaming can be profoundly disturbing… at least to the comfort zone that many humans are sleep walking through. His real point is that the future is going to be very, very different from the present. Considering the details of his perspective can serve to jar us from our slumbers. “Wake up,” he is saying between the lines, “change is going to come.” Of course, the start of preparation is awareness, then comes action. What’s to be done?
It’s one thing for futurists, it’s quite another for the rest of us. They work in laboratories, but so do we. Ours is the domain of nature and here lies a compelling opportunity for deep research. We can take a walk in the woods and listen to birdsong, hearing it as if from inside ourselves. We can sit by a stream, meditate there on how that flow of water corresponds to the flow of blood within us. Can we sense the flowing together? We can work in our garden, cultivating life, noticing and feeling the aliveness of everything (even the weeds).
We can begin to culture what is known as “eco-awareness.” Eco-awareness is about learning how to love in the deepest sense possible, by shedding our separate identity and embracing the reality of the big “we” that includes all life forms and becomes, in steadily increasing experience, the one truly authentic “me.”
When Ray Kurzweil peers into the future he sees the wonders that technology may provide. When I peer into the future I see a world filled with more and more individuals sharing a nature-based experience of oneness, and I feel hopeful. I welcome what is coming, sensing that what’s developing is some kind of unimaginable merger between native and technological intelligence and that the offspring of this marriage will be something entirely new, Humanity 2.0, let’s call it.
Somewhere within me, I know that this is what the future is already, inevitably, becoming.
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1. From Sacred Earth, Sacred Self, www.festivaloffaiths.org Page 69