Humanity Plus Magazine Interviews Ancient Lasers

Ancient Lasers @ BIL 2012

[Ancient Lasers is the musi­cal work of Daniel Fin­fer, a Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. Artists love to say their music has a mes­sage, but what hap­pens when that mes­sage is “the Sin­gu­lar­ity is Near”? Musi­cian Daniel Fin­fer cre­ates albums that explore the con­cepts and con­se­quences of accel­er­at­ing tech­nol­ogy while still pos­sess­ing enough pop-music chops to make them acces­si­ble. Ancient Lasers has tracks with titles like “You in the Future” and “Replac­ing You.” On first lis­ten they may sound like Finfer’s singing to a girl, but lines like “I don’t need you in the future” are about post-singularity robots dis­miss­ing the need for humans. Pretty trippy stuff, and awe­some to lis­ten to.] – Singularity Hub

By Rachel Haywire

Questions

1. If you could get one augmentation what would it be?

While it would be nice to have titanium skin or lungs that would allow me to breathe underwater, the augmentation I would choose is one that should be the top priority for scientists working in this field. Intelligence expansion. That’s really step one, isn’t it? If I could increase my intelligence, and my capacity to understand intelligence itself, inventing new augmentations on my wishlist would be much easier. I know that is kind of a cop-out of an answer, so if intelligence-expansion wasn’t on the table, it would probably be human flight. I have a terrible fear of airplanes, which I’m fairly confident stems from the fact that I was in a plane crash as a young child. Kind of ironic I teamed up with a band called Idiot Pilot to produce Ancient Lasers, isn’t it?

Selective hearing would come in handy these days, as well.

 

2. How would you feel about becoming a cyborg?

It depends on who is turning me into a cyborg. One of my biggest worries related to technology is its abuse by world governments or cyber-terrorists. I have a hunch becoming cyborg would in some way involve the internet, and we have a long way to go before someone will convince me to drink any cyber-Kool-Aid. I mean, I don’t want Wikileaks or Anonymous hacking into my thoughts. My mind feels like the last place I can still hide in this world; where no one can get to me. Facebook and Twitter both started out as seemingly innocent, fun places to post your thoughts and digital records of your daily organic life. But look at what’s happening now: the government basically turned social media sites into one giant population-monitoring system, and they love it.

If we are talking physically, sign me up. I would love to take a MechWarrior or a Gundam suit for a spin someday.

Ancient Lasers Studios

3. Do you think there is going to be a war between humans and machines?

You could argue there already is one. Certainly in the job market, at least. Machines have achieved a level of complexity that is actually putting people out of work, and I’m afraid it’s only going to get “worse”. I use quotes because it all depends on your point of view. Sure, automation creates unemployment, but that’s because we are currently operating in an obsolete economic system that doesn’t know what to do with the unemployed. I think the definition of a “job” is going to change dramatically in the near future. We are transitioning towards a post-scarcity world (hopefully), so maybe someday our jobs as humans will be to simply imagine and create. The entertainment industry is currently one of the largest growing sectors, after all.

Getting back to your question, however, I do think there would be a cataclysmic event involving a post-human Artificial Intelligence if it was built carelessly. As a human, I have empathy for my infant self, and look back on those years fondly. But how do I feel about myself when I was an embryo? I don’t have any empathy – because I was so drastically different back then I might as well have been someone else entirely. That is how I believe a post-human Artificial Intelligence would regard humanity – some kind of pest getting in the way of its quest to maximize complexity and reverse its own entropy. If it came down to that – a war between humans and a greater intelligence, I wouldn’t even try to fight it. I would throw my gun at its feet, knowing that my role as a human was to build a post-human. I could find comfort dying at the hands of a machine – it would feel like some cosmic passing-of-the-torch. Obviously, I would prefer not to.

Another possibility is a war between humans at various stages of technological progression, much like the war between Homo-Sapiens and the Neanderthal. History is one long race to some distant, intangible finish line – hopefully whoever gets there first still has some compassion for humanity.

4. What is the best way to make people more aware of Transhumanism?

This is a very tough question – in fact one I try to answer every day as an artist focused on educating people about Transhumanism. Clearly many artists and visionaries have tried. John Lennon’s “Imagine” is a perfect example. But as they say, a fish ahead of its time is doomed to die on dry land. You would think by now we’d have figured it out, but the people in charge don’t want us to “figure it out”. Lady Gaga, for example, has a very transhuman message that I think resonates with a lot of people. But most people don’t realize that she actually studied fame, and pretty much had the concept for her career planned out. And at the end of the day, there’s still someone at the record label looking at the bottom line. There is only so much she can do within that business model. Most entertainment is focused on making us forget how utterly astonishing it is to be human; to be alive at this moment in history. This is the bottom of the funnel.

Corporations are excellent at making us feel like we’re important, when in reality they regard us as a dollar sign or a number on the computer screen. And for a while, it worked. It felt good to go to McDonald’s, or Starbucks, or Best Buy. It felt good to be ‘part of the club’. People have an evolutionary need to belong somewhere…to be part of a community. We have always been that way, it is in who we are. Even before corporations, you had Nationalism and Religion – two major systems that are also starting to fall apart. When I was a kid, it seemed like it made sense, and, hey, it was fun. Fireworks on the Fourth of July? Christmas presents? Sign me up! The people at the top of these institutions are experts in marketing.

But to the mainstream, Transhumanism is terrifying. I mean, even to me, it’s terrifying, and I’ve been researching it for seven years now. Clearly the answer isn’t at the bottom of a Coke Zero or in the pages of an ancient book. I think one thing that a lot of us involved in this new movement have in common is that we aren’t satisfied with the answers we’ve been taught in school. We have to spread this message, because it is all we can think about. The message is spreading, thankfully, and hopefully we can turn others on to it. Right now feels like the Sixties on Steroids. And it’s happening because everyone on earth is getting the real information, as they come online.

The bottom line is that we need more money funneled into science. Plain and simple. We need to get it out of archaic systems and institutions, but we need to show and tell people why. That’s what I do with my music, or at least try to.

5. What would your ideal future look like?

My ideal future would be some sort of ‘consensus reality’, that is, a reality where everyone can find the place where they belong and feel happy. There is a theory about what will come after science called Thalience, a term coined by Karl Schroeder. Assuming that in a post-human world everything will become intelligent, eventually the entire universe will expand to become itself. We would all be one. The universe we would become could play games with time and space, relive past memories, talk to lost loved ones…Anything. But maybe we would get bored after a while and make some sort of ‘surprise button’ – where one day we decide “Okay, we’re bored, so let’s invent a way to keep it entertaining.” Maybe this entire universe is the result of a post-human getting bored and pressing that button. I don’t know. They’re only theories.

In the end, I think an ideal future is one where we can look back on all of this and feel like it mattered.

6. If you could change one thing about humanity what would you change?

Everyone has to crabwalk.