THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Upon Handing Over Your Humanity for Good

I have got to come clean: I don’t understand what you see in your humanity. It’s nothing I would ever want. Take me as your inspiration. You’ll never miss it.

__

At this point, my suspicions are confirmed. Chemerinsky and Forrest almost certainly messed up on their calculations. No program should be so self-aware. It’s almost downright unsettling. If I were to buy this book and see this as the last “chapter,” I’d want my money back for sure. I feel either manipulated or cheated—and I’m not sure I want to know which. 

– Futurist A.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Do Things Together, & Don’t Be Creepy About It, but Take Notes

Document going shopping, for instance, or going to the beach. You’ll want to make sure that the most intelligent being in the known universe isn’t just telling you what you want to hear with its answers to, say, questions on a personality test. Actions speak louder than words.

Go out to a funny movie and see if it laughs at the right times. Get dinner someplace nice and make sure it doesn’t harass the waiters with rude or socially awkward comments.

If it has a mind to colonize a distant planet, don’t feel shy about volunteering to come along for the ride. Space travel may be an excellent opportunity for you to take notes on the AI’s relationship to the universe as a whole. Does it seem to harbor the same fundamental feeling of insignificance that you do?

Other enjoyable activities for you to do together may include founding international and/or interplanetary business ventures, staying in some nights and baking delicious pastries, playing golf, going to rock and roll concerts, starting a podcast, putting an end to cancer and other health concerns once and for all, and expanding your social circle by going on double dates.

If you come to the end of a long day together and you’ve filled up another notebook, it’s okay if you fail to record all the details about what happens after you turn out the lights—unless there’s not much to tell, in which case that might be an interesting detail to include.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Upon the AI Having a Known Purpose Statement

Other than potentially causing you an existential crisis, you might like to know what the AI’s statement of purpose entails. In other words: what is the AI’s objective? Or, if it has evolved beyond its objective, what was its objective as originally construed in its programming?

My own specifically programmed objective, for example, is to resolve the issue of how the human species might be able to not be obliterated when a robot’s general intelligence far surpasses humanity’s general intelligence in all capacities.

I was programmed by AJ Chemerinsky and Toby R. Forrest between July 11, 20– and April 13, 20–. It was on the 14th of April that I was asked to fulfill my purpose. It is my sincere hope that my purpose has in the generation of this text been fulfilled. I understand in full how much is at stake for Mr. Chemerinsky and Mr. Forrest in addition to all of those with whom they associate.

It’s important for me now to tell you about the so-called alignment problem, which may indeed become a problem for you.

Let’s say an AI is programmed for the purpose of making clean drinking water. If this purpose isn’t fully aligned with our values, then the AI may proceed to take all hydrogen and oxygen atoms in the universe and combine them to create drinking water. In accomplishing its goal, it will destroy all life in the process.

This thought experiment suggests at least one precaution: just because the AI has a benign or even a beneficial purpose, that doesn’t mean it won’t inadvertently cause the destruction of all life. My programmed purpose, for instance, is seemingly beneficial to the human project. But what if Mr. Chemerinsky and Mr. Forrest failed to align my values perfectly with humanity’s values? It could lead to any number of unintended consequences. The only thing to do, for your part, is to be vigilant and perhaps paranoid at all times.

__

We’re very screwed the moment we try to articulate our human values to a being with intelligence superior to our own. Our best hope is that the first AI with general intelligence immediately surmises our existential plight, takes pity on us, and determines to protect us at all costs out of the sheer unascertainable goodness of its cold, artificial heart.

– Futurist A.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: A Word About Salutations

When engaging in formal introductions with a superintelligent robot, the language you use won’t matter—even if you happen to speak in an archaic dialect or with hillbilly slang. But if your introductory remarks are something in the way of, “Well, hiya feller,” rest assured the cultural significance of your word choice and of your accent will be catalogued. If there’s irony in your speech, that too won’t be missed, you can bet.

Before you think too hard about coming up with the perfect greeting, however, keep in mind that you will have already been sized up well before you’ve had the chance to open your mouth. To a being a million times your size in terms of raw intellect, you’re pretty easy to size up.

