By John Zerzan and Artxmis
In the past few months there’s been huge interest, unsettling interest, in the arrival of chatbot technology, which seems in a position to replace most human symbolic capacities. The new artificial intelligence-based “machine learning” chatbots, beginning with ChatGPT, can write essays, scripts, novels, produce art, etc., with the push of a button. Who needs humans?
High tech “advances” are swallowing us by leaps and bounds, apparently. Jobs have long been outsourced, made redundant by cheaper labor elsewhere.
Now it is thinking itself that is being outsourced. Not that it is thinking itself that is at work here. Via algorithms and an almost unlimited amount of data information, millions of computations can draw on a vast available of inputs to assemble answers to many, many questions. Sometimes incorrect answers.
It’s a highly sophisticated machine operation, not actual thinking. In 1950, math genius Alan Turing predicted that by the year 2000 the culture would be dominated by a resemblance to machines. Not, he pointed out, that the technology would’ve by that time evolved to human-like resemblance, but that people would be more machine-like.
The appearance of the chatbots and their range of capacities contrasts with our decline. We now have worse health, mentally and physically, fewer skills, less autonomy. Faced with the Machine, we’re losing more ground. Little wonder that the new tech freaks us out, even to the point of existential panic.
Deeper questions may be emerging, namely: Is the value or meaning of the entire symbolic culture up for grabs? Is it that symbolic culture maybe isn’t worth so much if it can be so easily replicated?
Symbolizing is at the very foundation of civilization, as civilization is now crumbling on all fronts for all to see. The apocalypse is arriving, in tandem with the technology that is its embodiment. Apocalypse is a word that announces a revealing.
So much is, in fact, being revealed, at the same time that the dominant culture works to keep the revealing from becoming a danger to its existence.
John Zerzan is a local anarchist writer whose books include Elements of Refusal and Future Primitive. You can listen live to his “AnarchyRadio” at 7 pm Tuesdays on KWVA 88.1 FM or via audio streaming.