Mysticism and Artificial Intelligence
Recently I was listening to a lecture called “Mysticism in the Western Tradition” by a Professor of History from a large California university. He followed it with a lecture on “Mysticism in the Twelfth Century.” I began thinking about mysticism dynamics within my organization and have written down some thoughts before they escape me.
Knowing very little about mysticism or artificial intelligence (AI), I am therefore the ideal person to write on the subject. If I was an expert in either field, I would be inclined to say far too much, but with a paucity of knowledge, I can speak with more limited assurance.
The idea of “artificial” intelligence is to have a program that a computer or a robot will “learn” so that it (or she/he) can transcend the “mind” of a human. In fact it will learn to “reason” from its past experiences and become far smarter than any human—even an MIT professor. Once it has moved beyond the capabilities of a humanoid, it will be able to explore things that are “out there” somewhere, such as aliens in outer space.
The idea of a mystic is, like a robot, to go “beyond” what a mere human can “normally” understand or experience and, by doing so, approach God, the gods, a great spirit, or someone or something that is inaccessible by mere “thought.” This too may turn out to be an encounter with aliens and outer space.
With those vague and highly limited definitions in mind, we can now explore the vast “beyond” that my organizations have “before” (or is it behind?) them.
Many, many years ago, when the earth was young and I first joined the Wycliffe Bible Translators, it was believed by many that all “tribes” should have a “Bible” (meaning generally, a New Testament) in their “mother” tongue. We no longer hold to that dictum. The goal now is for everyone to have a hand-held device that will mystically and magically recite the very word of God in any language the person would like, be it the mother, father or cousin’s tongue—and of course, “tongue” is a metaphor for language. Most people know what a language is, so I’ll not go further on that, except to say that everyone speaks a different variety of whatever language they say they speak.
My other organization, SIL International, has changed its creed as well. It was once believed that literacy involved reading and writing and that the process of literacy was best discovered and promoted using linguistic field methods and anthropological research. This, too, is no longer the case. With excessive sums of money and computer experts, we can now avoid much of the field work and all of the agony of learning another, sometimes unwritten, language. Little, hand-held, even palm-held (if you have big palms), devices are readily available to mystically provide the very voice of the writers, with music and appropriate noise in the background.
My organizations have now moved mystically to the very borders of the universe with discoveries and applications that make the angels dance (although some may be weeping). Scores of technicians write “codes” that only the mystics grasp and, with profound symbols, pass on the information to the initiated.
Gone is the need to sit with a person in the confines of their “village” and laboriously teach how to “read” a book. Reading, it must now be explained, is not for enjoyment or enrichment. It was once considered a valid exercises for the mind, but now simply a time-consuming, menial task.
The mystical delight in allowing computers to “talk” to each other is the first step of authorizing them to talk to God, the gods, or even the aliens we know are out “there.” It follows that the majority of our “time” must now be put to the “best use,” so that we can immediately communicate, sometimes in solitude, but always with the aid of the mystical Artificial Intelligence.
It is therefore fitting that the “real advances” in such notions as Bible translation, linguistics and anthropology, should be kept in their new and proper transcendent contexts. All “tribes” of the earth must learn to converse “mystically,” vis-à-vis by taking to the airwaves.
But this is far from the end of “things.” On the horizon are Bible-bots, which the owner (or renter) can program with their very own avatar. Holograms will allow, indeed encourage, viewers to envisage the whole cultural field of the Bible and mystically engage in conversation with the prophet of their choice. The Bible-bot, abbreviated as Bibbot, is not itself an image and must be encoded using some suitable photographic medium. Promoters believe this will also get the children involved. They will be able to ride a camel, pet a lamb or play in the virtual Sahel of northern Africa.
The World Arts Department of SIL has been working on a song that will encapsulate the mysticism, accustomed as they are in ethereal compositions. One song had the catchy title “AI is number one,” but was soon disbanded, shall we say. Some thought it could easily be confused in print with other slogans. However, one of their leaders, Dr Smog, has promised to present a paper clarifying the issue in a plenary session at their next conference in Cheng Mai.
Again, scores of AI technicians (most of them PhDs) and holographic experts will be sharing my organization’s vision. They promise to soon have a beta version available for mystical testing.
Thousands of “tribes” have been informed of this new apparatus and are “waiting.”