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Jan 30, 2016

Where Are the People?

I've been writing to AI experts across the globe, picking them one by one and crafting personal letters referencing their works, to try to get my concerns over the fate of humanity addressed. I wrote a two page personalized letter to one guy, complete with personal compliments about his work. I was surprised to get a fairly quick response (usually my letters are simply ignored) saying in effect "Sorry, this is too long an email to engage with given that I don't know you. Can you write a one-paragraph version I can engage with?". Well, it's not a sound-bite issue (which is why it hasn't been addressed already) but I did my best. Again I was pleased to get another pretty quick response: "Sorry, I don't think I know anyone who is a fit for what you want." That was it.

This to me feels like a microcosm of the greater issue, which is that we are losing touch with our human side. My plea is built like a sandwich, with a cogent intellectual argument sandwiched between an emotional appeal to the particular person I'm writing to. In this case, since wasn't at least interested enough in my first compliment to finish the sentence, I cut to a simple statement of my concern. I occurs to me that it could be that what was writing back was a machine, except for the fact that a machine would pretend to some kind of politeness. This is exactly the problem! Upon reading a great paper on The Future of Humanity, by Nick Bostrom, (arguably the world's leading AI expert, to whom I also wrote) I got the creepy feeling that all the blood had been sucked out of the poor man.

I remember as a young man writing letters (pen, stationery, trip to PO) and being so touched when some big cheeze like Sidney Poitier or the governor would actually write me back, even though obviously a kid could offer nothing but taking up their time. Gone are those days. I would say that of the personal letters I now write to people whom I don't know perhaps 20% respond at all, even to say "buzz off". I'm sure that emails get lost much more often than letters, but still, this is what bugs me about the direction of modern culture: a vanishing before our eyes of the human element. What if one day we call and NO ONE answers? That's my concern.
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Tim Holmes Studio

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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.