Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
I decided to give this its own thread, as it's a movie that addresses many recent forum themes, particularly the internet of things (IoT). I'll move over the comments from another thread for now. Note there are spoilers therein if you've yet to see it.
The movie Transcendence opens today, which I'll see this afternoon. I still think its premise is remiss given the critique of Wolfe, Hayles and others. I think it was Lakoff that criticized that idea because it's founded on the disembodied, abstract notion of mind, that such a consciousness doesn't have a 'body' with feedback loops etc. However the emerging IoT has embodied sensors and feedback mechanisms, which is sort of its version of space-time image schema. So while downloading human consciousness into the net still seems fantasy, maybe the IoT could develop its own consciousness given this complex, interconnected embodiment?
I enjoyed the movie, despite many critics that do not. (Roeper is an exception, giving it a A.) It had many of the themes we've been discussing of late, primarily the benefits and dangers of the IoT. After Depp's character is uploaded he develops nanotech that heals people, makes medical discoveries, creates better ways to farm for less cost with minimal pollution etc. However in the process of healing folks with nanites they become 'hybrids' with super strength and are connected to the 'grid.' They still maintain their autonomy but are linked in the 'commons.'
This of course frightens everyone else, including Depp's past associates, who thinks we'll somehow transcend our humanity and become machines if this continues. They even convince his wife, who heretofore went along with the program. She accepts intentional infection with a virus so that we she too is uploaded it will kill the program. Depp of course knows the plan but accepts it because he loves her and believes her when she tells them he is 'hurting' humanity.
Thing is, nothing he has done has hurt anyone, only helped them. The only hurt is from the self-generated fear of becoming something more than typical humanity, becoming hybrid, becoming Borg. It appears Depp realizes that humanity is not yet ready for the next step in its evolution and let's his wife infect him and shut down the program.
And yet at the end it appears Depp and his wife still exist in the nanotech implanted in their home garden, if their own LAN if not in the entire internet. Will this open a sequel?
On that last point, does this indicate that the tech will be fine if confined to LANs instead of one giant super internet of everything. And that it can co-exist with other such LANs, each maintaining their own autonomy but are connected to each other. Oh, yeah, that is the internet of everything.
Saw the film last night. Very much a B-movie with some serious plot holes, weak character logic, unimpressive dialogue, lack of nuance, etc. Yet with some likeable actors and provocative themes.
Of especial interest is the climactic reversal in which people suffer the tragic sensation of not having permitted the Singularity. The advanced intelligence turns out to have been authentic and benevolent -- thereby legitimizing the research and mentality leading to its creation and placing the moral burden back upon the rebellious, murderous idealists.
The advancement of electronic consciousness to the point of its merger with bio-materiality is worth exploring. As well the ambiguous shift of a transcendental consciousness from the more difficult and opposed project of world-improvement to the more nuanced but narrower project of interpersonal veneration and fidelity.
When I get a moment I will address these themes a little more in the "How Post- Aggravates Pre-" thread... since it is apparent that regressives in the film's universe are reactively, even self-destructively, empowered and exacerbated by the presence of a genuine higher intelligence.
Also see this post in another thread on the movie.
Here's an article on transhumanism that thinks the biggest worry is that only the rich will have access to the wonders of tech, leaving the rest of us to be only human. The article argues that this will not be the case, as it has not been in the past with other tech developments like medicine, electricity and the internet. This is because we are evolving from monopolistic tycoons to a more commons oriented society. And in that way he is consistent with Rifkin's latest work.
That is one of the main fear's motivating the government, that capitalism's obsession with individualism is being threatened with the AI producing people linked with not only the tech but with each other and operating as a commons. A commons by the way that is concerned with renewable energy, increasing world food supply and creating medical breakthroughs in treating disease and regenerating tissue. I.e., providing equal opportunity for all to thrive. How terrible!
The other fear though not in the article is that by being connected not only with each other but with tech (including AI) we somehow lose our humanity, our natural humanness, we become like machines: unfeeling, instrumentally logical, inhuman. But all the evidence in the movie, as well as Rifkin's voluminous study of real-world, current applications, point in exactly the other direction: we are becoming more human, more caring, more sharing, and more than the kind of human we used to be. It's an unjustified fear of the kind of progress we need to be more human. We are only being transhuman to a regressive humanity based in fear, scarcity and dysfunctional individualism.
I just re-watched the movie last night. I'm still convinced it is a metaphor for the emerging collaborative commons a la Rifkin, with the Internet of Things being a key. The plain old internet has already transformed our human neurology. Our individual consciousness has always been socially conditioned, which is even more the case now through computer tech and instantaneous world-wide communication. Implanting chips in brains for a more direct connection is really not that far off.
