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.

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Read more at Washington Free Beacon

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

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror