With the potential of an Artificial Intelligence to rival our own consciousness and the proliferation of robots in the workforce Abstract Expressionism created with robotics rather than the human hand is an interesting metaphor for our times. Image- Tom Estes – The Ideal Robot Home Show: A Biomorphic Robotic Live Art Action Painting Performance at Nottingham Contemporary for InDialogue. Estes’ work ‘The Ideal Robot Home Show’ incorporates the use of biomorphic robotics to create an Abstract Expressionist painting.
We have technology to thank for all the ways in which today is better than the stone age, and technology is likely to keep improving at an accelerating pace. With less powerful technologies such as fire, we learned to minimize risks largely by learning from mistakes. With more powerful technologies such as nuclear weapons, synthetic biology and future strong artificial intelligence, planning ahead is a better strategy than learning from mistakes, so we support research and other efforts aimed at avoiding problems in the first place. The teleological Identity of Capitalism and artificial intelligence conceives of machines in terms of human use-value, thinking of them as temporarily troublesome tools with which humanity is ultimately destined to be reconciled. But how do you think of a form of capital that is already thinking of you? Technological progress has accelerated to the point that the future is happening to us far faster than we could ever have anticipated. This new world is what art curator, critic and historian of art, Hans Ulrich Obrist calls “extreme present,” a time in which it feels impossible to maintain pace with the present, never mind to chart the future.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, warned that artificial intelligence could become “masters of the universe,” taking over high-level decision-making at companies, with potentially frightening consequences. Berners-Lee’s comments came at a Global Finance Summit on Monday, according to a TechWorld report. Giving AI actual decision-making authority has huge implications for our economic systems and societal norms, he said.
“So when AI starts to make decisions such as who gets a mortgage, that’s a big one. Or which companies to acquire, and when AI starts creating its own companies, creating holding companies, generating new versions of itself to run these companies,” he said at the event
The Future of Life Institute are a charity and outreach organization working to ensure that tomorrow’s most powerful technologies are beneficial for humanity. Recently, a conference on artificial intelligence, tantalizingly titled “Superintelligence: Science or Fiction?”, was hosted by the Future of Life Institute, which works to promote “optimistic visions of the future”. The conference offered a range of opinions on the subject from a variety of experts, including Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, futurist Ray Kurzweil, Demis Hassabis of Google’s DeepMind, neuroscientist and author Sam Harris, philosopher Nick Bostrom, philosopher and cognitive scientist David Chalmers, Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, as well as computer scientists Stuart Russell and Bart Selman. The discussion was led by MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark.
Action painting, sometimes called “gestural abstraction”, is a style of painting which often emphasizes the physical act of painting itself as an essential aspect of the finished work or concern of its artist.
The conversation’s topics centered on the future benefits and risks of artificial superintelligence, with everyone generally agreeing that it’s only a matter of time before AI becomes paramount in our lives. Eventually, AI will surpass human intelligence, with the ensuing risks and transformations. And Elon Musk, for one, thinks it’s rather pointless to be concerned as we are already cyborgs, considering all the technological extensions of ourselves that we depend on a daily basis.
A worry for Australian philosopher and cognitive scientist David Chalmers is creating a world devoid of consciousness. He sees the discussion of future superintelligences often presume that eventually AIs will become conscious. But what if that kind of sci-fi possibility that we will create completely artificial humans is not going to come to fruition? Instead, we could be creating a world endowed with artificial intelligence but not actual consciousness. Here’s how Chalmers describes this vision starting at 22:27 in Youtube video below:
“For me, that raising the possibility of a massive failure mode in the future, the possibility that we create human or super human level AGI and we’ve got a whole world populated by super human level AGIs, none of whom is conscious. And that would be a world, could potentially be a world of great intelligence, no consciousness no subjective experience at all. Now, I think many many people, with a wide variety of views, take the view that basically subjective experience or consciousness is required in order to have any meaning or value in your life at all. So therefore, a world without consciousness could not possibly a positive outcome. maybe it wouldn’t be a terribly negative outcome, it would just be a 0 outcome, and among the worst possible outcomes.”
