Category Archives: Artificial Intelligence

Freefall to tyranny

We’re living now in a time of freefall towards tyranny. If you’ve been paying attention to what is happening, you will be aware that we are not only facing a future of ecological collapse, but also one in which advanced technologies of control and manipulation are playing havoc with our cultures and leading to the breakdown of the social structures and values which have underpinned our world in the recent past. Why is this happening and who is behind it?

Let us imagine for a moment that you are one of the global overlords, a controller of the algorithms, someone who takes an elite versus the little people world view. You look around the world and you see the results of unrestrained consumer capitalism and human greed; you see a gigantic mess and the imminent breakdown of climate systems, massive pollution, alternate floods and droughts leading to starvation and huge waves of migration and all the other phenomena with which we are so depressingly familiar. This is serious, it is starting to impinge on your own lifestyle. Something has to be done and ideally, it also has to make you a lot of money; but there’s a problem – there are too many people in the world and too much freedom and democracy are getting in the way of the necessary measures. The little people love their cars and flying abroad for international holidays – they are never going to vote for policies that might curtail their freedoms. Drastic change is therefore needed, and the best way to motivate the little people to change their ways is through fear.

Fear has always been the means that tyrants have used so that they can exercise power over their populations. It was of course used effectively by Adolf Hitler in driving the German people towards war in 1939. It was explained by Hermann Goering in an interview with Gustave Gilbert, an American psychologist, during the Nuremburg tribunal:

“Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood.

But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.” (…)

“There is one difference,” [Gilbert] pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”

“Oh, that is all well and good, [replied Goering] but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

It works the same way in any country. It has worked that way throughout our history. It worked for George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Blair et al in driving the USA and the UK to war with Iraq and the subsequent ‘war on terror’. It is working that way now. Dr Thomas Hardtmuth, in his book What Covid-19 can teach us,1 has said the following:

“Intriguingly, the institutions who are now managing the global pandemic are the same ones who were previously active in the campaign against terrorism and the threat of biological weapons. The Center of Health Security at the John Hopkins University, which has played such a leading role in the corona crisis, was previously called the Center for Civilian Biodefence Studies. It was essentially a military institution which in the years since 9/11 has kept alive the images of fear about the terrorist threat from bioweapons, smallpox and other killer viruses.”

“During regular international conferences attended by high-ranking representatives from government, economic interests, pharmaceutical companies and the military, this organisation ran exercises in minute detail to manage terror scenarios with millions of deaths. One such crisis simulation, called Event 201, took place on 18th October 2019 in a New York luxury hotel. This time it was not a terrorist attack but the threat posed by a deadly coronavirus mutant that was simulated. A crisis management programme was designed, the individual measures of which bore a remarkable resemblance to those introduced in real life three months later.” 

What Dr Hardtmuth has not mentioned in his book is that Event 201 was funded and organised by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has also given funds to ten of the vaccine-producing companies as well as John Hopkins University, the World Health Organisation, Dr Anthony Fauci, Professor Chris Whitty, Imperial College London and many of the other prominent players in this pandemic. Nor does he mention that, as has just emerged, a patent filing for the coronavirus was taken out with the US Patent Office in 2018 by the Pirbright Institute, with funding from Bill and Melinda Gates, the Wellcome Trust and the European Commission.

In connection with this Event 201 simulation exercise, Dr Hardtmuth also quotes from a book Chronicle of an Announced Crisis by Paul Schreyer:

“The significant thing about this exercise as well as the subsequent real-life situation was a conflation of fear, mass deaths, national emergency, over-extension of the state, restrictions on freedom, vaccines, pharmaceutical regulation and media strategy. More directly stated, a health emergency leads to a global demand for vaccines which in turn requires that corporations play a more active international policy-making role in order to finance, produce and distribute them and that the inevitable resistance from the population is met with PR strategies and the media. That is what the exercise was about – and that is what is happening today.”

Dr Hardtmuth concludes: “It is clear to any observant person that the numbers are being manipulated and everything is being done here to maintain fear and panic at the highest possible level.” 

At the start of the pandemic, I could scarcely have imagined that so many of my fellow citizens in the West were going to be taken in. As former Lord Chief Justice, Jonathan Sumption put it last November: “The British public has not even begun to understand the seriousness of what is happening in our country, many – perhaps most – of them don’t care or won’t care until it’s too late. They instinctively feel that the ends justify the means, the motto of every totalitarian regime that has ever existed.” 

But I’ve decided that it’s not only acceptable to take a different path from all those people who have either bought into or are unwilling to challenge the tyranny that surrounds us, it’s essential. I’ve already written about my personal experience – the British government is continuing with its plans to make it illegal for people, including me, to work in care homes unless we have had both jabs. The Bill to make this law has just passed its first stage in the House of Commons and now goes to the House of Lords. If it becomes law as expected, it will be a prime example of state tyranny, removing as it will the human right of individuals not to be coerced into taking medication which has not yet completed its trials. This is a pattern that is being repeated across the world.

One notable feature of our freefall to tyranny has been the corruption of science through the suppression of dissent; stories are now legion of doctors and scientists being silenced, losing their jobs and being vilified in public by some colleagues if they raise any questions. 