Rifkin documented not only 3-D printing but it's bio-medical applications, including printing human body parts. Enhancing the human body with nano-tech is not really all that far off either. This is the next phase of human evolution, human-machine hybrids a la the Borg. But as the movie made clear, an individual retains his autonomy and unlike the Borg is not controlled or surpassed by the hive mind. This form of autonomous individuals working collaboratively together via tech connections already exists and works quite well. Taking the tech to the next level can also take us to that next level.
Yes, it doesn't necessarily have to go well by doing so. There is certainly the potential for the 'system' to go awry, to be used for nefarious purposes. The big fear in the movie is that there would be a dominant individual artificial intelligence, like that of Depp's character, directing the show and thus it would be a computer totalitarianism that debased humans as drones for its ultimate and insidious purposes. But that's exactly the opposite of what happened in the movie, with the AI only operating to connect and serve humanity. Again, a metaphor for the fears of the sort of rampant individualism of capitalism against socialism, or God forbid, communism.
But the seeds of the collaborative commons, like in the movie, have been implanted in human society. And largely so due to the very nature of the internet's distributed and autonomous nodes that work together collectively. The paradigm is here and like the movie it is now omnipresent via the internet and will continue to evolve. Also like the movie, the only way to now destroy it is to destroy the internet itself. Of if not that, to completely control and limit its use like the agenda of the capitalist ISPs. Fortunately, millions of us autonomous individuals socially networked have take up the battle for net neutrality. We know that it is the key issue to implementing the next wave of human evolution in the collaborative commons. A postmetaphysical transcendence indeed.
I also posted it on FB IPS forum. Here's the discussion with LP so far:
Layman Pascal Movies, like everything else in culture, should be judged by their quality not by their forms of content and the material we associate with them. So Transcendence is kind of awful. However the residual optimism of its finale is edifying and certainly we can draw parallels (not between the film and reality but perhaps between what the film reminds us of and reality) with the emergence of better technology and more advanced, faster adapting procedures of intelligence upon which our hopes must be based.
Edwyrd Burj I disagree that movies should be judged purely by their quality, if by that you mean story line, plotting, character development etc. But you're entitled to your opinion. My only focus was on its content and implications, and how that relates to themes this thread. On that score its good quality in my book.
Layman Pascal I don't mean storyline, plotting, per se. I mean that quality, style and interestingness of each the aspects of performance should be the primary evaluation mechanism. And, as per above, I think there are many good ways to tie the content and its potential implications into our favorite themes. That's totally valid. But I don't agree that counts as good quality any more than the fact that I love chubby black chicks means that Hefty Negresses IV is a good film.
Edwyrd Burj I'm not arguing that it was a good film because it wasn't. I'm connecting its theme and elements as metaphors for the emerging collaborative commons. And how it displays a grounded, postmetaphysically spiritual enaction of transcendence. The latter is a major bone of contention in the forum, how materialism runs rampant without a transcendent function. However that function in critics' minds still tends toward the metaphysical. I find that the movie, through my contextualization of course, provides imo a more postmetaphysical expression. I.e., the movie is a springboard for this discussion, its merits notwithstanding. Sort of like how you use Trump, a fascist demagogue, to springboard discussions of integral topics despite his utter lack of 'quality.'
And note how your criticism diverts away from the focus of the discussion on postmeta transcendence. What do you think about the topic?
Layman Pascal Arguably you picked up on the preamble to my first remark and that led to topic diversion :) I've been agreeing with your reading of the themes. I think it applies broadly to several potential emergences of interpersonal technology and systems that have a postmetaphysical momentum which could provide the new rudder on the materialist boat.
I think we're looking at a general emergent convergence which, viewed technologically, is an ephemeralization, acceleration, bio-fusion and intelligence amplification. It is unreasonably feared but also not guaranteed to be benevolent... Something largely dependent in whether similar patterns can co-emerge in different genres.
The following excerpt is from an interview with Sloterdijk called "Man and machine will fuse into one being." It is interesting on the distinction between participatory syntegralists and kennilinguists, issues addressed in the film:
"The concept of 'anthropotechnics' thus refers to the entire autopoiesis, or self-creation, of 'mankind' in its many thousands of cultural specializations. It is empirical, pluralistic and egalitarian from the ground up — in the sense that all individuals, as heirs to the memory of mankind, are free to surpass themselves.
"Ray Kurzweil’s idea of 'singularity,' by contrast, contains futuristic, monistic and elitist elements. Although 'singularity,' according to its logical and rhetorical design, is meant to integrate mankind as a whole, it is evident that it could only encompass a tiny group of exceptional transhuman individuals."