De anima

Of course, I am some kind of Christian fanatic, or “Roman candle” as I prefer, but I still think people might have a use, even in areas such as manufacturing, and the economy. I will acknowledge that our replacement by robots has improved efficiency in many trades, especially those involving repetitive tasks. This includes fruit-picking, my Chief Agricultural Correspondent in California has explained, as he looks forward to the transformation of that state’s viticulture, which won’t be needing “wetbacks” any more.

What would the sciences be without robots? Or the arts, now that we know they can pot, paint, sculpt, and compose elevator music, as good as or better than our contemporary artists, and much, much, faster. Many blogs, and most comments threads, already appear to be written by robots; others could be improved by them. (I would give Internet links to all this stuff, if I cared.) They may also be able to act better, on stage. And while humans still have the advantage in other forms of entertainment, such as politics and slapstick comedy, robotic cameras and drones do a sterling job of capturing “the action.”

Yes, machines, for any specialization — and we have now some to design machines, thus progressively eliminating the need for engineers — can create a wonderful new world of leisure in which only the “one percent” need do any work at all. And as the humanistic Left have foreseen, their income may be impounded to provide pogey for the other ninety-nine. Alternatively, these “extras” could be progressively aborted, or painlessly euthanized, with numerous environmental benefits, including an end to any possibility of anthropogenic global warming. (There are people who object to capital punishment, but only for criminals; who, left to their own devices, tend to self-annihilate anyway.)

Moreover, should the machines discover some future practical use for humans, they will have the means to clone, to exact genetic specifications, thanks to the heritage of embryonic stem cell research. Better than humans, it now appears that “chimeras” can be hatched — in which a bit of human brain can be grown into the brawn of other animals, or vice versa. (Think of the revolution in policing!) And they may then be replicated, with incremental improvements.

Critics have warned against unforeseen difficulties, such as the early-onset arthritis that afflicted poor Dolly the Sheep, twenty years ago. But who needs old sheep? (And soon, who will need lamb, mutton, parchment, or wool?) Besides, further experimentation has solved that problem, and we now have cloned sheep that outlive the uncloned, in perfect health — sheep that may thus enjoy a higher “quality of life” by all of our current statistical markers, minded by unsleeping robotic shepherds.

Others — e.g. religious nuts like me — raise “ethical” objections, to slow the advancement of science. But what are ethics to a machine? Or for that matter, to the Obama administration?

So perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps that is the next stage of planetary evolution, and blogs like this one are merely cluttering the stream, like those ants in the Amazon I mentioned yesterday, or Mr Glenn Reynolds’s “army of Davids.”

Now that I think of it, perhaps the Darwin God has evolved human-like creatures on innumerable other planets in our galaxy, and beyond; and perhaps they did not destroy themselves in ghastly nuclear wars, or other conflagrations. Maybe they were simply outmoded by robots which, taking stock of new circumstances, calmly extinguished all surviving “organic” life; having machines that could mine and process any raw materials they might require, without the inconvenience of slave revolts. We look mistakenly for exoplanets that might accommodate water and trees, when instead we should be looking for those that are hard, smooth, shiny, and uncommunicative.

The question comes to mind, why would the machines wish to perpetuate themselves? I can’t think of a reason, except obsolete human programming — attesting the fact that humans are irrational; so many of them crazy Luddites, like me.