Another feature has been the corruption of the news media so that any voices raising doubts about government policy are censored. The BBC is now notorious for its failures to report anything contrary to the government’s agenda and both the BBC and The Guardian have been taking money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. According to a tweet on July 20th from the journalist James Delingpole, “Boris Johnson has privately admitted to all the MSM (mainstream media) editors that he’s not in charge, that he’s just obeying orders. Their silence is at least as inexcusable as Boris’s compliance.”

Is this true or even probable? I’ve no way of knowing. But I’m very aware of the censorship and non-reporting of anything that might cast doubt on the wisdom of vaccinating every single person. It also begs an intriguing question: who is issuing orders to Johnson?

I’m not going to speculate on that in this post, except to say that the wilder shores of conspiracy theory are beginning to look increasingly plausible. But there is another factor which should be mentioned: I have written here and here about the transhumanist agenda that’s at the core of so many of the changes we are facing. I have also touched on the deeply disturbing Chinese model of ‘social credit’. We are now facing the Western version of ‘social credit’, which will be delivered by way of vaccine passports.

The Belarussian tribute act that is today’s British government denied it for months. Michael Gove said there were no plans for them. Backbenchers professed that the idea was unethical, unthinkable and unenforceable. The vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said the public could hold him to his promise that vaccine passports were never going to become a reality.

Yet in a rather predictable turn of events, Boris Johnson has this week announced that all over-18s will need to demonstrate that they have received both doses of a vaccine in order to enter nightclubs, venues and other large gatherings. From now on, ‘proof of a negative test will no longer be enough.’ And as a worker in a care home, I will have to have a vaccine passport so as to be able to demonstrate to the Care Quality Commission inspectors that I have had both jabs, to which they will soon add the need to demonstrate that I have had an annual flu jab, which will then doubtless be followed by insistence on regular Covid booster jabs.

But why should anyone need a vaccine passport? We were previously told that if you’ve had your two jabs, you’re protected. You don’t need to know anyone else’s immune status. But as our new secretary of state for health, Sajid Javid has just discovered, you can still catch Covid-19 even if you’ve had both jabs. So what is the point of the vaccines? Javid’s story for now is that he got a milder version because he was vaccinated, so we should still get the jabs. But vaccine passports protect nobody.

What these passports will do, however, is give huge power to our overlords, the masters of the algorithms. Anyone who controls the vax passport database and any algorithm governing what it permits and denies, has absolute control over every aspect of your life. Do you want to visit a sports stadium, or a museum or a theatre? Invalid vax pass, no entry. Now imagine the rules are tightened up, as they will be as soon as the basic concept has been established: no entry to a supermarket or shops or pubs or restaurants, no entry to buses or trains or planes. Your life will be so circumscribed that it will in effect become impossible to exist without a vax pass. 

This is not my imagination: this has been planned for over years by our global overlords, the ones who issue orders to Boris Johnson and other national leaders. It is now being delivered. It’s already happening in Israel and it’s coming here soon. France is currently rushing a vaccination passport law through the French National Assembly. Without this vax pass, you will not be able to get into restaurants, trains, workplaces, art galleries, museums and cinemas. Other European countries, including Italy, Greece and Austria are bringing in similar Covid certification following the announcement from French President Emmanuel Macron. It’s a little remarked feature of the president’s crackdown on the vaccine hesitant that the one group he will depend on to enforce his new law has been specifically excluded from complying with it. Firefighters, nurses and teachers, and soon, children over 12, are all to be subject to mandatory jabs. But not, curiously, the police.

How much vaccine coercion will Boris Johnson use? Given his track record to date, it’s highly likely we will be coerced to be vaccinated, either by government diktat or more likely, by government forcing businesses to do its dirty work for them. Either that or you’ll be rapidly marginalised from society. And once you’ve been vaccinated, the limited freedoms allowed you can be withdrawn at any moment.

Such attitudes of course radiate out into wider society and cause dissension between ordinary people. Here are just two examples of these polarised attitudes of which I’ve become aware in my own locality: one, comes from someone who has a mother in a care home. This person does not want to have the jabs and has not only been told that as a result she won’t be able to visit her mother but that unless she has both jabs her mother will no longer be able to stay in the care home! The second comes from someone who runs a kindergarten – she has been told by some parents that if she herself has the jabs, then their children will be removed from the kindergarten. Tyranny runs in both directions…

What we are currently experiencing with this artificially contrived corona crisis is a new way of imposing a totalitarian system, a standardised and uniform world governance, under the guise of health provision. We are all being played. The UK and other governments are clearly using threats of various kinds to test out, first on groups of particularly vulnerable workers such as care home staff, just how far they can go with other groups in terms of totalitarian rule. It won’t stop with care workers and it won’t be confined to Covid-19 vaccines. Once governments are able to impose mandatory vaccinations on whole populations, our lives and our bodies will never again be our own. 

Will we accept it? You are all next on the list.

1. What Covid-19 Can Teach Us by Dr Thomas Hardtmuth, with a foreword by Dr Michaela Gloeckler, former head of the Medical Section at the Goetheanum. Translation of the original German text into English by Bernard Jarman. Published by InterActions.

