Monday, August 09, 2010


Interesting and rather ironic article in today’s Times by artificial intelligence pioneer Jared Lanier in which he argues, essentially, that we ought not to ascribe consciousness to computers since doing so devalues the real complexity and—dare I say—magic that is human consciousness and also, more to the point, mixes metaphysical and even theistic claims into an area (computers) that they don’t really fit, thereby threatening to exacerbate tensions between religion and modernity and, in doing so, contribute to the dangerous trend whereby we avoid accountability by “pretending that machines can take on more and more human responsibility.”

Funny, I was thinking something quite similar myself as I rode around yesterday afternoon, having dosed myself with coffee, cannabis, and several chapters of Gravity’s Rainbow.

The way it came to me, though, was to wonder whether, in the not-too-distant-future, as, thanks to technology, human beings become more and more focused on the internal constructions of their very own virtual worlds, whether it might be possible for people to create a kind of “second life” that’s more real than their “first” one and that, in doing so, they would essentially take on the role of God in that world such that traditional notions of a supreme being would become entirely mundane and trivial given that, for all intents and purposes, everyone—at least those lost in their self-created virtual worlds—would be a god if not God Himself.

At least that would “solve” the problem of evil, albeit at the cost of these “Gods’” omnibenevolence; it’s clear that, while as the all-powerful creator of my very own universe, I’d be unconstrained from doing whatever I felt like, I’d still be the same sort of moral fuck-up I currently am; consequently, even though I’d be able to eliminate strife and prejudice from my creation, there would be plenty of times I’d be too busy, angry, and/or lazy to want to.

Even the artificial computer-world God would have my real flaws.


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