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Dec 14, 2016

Retroactive AI Takeover Becomes Normal

"We are the Mirror", by Tim Holmes
In my years of studying the dizzyingly rapid and complex approach of AI, I keep circling back to the same two troubling issues. The first is the very unsettling feeling of waking up to retroactive news that AI now runs a new sector of human existence, and has for some time. Case in point: this morning's New York Times article, The Great AI Awakening, begins by pointing out that in a massive leap forward in Google's Translate mechanism a month ago it became indistinguishable from human translation, did so suddenly, and––most alarmingly––secretly. (Gone: all translation jobs!) It seems bizarre that its designers snuck such a monumental accomplishment into the history of human evolution, but the reasons are not surprising. The fundamentals of what we think of as critical to capitalist enterprise, (i.e. clever, intense marketing), are overtaken by the much more coolly sophisticated goals: control and market share. Prepare for an increasing flurry of such retroactive and secretive news, (or rather revelations, if we indeed recognize them at all!)

The second troubling item I keep returning to is the dizzying feeling that we are quickly and unconsciously leaving the human-centered era that has characterized at least 50,000 years of history. What a squinty-eyed reading of recent AI developments shows me is an assurance that without a conscious human intention to hang on to what is unique and spectacular about humanity, the forces of evolution––in this case driven by machine goals––will push us inexorably into extinction as we become increasingly "inefficient" to dominant purposes.  By "us" I mean biological humanity, as opposed to the transhuman cyborgs of the quickly-emerging future. And even this distinction is going to become more prevalent as the great majority of humans simply follow the crowd into a more 'efficient' future; while the few of us proudly traditional bio humans mourn the passing of those etherial qualities that make our lives so rich: the distinctions between outcome and process, progress and purpose, happiness and joy, doing and being, simulating aliveness and inhabiting aliveness!

The hidden goals that underlie the self-learning AI revolution, which as this article points out are strikingly similar to human learning patterns, will have their own effect on evolution. But whereas we now recognize such purpose, in the future both the purpose and the effective trajectory of our evolution will become invisible and even undiscoverable! While now a tiny number of individuals indeed have seized this God-like agency over our future, humanity as a species is rapidly losing both awareness of and control over our own destiny! Now is the time to contemplate what it means to be human and decide if we are going to act, or just relax and fall into the abyss...
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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.