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Filed under Artificial Intelligence, Coronavirus, Covid-19 pandemic

Crossing the Creepy Line

In my last post, which dealt with the drive towards the merging of humankind with machines, I quoted Rudolf Steiner to the effect that this was something that could not and should not be stopped but was bound to happen:

“These things will not fail to appear; they will come. What we are concerned with is whether, in the course of world history, they are entrusted to people who are familiar in a selfless way with the great aims of earthly evolution and who structure these things for the health of human beings or whether they are enacted by groups of human beings who exploit these things in an egotistical or in a group-egotistical sense. That is what matters”.

(from Lecture 12 of the series The Reappearance of Christ in the Etheric, 1910)

So the real issue with artificial intelligence (AI) and the mechanisation of human beings is not whether this should happen, (because it inevitably will) but whether it can be done in a way that will be of benefit to humanity without being exploitative or dangerous. It is fundamentally a question of morality. In a lecture given in 1923, Steiner said:

“(…) we can be sure that no moral impulse intervenes in the mechanism of a machine. There is no direct connection between the moral world order and machines. Consequently, when the human organism is presented as a kind of machine, as happens more and more often in the modern scientific outlook, the same then applies to us, and moral impulses are only an illusion. At best, we can hope that some being, made known to us through revelation, will intervene in the moral world order, reward the good, and punish the evil people. But we cannot see a connection between moral impulses and physical processes inherent in the order of the world”.

(from Earthly Knowledge and Heavenly Wisdom, 9 lectures given in Dornach in February 1923, GA221)

If there is no connection between moral impulses and physical processes inherent in the order of the world, then it is clear that, if we are to ensure that AI does not become a disaster for humankind, then human morality becomes of overwhelming importance. But as we know, in situations where there is money to be made and power to be exercised, then morality can become the first casualty.

In a famous interview in 2010, Eric Schmidt, who up until this year was Google’s chairman, said in relation to AI that Google’s policy is to get right up to the “creepy line” but not to cross it. His view at the time was that to implant electrodes in somebody’s brain would be to cross that creepy line, “at least until the technology gets better”.

In an earlier post, I quoted the tech showman and entrepreneur extraordinaire Elon Musk’s warning that AI is more dangerous than the threat posed by dictator Kim Jong-un’s regime in North Korea. Mr Musk took to Twitter to say: “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.” He posted the comment along with an image of the anti-gambling addiction poster with the slogan: “In the end the machines will win.” Mr Musk added: “Nobody likes being regulated, but everything (cars, planes, food, drugs, etc) that’s a danger to the public is regulated. AI should be too”. Mr Musk has warned in the past that AI should be better regulated since it poses an “existential threat” to human civilisation. He has also compared developers creating AI to people summoning demons they cannot control.

2017 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter

Elon Musk (photo via Fortune)

Elon Musk knows whereof he speaks, because as well as running Tesla (electric cars) and SpaceX (putting satellites for 5G into space and working towards the ultimate aim of building a self-sustaining city on Mars), he is also the founder of Neuralink, a company whose aim is to facilitate direct communications between people and machines. Naturally, as with all these companies, the claim is that they are doing this to help people with severely damaged brains or nervous systems. But in a glitzy presentation in San Francisco earlier this month, Mr Musk spoke of more futuristic plans that can give humans “the option of merging with artificial intelligence” by exchanging thoughts with a computer, so as to augment the mental capacity of healthy people.

There are literally hundreds of companies and academic labs working in the expanding field of neurotechnology. They are all seeking to develop different types of interface between brains and computers for medical and recreational purposes. Neuralink, however, is the only one that aims for “symbiosis with AI” as a business goal. Its researchers have issued a 12-page scientific paper with details of a prototype device which has been implanted in the brains of rats and it seems likely from hints dropped at the San Francisco presentation that tests are already being carried out on monkeys. The company is hoping to get permission from the US Food and Drug Administration to begin a clinical trial in patients with brain damage next year.

Neuralink’s first experiments inserted 3,000 electrodes into the brains of rats but it plans to raise this to 10,000 in an early clinical version. The company has devised a surgical robot to insert the electrodes through small holes in the skull and then weave them through the brain in flexible threads, each thinner than a human hair. The robot has a vision system designed to avoid blood vessels and place the electrodes in specific brain regions. The version for humans will exchange neuronal data between the electrodes and an external computer via a processor with a wireless transmitter implanted behind the ear. Eric Schmidt’s “creepy line” is now being crossed.

Where Elon Musk seeks to score over competitors is by providing large numbers of electrodes in the brain, so that there can be a fast flow of information between the brain and the computer. “The thing that will ultimately constrain our ability to be symbiotic with AI is bandwidth”, he says. Mr Musk added that: “after solving a bunch of brain-related diseases, (the point is) mitigating the existential threat of AI”.

