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Aug 12, 2015

The Materialist v.s. the Relationalist

There's been a flurry of fascinating books lately about the rise of AI and the possibilities of the
"Encounter", charcoal by Tim Holmes
future. I've become somewhat of an expert in this field just in terms of having read and engaged with these issues for the last few years. I'm convinced that AI presents the greatest threat to humanity we face, mostly because while all can see that an asteroid collision is bad news, the approach of AI doesn't look menacing at all.

One of the most frustrating aspects of this blindness to me is the inability of so many scientists to take relationship seriously. Nick Bostorm in Superintelligence seems to assume that the highest human aspiration goes no farther than making money. Ramez Naam in More Than Human sees life as little more than spectacular mechanics. Michio Kaku in The Future of the Mind conceives of the possibility of human intelligence recycling the universe through a distant future Big Bang, without recognizing that this contradicts his view of the spiritless current universe. (The human spirit could create one but not a divine spirit?) The guru of the Singularity concept and current head of Google engineering, Ray Kurzweil, dreams of someday reconstructing his father, rebuilding a similar body and filling its digital brain with information about the man, as if that would recreate the person. But is there any one of us who would gladly accept a copy of our loved one in place of the real person? They don't seem to realize that no matter how good an art forgery is, its value lies in its authenticity, and for good reason.

All this speculation seems like a childish dream of replacing all nutrition with chocolate and homework with video games. The vision goes no further than immediate gratification, almost entirely ignoring the crucial dark side of life. The only reason we reached adulthood is we survived a lifetime of hardship and hard work, which is both difficult and good. Also, for some reason such materialists don't seem to recognize that one of the pinnacles of human experience is immaterial and thus largely beyond the reach of science: relationships. As much as we treasure our loved ones, the way to enrich life isn't replicating those entities mechanically, it's being present in the present with living people! That cannot be replicated, only experienced.
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I'm a sculptor/filmmaker living in Montana, USA. I am using art to move the evolution of humanity forward into an increasingly responsive, inclusive and interactive culture. As globalization flattens peoples into a capitalist monoculture I hope to use my art to celebrate historical cultural differences and imagine how we can co-create a rich future together.

I see myself as an artist/philosopher laboring deep in the mines of joy. I've had a good long career of exhibiting work around the world and working on international outreach projects, most notably being the first American to be invited to present a one-person exhibit in the Hermitage Museum. Recently I have turned my attention from simply making metal sculpture to creating films and workshops for engaging communities directly, tinkering with the very ideas and mechanisms behind cultural transformation. I feel that as we face tragic world crises, if the human species favors our imaginative and creative capacities we can cultivate a rich world to enjoy.

For me the deepest satisfaction in making art comes in engaging people's real life concerns rather than providing simple entertainment or decoration. Areas of conflict or tension are particularly ripe for the kind of transformative power that art uniquely carries. I invite any kind of challenge that serves people on a deep level.