Friday, 27 January 2017

supernatural or deus ex machina

I recall coming across in the afterward of some assigned reading for a class designed to teach empathy or some such thing whose inspiration and circumspection is doubtless virtuous but tends to wither too quickly a confession on the part of the author of a touch of agnosticism but was more than willing and desirous to entertain there being a God, especially a personal and benevolent one. The author went on—the book was otherwise forgettable and a bit embarrassing to endure—to ponder if civilisation did not only invent the concept of the divine through myth-making and trying to understand the natural world but also (by being worthy) created the gods.
There was no talk of a technological singularity or philosophical mechanism but broached the idea, like the concept of some religious tradition that human beings were not animate with souls from birth but rather earned them in epiphanies. One expert in the field of artificial intelligence, coming from a slightly nuanced angle, conjectures that in order to gain and keep the trust, faith of humans, robots as they become by degrees omnipresent and omnipotent in a non-supernatural fashion, they only way to guarantee that that power will be used wisely and compassionately is if all power is surrendered right away unconditionally. This God-fearing nature in many of us, fretting over idolatry, job-security and future-shock, is fraught with paradox as it is precisely what is holding us back from relinquishing control to an albeit hypothetical artificial god and possibly ensures that the progress of artificial intelligence going forward will appear to humans as rather Old Testament punishing and oppressive—and out of our control altogether. I wonder if all sufficiently sophisticated civilisations create gods such as these and whether these titans are heir to or destroyers of the elder gods. What do you think about this? Like the plot device, a god from the machine, perhaps the resistance, the fear of God is present in part because to be otherwise and more receptive and welcome might betray the blandishments of laziness and masking ineptness with a twist that ensures a happy ending.