Dangerous Days 02 is about man and machine and our lasting but ever changing relationship. Questions arise which demand an answer or at least discussion and a thought process which prepares us for possible current and future scenarios that arise from this relationship between human beings and machines. How deeply does this affinity between creator and the created affect us and how far back does human use of tools date? How did the spark originate which led to the first human artifact? Was this first artifact simply a tool for performing the basic tasks of living, or was it a weapon, as Stanley Kubrick has it in his sci-fi classic “2001: A Space Odyssey”? And what happens as we apply more computing power and AI to already advanced systems? After all, German engineer Konrad Zuse invented the computer solely to ease his job, which involved a huge number of calculations. Will high-tech eventually overcome us, like many fear or will we/should we merge with our beloved machines? Erica, the most advanced communication robot of our time, has been developed by Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratories in Kyoto Japan, whom I’d like to thank for allowing me to use Erica’s image. Erica can speak, and even in a natural, colloquial way. Perhaps, in a casual conversation, she can convince you that there is nothing to worry about.
United Kingdom’s finest, Mr. Grimes Adhesif, produced this part’s deep and mysterious, to the point “Robot-Mix”, built on my field recordings.
Movies like ‘Westworld’ and ‘The Terminator’ suggest that the machines we might soon be able to produce will gain self-awareness and eventually turn against us. I find this to be a rather adventurous thought because after all, what you do with a hammer is what YOU do with it. It’s more important to understand that technological progress has throughout history been abused but also brought into existence, mostly by the military community and greedy industrialists and investment firms. The goal is to push the use of tech to more peaceful and cleaner shores and away from pure profit oriented minds and warlords, to get our star ship back on track and into a sustainable mode. We have proven that we can build and construct almost anything by engineering customized tools and with those, unbelievably complex machines. For decades we have been sending robots and droids into the far reaches of our solar system and beyond, to explore for us and find proof of life. Is now perhaps a good time to define what makes a machine a machine and what characterizes life?
Is a city a machine if its gears are living beings interacting with constructed matter? How about a company skyscraper, train station or club? Looking at the way we interact with machines of various complexity reveals the already far advanced level of our interrelationship with machines. Perhaps a future human versus machine scenario is less likely than a machine equals human one, as Fritz Lang described in “Metropolis” or as much later, the band Kraftwerk would describe with their electronic music album “Die Menschmaschine”. But if we do in fact create beings who are able to gain self-awareness and a will of their own, it’s advisable to first examine how we have been treating living beings with whom we have so far shared a world, a ‘life-space’. Fauna and flora species have been around for quite some time in comparison to ourselves, yet we turned out to be an aggressive and shortsighted roommate, extinguishing a larger part of all species within no time. In fact every minority, especially within our own species, is terrorized by the “superiors” which mostly results in exploitation, forced labor and sometimes death.
When talking about tools and machines one does not get around the key questions of self-reflection and self-awareness. Ever since prehistoric humans painted on the walls of caves in which they lived we have been reflecting on ourselves in manifold ways. The purpose of art is not what today’s insane auctions want to make you believe it is, but rather art is a much more fundamental human activity, and we have been devising tools to do it better. Tools became extensions of ourselves and simple variations like the ones crows use to speed up their way to a tasty snack, over time evolved to brushes, pens and paper, the Gutenberg Press and further to very complex machines engineered by a large group of experts. I marvel at the Large Hadron Collider, the International Space Station and the space programs of the nations, the internet and supercomputers, the first high-speed train, the “Shinkansen” and countless other inventions. From marveling I move to admiration and then to thinking about emotions like love and hate in relation to technology. Both the simple tool and the complex machine are capable of triggering affection and even love in a human being. Does it make us gods if we love what we create? And if so, does it render us devils if we destroy what we hate using technology?
The desire to optimize ourselves, to obtain above-average powers, to avoid disease and even death is as old as we are, and a fast growing medical knowledge base propels this desire. The science of our own, most fundamental system which is the human body, is now developing at the same pace as that of other high-tech fields do, leading to ever longer lifespans. It is only natural that some people try to clone or re-create themselves with seemingly unorthodox methods in order to bypass the inevitable. Will technology and its integration with our physicality and mentality soon make Moore’s law, which says the content capacity of silicon chips doubles every year, applicable to human life expectancy? If you live in Okinawa you can expect to turn 115 or 120 if you are in your mid 40’s now. Clearly it’s the extremely healthy diet and calm lifestyle which both made this possible and also made the island famous. But there are reverses in optimization trends also. Now things are changing in Okinawa, as junk food and tons of sweets have made their way onto the island, causing obesity and other new health problems. Little did they know that no-one shall dare to fight the sugar industry … it would be like fighting Pablo Escobar.
This kind of problem poses questions to us about food technology and other technologies. How much artificial matter in a human body is too much? Where is the threshold rendering someone a Darth Vader? The percentage of artificial matter to boost just looks, can go up to 40% already. You can even choose a face from a catalogue these days and “wear” the same one as hundreds of others do. It gets you closer to your idol who in return makes even more money while increasing the fame factor. Youngsters who spend a fortune on their face-changes mostly don’t originate from wealthy families. They “invest” in their face, believing it will improve the chances to climb up a few more notches on that social and financial ladder. But the price they pay is high and there is no guarantee anyway except for loss of personality that comes with such a profound change. Although plastic surgery is certainly useful for outlaws and those who are in need due to medical issues, it’s otherwise not a desirable option. Except for a new kind of victim: the unfortunates who have been falsely and publicly denounced and can’t endure the pressure (“shitstorm”) any longer. There is nothing you can do about such a problem. Once you are tagged, that’s it for you because social and other media are mercy-less and the network never forgets. As we have “learned” from the White House, this was one of the key strategies of “The Orange Maniac”. But respect and compassion are indispensable features and preconditions if we want to cooperate with or sustain any form of life. Luckily we already have the Ethics of artificial intelligence in place, so what could possibly go wrong.
Android Erica: Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratories, Kyoto, Japan
“Dangerous Days 02 | Robot-Mix”: Grimes Adhesif (UK), London
Photos, video, text, drawing, audio field-recordings: Oliver Lins (AT), Berlin
Dangerous Days 03 (Structure/Network) with audio contribution
by US producer Stewart Walker, coming February
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