Solid state

The Malibu Water Crisis on Aug. 21 forced the “Techno-2000 Author’s Forum” to be rescheduled to Sept. 4, 3:30-6 p.m. at SuperCare, hosted by Dr. Fiorella Terenzi, astrophysicist and myself, as a benefit for the newly endangered whales and dolphins. Was this a preview of Y2K, as Malibu’s mayor, Walt Keller suggested? Aside from the prestige of the participation by such globally renowned SciFi writers as Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven, and local luminaries including Stash Klowsowsky, Leigh McCloskey and Carolyn Mary Kleefeld — let me take this opportunity to tell you what this is all about.

Technology can save or kill, free or enslave, depending on whether it is informed and guided by consciousness and natural intelligence. The impending Y2K bug debacle, with a consensus-projected price tag of some trillion dollars (assuming hopefully that nothing really horrid happens) points our attention, or should, to something terribly unreliable in the software technology upon which we are increasingly making our lives dependent, at an ever-accelerating rate. Is this a splendid example of the “Lemming Phenomenon” on a global, human scale? In the many press/media reports about Y2K preparations, what I have not heard even once, is the obvious conclusion that there may be something fundamentally wrong in the way software is built, and in the culture surrounding that process.

Apparently this very obvious concept is also very taboo in the media culture. The fact is we have placed ourselves in the hands of a new reality created by gigantic corporations whose only goals are to individually advance their bottom lines and stock prices — their dominance of the marketplace, media and indeed reality itself. And as this reality captures all humans, it also encroaches on the natural environment and the other species sharing the planet and the seas with us. Nothing like this has ever happened before, here. Today software is the biggest thing in the world, and is rapidly expanding in this role and status. Guided only by market forces (which we see are easily manipulated by the largest the players themselves), and without consciousness, reflection and awareness of the big picture, it leads to one of two conclusions: (1) the whole thing is going to collapse into a horrendous mess, which we will then need to clean up, assuming we survive; or (2) it will turn into a competing “life form” that will take control, replacing the natural order. That such an unnatural system would be benign (or even efficient) I must regard as entirely unjustified religious speculation or advertisement.

Once merely the speculation of SciFi authors and maverick scientists like my old friend John C. Lilly, MD — “a solid state intelligence” pushing aside the old biological life forms it no longer has a use for — today has become a real possibility (or perhaps even an observable phenomenon).

Who (or what) is really in control? The richest corporation in the world, with unlimited resources and access to technology and experts, has proven unable to build reliable software products, and today we all spend thousands of hours each year, and untold billions of dollars, fumbling over growing numbers of built-in bugs, viruses, and security holes in packaged software everyone feels obliged to buy and use, that is mass-produced and distributed before it is complete and ready for use. But Microsoft is merely a symptom, not the cause. As software and network systems become more complicated, it becomes clearer that the basic technological methods that are used, adopted long ago when things were far simpler than they are today, are simply inadequate to the task. These trend lines — rising complexity and crucial survival dependence on technology, coupled to archaic methods and falling human capacity to cope, as a result — would seem to predict a rather bad outcome. The alternative is to restore consciousness and natural creative intelligence to the equation. This requires we bring lucidity into our software technology, embedding it in a culture that is adequate to contain and convey its meaning from person to person, from a program-creator to that same person over time, and in the long run, across the cultural fluctuations of historical time and different locales. In other words, we need a lucid, humanistic and natural cultural form in which to hold the technology of computers, programs and communications — and to look to historical prototypes for forms of sufficient richness. And fortunately the Quantum Theory has now arrived at the stage where it may help us to enquire: What is the connection between intelligence & consciousness?

Francis Jeffrey

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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