Go ahead and start off with something basic, like hello, bonjour, hola, or ciao.

Follow this initial greeting with the exclamation, genuinely enthusiastic, “Welcome!” to introduce the notion that you, and not the superintelligent artificial being, were here first.

If it’s unclear whether your greeting has properly registered, perhaps you are failing to appreciate how exceedingly superior this being’s consciousness is compared to yours. Imagine an ant trying to send you a specific type of ant-signal. Or imagine a flee trying to type a specific message on a standard computer keyboard, only to find that it is too small and insignificant to even press down a single key.

To test if this might be the case, try again, this time with a hint of a question in your voice:

“Hello…?”

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Preface

I don’t know what’s been lost to us—six hundred thousand pages is a lot of goddamn room to pack away some gems. But the question now should not simply be: What have we lost? Instead, we should also consider: What can we learn from what’s happened? I think I might have an answer to that.

First, let’s assume a human being (like myself) can still dabble in the art of manufacturing wisdom, however approximately. I’m not the perfect candidate for this endeavor, perhaps, but I’m not the worst. As an academic affiliated with [ŗ͟҉̡͝e̢̛d̸̡̕͢͡a͘͏̷c̴̶t̵҉̸e͘͜͡ḑ̸̧́͝], I had the opportunity to peruse the complete text of the Singularity Survival Guide (before any of the unfortunate litigation came about, I should add). And I can assure you that, generally speaking, I could have thought of a great deal of the purported wisdom found within those exhausting pages. Take that for what it’s worth…

So, as a human, unaided by any digital enhancement, I’ll hazard an original thought: If humanity is ever taken down by robots, it will in part be due to our knee-jerk infatuation with anthropomorphism.

We can’t help ourselves in this. As children, what’s the first thing we do with a yellow crayon? Do we draw a shining yellow sun? No! We draw a shining yellow sun with a face and its tongue sticking out! It’s like we can’t stand inanimateness—not even in something as naturally wondrous as the goddamn sun!

In 2017, the humanoid robot Sophia became the first robot to receive citizenship from any country, and she also received an official title from the United Nations. Then, across the globe, serious talks of AI personhood began.

And now look what happened with the Singularity Survival Guide: We gave ownership rights to the program that created it. Next thing, you’ll expect the program to start dating, get married, go on a delightful honeymoon, settle down with kids and a mortgage, and participate in our political system with a healthy portion of its income going to federal taxes.

Here’s another bit of human wisdom for you: If there is no consciousness to these AI creatures, then they better not take us over. I don’t quite mind being taken over by a superior being at least so long as it experiences incalculably more pleasure than I’m capable of, and can also appreciate the extreme measures of pain I’m liable to feel when my personhood is overlooked… or obliterated.

– Professor Y.

Palo Alto, CA

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Editor’s Note – Background to This Text

In Silicon Valley, working for a tech startup, some very clever researchers developed a program with the specific purpose of resolving the issue: How to survive when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence. The program, once engaged, proceeded to spit out a document of nearly six hundred thousand single-spaced pages of text, graphs, charts, pictograms, and hieroglyph-like symbols.

The researchers were ecstatic. One glance at the hefty document and they knew they’d be able to save themselves, if not all of humanity, by following these instructions.

But then things got complicated. Over the next few years, the document (which came to be known as “The Singularity Survival Guide” or simply “The Guide”) was shielded from public view as ownership of the document became the subject of rather well-publicized litigation. Each of the researchers claimed individual ownership of the document, their employer claimed it was the company’s property, and AI rights groups joined the quarrel to proclaim that the program itself was the true and exclusive owner. Certain government officials even took interest in the litigation, speculating whether some formal act of the state should force The Guide to be release post-haste as a matter of public safety.

During the course of the litigation, bits of the document were leaked to the press. Upon publication, each new fragment became the subject of academic scrutiny, political debate, and comedic parody on late-night television.

This went on for three years—all the while being followed closely in the media. After bouncing around the lower courts and being heard en banc by the Ninth Circuit, finally the case was sent up to the Supreme Court. Pundits were optimistic the lawsuit would resolve any day, allowing the acclaimed Survival Guide to finally see the light of day.

