Thursday, December 8, 2016

AI and the Apotheosis of Transhumanism : What rough beast slouches towards Bethlehem to be born

Note: A certain writer has done me the honor of linking to some of my recent articles. I will not presume to know the reasons he has occasionally found something worth a read while passing by my humble outpost along the arid highway of the West's cultural desert. I thank you sincerely.

Globalism promised an expansion of economic prosperity and international security by expanding the economic base. To do so, it migrated the manufacturing sector in the West to economies with lower labor costs. In exchange, it promised the rise of the service economy in the West.

The service economy came. However, the majority of jobs in the service economy have not filled the wage gap left by out sourced manufacturing. Proponents of Globalism and the new service economy in the West maintain the there is responsibility on the labor force to acquire skills for the service jobs that pay higher wages. The question is rarely asked if the service jobs that pay higher wages are either equal or greater in number than the lower wage service jobs, or if these higher paying service economy jobs are equal in opportunity to the outsourced manufacturing sector.

The premise of Globalism was sold as expanding economic prosperity/capital and international stability through development of smaller economies. The impetus underlying the promise to the public was the pursuit of a new socio-economic system to attain new profit margins and growth of corporate interests. Corporate interest has by and large succeeded, with many of world's largest corporations dwarfing the economies of nations and enjoying an almost neo-feudal influence in their nations of origin and their global footprint. This impetus has not waned and continues to drive the development of Globalism. For those with eyes to see, the next stage has already been set. Oddly, the data scientists and other tech workers who have benefited from the new economy in the West seem most obstructed in their view of things to come. Much of the new economy's higher paying jobs and the manufacturing sector outsourced to lower wage economies will come face-to-face with the same fate within the next decade or so: obsolescence

With an eye to reducing overhead costs, the same interests that have acted as the main facilitators of globalism and benefited from its development have invested heavily in the development of automated systems for manufacturing. Investing the upfront cost of refitting factories with automated systems capable of the same precision as human workers may be prohibitive when initially examined. However, companies are moving in this direction because the projected profit savings from laying off a human workforce makes the investment profitable in a relatively short period of time. To the best of my knowledge, there is no law in place prohibiting the development of automated manufacturing. Meanwhile, to assure healthy investor profits in the West, companies are increasingly funding or watching the development of AI, the premise being that the ability of micro processors and embedded systems to hold, compute, manipulate and extrapolate from large amounts of data and effectively learn in order to make decisions autonomous from a human programmer. We see this most readily in the media presentation of self driving cars, but there is equal movement to develop computer systems that can do much of the analytic and programming work that has been the source of economic security among data scientists and software engineers.

With the above, I am not suggesting a workforce Armageddon. I am suggesting, however, that globalism is governed by a process and facilitated by interests that do not, and perhaps cannot, factor in any human element into models for growth, other than an applied dollar amount representing overhead costs and potential savings. Yes, there will be jobs in the transition to automated systems and AI, however, like some form of economic Darwinism, the job pool will deplete and only the smaller subset with the skills and moment of opportunity to transition into the new smaller pool of available jobs will continue to be economically viable.

So, no, I am not suggesting an Armageddon. I do suggest, however, that in its seemingly necessary process of displacing any remnants of the pre-globalist world, Globalism produces, whether by accident or intention, dehumanization in so far as the human element must continually be extracted from the economy. It produces dehumanization by denying human beings the opportunity to work for their sustenance in a global economy that is increasingly cataloged, indexed, and thoroughly tracked and accounted. In the final analysis it may produce a supra-national technocratic feudalism, as corporate management and the search for infinite growth continues to whither away at the human element in society. It is, then, little wonder that we see more articles and think tanks advocating for a mandated livable income - presuming the current trajectory holds (and it will barring an act of divine intervention), the potential labor market will eventually be monopolized by robotics and AI to such a degree that a considerable portion of the citizenry (in the West and elsewhere) will lose access to jobs offering some form of economic subsistence. To avoid a massive humanitarian catastrophe, the likely course would be the gradual adoption that there must be mandated level of livable income to which every human being is entitled. Although this seems like it is pulled from the deepest trenches of science fiction, the concept is there. It is being discussed and extrapolated upon, and you will eventually see movements in otherwise sound nations to push such legislation up for referendum. It may be at the tale end of a generation, but it will eventually gain traction, depending upon whether or not the current trajectory is maintained.

In the next stage of Globalism, Christianity, unless it finds its bearings and can successfully orient itself to a paradigm that has no use for it and, in many respects, wants to see it and other traditional religions confined to a bygone historical epoch, will contend with Transhumanism. Transhumanism has already demonstrated its influence among technocratic elites, whether it is the quest to develop seemless integration of man and machine to the point of exponential increasing the knowledge base by plugging the brain to "the Cloud," or the growing acceptance among such elites that reality as we experience it is in fact a simulation and we will come to mass awareness of this as our own simulations eventually become indistinct from reality. Transhumanism has captured the religious imagination (or what is left of it) by promising the means to deliver transcendence (and perhaps immortality) in a very tangible way. It doesn't merely promise, it claims for itself to be the logical outcome of the technological development that came with the rise of Globalism. Its promises are based on the very means by which contemporary society functions. In this respect, Transhumanism lays claim to most every aspect of one's life in the contemporary age - all of these things and more are tools to achieve the aims of transcending humanity. These are not articles of faith, these are the technologies that have built and continue to redefine your reality. What Transhumanism offers is the Apotheosis of Man, brutal in its unabashed materialism, transcendent in its unyielding determination to subsume the human element into technology and thereby attain ontological godhood. The final proposal made by Transhumanism is godhood through triumph over biological limitations. Evolution itself can be accelerated beyond the limitations set by laws of nature and biology by fully integrating the human being into technology.

The new man indeed stands just beyond the horizon, and it must be readily understood is determined to set himself in place of God, using technology to not only overcome the limitations of human physiology, but indeed exponentially eclipse it. Transhumanism may or may not succeeded. Certainly, the rate at which technological innovation has transpired since World War II plays in favor of Transhumanism's proposition. Yet, whether or not Transhumanism ultimately succeeds or fails is irrelevant. Transhumanism has already ignited the fire in the minds of men. It has already successfully captured the imagination, re-imagining transcendence and ascension.

There is little to no indication the churches have any cognizance of currents of epochal change surrounding what is left of their cultural presence. Whether the Tiber, the Rhine, or the Bosporus, the waters are threatening to breach. Christianity initiated its courtship with modernity (after a long period of playing coy) under the impetus of "reading the signs of the times." One wonders if it was an ill advised case of gadium et spes. Reading the signs of the times is one thing, actually knowing their meaning and the direction to which they point is another matter. Churches failed their people when their leadership thought they could read the promises of Globalism and take it at face value. There was little understanding of the signs to which Globalism pointed. There is almost blissful ignorance of the indicators on the horizon. There is little concern that the long term trajectory involves a radical recasting of society, a total re-engineering of humanity, and perhaps even the death knell of the enlightenment ideals that have been so ingrained into the psyche of anyone of Western inheritance.

The only Christianity worth living, it seems, is a cross-denominational response that exalts the praxis of the Christian life above doctrinal distinctions that have preserved Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant identities. The old identities have failed, becoming so obsessed with lining their coffers and winning the inter-religious numbers game in the pews, the heart of Christian kergyma  and praxis was lost sight of until such a point that indeed most conscientious Christians can say with little fear speaking ill advisedly, "they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where to find Him."

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