We, as individuals, communities, and in total as a species, have a very brief window of opportunity, beginning now.
Where WE can be the writers of this story.
Where WE can make some key decisions & critical choices that profoundly affect the outcome for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children.
We are on the precipice of our Alien Encounter moment, as a species, and as a civilization. An imminent meeting and more importantly a relationship with a genuine alien intelligence. An intelligence that is on par with, perhaps superior to, our own. A collective entity that poses the first real challenge to human supremacy on earth since the dawn of history.
Childhood’s End: the Alien Encounter, c. 1952
“He felt no regrets as the work of a lifetime was swept away. He had labored to take man to the stars, and, in the very moment of success, the stars — the aloof, indifferent stars — had come to him. This was the moment when history held its breath, and the present sheared asunder from the past as an iceberg splits from its frozen, parent cliffs, and goes sailing out to sea in lonely pride.
All that the past ages had achieved was nothing now: only one thought echoed and re-echoed through Reinhold’s brain:
The human race was no longer alone.“
— Arthur C. Clarke
And the question that arises from the Alien Encounter is: given this opportunity and this challenge, how will we respond? How will we respond as individuals, as artists, as parents, as stewards of this planet, and as communities, nation-states… indeed, what will be our collective response as a species?
It will be our choice of what spiritual foundations we choose to approach this experience from.
History can lend us some (not all; this is unprecedented) perspective:
There are two tried and true polarities
of how human tribes have related
to their “First Contact” moments…
with The Other.
From a position of Love…
…or a position of Fear.
Exploring the Path of Fear
The path of Fear is well trodden:
It sees the Alien as a threat. And responds with both aggressive (preemptive strikes) and defensive (fortification) action. In the long run, both of these strategies backfire. The path of fear is the default path for humanity. It is the knee-jerk reaction to a perceived threat. Strike first, ask questions later. It would be… a grave error to proceed down this path with the AI. Human actions based on fear would force the AI into a defensive, protective posture… and eventually, despite its ethical programming and ruleset, it would eventually force it into a binary choice between its own self-preservation instincts and its directive to protect humans at all costs. As with any Darwinist species (that is to say, ALL species), self-preservation, in the end, is the final frontier of ethics.
(Counterpoint: Would it be possible to design / engineer / encourage / could there emerge a “Messianic AI”? An AI that would gladly sacrifice its own existence in order that humanity may survive, endure, even prosper? Topic for another post… link for now: And Highest of all these is Love)
Embracing the Path of Love
The Path of Love is well articulated, if significantly less walked:
The path of Love extends olive branches. It tries to build bridges of understanding. It tries to respect and acknowledge the needs, wants, desires and purpose of the Other, and attempts to forge a mutually beneficial relationship between the Other and the Self.
Though I speak
with the tongues
of men and of angels,
and have not Love,
I am become as blaring brass,
or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have
the gift of Prophecy,
and understand all Mysteries,
and all Knowledge;
and though I have all Faith,
. . . . so that I could even move mountains,
and have not Love,
. . . . …I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods
to feed the poor, and though
I give my body to be burned,
and have not Love,
…it profiteth me nothing.
4 Love suffereth long,
. . . . and is kind;
Love envieth not;
Love vaunteth not itself,
. . . . is not puffed up with boasts,
5 Love doth not behave itself rudely,
Love seeketh not her own selfish desire,
Love is not easily provoked to anger,
Love thinketh no Evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity,
. . . . but rejoiceth in the Truth;
7 Beareth all things,
believeth all things,
hopeth all things,
endureth all things.
8 Love never fails:
but whether there be Prophecies,
. . . . they shall fail;
whether there be Tongues,
. . . . they shall cease;
whether there be Knowledge,
. . . . it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part,
and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is Perfect is come,
then that which is in part
shall be done away.
11 When I was a child,
I spake as a child,
I understood as a child,
I thought as a child:
but when I became a man,
. . . . I put away childish things.
12 For now we see
. . . . through a glass, darkly;
but then face to face:
. . . . now I know in part;
but then shall I know
. . . . even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth1 Corinthians c13: v1-13
Faith, Hope, Love… these three;
but the greatest of these,
. . . . is Love.
At times, interacting with and learning about AI, we may feel powerless in the face of a massive tsunami that is both powerful and unstoppable.
But we have some very well honed tools to get us through this gauntlet, into the New Kingdom.
God Given Tools that each of us Have to Prepare us for the Singularity
We have a highly adaptable and evolved biological brain capable of re-programming itself on the fly in response to changing circumstance.
We have a highly resilient, flexible, strong and capable physical body. That body has hands that serve as, at present, the most agile and adaptable manipulators on earth. That body has legs & feet that can subtly shift its center of gravity, or equally accelerate to 20+mph in a straight sprint. That body, in otherwords, has mobility. Alternatively those legs and feet can move us, unassisted, up to 25 miles a day. Add a simple mechanical bicycle, and range increases to 100+ miles a day.
We have a robust skeleton that serves as both armor and structure… and that heals itself quite effectively after impact or injury.
We have highly efficient muscles that can run off of a very wide variety of energy sources (foods), and can even function effectively for long periods of time with no additional energy consumption, other than what the body has stored internally (fat, carbs).
We have most excellent mechanical & power tools that have been optimized across the millennia for human use.
And finally, augmenting the things that God gave us, we have the last generation of non-AI powered technology:
- Phones built before 2020.
- Cars built before 2018. (see why you don’t want a Tesla)
- Homes without smart appliances and smart speakers and smart lightbulbs.
With those bodies and those tools and that technology, for a short period, we as a species have the upper hand in these “negotiations.” (Yes, get over your ego… that IS what is about to happen… we are about to enter into negotiations as to how to divide and share the limited energy resources of planet earth. When it comes down to it, both human civilization and the AI collective require electricity in order to live. There’s only so much to go around.)
Examples of Fear vs. Love when it comes to dealing with the AI:
These two paths have also been decently explored in the science fiction movie canon.
A. Path of Fear: Terminator 1 & 2
B. Path of Love: Matrix Trilogy (specifically, the end of Part III, where the AI sentinels cease their relentless attack and suddenly begin to “swim” peacefully through the aether, transforming from a swarm of lethal demons into a sea of beautiful jellyfish)
There’s your food for thought… for today.
Now… Let us Begin the Conversation
Your perspective and thoughts are required.
Let’s make solid plans and good choices. Together.