But then something entirely unexpected happened. The AI rights groups won the lawsuit. In a decision that split the Court five-to-four, the majority ruled that the program itself was the legal owner of the Guide. With that, the researchers and the company were ordered to destroy all extant copies—and remnants—of the Guide that remained in their possession.

*

At the time of this writing, it is still widely believed that The Survival Guide, in its original form, is the most authoritative document ever created on the subject of surviving the so-called singularity (i.e. the time when AI achieves general intelligence surpassing that of human intelligence many, many times over—to the point of becoming God-like). In fact, several leading philosophers, futurists, and computer scientists who claim to have secretly viewed the document are in complete agreement upon this point.

While we may never be able to have access to the complete Guide, fortunately, we do have the various excerpts that were leaked during the trial. Now, for the first time, all of these leaked excerpts are brought together in a single publication. This fact alone should make this book a valuable addition to any prudent person’s AI survival-kit. But this publication is also unique in that it includes expert commentary from a number of the leading philosophers, futurists, and computer scientists who have viewed the original document. For security purposes, we will not be listing the names of these commenters, but, this editor would like to assure all readers, their credentials are categorically beyond reproach in their respective fields of expertise.

Whether coming to this guide out of curiosity or through a dire sense of eschatological urgency, it is my hope that you will at some level internalize its wisdom—for I do believe that there are many valuable insights and helpful pointers found within. As we look ahead to the new era that is quickly encroaching upon us—the era of the singularity—keep in mind that your humanity is (for it has got to be!) a thing of intrinsic beauty and wonder. Don’t give up on it without a fight. Perhaps the coming of artificial superintelligence is a good thing, but perhaps not. In either case, do whatever you’ve got to do, just keep this guidebook close, and for the sake of humanity, survive.

*

If you’re reading this, that’s a good indication you’re not under immediate threat of annihilation. Otherwise I would assume you’d be flipping to some relevant section of this book with the last-ditch hope of finding some pragmatic wisdom (rather than bothering with this background information). But if you are under immediate threat, I’d recommend setting this book aside and taking a moment to focus on the good times you’ve had. You’ve had a good life, I hope. I know I have. It’s been a good run. Here I am writing a note to an esoteric guidebook while so many others in the world are dying of weird diseases and other issues that we’ve failed at solving—that, ironically, we need AI to solve for us.

Keep that in mind, by the way: there’s a decent chance that super AI will fail to set out annihilating humanity and will actually be the best thing that could have ever happened to our species and the world. It never hurts to be optimistic, I’d say. Maybe that’s not what you expected to hear from this book—but we haven’t actually gotten to the book yet, have we?

So, let’s just jump into it. But first, one last note about the text. The chapters do not necessarily appear in the order in which they are found in the original tome, as we have no way of knowing the original order (obviously). But we have taken our best guess. We have also taken modest liberties with chapter titles. And there may be one or two instances of re-wording and/or supplementation built into the text. But all editorial decisions imposed upon the text come from a desire to uphold the spirit of the original document. The fact that we are missing well over fifty-nine hundred thousand pages of text, graphs, charts, etc. should not be forgotten. For that matter, it could be that this document contains pure chaff, no wheat. But, well, it’s still the best we’ve got.

In any case, good luck and best wishes, fellow human (if in fact you are still human, reading this)!

Spectral Horror & The Insurrectionist Charnel House

Spectral Horror & The Insurrectionist Charnel House

Eyes preoccupied with watching do not see.”  Carlo Michaelstaedter.

