What Lies Behind the Dream of Turning People into Computers and Computers into People

April 19 2017

Reviewing some half-dozen recent books by self-proclaimed futurists who predict a world where artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies will, in one way or another, break down the distinction between man and machine, Joseph Bottum finds little intellectual sophistication but some noteworthy commonalities:

[T]hese books are far more interesting in general than they are in particular, and the bulk of them suggests far more compelling thoughts than any one of them manages on its own.

Although the authors tend toward the happy-happy end of futurism—soon we will live like George Jetson!—they begin in outrage. It’s outrageous that our bones break and our cells fail. It’s outrageous that we have such flimsy bodies. It’s especially outrageous that we die. The indignation here is metaphysical, a fury at the human condition, and it has its root in Francis Bacon’s modernity-defining claim that science is born in rejection of the world as unchangeable.

Unfortunately, . . . instead of plowing ahead on the path that early-modern thinkers [like Bacon] pointed out, seeking to ameliorate the shocks that flesh is heir to, the new generations of computer-enamored writers seem to have taken a detour—and found themselves looping back to recreate, all unknowingly, the old hatred of the material world taught by the Gnostics of late antiquity. If it’s outrageous that our bodies fail us, then we should try to eliminate the body. If it’s outrageous that we die, then we must become immortal. If it’s outrageous that human existence is so sloppy and fragile, then the human parts of us will simply have to go. . . . [These authors share with the Gnostics a longing] to be an animal, a tree, a stone, an angel, a machine—anything but a human being.

Read more at Washington Free Beacon

More about: Artifical Intelligence, History & Ideas, Mortality, Technology


Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy