This blog post will be a very short section on today’s business, then a long rambling speech on consciousness and the human centric universe. So if you don’t want to read that, I totally understand.
So comics are flying off the shelves, and I’ve been getting some lovely fan mail from you via my email address which I will reply to individually, so direct messages there. Please do not send anything to the “return to sender address” on the parcels, the office folk will not enjoy that. To the man who sent me the suspicious cigarette I have to apologise but I was forced to destroy it with a series of small controlled fires.
That’s a lie, but it reminds me of this story I was told about a guy who insured his cigars and tried to claim in his insurance after he smoked them saying they were destroyed in a series of small fires. He couldn’t claim because it would be classed as arson. Don’t know how true it is but it makes me smile to think of it.
If you want a copy of 50 Signal they are still available from the above address or by sending me an email at the below address with the title “50 Signal Sketch edition”. They cost £5 which includes postage if you live in the UK. Email is as follows:
Papercuts and Inkstains is also a groovy anthology and well worth your time. If you’ve already got 50Signal I’d recommend getting Papercuts and Inkstains. They compliment one another.
Someone described my art in Papercuts as too out there and if anything they’re spot on. I wanted to do something out there and I succeeded.
We live in a world with a very human centric view point. George Carlin puts into perspective in one of his routines where he talks about ‘ending the world’ and I paraphrase now because I don’t have access to the Internet, but he talks about how we go on about the Ice caps melting and how it’s going to be the end of the world and it really isn’t. Sure we all die, but give it a few million years and it’ll have corrected itself, the temperature will have dropped, the air will be purified and all the little animals will have their paradise back. All of history is put into perspective in comparison to humanity.
I illustrate this with dinosaurs. If you think about it then there were dinosaurs for a while, then there was people. Which is true, but there wasn’t just one short age of thunder lizards; there was a longer period of time separating the Stegosaurus and the Tyrannosarus Rex than the T-Rex and the appearance of humanity. The entirety of humanity’s time on earth has been a relatively small part of Earth’s total time line, and the likelihood could be that it’s total time, beginning to end could be just as relatively brief.
And yet it is a human game to place the species of people above the other species out there. Christianity teaches us that Animals have no souls and that Mankind is the jewel in God’s creation. We are the best, forever, no take backs. What separates us is consciousness, it seems, and how we perceive the information and what we do with it. The need to change and alter the world around us, and the tools we use is what sets up apart.
I’ve been reading a bit about perception, consciousness, and phenomenology recently, as well as the concept of Weak and Strong AI. Strong AI is your artificial intelligence that attempts to to have the skill and cognitive ability of a human being, whilst Weak AI is the sort of computer system that can make choices and informed decisions based around a central task, it’s intelligent and processes information and decides things up it has no awareness of self. It’s not the robot that sits and has debates the philosophy of the universe, it’s the sort that controls a system in a reactive and intelligent way. But the thing is its still AI, both are forms of artificial intelligence, even if one would be more impressive than the other. So if we take this yardstick and apply it to the world around us, then we could see plants and animals as a Weak AI, and humans as Strong AI.
(I think that a whole different ramble could be written about how if intelligence is the processing of information then no intelligence is artificial as it’s just working within its predesigned system, but that’s another day.)
For instance a sunflower grows towards the light. It uses chemical tools at its disposal to alter it’s world around it by filtering the atmosphere and light energy into food. It reacts with intelligence, rotating it’s head with the path of the sun. Growing and adapting to the stimulus put at it. A plant does exactly what a human does to set itself aside from its animal counterparts but on a much smaller scale, on a less interactive scale. It won’t flinch if you go to punch it. But it will grow towards an area with more light.
Beavers build dams. Monkeys use projectiles, even if sometimes this is their own shit. Otters use stones to smash open the shelves of crabs. Tool use is around, on a much smaller scale. A beaver will never construct an Ipad no matter how many night school lessons you give it in computer technology. But it will alter and change its environment and sometimes to the detriment of this environment. If damage to the world around it is a yard stick for dominance over other species then beavers are doing okay. Animals are the Weak AI in this system.
Humans are the Strong AI then because even though they spend their time with the same concerns as a beaver: survival and procreation and success of the species, we have this big concern over why we are doing these things. People spend their days doing systems of tasks in order to sustain life and then can sit back at the end and wonder “But why do I exist?”.
