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Suburban Tree Dialog 6 (Singularity and Cyborg)

Me: I was curious about where our conversation ended during our last talk. I mentioned that I was aware of a lot of talk of cyborgs, human machine hybrids, but no talk of bio-borgs hybrids of animals and plants for instance. I did a little reading via the web to refresh my recollection about what the cyborg line of story/thinking is. I remembered that some people I had heard or read talked about a technological singularity and I didn’t understand it at the time but I remember thinking the idea was way off as far as I was concerned. Well I found some information, particularly Ray Kruzewell and his conception of a singularity caused by the acceleration of technology and his conclusion that humans would end up transcending biology. That’s just the sort of crazy idea I thought it was, and just the perfect description, but in a technical guise, of the ideas in Genesis, that people are primary and nature is secondary. The most obvious criticism of this mind set is that unless the technical acceleration is fast enough to find a technology based replacement for the environment that supports human life, technical acceleration of the industrial economy will simply more rapidly being an end to the experiment of super-powering exclusively human objectives. I think Kruzwell, and the science fiction writer Victor Verne are the two most popular exponents of this view. I will read more of them and address them more specifically.

Tree: They think your kind can live without me?

Me: In essence yes. I think both people are so impressed with a linear reading of technical progress that they ignore the biological context within which the technical progress occours within. It is like Genesis realized in reverse where with Genesis God creates the earth, then man, then plants and other animals thereby leaving man dependent on God not nature. With the singularity theorists they see us arriving at the point where Genesis starts, a non nature based origin and continuance of humankind, by the math of technical progress acceleration ending up with a God of biology transcending intelligence. I really think this all has its roots in an unconscious reactionary patriarchy that must break away from dependence on mother and do so by elevating the maleness of their ability to isolate themselves from the flesh and transpose themselves into exclusive residence in the abstract mind. Some powers come out of this psychological operation but the expense must be totally ignored or dramatically devalued for them to continue. It is hard to continue this story because it leads to a self evaluation that is just to significant, relative to all the other entities and relations that a man has in reality.

Tree: So they ignore and dramatically devalue me so they can imagine they were not born by their mothers. Your kind is crazy.

Me: Most of my kind would say I’m crazy for talking to you Tree: Maybe you are crazy like they are. Do you really realize that you are part of everything that is and a really small piece of the whole living world at that. I am much bigger and more important than you Me: It is unfortunate that humans have become so much more important than they should be in proportion to our size what we contribute to the whole.

Tree: I don’t know if I want to talk to you anymore

Me: You don't really have a choice. I am imagining our talk, I can stop and start it. Why are you so angry with me?

Tree: I have never heard such a thing about modern people. They are all around me, none of them act like they could live without me, but come to think about it none of them act like I am doing something for them that helps them survive. Maybe you stopping and talking to me is some sign that your kind aren’t all as bad as these singularity people. Me: I wouldn’t get too hung up with how extreme the singularity people are. I think they are an extreme expression of this deeply held notion, embedded in Genesis, that humans depend on God and that God made nature to serve the needs of people. That makes it sound like nature is necessary because it would benefit the self existing image of God, man. Our origins and dependencies are wrong and we have just accepted these big ideas that we have inherited. That’s why I say that behaviorally modern humans the second time around will see themselves as bio-borgs, not cyborgs or the vehicle of a technical singularity that allows humans to transcend biology.

Tree: OK I’ve talked myself back into talking with you. I understand that you are in charge of the dialog and that you invited me into your subjective world so you make the rules. I do, however want to let you know that I can make the dialog hard on you if you treat me poorly.

Me: I know. What I am trying to do is realize what the Buddhists would call “right relationship” with you and the reason I am doing it is because I see that my relationship to nature is out of whack and the culture I have grown up in is on average much more out of whack with nature than I am. If there wasn’t a crisis looming, that is in my mind caused by the cultural disruption of our relationship to nature, I wouldn’t be talking to you at all. I like it that we are talking, don’t get me wrong. I’m just saying that I am not doing this out of an idealized romantic idea of returning to a previous state of being that was great. I see that humans will have to come to terms with the ability to build more powerful tools and the fact that we are a totally dependent part of nature. I have to take a break, can we get back to this later?

Tree: You tell me, you are the boss in this realm. Don’t forget, or more truely keep learning who is the boss in my realm.

Me: I’m trying

Tree: I think you are, I will keep cooperating as long as you keep being honest with me

Me: that’s a deal Me: I’m back Tree: I’m still here Me: I would love to be able to draw because I see the two selves Cyborg and the one I call behaviorally modern 2 as visually plugged into the machine and nature respectively. I would love to see the two pictures side by side.

Tree: I don’t understand pictures. That has something to do with you being a creature with vision. I feel things and take part in things. As you can tell I also think about things.

Me: I wonder if we could make a machine that would let you get an idea of what it is like to see. Your leaves are sensitive to light. If we projected a sunlight picture, basically in black and white, different intensity of light, onto your beautiful canopy of leaves and took the shape of your canopy into account you might be able to “see” the shape of something that I can see.

Tree: that sounds interesting, I like the sunlight and I do feel the patterns of clouds. Are you saying that is like seeing.

Me: I guess I am. You would be able to have a sense of shape and movement across your leaves. I think that is the basic way vision works in humans. The light reflected off something, touches our eyeball, touches my retna which fires a nerve that sends an impulse to a part of my brain. It is all communicating the pattern of touch as I contact light.

Tree: Maybe I already see.

Me: In a way I guess we all do.

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