One of the suggested lessons was that by critically
examining hindsight we can obtain some insight. From that insight, foresight
This blog attempts some foresight by asking, what is
the next step that humanity is likely to take in disconnecting from nature?
First: some insights that can be obtained from our
hindsight. Each step taken to move us away from nature was done so either establishing
or bolstering a meme of disconnection.1 At least six such memes can
must be controlled, tamed, and conquered.
thinking is split into dualisms of; mind/body, heaven/earth, inner/outer
worlds, and self/environment.
nature. In this way, the forces and energies of nature are tainted with
human-like spirit, rather than their own (natural) spirit.
The goal of humanity is to transcend nature, either by improving nature,
or by ascending beyond nature.
Nature is nothing more than a machine.
exceptionalism. Humankind is the exception to the rule. Humanity is the perfection
of life, either God-given, or as a result of evolution.
So, what could be the next step away from a connection
It is not so hard to imagine what it is likely to be,
as the signs are very clear. Indeed, we have already lifted our foot off the
ground to take the next step.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its various
manifestations (e.g. robotics, virtual reality, ChatGPT, driverless cars) is
well established and gaining momentum at an alarming rate.
We already know how much electricity AI consumes
globally. It is enormous! The impact upon fossil fuel use is massive, and
predicted to increase significantly.2
What may be less known is the requirement by AI for
greater quantities of hardware than other forms of computing. This puts immense
pressure on resource use, as well as contributing to the growing e-waste
Those are just two of the impacts of AI upon nature.
What of the memes that maintain and propagate our human disconnection from
nature? Read through the following quotes and see how many of the half-dozen
memes referred to above you can pick:
‘In this future, you will be able to
teleport instantly as a hologram to be at the office without a commute, at a
concert with friends, or in your parents' living room to catch up… We believe
the metaverse can enable better social experiences than anything that exists
today,…The metaverse is the next frontier in connecting people, just like
social networking was when we got started… it symbolizes that there is always
more to build, and there is always a next chapter to the story…The future is
going to be beyond anything we can imagine.’
Astute readers will no doubt have recognised the
reference to metaverse, and hence that these may be quotations from Mark
Zuckerberg. Indeed, they are. The quotations come from his “Founders Letter” of
Mark Zuckerberg reiterated and expanded upon these
ideas at the Meta Connect Conference in September 2023. In his keynote
address he claimed that, via Meta, ‘(virtual and augmented reality) will be
better than we have today.’ And hundreds of bright-eyed techno-optimists in
the audience applauded him!
Zuckerberg’s dream (others might label it a
nightmare) is still off in the future. However, with the ever exponentially
expanding pace of AI it may not be far off.
Zuckerberg is not the only one expounding upon this
nightmare. Others too are taking the meme of conquering nature and going
a step further to doing away with nature altogether via augmented
virtual reality which ‘closely resembles’ nature, but is not
This next step surely is one of the most
frightening ones we are likely to take. Critics of AI warn that the dangers in
AI are not AI itself, but that AI will exacerbate every other danger that we
already face. Think about that. Think of a danger, then multiply it by 10 or
100. Then think of another danger and multiply that also by 10 or 100. Do that
with each and every danger. Surely, it is unthinkable. Surely, we should not be
thinking of expanding AI in any form.
At some stage, very soon, we must recognise that
the steps we have been taking over the past 10,000 – 12,000 years have taken us
in an unhelpful and unhealthy direction.
We have to realise the foresight, and find the
courage, to walk away from that path.
1. Meme is a word coined
by Richard Dawkins and is analogous to gene. A meme is an idea, belief,
behaviour, or style that spreads through a culture via imitation. Eventually a
meme becomes so common that it is assumed by that culture to be normal, or the
usual state of being.
2. For example, Microsoft and ExxonMobil have entered a
partnership that will increase production from the Permian Basin (in Texas/New
Mexico) by as much as 50,000 barrels of oil-equivalent by 2025. https://www.hydrocarbons-technology.com/news/exxonmobil-partners-with-microsoft-to-improve-permian-efficiencies/
accessed 4 February 2024