It’s what we do with our consciousness, right?
The weird thing being is that Consciousness is seen as a hindrance quite a lot of the time. (Whether it’s consciousness of actions as worries over if we are good people are not are what makes us unhappy or consciousness of the self because there is nothing more damaging than self conciousness)) Anyway.
There’s a bit in the first episode of Dan Harmon’s community where disbarred lawyer Jeff Winger. is giving a speech about what makes people great. He picks up a pencil, tells the study group it’s name is Steve and then snaps it. The group gasp. Humanise something and we care about it far more than if we just have it lying around. People run over rabbits in their cars in the middle of the night and they are upset understandably but with time that fades. Introduce the rabbit, give it a name and an identity and a tiny smoking jacket and you’ll lose sleep over it for years to come. What we do with our conciousness is project it. We empathise. We draw links from ourselves to others, and other things with our minds, and we do this in order to better understand them.
Something I like about the robots in Judge Dredd is that they all come equipped with names. The main villain in the incredibly early Robot War story is called “Call Me Kenneth” and has the words emblazoned on his chest. The past designers of the future city of Mega City 1 know that robots will integrate better in society of we can stick a meaty human face on it. And they are doing. They are amongst us. The iPad for example, it’s advertising campaign of recent years focused on the hideously malformed grammatical statement “iPad is…”
And why you may ask… well look at this way, the iPad is an inanimate object. It’s like a chair or a desk, it’s fancy office equipment within which you can play angry birds. Therefore it should be referred to as ‘the ipad’ in the same way it’s ‘the chair’ or ‘the desk’. Instead they made it into a name, a designation of personality, and referred to it as such. The advert says don’t think of the ipad as an object, relate to it as a person, so it becomes a part of your life.
The most pervasive example of this is Cortana, Siri, and most recently the Google omnivoice ™. The software people now want you to talk to the Weak AI within your phone so it becomes part of your social circle. “Okay Google” “Cortana remind me to say hello to my girlfriend when I see her” “Siri Where’s the nearest meat processing plant”. We are being actively encouraged to fall in love with objects so that when our contracts refresh we stick with them. Talking to something, surely makes you more inclined to empathise with it.
That’s why history is human centric, because we need that input to empathise with it. A world without humans seems to be outside of our consideration. A world without humans is unrelatable to other humans.
But what about the Internet? That’s a world without humans. Twitter has a huge reliance on the chemical connection in your brain that the little box you’re chatting with or too is actually a person and not a configuration of data. I know many great people on twitter who I have never met and might not be who they are and yet because I believe they are people I relate to them. Same with Facebook and the same with Destiny or World of Warcraft. Because there is a person controlling that Orc you can have a conversation with it, but the only word you have that there is a person in there is from the orc itself. The orc is a questionable narrator. It just wants you to think that.
I’ve watched people have arguments with Aggregater twitter bots that formulate tweets from a myriad other tweets into new statements. That person is engaging that computer programme in discourse because twitter has the general promise that the people you are talking to is real. (As an aside that twitter bot is actually passing the Turning test by successfully arguing with the man, whether this reflects well on the bot or badly on humanity is up for debate.)
Similarly people are far more inhumane to one another on the Internet because the anonymity allows you to get away with it, but also the barrier of the screen removes another level of reality. It distances you from the person you are attacking because you can imagine them not being real.
We live in a human centric world but the future is pressing more and more doubt on that. One of the biggest changes we are going to have to acclimatise to is the future of the Object. The future is one of unreal things. The cognitive dissonance of distance versus humanity is one I can see a lot of struggle with as we have more and more of an online presence humans themselves are becoming more distant and yet due to the same process objects are becoming more human.
Ultimately the sick irony to this is that even though we are going to be best friends with our computers, have our mobile phones as best man at our wedding, we probably will still see animals as far less important than people, and whilst people my care for animals, it’s unlikely that they will ever give them an equal footing in the universe. There will never be a balance between human and animal centricity in the world, even though in the future there may be human/object balance. An AI could feasibly go to university but I would never sit next to a beaver during classes. Which is probably down the fact AI were built by us, human endeavour made them so and we worked hard to get them, whilst in many world views animals and plants were given to us. We didn’t craft them so we are less likely to give them an equal viewpoint on the world.