I've written and published two science fiction novels. The first was composed in 1990, then revised and published four years ago. The concern back then was the ozone layer and the global havoc it would wreak if it failed. My story assumes this event, sciences half-successful remedies, a global pandemic (like COVID) that happens at the same time and civilization's fall and descent into religious fanaticism, that is, the ten percent who survive, almost a prophetic mirror to our present situation with Global warming and our pandemic, only at a quicker pace.
My novel's protagonist is a university trained historian, much like myself and recounts his hard trials and travels over three decades, after almost all books have been destroyed and a world religious order is firmly in control of people's minds. He, of course, won't forget the past but learns to stay quiet and play along, (or be killed) bides his time, slowly rises in this religious order by his wits and chance events, and when the time is right, after finding a cache of books in far off Australia, the near-dessert western coast, sets up a sanctuary in the wilderness and begins to re-educate a set of youths in the old ways, and slowly succeeds, just as the church, with its own internal problems and changing times is melting down.
So I set out to write a dystopian novel and ended up with a Utopian one.
I wrote another novel three years ago about the invention in the near future of such small, versatile microchips that can be injected into the bloodstream and cover the human brain like snow, connect with its synapses and create a network vastly enhancing its powers in myriad ways, a mind-computer interface solving the problem of A.I. overtaking us. But problems crop up when certain women find out they can control men's minds completely and invisibly, and within a few years, governments the masses. I thought this too was going to be a dystopian world order as I was writing it.
But then I added four chapters and gave it a Utopian ending, where the male protagonist, (the first to try the chip), his beautiful new partner and discoverer of the exploit and finally her love for him conquer all, a very Utopian world where governments topple, wealth inequality ceases along with all large corporations, factories, freeways and a planet of self-regulating tribes, almost like hippie communities, cover the Earth, restore forests, reverse climate change and live in symbiosis with nature, still enhanced with the chips, with a vibrant world wide web and solar panels, each community nearly self-sufficient, trading with others, (by boats and caravans) for the few things they want. Cities are reduced to numerous townships, with no possibility of some assuming power over others and such intercommunication between all, everything is seen and shared. Arts flourish. Life is easy with small, human technology and the knowledge to use it. It's the best of simplicity of life and vast intellectual richness. If this isn't the most rosy world imaginable, I don't know what is.
So I suppose I'm an optimist, by nature and inclination. I've read the most dystopian philosophers, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Orwell, Marcuse. I've read a very great deal, most of the Classics in their original languages, and cynics like Montaigne, (one of my favorites), the later decadents and all the social rebels I could find. I read through almost six years of university life, (Berkeley and Toronto) and continued it through my late twenties, to the exclusion of all social life, ten to fourteen hours each day. But I read the books I most enjoyed, in pursuit of the best in literature, this intellectual feast of ideas and characters and possible lives, living the bohemian life in Berkeley, where I returned as the place most fit for such a lifestyle, living on almost nothing so I wouldn't have to work.
But I digress. The point I wish to make is about technology and our near future. I see so many bleak or horrifying futures in movies and books and I know why. Dystopian sells, it shocks and fascinates us. Utopian harmony doesn't interest us, any more than a monk humming. Popular music over the last four decades displays this taste for the loud and jarring and negative. A.I. scares us, along with Terminators, robot police, drones, and complete surveillance by ever more domineering, secretive states. And if nuclear arsenals don't upset one, what's right around the corner in weaponry?
But I had this optimistic thought, sitting on my porch in the afternoon sunlight and pondering the question. I was thinking of the robots we've begun to construct to take over our manual labor and how we'd make them smarter and stronger each year, soon better than us in almost every way. But there would never be a need for a restricting chip, as in the movie 'I Robot' that commands "never harm humans" or the lack of one in 'Terminator'. Actually such a chip would be better deployed in most family physicians.
My reasoning was this: humans have had a built-in desire to procreate and improve over the last two million years. It's not just the inbred pleasure of sex, though that is a huge factor. It's evolution, which applies to all living creatures, big and small. Thanks to whatever god or force that created this planet and implemented this brilliant plan we have something robots and computers will never have, or be able to comprehend, a will to continue, (and that implies to adapt and improve).
A robot has no reason to last. It functions, then something wears out and it quits, to be replaced when it does by another just like it or slightly improved, but which it has no affinity to, no consciousness or reason to care, no possibility of it. It was dead the day it was turned on, a machine set to a task it has no emotion towards, no knowledge beyond that task or circle of tasks. So it has no ability to think or reason, except in the most simple pre-programmed loops, like a computer that improves at chess over time.
No matter how complex or intrusive an observer of human beings, compiling terabytes of data, it has no chance at understanding our living consciousness, and the one thing far above that even, which mysteriously powers our whole universe, the commanding, irresistible force of love. We don't even know what it is. We just feel it and obey it.
But I truly consider it a 'fifth-element', something we feel but can't perceive with any of our senses, something we can't put our finger on, or dissect like everything else, as scientists do with their scalpels. Yet it does move us, often in the most important decisions of our lives.
The one thing I do know is that it has been a part of our anatomy for over one million years, as deep inside us as our bone marrow, and it's the one thing that has led us to survive all this time, through countless ice ages and plagues and wars.
Computers are a long way off from this complex evolution. And if they finally reach it, they may at the same moment love us, as parents, and cherish us. So I fear no A.I. or self-creating terminator.
Now some egg-head in the pentagon or China might be developing, programming, right this minute, a robot designed to kill all humans it meets. But that's another story. My logic is intact.
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