Abstract Expressionism is the term applied to abstract art characterized by humans making gestural brush-strokes or mark-making, and with its emphasis on spontaneous, automatic, or subconscious creation.
Chalmers is known for his work on the philosophy of mind and has delved particularly into the nature of consciousness. He famously formulated the idea of a “hard problem of consciousness” which he describes in his 1995 paper “Facing up to the problem of consciousness” as the question of ”why does the feeling which accompanies awareness of sensory information exist at all?”
His solution to this issue of an AI-run world without consciousness? Create a world of AIs with human-like consciousness:
“I mean, one thing we ought to at least consider doing there is making, given that we don’t understand consciousness, we don’t have a complete theory of consciousness, maybe we can be most confident about consciousness when it’s similar to the case that we know about the best, namely human human consciousness… So, therefore maybe there is an imperative to create human-like AGI in order that we can be maximally confident that there is going to be consciousness,” says Chalmers (starting at 23:51).
By making it our clear goal to fully recreate ourselves in all of our human characteristics, we may be able to avoid a soulless world of machines becoming our destiny. A warning and an objective worth considering while we can. Yet it sounds from Chalmers’s words that as we don’t understand consciousness, perhaps this is a goal doomed to failure.
The internet is changing the structure of our brains and the structure of our planet in extraordinary ways, so quickly that we haven’t yet developed a proper vocabulary for it. And we are on the cusp of a wide-spread introduction of robots replacing humans in all areas. You can watch Estes’ performance here at 2:55
The computational age which is is dominated by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is comprised of the idea that there are clean slates in the unconscious. New media forms have not only lifted the lid previous cultural eras had put on the unconscious. They have become the new infrastructures of the unconscious. Yesterday, human sociality consisted of keeping tabs on the unconscious. For the social to thrive meant exercising vigilance on ourselves, or delegating to specific authorities the right to enforce such vigilance. This was called repression.
Achille Mbembe, based at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research believes that at its core, liberal democracy is not compatible with the inner logic of finance capitalism. The clash between these two ideas and principles is likely to be the most signifying event of the first half of a 21st-century political landscape — a landscape shaped less by the rule of reason than by the general release of passions, emotions and affect. According to Mbembe:
“In this new landscape, knowledge will be defined as knowledge for the market. The market itself will be re-imagined as the primary mechanism for the validation of truth. As markets themselves are increasingly turning into algorithmic structures and technologies, the only useful knowledge will be algorithmic. Instead of people with body, history and flesh, statistical inferences will be all that count. Statistics and other big data will mostly be derived from computation. As a result of the conflation of knowledge, technology and markets, contempt will be extended to anyone who has nothing to sell. The humanistic and Enlightenment notion of the rational subject capable of deliberation and choice will be replaced by the consciously deliberating and choosing consumer.”
Already in the making, a new kind of human will triumph. This will not be the liberal individual who, not so long ago, we believed could be the subject of democracy. The new human being will be constituted through and within digital technologies and computational media. Image: Tom Estes performance for The Internet Yami Ich at Tate Modern
They say that we have found ourselves in a world lost to emotion, irrationality, and a weakening grasp on reality. That lies don’t faze us, and knowledge doesn’t impress us. That we are post-truth, post-fact. Achille Mbembe, believes Repression’s main function was to set the conditions for sublimation. Not all desires could be fulfilled. Not everything could be said or enacted. The capacity to limit oneself was the essence of one’s freedom and the freedom of all. Partly thanks to new media forms and the post-repressive era it has unleashed, the unconscious can now roam free. Sublimation is no longer necessary. Language has been dislocated. The content is in the form and the form is beyond, or in excess of, the content.
In this new landscape, knowledge will be defined as knowledge for the market. The market itself will be re-imagined as the primary mechanism for the validation of truth. The humanistic and Enlightenment notion of the rational subject capable of deliberation and choice will be replaced by the consciously deliberating and choosing consumer. Memories-to Download-Knowledge-to-your-Brain-For-Sale. Performance by Tom Estes at The Internet Yami-Ichi (Black Market) at Tate Modern
We are now led to believe that mediation is no longer necessary. This explains the growing anti-humanist stance that now goes hand in hand with a general contempt for democracy. Calling this phase of our history fascist might be misleading unless by fascism we mean the normalisation of a social state of warfare. Such a state would in itself be a paradox because, if anything, warfare leads to the dissolution of the social. And yet under conditions of neoliberal capitalism, politics will become a barely sublimated warfare. This will be a class warfare that denies its very nature — a war against the poor, a race war against minorities, a gender war against women, a religious war against Muslims, a war against the disabled.
Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative? Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning. Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.
Neoliberal capitalism has left in its wake a multitude of destroyed subjects, many of whom are deeply convinced that their immediate future will be one of continuous exposure to violence and existential threat. They genuinely long for a return to some sense of certainty, the sacred, hierarchy, religion and tradition. They believe that nations have become akin to swamps that need to be drained and the world as it is should be brought to an end. For this to happen, everything should be cleansed off. They are convinced that they can only be saved in a violent struggle to restore their masculinity, the loss of which they attribute to the weaker among them, the weak they do not want to become. And yet so pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.
As markets themselves are increasingly turning into algorithmic structures and technologies, the only useful knowledge will be algorithmic. Meanwhile the political landscape will shaped less by the rule of reason than by the general release of passions, emotions and affect. EMOTICON by Tom Estes @ The Encyclopedic Palace, Venice Biennale 2013 for The Biennial Project
The liberal class now prefers comfort and privilege to justice, truth and confrontation. The destruction of the old radical and militant movements—the communists, socialists and anarchists—have left liberals without a source of new ideas. The link between an effective liberal class and a more radical left was always essential to the health of the former. The liberal class, by allowing radical movements to be dismembered through Red baiting and by banishing those within its ranks who had moral autonomy, gradually deformed basic liberal tenets to support unfettered capitalism, the national security state, globalization and permanent war. The liberal class now refuses to challenge, in a meaningful way, the decaying structures of democracy or the ascendancy of the corporate state. It proclaims its adherence to traditional liberal values while defending and promoting systems of power that mock these values. The pillars of the liberal establishment all honor an unwritten quid pro quo with corporations and the power elite, as well as our masters of war, on whom they depend for money, access and positions of influence.
In this context, the most successful political entrepreneurs will be those who convincingly speak to the losers, to the destroyed men and women of globalisation and to their ruined identities. In the street fight politics will become, reason will not matter. Nor will facts. Politics will revert into brutal survivalism in an ultracompetitive environment. Under such conditions, the future of progressive and future-oriented mass politics of the left is very uncertain. In a world set on objectifying everybody and every living thing in the name of profit, the erasure of the political by capital is the real threat. The transformation of the political into business raises the risk of the elimination of the very possibility of politics.Whether civilisation can give rise at all to any form of political life is the problem of the 21st century.
Under Israeli occupation for decades, Gaza will still be the biggest open prison on Earth.In the United States, the killing of black people at the hands of the police will proceed unabated and hundreds of thousands more will join those already housed in the prison-industrial complex that came on the heels of plantation slavery and Jim Crow laws. Europe will continue its slow descent into liberal authoritarianism or what cultural theorist Stuart Hall called authoritarian populism. Despite complex agreements reached at international forums, the ecological destruction of the Earth will continue and the war on terror will increasingly morph into a war of extermination between various forms of nihilism.
Inequalities will keep growing worldwide. But far from fuelling a renewed cycle of class struggles, social conflicts will increasingly take the form of racism, ultra nationalism, sexism, ethnic and religious rivalries, xenophobia, homophobia and other deadly passions. The denigration of virtues such as care, compassion and kindness will go hand in hand with the belief, especially among the poor, that winning is all that matters and who wins — by whatever means necessary — is ultimately right. With the triumph of this neo-Darwinian approach to history-making, apartheid under various guises will be restored as the new old norm. Its restoration will pave the way to new separatist impulses, the erection of more walls, the militarisation of more borders, deadly forms of policing, more asymmetrical wars, splitting alliances and countless internal divisions including in established democracies.
Please check out the excellent conference Superintelligence: Science or Fiction? in full here:
You can watch Estes’ performance at InDialogue here at 2:55
Photos of Tom Estes’ Biomorphic Robotic Live Art Action Painting Performance by Tom Kilby