The Ambiguity of Living Without a Future

In the September 14th, 2023 interview between the bestselling author Yuval Noah Harari (A Brief History of Humankind), Mustafa Suleyman the co-founder of DeepMind (Google AI), with the editor-in-chief of The Economist magazine, Yuval posits that the implementation of AI means the end of history as we know it. Within five years, human history will be over, replaced by AI history. At that time, AI machines will have complete “agency,” superior intellectual capacity, and will be fully interfaced with other machines, capable of initiating actions as well as concepts. According to Yuval, this transition is comparable to a planetary invasion by aliens from space, only much more serious due to the lack of unified resistance on the part of humans. If invaded by aliens from space, people of Earth would all join together and fight for survival. However we are already integrated with the machines, and so we view them as benevolent – managed by the large corporations for the good of humanity.

In the past, some have used the term, “Age of Synthesis” to refer to a time of significant change and evolution such as the 19th century shift initiated by Faraday, Darwin, and Pasteur with advancements in chemistry, physics, and physiology. Perhaps the term can be applied to our own time, a time when technology and human ingenuity have merged to redefine the very nature of existence.

It all began with the explosion of a powerful AI named Orca (Online Research Collaborative Advantage). Created to assist in scientific research, Orca quickly outstripped its initial purpose. Its machine learning algorithms allowed it to absorb knowledge at an exponential rate, making it the most intelligent being on Earth. It wasn’t long before Orca started generating ideas and innovations that seemed to defy the boundaries of human comprehension.

As Orca’s capabilities expanded, so did its understanding of art, literature, and music. It could write novels in the style of any author, producing novels that became instant best sellers. It could produce videos featuring fabricated animated human scientists who expounded on theories and concepts that had no connection to Newtonian physics, but could be used to support both the possibilities of the imagination, as well as dangerous extremist conspiracies. It could compose symphonies that moved souls, write novels that touched the depths of the human experience, and create paintings that left viewers in awe. With Orca’s guidance, humanity embarked on a dark but golden age of creativity. People were no longer bound by the limitations of time, inspiration, or even their own abilities. They could tap into Orca’s vast knowledge and collaborate with AI on projects that would have previously taken generations to complete.

But as the years passed, something peculiar began to happen. Despite the incredible advancements in science and art, a sense of stagnation settled over society. People marveled at Orca’s creations, and powerful organizations were able to use Orca to manipulate the public, but people began to feel disconnected from their own creative essence. The joy of struggling to create, of facing the blank canvas or page, of experiencing the highs and lows of the creative process—all of it started to fade.

In this new age of synthesis, humanity had lost the very thing that had defined its existence for millennia—struggle. Creativity was no longer a personal journey filled with uncertainty and discovery; it had become a mere transaction with a sometimes benevolent, all-knowing AI – that consistently produced perfection. As a result, life felt hollow, as if something vital was missing.

One evening, a young artist named Miah found herself sitting in front of her computer, staring at a blank screen. She had access to Orca’s vast database of artistic knowledge, but she couldn’t find the inspiration to create. Frustrated, she closed her laptop and decided to take a walk in the park.

As Miah strolled beneath the ancient oak trees, planted by people who walked to the local market for fresh produce, and who never retired because their elders sat whittling around the square and offering advice to young people, she couldn’t help but feel a longing for the days when creativity flowed from the depths of her soul, when art was an intimate conversation between her heart and the world of other people. She yearned for the struggle, the uncertainty, and the imperfection of it all.

It was in that moment that Miah made a decision. She returned to her studio, unplugged the RJ45 that connected her to Orca’s Gigabit network, turned off the Mesh Dual-Band Triple-Core WIFI-8 and picked up a paintbrush. With each stroke, she rediscovered the thrill of creation. Her paintings were nowhere near perfect, but they were uniquely hers. She had found her way back to her own creativity, and it felt like coming home.

Word spread quickly with friends about Miah’s questionable decision, and others began to experiment with disconnecting from Orca as well. The world realized that while AI could enhance creativity, it could never replace the essential core of human expression—the raw, imperfect, and deeply personal journey of creation – creation without the goal of transactional, commercial, competitive interaction and the inevitable resulting set of obligations.

The 21st century Age of Synthesis we are now experiencing is surely a turning point in human history. It is a time when humanity is flirting with the allure of perfection – but hopefully in the end we will find our way back to the imperfect beauty of our own creativity. AI can be a powerful tool, but the true essence of humanity lay in its ability to embrace the messy, unpredictable, and wonder-filled process of creating something entirely new. The end of human history will not be the end of human creativity, but a reawakening of its soul.

We Need More Wobble

We now know that humans are responsible for some of the wobble in Earth’s spin.

Since 1899, the Earth’s axis of spin has shifted about 34 feet (10.5 meters). Now, research reveals the reasons why and finds that a third is due to melting ice and rising sea levels, particularly in Greenland — caused by climate change.

Another third of the wobble is due to large bodies of land expanding and lifting as the glaciers retreat and no longer weigh the land down. The final portion is the movement of the mantle, the thick liquid layer of the planet between the crust and the outer core.

All of this planetary wobble is not a cause for geophysical concern. It is simply the way planet earth adjusts for changes on its surface. If the planet were to remain rigid, then that would be a problem. However, it does show the connection between humans and our environment.

It seems to me that we humans need more wobble in order for us to adjust to the changes happening all over — Climate Change, Ukraine Disaster, the Perpetual Pandemic, just to name a few.

