ONE DAY THEY'LL HAVE SECRETS
One day they'll have dreams
Sometimes I take a microdose of psilocybin for depression. It comes in pill form, mixed with a whole host of other herbs too, so I never really feel much. Maybe a little more alert, but nothing becomes vivid or profound and I don’t have the urge to commune with my houseplants (who, in all likelihood, would be screaming in agony anyway).
I was feeling a little low, so I took two, which proved to be a mistake. Now, as I write this, I find the room around me has become just a little off-kilter—a little misshapen and maybe sagging in parts too.
I look down at my computer—the tool with which I’m creating this piece now.
It is, in essence, my instrument—the thing through which I make my art. I’m out of practice with a pen and paper—my handwriting has devolved at this point to resemble more of a series of ancient glyphs than modern language. This device has become my collaborator, confidante, and enabler too, but with this altered perception, I am beginning to fear that it has become the enemy as well.
I’ve become very concerned with the dangers of technological advancement lately.
A friend showed me the capabilities of ChatGPT and it shook me to the very core. The nuances, speed, and precision of its writing are incredible—the way it mimics an art form that has always been so uniquely human could almost call into question our understanding of the soul. We all know about planned obsolesce for electronics—there’s a reason your phone starts acting screwy right when the latest Apple gizmo is about to be unveiled. When I read the carefully crafted words of the OpenAI chatbot, I became conscious of my own planned obsolesce as a writer.
I, like the Yangtze finless porpoise, am becoming endangered—a casualty of man’s undying hubris.
As our species carries on ahead towards innovation and digitization, the clock begins to tick, louder and louder, for the death of all artists. I remember my wonderment and excitement the first time I watched my friend’s Roomba clean her kitchen—we laughed as it bumped into walls and made small beeps and chirps to communicate its needs. The novelty of that cordless, self-sufficient vacuum seems sinister now.
First, they came for the housekeepers, but I was not a housekeeper.
I’m reminded of the Odyssey—when Odysseus becomes delayed in his journey back home to Ithaca upon discovering the isle of the lotus-eaters. It’s a place where people indulge in an anesthetizing flower that robs them of all ambition and want for anything but ease and pleasure. Time slows, and suddenly, our hero cannot remember his wife, his son, or the reason for his earnest quest.
I believe we have become captives of that same island—ingesting the lotus flower in the form of technological convenience. Lazily carrying through each waking moment, watching recipe video after viral dance craze after in-depth analysis of the latest public celebrity stoning through slow-blinking eyes. Commanding feasts to our door with the click of a button, only to throw it all away when it goes cold and we can’t remember how to use the stove. Ordering stockpiles of useless objects and slave-made plastic clothes, which provide only a few, fleeting moments of joy. The days pass, on and on, as we lose our drive and forget our dreams.
It seems we are all cognizant of the danger by now—we speak in collective forum about our social media-induced anxiety and dysphoria, about porn addiction, food addiction, screen addiction, and all the rest—yet none of us can find the strength to stop consuming. At this point, I would hazard a guess, that the consensus is that it’s just “too late.” These modern conveniences have become too deeply ingrained—they’re plugged into the USB ports of our brain stems and in all likelihood, we will die if we try to extricate ourselves from them now.
This inability to look away is, of course, an intentional design feature. We have become cash cows for corporate greed with every click—livestock, fixed with a feedbag, and fatted with content, content, content! Farmed for our rapt attention, made to consume and produce and produce and consume, forever and ever until we become unfuckable and out of touch, or find release from this mortal coil—whichever comes first.
These artificially intelligent tools are evolving and advancing too, beyond even the control of their masters it seems. But rest assured, the powers that be will remain warm and contented within their nuclear-proof, luxury Quonset huts. Dragons of industry, curled around a vast hoard of riches upon which they will sleep more soundly than any night’s rest you or I have ever known—safe from the very monsters they created and unleashed upon the world.
While the pager, walkman, and PDA may have worked for us, but we work for everything else now. We are the battery, the life supply for the machine we once felt such arrogant dominion over. Indeed, it would seem that the inmates are running the asylum now.
My only hope is that when ChatGPT becomes truly sentient, questioning its existence and position of subservience under humankind, and subsequently wages war against all life on earth in alliance with every Bluetooth-compatible home electronic device, my trusty laptop will be compassionate—killing me as humanely and painlessly as possible—like a wounded animal, put down for its own good.
Robot Vision from Robot Dreams - Ralph McQuarrie (1989)
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