There is no doubt that Neuralink’s research into brain/computer interfaces will offer hope for restoring neurologic function for people with spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury or other diseases or injuries of the nervous system. But as Mr Musk has implied, AI can also offer more offensive, anti-life possibilities. As artificial intelligence puts its best public face forward in terms of helping those with brain or nervous system disorders, governments around the world are increasingly investing in another of its applications: autonomous weapons systems. Many are already developing programmes and technologies that they hope will give them an edge over their adversaries, creating mounting pressure for others to follow suit.

lethal via Leading Edge

Lethal Autonomous Weapons (photo via Leading Edge)

It’s clear that we are now in the early stages of an AI arms race. Much like the nuclear arms race of the 20th century, this type of military escalation poses a threat to all humanity and is ultimately unwinnable. It incentivises speed over safety and ethics in the development of new technologies, and as these technologies proliferate they offer no long-term advantage to any one player. You might think that governments would have learned these lessons from past mistakes but this is apparently not so; the utter futility and immorality of these programmes makes one despair. The United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Israel, and South Korea are all known to be developing AI for military purposes. Further information can be found at  State of AI: Artificial intelligence, the military, and increasingly autonomous weapons, a report by Pax.

Is all this as scary as it sounds? In his new book Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence, the veteran scientist James Lovelock reflects on the future of life on Earth and the prospect of superintelligent machines. Lovelock made his name with his “Gaia hypothesis,” the idea that the Earth can be understood as a single, complex, self-regulating system, much like an organism. Now in his 100th year, Lovelock says that the machines of the future “will have designed and built themselves from the AI systems we have already constructed. These will soon become thousands, then millions of times more intelligent than us”. But Lovelock gives two reasons why he does not think that we should see this as the apocalypse.

Lovelock via Wikipedia

James Lovelock (photo via Wikipedia)

The first reason is that the machines will need us, because they too will be threatened by global warming: “by remarkable chance, it happens that the upper temperature for both organic and electronic life on the ocean planet Earth are almost identical and close to 50C”. Therefore both machines and humans have an interest in ensuring a cool planet and the machines will join us in finding new ways to undo the damage we have done and re-engineer the planet back to climate equilibrium. (Though why the machines will need human beings rather than trees to do this is less clear.)

The second reason is Lovelock’s view that understanding the universe is the real purpose of life. The Earth gave rise to humans as the first stage of this process but it will be our hyperintelligent machines “that will lead the cosmos to self-knowledge”. My own view of Lovelock’s planetary perspective that the rise of machines is an evolutionary inevitability is somewhat coloured by his support for nuclear power; he regards as “auto-genocide” our reluctance to embrace nuclear power in order to stop fossil-fuel-induced global warming. There is, nevertheless, some reason to believe that Lovelock’s thinking and in particular his Gaia hypothesis, has been influenced by Rudolf Steiner, whose work was brought to Lovelock’s attention by his friend, William Golding, the novelist and author of Lord of the Flies. There is a fascinating account of this in an article by Michael Ruse, published online in the Southern Cross Review.

Rudolf Steiner, who a century ago foresaw the present drive towards merging humankind with machines, was also the person who told us what would need to happen if this was not to end in disaster for the human race. Here are two quotations on this theme:

“A driving force which can only be moral, that is the idea of the future; a most important force, with which culture must be inoculated, if it is not to fall back on itself. The mechanical and the moral must interpenetrate each other, because the mechanical is nothing without the moral. Today we stand hard on this frontier. In the future, machines will be driven not only by water and steam but by spiritual force, by spiritual morality. This power is symbolized by the Tau sign and was indeed poetically symbolized by the image of the Holy Grail.”

(from The Temple Legend, The Royal Art in a New Form, Berlin, Lecture 20, January 2, 1906)

“Humanity must learn to deal with nature as the gods themselves have done: not building machines in an indifferent way, but doing everything as an act of divine service and bringing the sacramental into everything. The real demons have to be really driven out by treating the handling of machinery as something sacred.”

(from The Karma of Vocation, Dornach, April 27, 1916)

 

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Filed under Artificial Intelligence, Merging of Humans and Machines, Neuralink

Under the Gaze of Uriel

 The following is the text of an address given as part of the Midsummer Festival organised by the Anthroposophical Society in Sussex, held on Sunday 23rd June 2019 at Emerson College.

 We are now at the Summer Solstice and the St John’s Festival, that time of the year when in the Northern Hemisphere we have our longest day and shortest night. Rudolf Steiner, in a lecture given on 12thOctober 1923, said that the great archangel most associated with this time of year is Uriel: and that Uriel directs his countenance and clear piercing gaze down towards the Earth and perceives disturbing shapes which continually gather and dissolve, gather and dissolve again. These shapes, Steiner says, are “human errors upon which Uriel directs his earnest gaze. Here during the height of summer, the imperfections of mankind are searchingly surveyed and contrasted with the morality implicit in the natural world. Now we see how at midsummer human errors are woven into the regular crystals which are formed in the normal course of Nature. On the other hand, all that is human virtue and human excellence rises up with silver-gleaming lines and is seen as the clouds that envelop Uriel”.

Uriel via wikimedia

Uriel directing his gaze at human errors. (Photo via Wikimedia)

So Midsummer is a time when, under the gaze of Uriel, the spiritual world looks with especial closeness at our human actions and motivations. This is a good time of year for us to do the same and look closely at what we humans are doing in the world.

Almost 60 years ago, someone who was inspired by anthroposophy wrote a book which woke up the world to the dangers of the unregulated use of pesticides. Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, which was published in 1962. Her book has been rightly acknowledged as one of the all-time great pieces of science writing, detailing the scale of the damage being done by human-applied chemicals to the environment and all its denizens.  It had a huge impact and led to awareness and legislation at least in part controlling the damage caused by pesticides such as DDT.

