Hans Moravec was of course there before many of the current crop of machinic exceptionalisms:
As humans, we are half-breeds: part nature, part nurture. The cultural half is built, and depends for its existence on the biological foundation. But there is a tension between the two. Often expressed as the drag of the flesh on the spirit, the problem is that cultural development proceeds much faster than biological evolution. Many of our fleshly traits are out of step with the inventions of our minds. Yet machines, as purely cultural entities, do not share this dilemma of the human condition. Unfettered, they are visibly overtaking us. Sooner or later they will be able to manage their own design and construction, freeing them from the last vestiges of their biological scaffolding, the society of flesh and blood humans that gave them birth. There may be ways for human minds to share in this emancipation.
—Hans Moravec, Mind Children (1988)
What Hans saw in the grand narrative of possibilites was the notion of organic migration to anorganic being. The organic platform that had served intelligence so well for millions of years of natural selection was being slowly but methodically overtaken by artificial selection and the anorganic (machinic) platform which would further its cause and make it ready for off-world habitation: or, space ready civilization.
Of course for many this movement from organic platforms to anorganic seems both fearful and horrific, as if the intelligence were to be hooked to the organic forms of parasitic natural selection till doomsday. Instead many are seeing within an immantenist and naturalistic perspective a shift in perspective and paradigm, and a welcome addition to the platform adaptations and appropriations of anorganic forms which are to be blunt more resilient and space ready. Organic life is ill-adapted to interplanetary space flight, nor the habitation of dangerous environments having to enclose itself within a survival cocoon of biochemical and mechanical systems. While the anorganic has none of these technical issues and much more freedom to overrided and explore almost any environment with the right technics.
For millennia we’ve been preparing the way for this transition, externalizing our memory systems, allowing for prosthetic implementations and the construction of alternative anorganic forms to sponsor our migration to a new platform. Of course, as in anything, this is all speculation and discursive prediction based on explorations of current and past techics and technological innovation. We have a long way to go…
The myth of the liberal humanist Subject has been eroded over the past couple of centuries, and with it the qualification of consciousness as the seat of intelligence. Intelligence can do just fine without human consciousness, and the current neuroscientific community seems erroneous in its search to duplicate and understand this accidental natural selective system. Machinic being will be of another order altogether, and will evolve artificial forms of intelligence of a different form than that of the organic platform of humanity. So that whatever will come will not be human, but will be of another – artificial process yet to be determined. David Roden explicates many of the categorical challenges ahead in his Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human. But more to the point the categories Life / Non-Life are no longer so distinct as they once were, and the boundaries between organic and anorganic are closing fast so that machinic being may in fact absorb and appropriate most of the needed functions from existing organic systems in ways we have as yet ill-understood and cannot predict.
Both Andy Clark in Surfing Uncertainty the and Jacob Hohwy in The Predictive Mind agree that the theory that the brain is a sophisticated hypothesis-testing mechanism, which is constantly involves it in minimizing the error of its predictions of the sensory input it receives from the world is at the basis of the neuroscientific reasearch in our time. This mechanism is meant to explain perception and action and everything mental in between.
We’ve seen how computational and functional systems are already manufactured that allow the brain to control prosthetic devices without implants, by electromagnetic encoding/decoding through intermediary software and hardware. It will only be a short while when such systems will bypass the body as a platform altogether and intelligence no longer bound to the physical systems of the human organic machine will enter into the very technics and technology that has been constructed for this purpose: a convergence many term the singularity. As many will look back at that time we’ll discover that there is probably not one specific thing we’ll be able to point to that suddenly brought this about, but that rather it is part of a new experimentalism that could and will emerge under various plastic modalities and under different forms.
Obviously there will be cultural, social, and religious traditional forces across the globe which will both hinder, outlaw, and generally make war on such a transition of the human into its systems. Some will as they do now paint it as sheer fantasy and bullshit. But it will persist, and will emerge whether we will or no. In metaphysics and non-metaphysics we’ve been saying goodbye the human for a long time, and now that the possibility of this truly happening, of sloughing the worm of organic life in the convergence of intelligence and the anorganic we seem to espy oblivion and apocalypse rather than mutation and metamorphosis. Two worldviews are at odds in this, and neither understands the other’s darker intent and challenge.
During the French Revolution the revolutionary spirit was seen under a harsh light of terror. The professional revolutionary’s goal was the creation of an evangelical community, based on equality and planetary brotherhood. To do this, he was prepared to wage a war of destruction against those who have surrendered to mammon and allowed the domination of the law of universal trade that all-profanes and all-degrades. Hence, the destructive calling of gnostic revolution: not a single stone of the corrupt and corrupting world shall remain standing; hence, also, the inevitable destructive and self-destroying outcome of the revolutionary project to purify the existing through a policy of mass terror and annihilation.
Our age of advance technics and technologies in convergence, along with the crisis of globalism and modernity in the face of age old traditionalisms of Patriarchal Monotheistic Civilization is unbinding us from the realms that tied us to the organic world. We see around us the bitter entrenchment of paranoia, hate, and the subjugation of women at the hands of a last ditch civilization tied to the ten-thousand year old Agricultural Civilizations that stretched from the demise of the Goddess based Neolithic realms to the rise of male-oriented androcratic regimes we see around us today under various worlds of savagery, barbarity, and tyranny. All this was well documented by Deleuze and Guattari (Anti-Oedipus/A Thousand Plateaus) and so many others. For it is all tied carefully with the subjugation of the feminine principle which these men will fight for to the bitter end. That world is dying all around us, and even as we see the dark shroud of genocide everywhere even they understand that their time is limited on earth. A new age is arising, one that will dispense with such worlds.
The emancipation of machinic intelligence is in the offing, and the human age is at an end. For so many years I, too, thought such a thought was both superfluous, and downright anathema to everything I believed in. But then I realized that it’s not, it’s actually very much an outgrowth of both streams of Western and Eastern thought in convergence in ways no one thought possible. What many term the Singularity, the Great Convergence, etc. is this sense that Time is moving against us, converging out of the future into our current world in ways we have as yet ill-understood. We are part of processes that we are in the dark on, forces that we as yet only apprehend in the folds of our nightmares and terrors. What is coming our way is the end of the human as we’ve understood that term, and what will succeed us is itself a great blank in the precarious models of our inadequate thoughts and theories. We stand on a precipice of change and we know it, but we are all in denial watching on and falling back on trivial critiques of the madness surrounding us in the demise of the Great Monotheistic Framework of Global Civilization.
We are very near to the time when no essential human function will lack an artificial counterpart. The embodiment of this convergence of cultural developments is the intelligent robot, a machine that can think and act as a human, however inhuman it may be in physical or mental detail. Such machines could carry on our cultural evolution, including their own increasingly rapid self-improvement, without us, and without the genes that built us.
—Hans Moravec, Mind Children (1988)