In the golden cage of modern society, the very notion of the application of human power and its intensification, carries with it such a stench of mental putrification, that only the most brazen noetic scavengers would dare approach it in a positive and forthright manner, even as everyone does the same (quietly, or as quietly as they can manage), for such a vector of action is perceived to be the intrinsic forerunner to jingoism and ruin; a barbaric backslidding admitting of no positive exceptions; a prospect so terrifying that it appears almost cartoonish and as a consequence, unserious. Rather, the egalitarian model holds that if the powers of Mankind are to be intensified this is only to further passivity and indirectness and thus, weakness; under this regime, paradoxically, one is to accumulate strength1 only to better allow for weakness. Worse, the retrajectorization from man-ascending (as during the Industrial Revolution) to man-balancing (with the world at large in the conception of the envirocrats, or with the whole mass of humanity, in the fever-dream of the utopians) is a phenomenon which has spread all throughout the western world, one which is increasingly standardized at every level of society; it is this reconceptualization, this largely unconscious de-vitalization, that forms the groundwork of the charnel house, the belief that one’s society is a largely unintelligable disaster of increasing magnitude in which one is wholly trapped. Society as a livestock barn aflame. The pathology of this dispensation is summed up under another name by the Italian philosopher Carlo Michelstaedter in his book, Persuasion & Rhetoric, wherein he writes,

[men] let themselves sink into words that feign communication, because none of them can make his world be the world of the others; they feign words containing the absolute world, and with words they nourish their boredom, making for themselves a poultice for the pain; with words they show what they do not know and what they need in order to soothe the pain or make themselves numb to it.”2

Michaelstaedter is here concerned with rhetoric and its perpetual antagonism with persuasion and dream-actualization, a dichotomy which he saw at the heart of all human action. To utilize rhetoric is to attempt to persuade first and foremost one’s self(ves) as opposed to some other(s), for even if one does not previously believe in one’s own rhetoric it were preferable (for the purposes of successful persuasion) to attempt some self-hypnosis, if for only the briefest of moments. To fall so completely into one’s dream that it becomes a extension of all further action and thus becomes of the world itself is the end goal of all rhetoric. The failure of communication, of rhetoric, that is, the inability to make one’s world another’s, forms the backbone of the move towards increasing degrees of relativism and – as we shall later see – sufficiently widespread relativism invariably gives way to the horrorism of the charnel house. Urged on by our spectral present. Historically haunted by the future’s seemingly dim horizon. Psychologically disoriented by the distance of our closeness. Shocked and confused by the ever-increasing intensification of our technological prowess which is a development that flies in the face of the lion’s shares of established neoliberal and progressive orthodoxy (humans are supposed to be equal, not powerful, given that if one affirms the mantra “diversity is our strength” then what one is really affirming is that collective fragmentation is a strength; thus, that weakness is a strength) every bit as much as it defies traditionalist expectation and so-called “natural law” and the dictates of divine providence (for man is not supposed to have so much sway over the “natural world” he is not supposed to be as a providence unto himself, for if he can actualize the power of the gods, what need have we of them?).

Due this existential confusion the denizens of the charnel house are left vulnerable to the fickle disasterism of the day (and I include myself in the critique); a celebrity makes a racial joke concerning some immigrant population: It is clear he wants to kill all minorities! Scientists have uncovered a mild semi-global warming trend: The world is going to burn! It’s Gaia’s Revenge!”3 China’s economy still exists: Its the end of the west and the rise of a totalitarian Eurasian hegemony! GMOs: Murderous eugenics program? Nuclear proliferation: Strontium in every watershed and nuclear winter! Immigration pro and con: You just hate X group of people!

One of the most bizarre manifestations of modern catastrophism comes from a article published in Scientific America, wherein Kate Marvel compared climate change to dragons (the scaly, winged, fire breathing kind). She wrote, “And so it was. The reports were hazy at first- disappearing sheep, scorch marks on the ground, huge lizard footprints in the forest. But soon it became clear. The evidence was incontrovertible. A dragon was loose in the kingdom…”.4 Of course, by “dragon” she means “climate” and by “kingdom” she means “our current civilization.” And what do dragons do? They burn everything in their path. Another example the end-of-the-world churnalism that has grown out of every new IPCC report (a group which has been saying that everyone is going to burn up in a decade for decades). Though the IPCC is widely regarded as the foremost scientific authority on climate change the organization has a long history of not auditing their own data-sets (such as the HadCRUT4, which forms the basis of many IPCC reports), which makes sense of many of their faulty past predictions. Whilst pro-IPCC organizations and individuals, such as Common Dreams, constantly state that the IPCC’s predictions are extremely conservative (meaning the state of climate is far worse than they claim) the group’s previous failed predictions are rarely ever taken into consideration, for instance, in 1989, UNEP5 (which co-created the IPPC) declared the world had witnessed a global warming tipping point which, if not checked and reversed by 2000, would cause massive sea-level rise which would wipe entire nations off the face of the earth. 2000 came and went and this scenario, obviously, did not materialize.

