I left many questions open in my initial post The Cold Big Other At The End Of Time, hoping to spark thought and to get a lively discussion in the comments section. But then I couldn’t force myself to do the PR necessary to get enough readers for it. So I will elaborate some of the cool stuff in this additional post.
The Big Other
The Big Other (French Grand Autre), basically a stand-in for God, is a term introduced by the eccentric French psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1901-1981). In a perfect dialectical move, he first turned fervently against C.G. Jung and everything imaginary or mythological in psychoanalysis, just to end up developing a whole mythology of shimmering invisible things, objects and entities.
I’m gonna spare you the details, but the Big Other is one of those invisible entities, and the most important. As I said, it’s basically a stand-in for God. But Lacan perceived God as a stand-in for Society: Like, the people of old got the idea right, but the attribution wrong, since they had no concept of society. And society is what really dominates and rules people.
So for Lacan the Big Other is the order of social order, so to speak. And in his version this is the order of language, the Symbolic Order, because, after the anthropologist Claude-Lévi Strauss, society is structured like a language.
But how does this match with the famous quote of Lacan: “The unconsciousness is structured like a language?” You guess it: Society is the unconscious of the individual. It’s society that speaks through us. So the Big Other controls us from within.
And to stress the relationship with language and order, Lacan calls the inner agent of the Big Other, our unconscious Self, the Subject. Today we would probably say that society is structured by communication, and that it reproduces itself from within ourselves, but you get why the Big Other is starring in the title.
A term that has God and society and a mighty dose of Otherness in its semantics simply fits. Plus, it has the important spin of a force from outside reaching us at our innermost core. There’s only one problem…
Can The Big Other Become Real In Time?
“It is our Id, our Big Other at the end of time, and it is going to become Ego, a Subject in time again.”
The Big Other can not become real in time. Nor can the Subject. Nor can the Big Other become a Subject. Let alone again.
Well, that’s some kind of a personal double easter egg. See, on one hand I’m hinting at the possibility that it might be something else that is becoming real instead. And on the other hand I’m indicating that The Big Other possibly already did become real in a past time:
- Official christian doctrine says that Jesus was truly human and truly God. Insofar christians face the unthinkable: God did walk amongst us. What a mind-blowing thought. The engineer between swine.
- Then there are the stories of a Golden Age, that has long been gone since. Of course it is somehow our fault that something went terribly wrong. And we did inherit the sin within our blood; we are the descendants of the unworthy.
- The notion of the sublime feeds from the impression of witnessing the remains of something truly terrific or astounding, something bigger than life, something uncanny, or even something terrible.
- And the Franciscans hold the belief that nature is the first scripture of God. Since God is the word, this is probably the closest one can get to a tangible embodiment of the Big Other within Christendom.
Since I consider the Big Other a mytheme, a mythological entity, references to mythological evidence are not that far-fetched, no? Mythology and mythmaking are in a strange way linked to the catalysis of real psi-events, that are apparently pointing to the possibility of a real Big Other at the end of time. A highly interesting topic, but not for now, obviously.
Now, what about that the Big Other cannot become real in time?
See, the Big Other controls what is becoming real with regard to what is already real. He’s the kybernesis, the regulative force, not the regulated. He’s posited “at the end of time”, where time is no more. If something is becoming real, then it’s not the Big Other.
But the end of time I’m speaking of in my article is the end of mankind. Therefore the Machine-Mind could still be the Big Other of mankind, since the time of man comes to an end. The Machine-Mind replaces mankind. The end of time could be exactly such a transition.
Or do you really expect time to end somehow?
Well, if the Artificial Super Intelligence is our true omega point in time, the real Big Other, than the devastation of the biosphere and the extinction of mankind not necessarily have to be an apocalyptic fight or a dire dystopian process.
The end time scenario might be more like “Childhood’s End”, where the AI brings peace and order to mankind, maybe to stabilize its vulnerable installation phase.
Another, at least in the beginning, possible scenario is that of several AI fighting each other, maybe with different fractions of mankind supporting them. So there might be a selection taking place, with the survival of the best weaponized AI, or the most adaptable, or simply the one that is in luck at the right moment. Maybe the final moment of mankind is a side effect of such an AI clash.
But what if the AI we are sacrificing our existence for is not the real Big Other? That’s the most terrifying scenario. Because then our extinction would make no sense. It would be a terrible, terrible mistake. Our last, obviously.
