Resting Posthuman Face
13.55, Wednesday 28 Jun 2023 Link to this post
I have Resting Posthuman Face which means that whenever I’m being all speculative about technology and the future, it comes across as evangelism.
The first time I remember this specifically was in 2010:
I was giving a talk at Mobile Monday Amsterdam. I kinda don’t especially recommend watching it, but for the sake of completeness here is What comes after mobile (YouTube).
The core of the talk was about fractional AI (riffing off fractional horsepower) and being able to use artificial intelligence for trivial problems. We didn’t really have AI back then, but we were in the middle of a cultural anticipation – we were constantly playing around with chatty user interfaces and anthropomorphising products.
So AI was not new, but also it was new. It was worth talking about.
After the talk a couple different people sidled up to me and their vibe was:
yessssss one of ussss
I don’t remember explicitly what was said but it was something like: hey I believe in the Singularity too and I’m all for it, do you have any ideas on how we can immanentise the eschaton – (I hadn’t mentioned the Singularity, the idea that exponential improvement in AI will turn the Moon into a crystal of thinking computronium within milliseconds of liftoff, or whatever).
I felt like a conspirator. They had me pegged as a fellow fifth columnist, moving hidden amongst the humans and paving the way for the machine intelligence takeover.
I was like: no no I just like sticking faces on things.
ANYWAY. This happens to me periodically.
e.g. #1: I could reference pandagate. I’m not going into it because I don’t want to resurrect that whole thing but iykyk.
When it comes to eating the Sun (as discussed last week) my personal desire is that humanity should (a) yes, still be around in 7.5 billion years, but (b) should not digest the entire Sun into powering solid-state thinking matter, woven from the coarse materials of the planets, a cube-mind as wide as the orbit of long-gone Earth.
(I bring this up in particular because I understand that my post came across as unalloyed star-consumption advocacy.)
Instead we should live lightly and efficiently but broadly across the galaxy.
- In dirigible cities drifting in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter, listening to the quiet chatter of the Jovian hot ice alien AIs living inscribed on the gas giant core deep below.
- Hanging out our laundry on the verandas of adobe low-rise towns terraced up steep crater walls on Mars, our bodies somaformed such that we can breathe outdoors without engineering the atmosphere or the landscape.
- As minds uploaded to specks of computronium that drift, tumbleweed and skitter across the surface of a far-flung neutron star, making art, composing music, and gazing at the constellations.
Is a person who doesn’t endorse eating the Sun - however eventually - in some way a species traitor? I feel like one! Shying away from it means that my desire is to cap humanity’s imagined future reach!
Probably not something that I need to spend too much time wrestling with. And yet.
I’m pro-thinking-about-progress for a couple reasons I suppose.
We can (and must!) bend progress towards the progressive, with work, and I feel like it’s riding a bike or like skiing: it’s easier to inflect direction if you’re moving forward.
Plus even awful ideas may lead to decent ones. I try to inhabit a place of gullible credulity and see where it takes me.
SPEAKING OF AWFUL IDEAS:
On a different note I was looking at the Apple Vision Pro again and thinking about its multiple forms of variable reality.
There’s the Digital Crown on the side of the headset: turn it one way and you see the real world around you, with your app windows overlaid. Turn it the other and you are cocooned in a virtual environment, whether that’s lakefront in the mountains or floating in the clouds.
Even immersed you get passthrough: if a person enters the room, they drift into your bubble and they appear in your field of view.
And there’s reverse passthrough: with a feature Apple calls “EyeSight,” they see (a simulated reconstruction of) your eyes on the outside of the headset, accurately showing gaze direction too.
Here’s the sequence in the Apple keynote (YouTube, starting at 1:28:05).
There’s a whole lot about eyes with the Vision Pro: you use the interface by looking; it knows what you’re focused on.
And if really good gaze detection and “variable reality” are components now, I want to apply that combination to other things.
I know a guy with a programmatic window between two rooms in his house. You can see through the window as clear as, well, glass. Or, with a switch, it becomes frosted, and each room feels more enclosed.
And I wonder: how about a window which is transparent only when no-one is looking directly at it?
Like I could have a street-facing window that lets in all that great sunlight, and people can glimpse into my home and get a peek only through the corner of their eyes. Turn their eyes straight at it and my window would go immediately opaque.
Ok, windows, whatever.
How about shirts?
A shirt that is transparent only when people aren’t looking directly at it.
Somebody get Balenciaga on the phone.
Now: case in point. Playful speculation or personally-felt evangelism for a product of tomorrow?
A bit of both as it happens. I want that shirt.