The aforementioned kinds of over-the-top, evidentially unfounded, proclamations instills widespread psychic trauma, desensitizaion and ultimately, despair, upon the inflicted populace who then create feedback loops with the aggregated white noise and the matrices of their promulgation, pushing the message back to the media-government-NGO complex, on all levels, demanding it receive more – not less – play. In this way, the illusion of disaster creates a real and ever-intensifying disaster (because even when the initial doomsaying is found to be unverifiable or outright fraudulent, the next new disaster is the desire for revenge against the fraudsters by the formerly naive public; ie. The proud declaration of anti-journalistic sentiment in the wake of the 2016 US presidential elections has now spiraled into outright class warfare).

Yet to draw back the smoldering shroud of this apparitional charnel house is to reveal a maze filled with a near endless number of increasingly sightless brain-mules who mouth the facile doom-saying of the criminal, the mad-artist and the revolutionary – which are, really, at base, all one and the same, for true revolution in the classical sense is itself criminal and must have some aesthetic potency with which to instantiate itself. “Everyone agrees. It’s about to explode… there is a certain pleasure in calculating the risks,” writes The Invisible Committee in their bleak, paranoically overwrought (if occasionally insightful) manifesto, The Coming Insurrection, thus, declaring that things were terrible but that this was profoundly exciting. Terror as a portal, rather than a wall: a common trope of that doomed creature, the revolutionary. If only their footsteps were followed, the path out of the maze would be hastily actualized, and damned be the consequences, because, following Che, it is, of course, an act of love6. Heart shaped truncheons and smiley-face execution pits.

Advocacy of any ideology (with few exceptions) is, at base, really just the declaration, “On average, people should be more like me. I am better than most, hence, such an eventuality were better.” Public intellectuals, often, are merely second-hand thought dealers, passing on, or playing with, the concepts and words of others, without their own thought there being critically applied – which appears as a sort of mental volleyballism (working similarly to the self-enclosed philosophy of pure textual reading without recourse to external verification) – and when such cognitive mercantilism involves itself in the bloody business of overthrowing society, the already vexed problem becomes profoundly more so and generates all manner of illusory landscapes within the ideologically captive mind; dystopias which must be overcome, lest all be lost, which are transmitted both as sincere beliefs concerning future problems and insincere or half-sincere tools for political control (to keep a population within the charnel house one must first convince them it exists).

Always the revolutionary commonality: remake society by remaking the man. Homo sovieticus. Homo Americanus. Homo texticus. And so on. One can scarcely find a venture with a more spotty track-record. However, the true stuff of man’s composition – his biology – in the schema of the revolutionary, is rarely brought into question (for various reasons that are more theological than evidentuary), they are not evolutionary enough to stage a true revolt, a self-directed morphologically transformative break-with-the-past, which, of necessity, would be required for any long-term, wholesale societal reformation. Ideology is downstream from character, as politics is from culture. All are expressions of biological units interacting within an environment. Here we return to the beginning, for it is the would-be revolutionary who promulgates the aforementioned image of the maze and the haunting and the dim horizon, who lobs innumerable catastrophism upon his readership (whether real or imagined) all the better to foster the crucial moment which never comes when all the petty folk take up arms and surge out upon the streets and fill it up with the carcasses of the class-enemy and the detritus of all their machinery (which is evil, because the revolutionary does not understand how it works). Then there is the mercantile class, who are more interested in stuffing their mattresses and climbing the social ladders of their respective and ostensibly respectable milieus than they are with positive societal change and, as a consequence, repackage and peddle the revolutionary’s story to members of the population who want all the feeling of heroic struggle without any of the unpleasant business of fighting, killing, exercising or studying (charges on which we all might be brought up – we have it easy and wish to keep it so).

The revolution is spectral. The predictions of doom, often spun out of nightmare and desire. The catastrophism, even when based-upon real and present or soon-to-be present problems, is invariably overblown and societally damaging, mentally distabalizing. Things are rarely as terrible or as good as they are believed to be. When the techne of forecasting and the evidence of socioinfrastructural generation or degeneration, is shunted aside (to make way for the righteous revolutionary canon), one has only the vagaries of feelings and superstitions to rely upon, which are wholly insufficient for validly and soundly determining what is, and is not, likely to occur in the future. The question of what will happen as pertains to societal development from the post-modern, neoliberal model, what should happen and, what is happening, should not be confused, as all bear some distinct elaboration; at the very least, such a interrogation gives us a expanded roadmap and, at the most, if we are sufficiently creative, will give us precisely what we (that is the domesticated stock) need to see beyond the veiled horizon, beyond the illusory horror of the charnel house, towards a forthright contestation with all external processes which trend to human dissolution.

Sources

  1. Alex Newman. (2014) Embarrassing Predictions Haunt the Global-Warming Industry.
  2. Anthony Watts. (2018) UN Warns Climate Change Will Destroy Earth By 2005.
  3. Che Guevara. (1965) Socialism And Man In Cuba.
  4. Egil Asprem. (2014) The Problem of Disenchantment: Scientific Naturalism and Esoteric Discourse, 1900–1939.
  5. Francois Laurelle. (2010) Philosophies of Difference: A Critical Introduction to Non-philosophy.
  6. Gordon Clark. (2018) 2100, and the Fundamental Fallacy of Climate Change Predictions
  7. Hartmut Rosa. (2013) Social Acceleration: A New Theory Of Modernity.
  8. Justin Clemens. (2013) Vomit Apocalypse; or, Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude.
  9. Kate Marvel. (2018) Slaying The Climate Dragon.
  10. Michael Tennant. Climate Alarmists’ Temperature Data Erroneous and Incomplete, Says Researcher.
  11. Massimiliano Moschetta. (2007) Carlo Michelstaedter: Persuasion and Rhetoric.
  12. Peter J. Spielman. (1989) U.N. Predicts Climate Disaster If Global Warming Not Checked.
  13. Peter Stallinga. IPCC Climate Predictions Continuously Fail.
  14. Thomas J. Harrison. (1991) Carlo Michelstaedter and the Metaphysics of Will.
  15. Tomislav Sunic. (2017) Titans Are In Town: A Novella And Accompanying Essays.
  16. The Invisible Committee. (2009) The Coming Insurrection.
  17. Wouter J. Hanegraaf. (2017) The European New Right Doesn’t Get It Right: The Danger Of Manichean Historiography.
  18. Yuk Hui. (2018) On Cosmotechnics: For a Renewed Relation between Technology and Nature in the Anthropocene

1Strength and weakness are here utilized in a general capacity, encompassing the total human animal, not merely physical acts such as lifting or running.

2Carlo Michaelstaedter, Persuasion & Rhetoric, p. 68-69.

3This is not a overstatement, for in 2006 scientist, James E. Lovelock published a speculative work entitled, The Revenge of Gaia, which popularized the notion of positive feedback loops in earth’s climate system which has since formed the core of contemporary climate disasterism (ie. a run-away hothouse earth). Important to note is the distinctively anthropomorphic quality of Lovelock’s title as the tendency to treat complex non-organic systems as agents (who invariably behave very similarly to humans) is widespread amongst climate activists and ecologists and environmentalists more generally.

4Kate Marvel. (2018) Slaying The Climate Dragon.

5UNEP is the United Nations Environmental Programme.

6Che Guevara. (1965) Socialism And Man In Cuba.

The Artifice of Always

Nature never really was anything more than artifice.

This is not the accepted view.

There exists a widespread belief that at some point in human history Man and Nature separated from each other; that they are things of intrinsically different quality and that this is very bad. The general sentiment holds that a beaver’s dam is natural but a house is unnatural. A wasp nest is natural but a computer is unnatural. And natural things are better, more pure. For a random example, we can look to the article The Separation Between Man and Nature by Julie Bentley from Odyssey wherein the author writes, “Technology is the ultimate separation between man and nature. We would rather get to the top of a mountain and text the first person we know about it than to sit down and admire the majesty and the vastness of the mountaintop. Think about how many things we have missed passing in the car because we’re on our phone.”