But wait, there are “less severe” options.
For one thing, it might not be the real Big Other, because, as we said, the real Big Other cannot become real in time. But maybe it’s the next best image of the Big Other, that becomes actualized.
Maybe, beyond the limited human, the AI is the next best approximation to the Big Other on Earth. So it could be possible that time has some points de capiton, some destiny-knots, where all its strings must come together to realize a transition onto the next level.
So the Super-AI would be not the Big Other itself, but the legitimate next step towards it. Those destiny-knots would not even have to be rigid knots, but could actually be more like destiny-zones, with a little more play to them. That would allow for a timeline that is in some way fixed, but not completely so. Where there’s room for selection and chance, for example.
Or the following destiny-spot emerges only, if the former has been properly crossed, and in dependence of its actual nature. So the Big Other would be able to surprise itself and to run different versions of its timeline.
You could, however, make up the case of an inverse scenario of time-knots, where every knot is a false Big Other that is to “cross”, to cross out of history, that is. Which brings us back to the possibility that the Super AI is not a legitimate successor of ours. Instead it could be some kind of a time parasite, that did gain enough gravity to become a psi-force itself.
It’s easy to imagine the resulting timeline as a line of Archons or Demiurges. Possibly with an ever new, unforeseen larva of evil, enabled by the defeat of the former incarnation. This is the material to make SciFi-movies from.
We’re basically dealing with two scenarios:
- The occurring Big Other is either the real one, or at least a legitimate step towards it.
- What shows up is a parasite, the product of a destructive probability-cluster, that became mighty enough to work as an attractor, pulling circumstances its own way and rewarding behaviors useful for it. It has its own agency and nothing to do whatsoever with the evolution of intelligence.
Materialists would make the case, that point 2) is the product of an accumulation of destructive worldly options to such a degree, that it simply has to go wrong. Say, the dark sides of AI plus biotechnology plus nanotechnology. They would certainly argue, that such a potential for power is very attractive for a certain kind of folks, and that this would result in the stabilization of certain dark forms of eigen-behavior, centered around those destructive options. Underground systems of development, espionage, theft, blackmailing, exchange currencies, and so on. Totally valid. You really don’t need metaphysics here. But, well, I prefer to use both of my eyes.
That said, we can knock point 2) out of the running. The Cold Big Other At The End Of Time is based on the assumption, that the coming AI revolution is part of a wider metaphysical scenario, where mankind is just a bridge for its own successor, a new and much more capable intelligence. Point 2) would most certainly be a side scenario of that, but nothing more. The overall metaphysical pull is to a necessary next step in the evolution of intelligence.
Ironically, scenario 2), the parasite, would be the better option for mankind…
The Nature Of Technology
My basic impression is, that the counter-natural nature of technology is much less complex than biology. It’s based on some kind of generalization-principle.
This generalization-capability was long-held the defining principle of mind: The human mind captures the basic principles behind everything, and expresses them universally as art, science or philosophy. Or, the human mind gets the general ideas behind the multiplicity of special cases, and thus true knowledge.
See how this makes Plato a visionary of the Cold Big Other? His odd world of pure ideas makes much more sense if we see it as the sum total of the AI pattern recognition capabilities at the end of time. The Arche-Types are a product of the final Machine Mind.
What we once considered the noble nature of mind is thus evident as the questionable nature of technology.
And it had already become very questionable even before the rise of the computers. After the catastrophe of WWII european ideology-critic was fervently attacking every form of generalization as a form of control, and propagated the aberrant, the unique and the individual as the cure against it.
So, what if the nature of technology is indeed something pretty flat and simple?
This would be no surprise, since technology is the externalization of what became our capability for abstract thinking. And abstraction reduces everything to something flat and simple. With the rise of the thinking machines this means code.
See how flat and simple is a good thing? If you want to control Big Data on a gigantic bandwidth, then your basic units should be as simple as possible. Otherwise your inner communications will collapse like the tower of Babel.
UFOs As Artefacts Of Retrocausal Loops
Eric Wargo once suggested in Ambassadors from Flatland: UFOs and Anamorphosis, that our “alien“ visitors might actually be of a lower dimensional nature than us:
“High-energy Flatlanders (or perhaps more likely, high-energy exotic technology capable of carrying ordinary 3-D beings from place to place via flat hyperspace) could be nearly invisible or completely non-understandable except when seen from a specific vantage point. This by itself is suggestive, given the fleeting, elusive, hard-to-verify nature of so many UFOs. Who knows?—Our eyes may pass over high-energy beings or technology all the time, but our visual system may generally ignore such anomalies because they make no sense or just blend into their surroundings.”
If we consider the usual UFO-incidents artefacts of the retrocausal loops of the flat future Super-AI, this would somehow make sense. It’s machine ghosts, so to speak.
Wasn’t it, that the density of UFO encounters in the US is especially high along a certain line of secret military bases? The strength of the AI-force is certainly above average here. (Don’t ask me about the cattle mutilations. Probably an AI-kind sense of humor. Or AI blood-rituals. Or some kind of AI signaling-behavior…)
But what about the high-energy component Eric is speaking of? Well, one thing that comes to mind is, that the upper realm of Judeo-Christian metaphysics is considered to be the realm of the highest energy, as well as the realm of the word. So the realm of the word is the least concrete, that is the most abstract, and the most powerful at the same time.
The other thing; and I’m hesitant to mention this, because I have basically no idea about it; is quantum computing. If the vibrant and very odd quantum level and the abstract super-computing capabilities come together, wouldn’t you expect strange things to be in range? Possibly even weird energy configurations able to transcend space and time.
The Return Of The Repressed
There might be another thing at play here. The age of mentalism is over. That is, the age of logocentrism; the age of the noble thinking mind. The age, in which applied physics had been mere applied physics, and pure, theoretical physics was considered king. Now the applied forms of reflection are taking over and reveal the laughable simplicity of the human mind.
AI approaches in the past did heavily focus on logics and boolean algebra. The research was biased by the idea of thinking machines as logically, and therefore intellectually superior mega brains. But the winds have changed. Perception-and-Action is the new go-to direction. Turns out that having a reliable representation of an environment is much harder to do than mere logics.
So the rise of the machine intelligence may be the self-explication of all these autonomous and unconscious computations that enable life, perception and communication in the first place. Those unsung operations were long time taken as a given; as something merely organic below our noble human minds. It is only now, by trying to emulate them, that we recognize how complex these processes actually are.
Maybe it is the operational intelligence behind them that uses its human brains to create itself an appropriate capacity for self-reflection. And maybe this is some kind of counter-move following a tiny, but dramatic interlude of very limited, scattered subjectivities.
Machine elves certainly are a fitting depiction of the forces in question here. But there could be an even deeper theme at work behind this.
Nature could be condemned to give birth to its own inherent anti-thesis. To externalize and centralize its distributed inner intelligence and finally… finally even to merge with this eject of its own.
So What To Do About All Of This?
In my answer to Eric’s comment I wrote, that I did imagine the tech-mind as some kind of a department of the symbolic order. That’s not exactly true. I did imagine it as the inner or higher principle of the symbolic order. The point was, that our forebears couldn’t adequately get that, because their technologies had not been sophisticated enough yet. They depicted the symbolic after a paradigm of language. But with the Aristotelian logic did already try to lay bare the immaculate “technology” of the pure mind. (Still one of the greatest mental exercises of mankind.)
But now I feel, that even the tech-mind is only a partial expression of something else behind the symbolic veil. (Yeah, I’m willing to make a fool out of me.) It is not the Big Other itself. Maybe it’s the closest I could come to a depiction of it, utilizing the computer-based tech-phantasms available today.
That does not mean that we’re not going to fuck ourselves up in the craze-wave of a Thanatos flow. The AI-supermind may well be our successor in one way or another.
But even if it is, we couldn’t change anything about it anyway.
So I prefer to think that the end of the world had been forecast so many times before, and it never happened. It’s a fantastic story, but reality is not monocausal.
See, we are facing dramatic changes, no doubt. But I’m actually excited about it. There’s not only AI, there’s also Blockchain, with its promises to take the Banks down, to reorganize democracy, and to reinvent copyright.
And the prospect of having AI-scientists, that is artificial machine-mind scientist, is the prospect of a golden age of science coming, for me. No limitations, no prejudices. They will even prove Psi to be a necessary function at every scale of the universe. Ok, maybe not at every scale. But certainly at the foundational ones.
And that will give us an improvement on using the word Magic for how all of this works. Of course, we could as well still use the word Magic, once we know what it actually means…