AMONG THEIR HAZARDS, billionaires get to believe that they are farsighted geniuses.
Take Elon Musk, who’s so clever that he’s now not only planting his prodigious DNA (the number of Musk children is a question), but also preparing a Mars colony on the way to populating the Milky Way with mind-boggling numbers of artificial geniuses.
He’s is nothing if not inconsistent, and warns against Artificial Intelligence, while developing it, co-founding Neuralink in 2016 to merge brains with machines.
Adding Twitter to his portfolio through 2022, Musk is far from the only bonkers billionaire, whose fortunes back such right-wing troops as Trump Republicans, Christian gun-toters, mainstream economists, and rocketeers.
The common thread is a vision that takes eyes off everyday reality to promote money’s interests, whether through populist conspiracies, American myths, the price mechanism or some glorious science-driven future of digital rationality.
Musk is attracted to particularly arrogant beliefs about longtermism and transhumanism (with links to the get-rich Effective Altruism network).
Environmentalists, liberals and republicans care about future generations, but the longtermists ask us to care even more for a hypothetical future of computer-simulated “persons”, who will colonise the stars.
The director of the Future of Humanity Institute, Nick Bostrom, anticipates at least 1058 such digital brains, so that, on simplistic utilitarian logic, the claims of these posthumans vastly outweigh present worries.
Bostrom also introduced the prevalent idea of existential risk, referring to potential catastrophes that get in the way of enormous numbers of “people” radiating out into space. It’ll happen, if we just leave everything to our superiors, the tech billionaires.
Even a recent, semi-respectable airing of longtermism in the New York Times calls on our brainiacs to plan in some unspecified way on behalf of future generations of “sentient life”. The article is by William MacAskill to promote his book, What we Owe the Future.
The latest issue of the Guardian Weekly both reviews MacAskill’s “thrilling” book, and editorially backs the Artemis space project for no reasons other than Russia and China’s similar ambitions, and the admittedly significant “earthrise” photograph of 1968.
While we are wise to attend to the science, we need to shield ourselves from science fiction, especially when it so obviously serves massive investments. Besides, we should never forget that scientists have already brought eugenics, plastics and nuclear weapons.
The well-funded thinking-machine capitalists, blowing us out of the sky, are of particular gastronomic concern because their ideology is alienated from the metabolic universe. That’s our world of eating, drinking and cooperating on our apparently (for them) expendable little planet.
Their adulation of some detached “intelligence” is especially delusional because our cerebra are essentially tools for eating better – coordinating sensory inputs and movements, and reaching the sophistication of good restaurants. As suggested by (other) recent science, the mind is subservient through the “gut-brain axis” to the “first brain” or stomach.
Tech billionaires planning to populate space with incredible numbers of thinking machines leave behind nature, farms, kitchens and restaurants. Bonkers!
Promoting some supposedly superior race is a treason against humans radically grounded on Earth, thank you very much.