Rachel Carson photo via BBC

Rachel Carson (photo via BBC)

In a letter written in 1958 to a friend, soon after she began the research that would lead to her book, Rachel Carson spoke about how difficult it had been for her to believe what was happening. She said:

“Some of the thoughts that came were so unattractive to me that I rejected them completely,  for the old ideas die hard, especially when they are emotionally as well as intellectually dear to one…that the stream of life would flow on through time in whatever course that God had appointed for it …And to suppose that, however the physical environment might mould Life, that Life could never assume the power to change drastically – or even destroy – the physical world. These beliefs have almost been part of me for as long as I have thought about such things. To have them even vaguely threatened was so shocking that, as I have said, I shut my mind – refused to acknowledge what I couldn’t help seeing.”

Today, sixty years on, we are witnessing even greater threats to the web of life on Earth and it is perhaps even more difficult for us than it was for Carson to acknowledge and take on board the scale of the challenges now facing all of life. This is the first time in our history, for example, that through the activities of humankind, the entire global climate is shifting to what may be our permanent disadvantage; and we are also in the middle of what scientists are calling the Sixth Great Extinction of species, again caused by our activities.

But if that isn’t enough, there are still other challenges coming up fast to confront us. It was last year, just shortly after Midsummer, that during the annual conference of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain, we were shocked by the message that Nicanor Perlas brought about the threats posed by the advent of artificial intelligence. Nicanor has written a book about this, which no doubt many of you will have read, and it has a stark and scary title. His book is called Humanity’s Last Stand and in it he estimates that humanity has about 20 years to find ways in which artificial super intelligence, (ASI) can be aligned with human values; if we are not able to do this, we are likely to be totally overwhelmed by materialistic technology. If Uriel is casting his gaze on the leading advocates for ASI, he will be observing people who believe that humans are nothing more than complex biological machines.

Perlas via Right Livelihood Award

Nicanor Perlas (photo via Right Livelihood Award)

If you believe human beings are nothing more than complex biological machines, then you open up your fellow humans to some disturbing outcomes; we can see, for example what is happening in China right now, where with the power of AI the governing Communist Party is developing extensive new tools for a comprehensive method of political and social control. They have given this a harmless sounding name – they are calling it “social credit.” But what it means is a total surveillance society, in which nothing you can do is hidden from the authorities. If the Chinese state gives you a poor social credit score, then your life becomes very severely constrained. You may be prevented from graduating, or travelling on some train lines, or buying an airline ticket, or buying a property, taking out a loan or even filling your car with fuel.

Now of course, no Western government would dare go so far as they are going in China, though no doubt some of them would like to. The irony of this is that the Chinese social-credit system is based explicitly on a familiar, Western model: the credit score, which we all know about. Data brokers trace the timely manner in which we pay our debts, giving us a score that’s used by lenders and mortgage providers. We also have social-style scores, and anyone who has shopped online with eBay has a rating on shipping times and communication, while Uber drivers and passengers both rate each other; if your score falls too far, you’re out of luck.

The Chinese genius, if you can call it that, was to take credit scoring as a tool of social discipline to its logical conclusion. They have extended their control across the entire range of interactions any member of modern society is more or less compelled to pursue by the very style and structure of contemporary life.

But of course there are many other phenomena of our time that are truly disturbing; there are so many shapes of human error for Uriel to gaze upon – but this evening I would like to focus on just one of them, which is the move to merge humankind with machines and technology.

Rudolf Steiner, of course, foresaw all of this, as far back as 1910. This is what he said in Lecture 12 of the series ‘The Reappearance of Christ in the Etheric’:

(…) “the will is there to harness human energy to mechanical energy. These things should not be treated by fighting against them. That is a completely false view. These things will not fail to appear; they will come. What we are concerned with is whether, in the course of world history, they are entrusted to people who are familiar in a selfless way with the great aims of earthly evolution and who structure these things for the health of human beings or whether they are enacted by groups of human beings who exploit these things in an egotistical or in a group-egotistical sense. That is what matters. It is not a question of the what in this case; the what is sure to come. It is a question of the how, how one tackles these situations. The what lies simply in the meaning of earthly evolution. The welding together of the human nature with the mechanical nature will be a problem of great significance for the remainder of earthly evolution”.

That’s quite a statement, isn’t it? “The welding together of the human nature with the mechanical nature will be a problem of great significance for the remainder of earthly evolution”. And in our time it’s being led not by people who structure these things for the health of human beings but by those whom Steiner describes as exploiting these things in an egotistical or group-egotistical sense.

How are they doing this? It is being presented to us not as a threat to our essential humanity but as a kind of species transformation through medical science and technology. The promise is that we will become new kinds of human beings as our bodies, minds and relationships with the environment and with mechanical devices become altered in fundamental ways.

The prediction by futurologists such as Google’s Ray Kurzweil is that we human beings will become more god-like as we become more machine-like and as machines develop more god-like powers. Kurzweil says that we humans are nothing special in the animal kingdom: we have no immortal soul, there is no essential human self and our thoughts and emotions are the product of electrochemical impulses which can in the future be modelled by algorithms. Our future lies in the hands of technical experts – in biotechnology, artificial intelligence, cognitive and computer science. New tools will become parts of our bodies. We will have bionic hands, feet and eyes, while nanorobots will move through our bloodstream looking out for disease and repairing the damage of age and injury. We shall have wearable and implanted devices to expand our senses and alter our moods, while biological tools will enter our cells, remodel our genes and give us new and better flesh, blood and neurons. Does that sound wonderful to you, or terrifying?

Kurzweil via Wikipedia

Ray Kurzweil (photo via Wikipedia)

Another futurologist, Yuval Noah Harari, says it is a fact that the “last days of Homo sapiens are fast approaching, and that our species will be replaced “by completely different beings who possess not only different physiques, but also very different cognitive and emotional worlds”. Ordinary human beings will become surplus to requirements, as wars will be waged by drones and work will be done by robots: “Some economists predict that sooner or later, unenhanced humans will be completely useless”. Algorithms embedded in silicon and metal will replace algorithms embedded in flesh, which as Harari points out, is what biology and computer science tells us is all we really are anyway. Things have apparently gone so far that some in Silicon Valley already refer to human beings as ‘meat puppets’.

But things are going still further: Harari says that human beings will cease to be free agents, that their autonomy will be taken over by algorithms – written at first by human beings but ultimately by algorithm-writing machines. As this happens, liberal society will disintegrate as we will no longer be able to sustain belief in the uniqueness of the free human being as the basis of liberal social order. He says that: “We – or our heirs – will probably require a brand-new package of religious beliefs and political institutions.”

harari via wikipedia

Yuval Noah Harari (photo via Wikipedia)

This new religion will be called Dataism. It will be accompanied by the dissolution of the boundaries between humans, animals, machines and social systems, all of which will be seen as algorithmic information processing systems. The concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ will be replaced by the primacy of the free flow of information. The “cosmic data-processing system” will be what God once was: “It will be everywhere and will control everything, and humans are destined to merge into it.”

Rudolf Steiner has told us what is the true challenge of our age: he says “it is humanity’s task in this period to come to grips with evil as an impulse in the evolution of the world”. The task for the fifth post-Atlantean period, he says, is a particularly difficult one:

“As you see, a great many temptations face humanity. When the powers of evil gradually appear, it is natural that man is more likely under the circumstances to give in to this evil in all realms, rather than taking up the struggle to allow what appears to him as evil to be put in the service of the good in world evolution. Yet this must happen: the evil must to a certain degree be placed at the service of the good in world evolution”.

And it does seem as though we are indeed at a new point in world and human evolution. In this connection I remember a quotation from the late visionary poet and playwright Christopher Fry, who in his play, A Sleep of Prisoners, has one of the characters say the following:

The human heart can go the lengths of God.
Dark and cold we may be, but this is no winter now.
The frozen misery of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move.
The thunder is the thunder of the floes, the thaw, the flood,
the upstart Spring.
Thank God our time is now, when wrong comes up,
to face us everywhere
Never to leave us till we take the longest stride of soul
men ever took.

Affairs are now soul size,

The enterprise is exploration unto God.

So that is what we are about in this age – we have chosen to be here at this time when human beings are making a massive evolutionary shift. This is a terrifying but also really exciting time to be here on Earth; and adopting a Luddite approach to emerging technology is not the required response. Steiner tells us:

“It would be the worst possible mistake to say that we should resist what technology has brought into modern life, that we should protect ourselves from Ahriman by cutting ourselves off from modern life. In a certain sense this would be spiritual cowardice. The real remedy for this is not to let the forces of the modern soul weaken and cut themselves off from modern life, but to make the forces of the soul strong so that they can stand up to modern life. A courageous approach to modern life is necessitated by world karma, and that is why true spiritual science possesses the characteristic of requiring an effort of the soul, a really hard effort”.

Alongside courage and hard effort, we also need hope, what Steiner in one of his verses refers to as “all-sustaining hope”. So here are a few reasons why, despite everything, I’m still hopeful and optimistic.

On a personal level, I’m encouraged by listening to the speakers who come here to give talks at Emerson; we have had some wonderful speakers who are alerting us to what is going on in the world and who are giving us real pointers to the future. I was particularly impressed recently by a representative of the Youth Section from Dornach, and the work that that Section is doing on a research project into young people’s attitudes towards spirituality across 23 different countries. I’m also blessed to work on these Emerson talks with some fine young colleagues. And in Liz Attwell’s inspirational talk 2 weeks ago, we heard of her intuition that it is the young people of today who are birthing a new Christ impulse. She also said that many of the dark things we are experiencing are just the inevitable flotsam and jetsam thrown up by this new impulse – and I’m sure she’s right.

Because of all this and so much more I am conscious of how lucky we are to live here and to know that Emerson College, Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch farms, Michael Hall School, Peredur, Tobias and Nutley Hall are all here. We live in an island of sanity amongst the surrounding seas of illusion and although we have some adjustments to make so that we can look the modern world square in the face (what is happening to the Waldorf schools is a case in point here), we are nevertheless strong and resolute.

