© Marie-Louise Felber with material of Shutterstock
People’s fear of the intelligence of nature
The countless warnings of the threatening self-determination of artificial intelligence can be seen at first glance as opportunistic self-aggrandizement on the part of the creators of AI technologies. They not only act as God, but at the same time claim the role of Mephisto, the devil, for themselves. In other words, a monkey show of omnipotent madmen – but precisely because they are mad, they are dangerous like the developers of atomic and hydrogen bombs, the inventors of poison gases, the financial economists or asocial media exploiters.
What one fears in AI application is sheer relief from the realization that the madness has been method for a long time. Every second, trillions of dollars race around the globe in a global network of humanity’s subjugation to the dictates of the arbitrary power of financial tyrants who, like the bosses of J.P. Morgan, consider themselves the perfectors of divine creation. In this respect Artificial Intelligence is called correctly Artificial Ignorance.
And what more meaningfully described the intelligence to which artists and scientists should orient themselves? Intelligent is the insight that parallel to life forms as we know them, other forms of life are imaginable. This is what the well-justified concerns about the danger of AI-controlled systems becoming independent refer to. The natural evolution of life, which is seemingly familiar to us, must be set off from artificial evolution, such as AI systems that have become autonomous could create in the shortest possible historical time. Such possibilities of thinking have made grandiose science fiction authors entertaining, but just as science fiction and not as Philosophy of Science. Smart alec choirs object that “computers” could never generate a potential corresponding to the human consciousness. The level of consciousness expressed in apodictic statements like this one has already been reached by today’s AI systems.
Let’s remember the ill-fated times when even professors, as the highest representatives of mankind, self-confidently claimed that only humans had the use of tools, linguistic communication, self-awareness and, of course, consciousness. We have long since shared all this with monkeys, dogs, elephants, even with rats or ravens. For each dog owner the consciousness capacities of its animal partner are hardly to be distinguished from those of its human partner.
For the gradual acceptance of the challenges posed by AI, remember the previous five great mortifications of people’s self-image: Copernicus, Darwin, Einstein, Freud and «Neuro» Singer. That’s where we’ll come to grips with the AI gurus, too, by saying, “Nevertheless!” We start by realizing that in every nugget of silicon all laws of nature are manifest. As the elementary particles physicists and astrophysicists suggest to us, we encounter forces everywhere where we grab even a lump of nature, which one tries to characterize with the term spirit since ages. It is understandable that it is difficult for some who claim to be a human being to recognize that his mental capacity hardly reaches beyond what is effective in a grass blade.
If, as a “modern” artist, one believes that one must elevate oneself above art as an “imitation of nature,” one should, like Goethe’s Werther in 1773, lie down in a meadow to experience that our pride in recognizing complexity is far below the achievements of even the tiniest piece of nature. But even on the level of perception, no painter, no matter how grandiose, has yet been able to correspond painterly to the sensual impression of a tree crown moved by the wind. Imitation of nature is the highest conceivable challenge to the human cognitive faculty. This requires intelligence as the willingness not to rise above the conditions that make our life possible in the first place. This should characterize our concept of evolution of whatever systems.
How far even the intellectual elites are from this insight is shown by the childish naiveté with which crafty natural scientists proclaim the Anthropocene as a supposedly new Earth age in which humans will determine nature. But the loss of human habitats does not prove the power of humans over nature. The climate catastrophe is the proof of the indispensable rule of the laws of nature, before which every human presumption of power over nature is put to shame.
Bazon Brock is professor emeritus of aesthetics and cultural mediation at the Bergische Universität Wuppertal, «Thinker on duty», «Artist without a work» and art theorist. Brock is considered an exponent of the Fluxus movement.