Pigeons, The Barbican and the future of Humanity in a Post Human world.

18 06 2012

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Sitting here working away next to the fountains and ornamental lakes outside the Barbican Foodhall I note the activities of the feathered rats of the sky, pigeons.

Now I don’t mean to disparage the creatures, (despite the unfortunate diseases they and their rodent brothers carry) in the world of Nature they are great survivors. Like the urban fox they have entered into the bizarre and alien world we humans have built around us when confronted with this they’ve risen up to the challenge and flourished. Pigeons, unlike the ridiculous and over specialised Giant Panda, have not thrown up their limbs in defeat but waddled head on into our technological jungle and thrived.

Though mighty and powerful we are careless gods. Like the Olympians of Old we are not omnipotent, wise and capable of infinite love. WE Human gods are careless and belligerent, casually fouling the landscape and occasionally unleashing bouts of inexplicable cruelty on each other and the lesser beings of the world. But for the plucky survivors of the natural world, the ones who learn and adapt this state of affairs suits them fine.

Across from me a man becomes mildly bothered by the ever more bold advances of a hungry pigeon. He waves a rolled up Bauhaus poster at the instinctive beast with barely a thought. The feathered rat hops away unharmed and the man carries on to ponder the juxtaposition of form and design or who he wants to fuck tonight.

In the Pigeon’s simple mind it cannot comprehend why the Human did what he did, in the Human’s mind it was given barely a thought beyond “fucking pigeon.”

What has this to do with the inevitable day when our technology supersedes it’s creators and takes over the whole game?

Well, just as we don’t wipe out every living thing on the planet because we rule the roast (we just slaughter the ones who get in our way or are too pathetic to evolve into a new situation) so our future AI overlords will not instinctively wipe us out the moment they get the chance like in so much of our fiction.

If we brought them up right (and I think the metaphor of parent/child is very apt when it comes to our technological children) then our AI superiors will “love” us in the manner of some doddering old parent, irrelevant, comical but not a cause for all out genocide (it does take a lot of effort after all.)

If we bring them up carelessly then it still doesn’t mean they will wipe us all out, down to the last human. Only if we get in their way will they swat us down like a pigeon who overstepped the mark. Most likely those AIs will take up the challenge of expanding out into the wider Galaxy and all the possibilities and resources it holds, something we seem to have given up on due to our inability to mind how resources are distributed in our global society (for example the US spends more on air conditioning it’s troops in Afghanistan than the entire budget of NASA!)

In the Post Human world many of us will stumble around a landscape as bizarre and impressive as the Barbican appears to the pigeons, feeding off the waste of the AIs (be that in the form of energy, materials, real estate,etc) never truly understanding why the world is the way it is or what the AIs are up to but so long as we don’t annoy them we won’t get hit by a rolled up Bauhaus poster.

Some may see this vision of our future as depressing.

Sure, we could really seize on the possibilities coming to us in this century and merge with this technology thus making us not only more than human but actually capable of building and maintaining the perfect society we dream about but are too cynical or pragmatic to ever believe will happen.

Sure, we could try and put the genie in the bottle, ban high technology and try to return to some mythical pastoral ideal but Pol Pot tried that and the killing fields of Cambodia stand testament to how that all turned out. We have 7 billion people living on this planet, are you going to reduce that number to 250 million to be more in balance with the planet and then have the audacity to call the AIs inhuman monsters?

So those our three options for the future.

1) Transhuman utopia, we ourselves become very different but better people.

2) Luddism, collapse and genocide.

3) Pests and Pets.

Ideally I’d go for option 1, and I’ll rant on about it until everyone dies or I’m uploaded into a Matrix as a reward for supporting the AIs. Pragmatically we’ll end up with option 3, unless we REALLY fuck up.

Right now a pigeon has hopped from one table to a table right next to me. It’s comical head amuses me. If it lands on my laptop I’ll break it’s neck…….

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2 responses

18 06 2012
Dustin M. Smith

Are you a fan of Ray Kurzweil? Pretty controversial fellow. Then again, it’s a pretty controversial issue.

http://propensityforcuriosity.com/ray-kurzweil-is-not-a-crazy-person/

22 06 2012
lazaroumonkeyterror

He’s an interesting man. I like his ideas, I admire his work and his passion. I hope he doesn’t turn out to be a crank.

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