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AI, Darkness, and Consciousness

Martin LeFevre:  You can feel the earth ready to explode with life after all the precipitation in California in recent weeks. The squalls of rain and snow off the Pacific continue however, delaying the spring sun.

The shallow stream of summer is a small river roaring by, but you can still hear hawks cry, and woodpeckers pound the dead branch overhead. To really listen to the sounds of nature when there is almost no man-made noise is an extraordinary thing.

Just as I wrote that sentence in my journal on the bank of the swollen stream, a chainsaw started up on the other side. ‘Coincidences’ like that have become very common.

What has been invisible has become visible; what has been metaphysical has become physical: and what has been occult has become a cult. The urgent question now is: Is consciousness as we’ve known it for thousands of years synonymous with darkness? Has what was a major river in most cultures become a worldwide ocean in a global society?

We all know that families pass down their pathologies, and those members that exhibit them, or try to break free of them, are called “black sheep.” Even when the term is applied to a miscreant son or daughter, it always involves scapegoating. When it is applied to one who dares to speak the truth, it’s evil.

Of course the darkness and evil that runs through family lineages doesn’t remain in family lineages. There’s a silly show on PBS in the USA called, “Finding Your Roots,” which traces celebrities’ ancestors back hundreds of years, revealing hidden details from recent progenitors, and unknown facts about early family history in America and beyond. The host often asks questions like, “How does it make you feel to know that your great, great, great grandfather owned slaves (or was a slave)?”

The show is emotionally voyeuristic, like so much else in American media today, though it is at times moving. At the end, the host surprises the guests with the picture of a well-known cousin ten times removed, usually also in show biz.

The point is if you back far enough, we’re all related, a conveniently unspoken fact in the hyper-personalized show in this hyper-personalized culture. The absurd over-emphasis on the personal allows Americans to see and feel no relationship to the mass murders that have become normalized in this culture, and to blithely refer to the evil without looking any deeper or wider for its roots.

Of course, evil is as old as man, though not any older. However we are even less clear than previous ages on where it comes from, how it operates, and what its endgame is.

As I philosophically understand evil, with which I’ve had much more than a passing acquaintance, it is a concentrated and intentional current within amorphous and inchoate collective darkness.

Children are not born evil, but they are often born into evil. Evil cannot be psychologized, or rather, current psychological models are wholly inadequate to understanding and dealing with evil.

Darkness is cumulative in the individual and in human consciousness. There is more evil in the world now because there is more unaddressed darkness within, between and shared by people, irrespective of country and culture. And since darkness is increasing, so is evil, which has become normalized on one hand, and the source of endless titillation in the entertainment and media industry on the other.

One mainstream commentator, not given to hyperbole, recently wrote, “We typically reach for science fiction stories when thinking about A.I. I’ve come to believe the apt metaphors lurk in occult texts…the coders believe they might summon demons. They are calling anyway.”

People who have no understanding of evil should not speak about it in figurative terms. Is he being metaphorical or not? In typical American fashion, he’s trying to have things both ways.

The chief executive of Google, Sundar Pichai, a tech executive also not known for overstatement, says, “A.I. is probably the most important thing humanity has ever worked on. I think of it as something more profound than electricity or fire.”

Really, more profound than fire, the domestication of which is the foundation of not only all technology, but the enlargement of the human brain? (Cooking meat allowed a much greater caloric absorption. Along with the communal nature of eating and warming around a fire, there was an evolutionarily rapid growth and complexity of the human brain.)

So what are people talking about when they say AI is “more profound than fire?” Is a “new form of intelligence being ushered into the world,” or is AI essentially higher thought externalized and on steroids?

We are standing at a juncture as a species, where consciousness, self-made darkness/evil, and this new form of thought in the world converge.

Below the surface level of dead end individualism, and the deeper level of bygone tradition, human consciousness is a single movement. What has always been true at the core level of consciousness is now apparent at the manifest levels. We aren’t separate selves, but synaptic nodes that are converging and speeding up, with AI mashing all the cells of selves and contents of consciousness together.

Man-made hell is already physically and metaphysically manifest in the world; AI threatens to completely unleash the underlying darkness that has been suppressed and somewhat contained in consciousness for millennia, whether as dogs of war or the bogs of control.

Therefore a working understanding of darkness/evil within us has become imperative to our inward and intellectual survival and growth as human beings.

The more one believes “I’m an individual,” the more one is a conduit for collective darkness. There are countless dividuals, but very few in-dividuals, just as there are innumerable humans, but very few human beings.

With genuine humility and self-knowing, one turns the tables on evil, because the last thing our demons want is for us to learn by remaining with our own portion of darkness, and thereby transcending it. Doing so, another order of consciousness altogether emerges.


Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue. 

Published with permission of the author. All copyright remains with the author.