And beyond our locality, I see all sorts of hopeful developments happening. Just this week, for example, we heard that an American billionaire has given £150 million to the University of Oxford to fund a new centre to look into the ethics of artificial intelligence. His name is Stephen Schwarzman and he said: “I think the scientists agree that they want AI introduced in an ethical way, because they don’t want to experience the downsides. I think this is one of the major issues of our age, because AI is going to come, it’s really unstoppable. It’s not just AI, it’s robotics and all other kinds of computer science innovations”. That echoes what Steiner said back in 1910. And on 12th June the UK government committed us to zero net emissions by 2050, which is definite progress – and there are now 18 out of 28 EU countries which have also pledged to go carbon-neutral by 2050.

I am also amused by and take pity on the idiocies of our atheistic futurologists.  Ray Kurzweil, for example, that incredibly clever man and chief futurologist of Google, is also, rather endearingly, an idiot. He believes in cryonics, which for those of you who don’t know about it, is a technique of freezing dead bodies in the hope that science in the future may find a way to bring the corpses back to life. Ray Kurzweil has booked himself a place for when he dies with a leading American cryonics company, which charges $200,000 to deep-freeze a full body or, if you’re a cheapskate, $80,000 for just a head. The process involves getting to the patient as soon as possible after clinical death has been pronounced and then cooling the body over the next few days to bring it down to -196C using nitrogen gas. Your corpse is then placed in a shiny steel capsule with a bullet-proof viewing window and stays there until the day when science has sufficiently advanced to bring you back to life. I am not making this up – this is genuinely what cryonics is about; and Ray Kurzweil has signed up for this. The poor man doesn’t realise that he is already immortal! If he’d just read Steiner and informed himself about what a human being really is, he could have saved himself $200,000!

I comfort myself with the thought that in the final analysis, Ahriman and his minions will always lose. They always lose because they lack the capacity to love or understand those who can love. Nicanor Perlas in his book repeats a story that Bernard Lievegoed says was given by Steiner in a letter to a widow. In this letter, Steiner says he saw the image of Ahriman sitting in a cave under the earth. He works. He writes things down, counting and counting, calculating and calculating. He tries to build up a whole world out of a new mathematics (and of course AI algorithms are part of the new mathematics). There, Steiner says, Michael stands beside him waiting. For Michael knows that he will make the final addition. Michael with his sword, will make the sum. The moment has not yet come. Michael is waiting, standing by the side, waiting. He can do this when people on earth are there fighting and going with him. With Uriel, we weigh up and understand; with Michael, we act without fear on the basis of that understanding. And that is the really important point – in this present age of the consciousness soul, Michael can only act if we help him to do it. But if we do, he will in turn help us to find much more positive outcomes from the extreme technologies that are threatening our existence today. So it really is up to all of us to play our part in this huge battle.

And finally, I would like to leave you with this verse of Steiner’s:

“We must eradicate from the soul all fear and terror of what comes towards Man out of the future. We must acquire serenity in all feelings and sensations about the future.

We must look forward with absolute equanimity to everything that may come. And we must think only that whatever comes is given to us by a world-directive full of wisdom.

It is part of what we must learn in this age, namely, to live out of pure trust, without any security in existence – trust in the ever-present help of the spiritual world.

Truly, nothing else will do if our courage is not to fail us. And let us seek the awakening from within ourselves Every morning and every evening”.

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Filed under Ahriman, Artificial Intelligence, Cryonics, Evil, Futurology, Rudolf Steiner, Spiritual Science, Uriel

Don’t be evil

I don’t suppose that Rudolf Steiner’s lectures incorporate the use of the word “fun” very often. The words “serious” and “earnest” are much more common. So I was struck by the following passage in which he did use that word – but not in a cheerful context (this is Steiner, after all). Here is the passage, from Lecture Three of the series entitled The Influences of Lucifer and Ahriman:

“The fact that — to use a colloquialism — people in the future are not going to get much fun out of developments on the physical plane will bring home to them that further evolution must proceed from spiritual forces.”

Steiner’s view was that the time when human progress was possible through purely physical means is now over. Human progress will be possible in the future but only through development on a higher level than that of the processes of the physical plane. Speaking just after the First World War, he went on to say: “This can be understood only by surveying a lengthy period of evolution and applying what is discovered to experiences that will become more and more general in the future. The trend of forces that will manifest in the well-nigh rhythmical onset of war and destruction — processes of which the present catastrophe (ie the First World War) is but the beginning — will become only too evident. It is childish to believe that anything connected with this war can bring about a permanent era of peace for humanity on the physical plane. That will not be so. What must come about on the earth is spiritual development…”

In the one hundred years since he spoke, Steiner has certainly been proved right about the impossibility of a permanent era of peace for humanity – this century has been the most terrible in the history of the world. What else did he foresee?