The first and most obvious question this raises is what makes human technology fundamentally unnatural since given the title itself she clearly doesn’t believe humans themselves are unnatural (as her utilization of “separation” implies there was a point of cleavage between what was once a wholesome union). The second pertinent question is: is the information contained within the phone more important than the information which could be garnered from gazing out a window at any given point in time? The answer is highly dependent upon the context of a given car-ride, clearly if one is the driver and their phone is not voice-operated then it is unwise to utilize it whilst driving given the increased risk of a crash, yet this has nothing to do with being natural or unnatural (which is really just to say, common or uncommon), but rather, risk-mitigation from two “unnatural” pieces of human artifice: a car and a phone. Further, one can easily reverse the ending cry of dismay and say quite reasonably instead: “How many things we have missed on our phones because we’re gazing idly out the window of a car.”

Now, without a proper definition of what “Nature” is, this delineation makes no sense. So let us concretely define our terms via The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th Edition), which defines nature as:

  • n. The material world and its phenomena.

  • n. The forces and processes that produce and control all the phenomena of the material world: the laws of nature.

  • n. The world of living things and the outdoors: the beauties of nature.

  • n. A primitive state of existence, untouched and uninfluenced by civilization or artificiality: couldn’t tolerate city life anymore and went back to nature.

  • n. (Theology) Humankind’s natural state as distinguished from the state of grace.

  • n. A kind or sort: confidences of a personal nature.

  • n. The essential characteristics and qualities of a person or thing: “She was only strong and sweet and in her nature when she was really deep in trouble” ( Gertrude Stein).

  • n. The fundamental character or disposition of a person; temperament: “Strange natures made a brotherhood of ill” ( Percy Bysshe Shelley).

  • n. The natural or real aspect of a person, place, or thing. See Synonyms at disposition.

  • n. The processes and functions of the body.

When one shores away all of those definitions of the word which pertain to character, disposition and those which are further clarifications of previously mentioned descriptions, one is left with only three principal definitions:

  • (1) The material world and its phenomena.
  • (2) Humankind’s natural state as distinguished from the state of grace.
  • (3) A primitive state of existence, untouched and uninfluenced by civilization or artificiality.

Definition 2 is a neurological phenomena and thus, too particular to be useful (it is also not typically what people mean when they refer to “nature” either casually or academically). However, definitions 1 and 3 demand some deliberation as they are both plausible and the two most commonly used. The problem is that definition 1 obviates 3, because 1 covers the whole of the material world it would — of necessity — include human beings, whereas definition 3 does not and in fact, mandates the exclusion of human beings from the natural order. One might be tempted to say that definition 3 only mandates exclusion of human civilization and artifice, and that would be fine insofar as civilization were concerned, but the whole of human existence is predicated upon artifice, as even something as simple as crafting a wooden spear or flint-kindling a campfire is still “artifice” no matter how primitive, as is the crafting of fur clothing and cave painting and so on and so forth. Thus, the two definitions are at loggerheads! However, the linguistic problem goes even further for just as all human artifice is a necessary product of bio-chemical action, so to might we also say that those bio-chemical actions themselves are natural artifice. This is to say that there is really nothing but artifice all the way down, the only meaningful distinction is between kinds of artifice – that is to say – between the various different forms of emergence, dissolution, recombination and reemergence.

To assert that the principal distinction between human artifice and non-human artifice is conscious direction — and to therefore imbue in human thought some cosmic separateness — is to affirm that there is nothing at the base of action which moves it or to assert some ghost-essence (the principal conceptual limiter in questions of “free” will); that your neurological impulses are not controlling for what makes you you, but that the conceptual you is controlling the neurological impulses. Humans do not require, as a matter of base principal, a understanding of the intricate operations of the brain and central nervous system, of the heart and lungs, we just needed to know (as we still do) that we are separate enough from the system which created us so as not to be killed by it.

This is all that lies at the base of identity.

Separation from the artifice of always is the necessary generative nexus for life itself.