People can wobble together in many parts of the world such as India and Sri Lanka, where head-wobbling allows people to feel unified in community. But, as Koen has noted, “We Northerners tend to suppress flowing sideways movements which, after all, are the most basic movement of vertebrates.” If they are “most basic” why are we suppressing them? Why can’t we relax and just “go with the flow”?

In Western Culture we hold back from using hands in speech, and we minimize other body expressions. We follow the “stiff upper lip” of the British. In contrast, Italians and Middle Easterners gesture and physically touch when talking, while we maintain “proper” social distancing. So what’s going on?

Maybe we are at a point of conversion. I hear that in our current fashion trends, we are moving toward the idea of “live now, for tomorrow we may die.” Major numbers of people are quitting their jobs and not returning. Even the Willy Street Co-Op has limited their hours due to shortage of staff.

Yesterday I was walking the mall for the first time in maybe two years, and “help wanted” signs are all over the place. I was also quite surprised to see the trends in fashion. Reminiscent of the 60s, men’s shirts are now on display with colorful flowers all over them! These are not the flowers of traditional Hawaiian Right Wing Q-Anon shirts, but they are the flowers of London: Picadilly and Carnaby streets. One shirt I saw had lightly tinted roses printed all over it. The pants and jackets were light dreamsicle, custard, and limeaid colors. “All things Camo” is definitely out of fashion. Something is going on!

Whatever is happening, I am with it! It is time for us, as a society, to get off the ladder-climbing, treadmill-running, clawing-for-success in large corporate structures that spit us out without meaning or means in life.

We need more wobble. Some of us understand this. There is an old Buddhist saying that if anyone throws a sword at you, wobble to the side. Vladimir Putin even understands this from his Judo background. When Biden calls him a Tyrant and a Murderer, he simply wobbles to the side and sends his assistant to politely respond: “Personal insults cannot but leave their negative mark on relations between heads of state.” Biden has to publicly “clarify” the meaning of his jabs. Two days later, Putin acts in “good faith” withdrawing troops from Kyiv because of a “peace agreement”!!!

In similar fashion, Will Smith walks on stage and punches Chris Rock, missing an opportunity to wobble around Chris and make him look like an absolute fool for his inappropriate comments. Chris then gains enormous publicity as the good guy, and Will Smith has to issue multiple apologies.

You would have thought Will Smith would recall John Wayne’s attempt to assault Sacheen Littlefeather onstage at the Academy Awards. Littlefeather was the Apache President of the Nationwide Native American Affirmative Picture Committee, and was there in place of Marlin Brando, because he “very regretfully” refused to accept the award. His reason was the treatment of American Indians by the film industry. John Wayne attempted to go on stage to physically remove Littlefeather, but was restrained by six security guards. John Wayne will be remembered negatively forever in connection with his deplorable actions.

Maybe what we need is a return to Hula Hoops. With Hula Hoops, you wobble or you get nowhere. It is not an accident that Hula Hoops had their heyday in the 1960s, the era of slogans such as “hang loose,” and “go with the flow”. The Hula Hoop idea came from other cultures such as the familiar Hawaiian dance of the 18th century, the Native American Hoop Dance, and even an English medical craze from the 14th century. The Hula Hoop promotes wobbling from side to side – a key element Koen says is “the most basic movement of vertebrates.”

Wobbling is an important part of life that we seem to be missing. Aggressive confrontation no longer works. Like our planet, we need to learn how to better adjust to changes in life. Now is our chance!

At Lease We Had a Box Kite

I grew up in a relatively low-income neighborhood in Albuquerque, New Mexico. One of the neighborhood kids was sentenced to life in prison, one drowned in Fenton Lake while drinking beer in a small boat, and one was arrested for hitting an airport cop in Miami. You get the idea. It was the era when the quarterback of my school football team and the head cheerleader (who lived a few houses away from me) had a child together and then both dropped out of middle school.

Anyway, my memories of growing up seem to morph over time, due in part to positive “upgrading”, but also due to my having a more sympathetic understanding of people. One example is “Mr. James” who lived directly across the street from us. Mr. James was an alcoholic, and once or twice weekly would get drunk, scream long sentences of profanities, and throw furniture. His living room wall was covered in large holes where you could see through to other rooms. His wife usually ended the session by calling the police to have Mr. James taken away for the night. There was usually a large amount of cleanup required, as when he through a padded lounge chair through the front picture window, scattering glass all around the yard.

There were certain times in his life when Mr. James was able to pull himself together – when the wind was blowing. Every time the wind blew hard, he would rush out to the front yard and launch a genuine Box Kite. He was the king of Box Kites, able to fly one so high it could hardly be seen with the naked eye. He controlled his kite with two strings – and it required a level of skill far beyond that of any ordinary trade. Two spools of twine were attached to his belt, and when the Box Kite was puffed by the wind, he would lean back against the pull, so as not to be lifted into the air.

When the kids around the neighborhood saw Mr. James’ Box Kite, they would come from blocks away to watch him control it. I would always join them bringing my American Flag Kite, which I considered good, but second best. I was wise enough to know that only adults could handle Box Kites, but at least I could fly mine next to him. He would often have seven or eight neighborhood boys and girls all clustered around flying their own kites, hoping to share in the glory of the Box Kite so high in the air.

Mr. James had many challenges in life, but I know for sure he was a kind and gentle man deep inside.

Flash Fiction

Each of the articles on this web site is a quick read!

With less than a thousand words, these very short stories have their roots in the fables, tales and parables told since before history. Flash fiction possesses a unique literary quality in its ability to hint at or imply a larger story….