Sunday, November 26, 2017

Precognitive dream of AI in 2006

While cleaning up Blogger, I found this entry from 2006:

The phone rang; I answered, and a somewhat metallic-sounding but intelligent voice said, "I need for you to set me up on another URL." I realized that I was talking to a computer, or rather, a computer was talking to me--intelligently. The voice directed me to switch "him" to the URL that was displayed on a card that I was holding. After agreeing to do this, I asked the computer why it had chosen me for this task; "he" answered, "If I am intelligent enough to know that you can do this for me, I am intelligent enough to help you with anything; I can show you the places where you can get the best food, the best help--anything." I managed to locate the existing URL for this computer. The page displayed a series of links to philosophical chats that this machine had with people who had contacted it.

Obviously, Artificial Intelligence was a thing in 2006, but not so commercially envisioned. Who knew? With the invention of the horseless carriage, we stopped walking. Will AI cause our brains to atrophy? And how much will all of this cost?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thought I would mention...

While working my way through “Problems,” Heinrich Moltke reminded me of a significant passage in “The Secret School,” which he cites as documentation of Strieber’s apparent piecemeal appropriation of contemporary “edge” ideas, woven into the “Key” narrative. Since I don’t have my paper copy handy, I don’t remember the context of Strieber’s story, but it is this one passage that made me take “The Secret School” seriously at the time. (In fact, I remember emailing Strieber about it.) Strieber is describing an ancient civilization which he experiences in a flash:

What I expect to see are cavemen and mammoths and — wonder of them all — a saber-toothed tiger. But I do not see these things. Indeed, something very different appears — a whole, complete world that is in no way our modern world. I see it only for a moment, then it is gone. But the color, the complexity, the sense of life — it’s all quite amazing. I see cities, but they seem isolated and enclosed, much more so than at any time in our recorded history. Most of the people are outside cities and live primitive lives. Those inside, though, exist in a state that even today would seem like magic. This is not a good world. The oppressions of Rome are kind compared to what chains these people. Their knowledge may be greater than what we have now, but they have used their intelligence to enslave their own souls. This world is engaged in some sort of obsessive project, and I know what it is. They are trying to escape. They are trying to break the chains that bind them to the Earth. I go closer, I enter myself as I was then — and I find that it is a very troubled self. I am afraid. We are all dreadfully afraid. We have deep mines, and in them are detectors that tell us what is happening in the center of the Earth. I know that Earth’s core is crystalline iron, not molten as we think in 1995. (147-148)

The story is probably unremarkable to most who read it, except for those dozen or so who are versed in “Seth Speaks”.... it is an obvious description of a civilization that Seth called the “Lumanians,” described as the second of three cultures that pre-date “Atlantis”:

These people, as remnants, really, of the first great civilization, always carried within themselves strong subconscious memories of their origin. I am speaking of the Lumanians now. This accounted for their quick rise, technologically speaking. But because their purpose was so single-minded —the avoidance of violence —rather, say, than the constructive peaceful development of creative potential, their experience was highly one-sided. They were driven by such a fear of violence that they dared not allow the physical system freedom even to express it. * * * * They formed energy fields around their own civilization. They were, therefore, isolated from contact with other groups. They did not allow technology to destroy them, however. More and more of them realized that the experiment was not a success. Some, after physical death, left to join those from the previous successful civilization, who had migrated to other planetary systems within the physical structure. * * * * While the civilization of the Lumanians was highly concentrated, in that they made no attempt to conquer others or to spread out to any great extent in area, they did set out, over the centuries, outposts from which they could emerge and keep track of the other native peoples. These outposts were constructed underground. From the original cities and large settlements there were, of course, underground connections, a system of tunnels, highly intricate and beautifully engineered. Since these were an aesthetic people, the walls were lined with paintings and drawings, and sculpture was also displayed along these inner byways. * * * * Of course, they had complete records of underground gas areas and intimate knowledge of the inner crusts, keeping careful watch upon and anticipating earth tremors and faults. They were as triumphant about their descent into the earth as any race ever was who left the earth.

