Re: Your fridge will be watching you - - -

Date: Sat Jun 17 2000 - 06:31:47 MDT

In a message dated 6/9/00 10:17:10 PM Central Daylight Time,

> > implication is that as soon as we use a device, say, fridge, TV, car, etc.
> > our choices will be uploaded to the Internet and a record will be made of
> > every detail of our life. It will be like having an aircraft "black box"
> > recorder in every device. No hope of any privacy here!
> And you know, it wont be as bad as we think. It never is. Thousands
> of mechanical sensors will note how we walk, how we smell, the shape
> of our faces, and will figure out where everyone is at all times and what
> we are doing, and yet it will be ok. People will become special, kind
> of like gods in a way, will we not? Our machines will look up to us
> and respect us and help us.
> Just thought I would toss this out to see what happens.

Two things happened in my head. First, the memory of Richard Brautigan's
poem "All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace" came to mind - for the
first time in many years. I wonder how many of the Really Old Timers on the
list remember that poem as a first intimation of transhumanism?

Second, I was reminded of an idea I've had for a while (and which was also
sparked by the "Japanese Techno-Animism" discussion), about the rebirth of
animistic thinking in an age of intelligent machines. (Some of you may
recall me riffing on this idea at the Foresight gathering in May . . .)

Consider the deep reservoir of animistic concepts and feelings we have from
our primitive past. As I've written here before (the "Monkey God" thread), I
think as social primates we are hard-wired to see intentionality in the
world. Our language is full of such animistic remnants ("it's raining",
instead of "rain is falling", for instance). In pre-modern societies we see
animistic thinking in many institutions and customs. I like to look at Greek
and Roman societies as some of the West's lenses into the primitive human
mind, since they developed on an immediate past of the "ur-culture" and their
customs and social practices may therefore reflect our hard-wired cognitive
structure more clearly than contemporary society.

Roman law, for instance, didn't make clear distinctions between what we would
call "religious" and civic life. Romans saw the world as being full of
animating spirits. The "lares" were the "household gods" of the hearth.
"Terminii" were the small gods of borders between landholdings or municipal
boundaries. A transfer of ownership of a parcel of land involved ritual
invocation of the terminii and communicating to them that a new human being
was invested with the rights of possession and control of that land. The act
of contract between two people in such a transaction was actually perceived
as a three-way communication, in which, say, Claudius, directed the terminii
of a farm to recognize Septimus as its new owner.

As our property becomes infused with intelligence of higher and higher
orders, I can see a return to this kind of social activity. A truly "smart
car" will not require a physical key - or not a physical key alone. It will
really recognize its owner and be programmed with behaviors of "loyalty" to
her. If she wants to sell her car, she will have to tell the car about this
new relationship it is to have. How ironic that 10,000 years of progress
brings us full circle to the rites of invocation and propitiation of the
animating spirits of "things".

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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