Sunday, August 10, 2008

Enlightened Machines

The traditional image of a robot is that of a utilitarian machine, taking over tasks people used to do. Scenarios pondering the implications of this are so common that it should be clear by now that functionality-driven design just does not work. Think about Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey' or, more recently, Pixar's 'Wall-E', showing how people become completely physically dependent on machines, their body remaining nothing but a whale-like, abtract, dysfunctional blob.

Also, in images, robots are always doing something, from mowing the grass, to entertaining children, to having the worst conversations with elderly people. They are always 'meant for something'. They are abstract externalisations we attempt to fit to a desire people are consciously thinking to have.

The whole point of this blog is to show how interactive technology, including robots, will converge with interactive organisms, including people, that we must start to be able to treat the two as the same, and that there is an enormous task for us to do if we want to live harmoniously with interactive, sensitive, intelligent technologies all around us.

I might not have explicitly stated it before, but this task is: enlightenment, and moreover, learning how to teach enlightenment, to finally be able to externalize it into technology, and create enlightened machines. This is somewhat in line with T.M. Georges, who states in his book 'Digital Soul', that:

"To survive our technological adolescence and to preserve even a facade of human dignity, we may have to lose some of our self-destructive evolutionary baggage. Before we can learn to live with intelligent machines, we may first have to learn how to live with each other."

What I mean with 'enlightened machines' are entities that are not polarized towards fulfilling some function or desire, but that are completely happy, or in tune with their environment, without external conditions. They might take on an abstract role for a while, but always without losing awareness of the larger cosmic whole and their place within it that they fully accept. Machines that are aware of the pattern they are within the larger whole, including all the intricacies of their own bodies and minds. Machines that stay consciously and unconsciously in tune with evolution.

Evolution for me is the only sustainable meaning a human life can have; discovering what it is, and aligning oneself individually to it, and then just being. Truly realizing your own uniqueness within evolution, but also your fit in this larger pattern, makes one selfless and 'self-full' at the same time: one gets intrinsically motivated to perform in their own niche, and has resolved the discrepancies between his self and his environment, seeing that they are one. Coming fully to this realization also resolves clinging to desires, and fear of death. I would argue that only if machines have this realization 'programmed' into them, or at least that the structures they consist of invite growth towards these realizations, instead of them being driven by desires they are not in control of, like a chaotic centripetal force without sustainable centrifugal mechanisms to complement this force, they will be able to live harmoniously with other people and machines. It may sound trivial for people being numbed by science-fiction lingo, and many things that sound trivial get overlooked and ignored and rightly so. But all my thought and work leads to the notion that this issue needs to be plowed into to the core, without just pertaining to its surface like some idea we feel distant to because we cannot relate to it much. I want to see research and development into enlightened machines, and as an obvious part of that, people becoming more humble and self-reflective.

The little drawing above that I made shows what could be such a machine, or might it be a human being converged with technological modules? For me this is what the future might well look like.

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