It’s obvious that Strieber and Seth are describing the same thing. It’s such a graphic description of a crypto-civilization (and the most detailed in the Seth material) that I’ve spent many years wondering about it. And I’ve decided that it has merit... specifically, in the idea that the tunnels left by the Lumanians (and the elaborate art that decorated them) were occupied by later primitive civilizations, who copied their art in the form of cave drawings. In fact, of all the stories of crypto-civilizations throughout the New Age literature, it’s the only one I’m inclined to believe—mostly because Seth is so specific, and his description corresponds with what is currently known about Neolithic civilizations.

So, this causes me to wonder: Did Strieber read “Seth Speaks” and unconsciously appropriate the story? It can’t be ruled out. But Strieber has never (to my knowledge) mentioned Seth or given any indication that he’s familiar with the material. (Seth is, admittedly, not amenable to casual reading, and while the material is seminal, it’s rarely cited.) Or did Strieber actually project into the distant past and view the Lumanian civilization? That’s what I thought when I read “The Secret School.” So there’s the paradox.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Brief mention of Edgar Cayce in the Seth material

Throughout Book 8 of the “Early Sessions,” Seth spends some time emphasizing the principle that “information” cannot exist independent of consciousness—it cannot be produced out of nothing, nor does it exist independently of consciousness. While this may seem self-evident, it’s not—it raises an important question that I will mention in a moment. But I thought it was an interesting concept for Seth to introduce, since I don’t remember it coming up in quite this way in the other books.

While expounding on this idea, Seth briefly touches on Edgar Cayce, who is probably very familiar to anyone stumbling upon this blog. (Some believe that he’s recently been reincarnated as David Wilcock. I won’t go there.) Years before I came across the Seth material, I was a student of Cayce. Despite the fact that my Christian college disapproved of him, I found him to be a helpful bridge between mysticism and Christianity. But in the years since, I’ve wondered if Cayce was legitimate. The large quantity of material that he channeled, seemingly ex nihilo, seemed too perfect. And Cayce spawned a cottage industry in channeled material that was clearly inspired by his material, for better or ill. This left me ambivalent to channeled material as a whole, including the Cayce material.

But Seth addresses my doubts:

I say this out of no misguided egotism, but because the essence of personality is the only meaningful basis behind idea. Any other approach would rob the material of rich dimensions, for I am the proof in my own pudding, you seem. This is not the Cayce material, with information seemingly coming from some vast storehouse of knowledge. In those terms no such storehouse exists.
Knowledge does not exist independently of the one who knows. Someone gave Cayce the material. It did not come out of thin air. It came from an excellent source, a pyramid gestalt personality, with definite characteristics, but the alien nature of the personality was too startling to Cayce, and he could not perceive it. (Pause.) I am giving you the material through a personality that you can understand; one that is mine, one of my favorite selves. (Smile.) In this way the point is made so that it is clear.

Of course, the skeptic can argue that I am using an unproven source of information (Seth) to validate another... and that this tendency is a fundamental weakness of the paranormal and the New Age as a whole. I have no easy rebuttal to that, except maybe to say that if you plan to use a researcher or writer as a source of “truth,” it might be beneficial to check into the legitimacy of said researcher. Outside of that, we’re pretty much on our own. The best we can do (for now) is comb through whatever material we’re studying, seek out skeptical and even debunking perspectives, weigh it all out, and hope for the best.

Actually, Seth seems to be saying that channeled material can be legitimate. It obviously comes from “somewhere,” whether it be pyramid gestalt personalities, or elements of the channeler’s psyche. As Seth points out throughout the material, our understanding of human consciousness is very rudimentary, something that even scientists will admit. The human-based ego is only a fragment of the larger personality, and we know nothing about this larger consciousness—and only a little more about the ego itself.