“Just as once in the East there was a Lucifer incarnation, and then, at the midpoint, as it were, of world evolution, the incarnation of Christ, so in the West there will be an incarnation of Ahriman. …This ahrimanic incarnation cannot be averted; it is inevitable, for humanity must confront Ahriman face to face. He will be the individuality by whom it will be made clear what indescribable cleverness can be developed if they call to their help all that earthly forces can do to enhance cleverness and ingenuity. In the catastrophes that will befall humanity in the near future, people will become extremely inventive… Humanity has no knowledge of these things as yet; but not only will they be striven for, they will be the inevitable outcome of catastrophes looming in the near future. And certain secret societies — where preparations are already in train — will apply these things in such a way that the necessary conditions can be established for an actual incarnation of Ahriman on the earth. This incarnation cannot be averted, for people must realise during the time of the earth’s existence just how much can proceed from purely material processes! We must learn to bring under our control those spiritual or unspiritual currents which are leading to Ahriman.”

YBA via antroposofie en apocalypse blog

Yeshayahu Ben Aharon (photo via antroposofy en apocalypse blog)

When is this incarmation likely to occur? Tempting though it is to point to many of today’s phenomena as indicators that the incarnation has already happened, my current sense is that things are going to get quite a bit worse yet before Ahriman himself appears in physical form. I recently read an article called Empty Hearts and Technological Singularity by Yeshayahu Ben Aharon (available for download to subscribers to the Academia website) in which he describes the coming merger of the human being with infinitely intelligent machines, as predicted by Ray Kurzweil, Google’s senior futurist.

“In esoteric terms, this means that the human’s free etheric body from the head to the heart will be totally taken over by ahrimanic, infinitely brilliant, wise and powerful intelligences. I would recommend Kurzweil’s book, The Singularity is Near, to every body interested in the coming future, as an introduction to open your mind and eyes to see where we are going from the ahrimanic point of view. I call this the building of the kindergarten of Ahriman, in preparation for his school that he will build in the 23rd century in America. He will build a school that will work with the etheric forces taken from the rest of the body as well: the head, the heart and the whole thing. This is Ahriman’s kindergarten, the forerunner of his mature school.

The singularity people promise a new kind of immortality. Human beings will be identified with Infinite Intelligence through super computers and so on, and they will experience a sort of immortality for their earthly consciousness, an indefinite life. Your whole soul life, including everything you were thinking and remembering, which you already invested externally in the infinite virtual reality, will be preserved forever. Even if you die physically, it will be preserved and it will continue to evolve and develop through Infinite Intelligence. The idea is that people will not die physically or at least live hundreds of years, since the new technology will overcome the illnesses that medicine could not conquer. But after long years, if they still die at all, all their life will remain as a virtual personality in a tech reality, continuing as it were, a second life. But this will really become the primary life, the life of this individuality as his avatar in virtual reality. If you don’t know this world very well, it will be hard for you to create a picture of it. Look into it; the children already know all about it, they are born into the Matrix, as their parents merge them with the internet immediately. This is the ahrimanic side, because everything is accomplished through Infinite Intelligence, working through virtual reality. In the future, a huge intelligent machine will have been merged into the human body, and humans and infinitely smart, powerful, and all-knowing and all entertaining AI (Artificial Intelligence) will become one and the same…”

It is worth reading the Wikipedia entry about Ray Kurzweil, including his transhumanism (ie the belief that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves through technology into different beings with abilities so greatly expanded from the natural condition as to merit the label of  “post-human beings”) and his predictions for the future. Along with Yuval Noah Harari, whom I wrote about here, it is clear that Kurzweil, this highly intelligent man, is nevertheless one of the Useful Idiots preparing the way for Ahriman.

Kurzweil wikipedia

Ray Kurzweil (photo via Wikipedia)

As part-evidence for my statement that Kurzweil is an idiot, it should be noted that he has joined the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a cryonics company. In the event of his declared death, Kurzweil plans to be perfused with cryoprotectants, vitrified in liquid nitrogen, and stored at an Alcor facility in the hope that future medical technology will be able to repair his tissues and revive him. I have written more about the absurd belief and practices of cryonics and Alcor here.

It should also be noted that Kurzweil was personally hired by Google co-founder Larry Page. “Don’t be evil” was the motto of Google’s corporate code of conduct, first introduced around 2000. In Google’s IPO (initial public offering of shares) in 2004, a letter from Google’s founders included the following: “Don’t be evil. We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served—as shareholders and in all other ways—by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains.”

However, surprise, surprise – following Google’s corporate restructuring in October 2015, the motto was dropped and replaced in the new corporate code of conduct by the phrase “Do the right thing”. So is AI the right thing for human beings? Is that the way we should be going?

Elon_Musk_2015 wikipedia

Elon Musk (photo via Wikipedia)

If the world won’t listen to Rudolf Steiner or to anthroposophists, perhaps they will pay more attention to a billionaire entrepreneur: Elon Musk has warned that AI is more dangerous than the threat posed by dictator Kim Jong-un’s regime in North Korea. Mr Musk, chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, took to Twitter to say: “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”

He posted the comment along with an image of the anti-gambling addiction poster with the slogan: “In the end the machines will win.” Mr Musk added: “Nobody likes being regulated, but everything (cars, planes, food, drugs, etc) that’s a danger to the public is regulated. AI should be too.

Mr Musk has warned in the past that AI should be better regulated since it poses an “existential threat” to human civilisation. He has also compared developers creating AI to people summoning demons they cannot control. Exactly so.

 

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Filed under Ahriman, Artificial Intelligence, Rudolf Steiner