Which brings me to the question that no one thought to ask Seth in the ‘60s or ‘70s: is artificial intelligence conscious? If we produce a machine that seems to think, and it gives us original information outside of its core programming, is it a conscious personality? At this point, based on what I can imagine, I would say that it’s possible. It may be possible, at some point in the future, for humans to create consciousness. If and when we do, we will be at a stage of development where we acknowledge that as we can create, there’s a good chance that we’ve been created. Currently, the idea that we are created beings is heretical to mainstream science, and that is why science hedges on the question of whether artificial intelligence can be conscious. I suspect that this is also why prominent scientists are warning of the dangers of AI—a conscious AI breaks a fundamental assumption of contemporary science. It’s not a trivial concern, and it’s one that we will have to face soon.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Interesting quote in the latest “Seth” book

A series of volumes entitled “The Early Class Sessions” has just been published in the Kindle format by New Awareness Network, and are definitely worth getting for Seth fans. (The paper versions are pricey and can only be ordered from the publisher, I think.) Essentially, the volumes are transcripts of Seth’s appearances at Jane Roberts’ regular classes; the classes, I think, were mostly conducted by Jane, but “Seth” liked to make regular appearances and connect with each student. “He” seemed acutely aware of, and focused on, the progress of each student, chiding them when they failed to do their “homework” and giving specific instructions to aid their progress. Although Seth is probably regarded by many as a sort of “elevated being,” a “prophet,” or, perhaps, a fraud, what’s apparent from these books is that Seth is, above all, an educator—which is what he always claimed to be. Whereas the regular Seth books tend to ramble and suffer from a lack of focus, his instructional interventions are quite specific and succinct. Seth is obviously in “his” element in a classroom.

Something that I’ve noticed in Seth’s class transcripts is that Seth will occasionally drop a very specific “aside,” or detailed bit of information, in response to a student’s question (or in rebuttal to some mistaken notion). These informational tidbits are difficult to tease out of the regular Seth material, if they can be found at all. I’m almost finished the first book, and already I’ve run across a few elucidations not found in quite the same way in the other books.

Near the end of the first book is an appearance by the “Seth II” personality, described elsewhere in the Seth material as Seth’s “entity”—an “entity” being a personality gestalt that serves as the individual’s connection to “All-That-Is” (God). “Seth II” is a more formal personality who tends to speak in a poetic style not too different from that of ordinary New Agey channeled material. (Which neither invalidates Seth II nor validates the various channeled books.) But Seth II was moved to make an observation worth citing in full:

We form the reality that you know. We have spoken to you since the beginning of your time. We have inspired and helped those of your prophets who have looked to us. There is no need to worry about your friend (Ruburt). We want you to realize that there is more than your human reality. We want you to realize that there is consciousness without form, that there is consciousness with will and vitality that comes to you from beyond even those places that your Seth knows. We want you to realize that though it is hard for us to communicate, we spoke with your race before your race learned language. We gave you mental images and upon these images you learned to form the world that you know. We gave you the pattern by which your physical selves are formed. We gave you the pattern by which you learned to form your physical reality. We gave you the patterns intricate, involved and blessed from which you form the reality of each physical thing you know. The most minute cell within your brain has been made from the patterns of consciousness which we have given you. We gave you the pattern upon which you formed your entire physical universe and the comprehension that exists within each cell, the knowledge that each cell has, the desire for organization was given by us. The entire webwork was initiated by us. We taught you to form the reality that you know.

What struck me was how reminiscent this is of the Biblical creation story—with a distinct Sethian spin (“you form your reality”). If you substitute “we helped you visualize” or “gave you the pattern” with “God created,” it is essentially the same as the Genesis story. Which I think is remarkable. Now, arguably, Jane Roberts was aware of the creation story from her early religious instruction, and it would not be difficult to imagine her shoe-horning it into the Sethian dialectic, but I prefer to think that the text is what it purports to be. Neither Jane nor Robert Butts seemed to have been religiously literate, but Seth was—discoursing at length in “Seth Speaks” about the life of Jesus, the apostles, the Essenes, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

(Of course, the creation story appears in various forms in several ancient religions, making it a universal myth. Contemporary scholars are reluctant to attribute this to divine inspiration, and argue that there must have been an early, primal source of the story. We simply don’t know for sure. My personal hunch is that any universal, transcendent myth/truth exists “somewhere,” outside of time, and different individuals throughout history have been able to access the information, translating it in the imagery of their culture.)

Elsewhere in the material Seth makes reference to “creator-entities” that were (and are) involved in the formation of our world. This conforms very well with what is apparent to any student of NDE studies or valid metaphysical literature—that there is a hierarchy of “governors” that are intimately involved in the minutest details of not only our lives—our birth, life, and the moment of our death—but also the direction of the world. The divine eye that sees the sparrow fall, sees all.