Awareness itself is not exclusively human (although I’m not talking about AI)
Yesterday, I said I was going to put up an episode of my story each day. I will. But I will also put up additional pieces, as I continue to work on becoming more organised, a life long project!
Our responsibilities do not end at the boundary of our species. We also owe duties to the more-than-human world. Yet a large number of people reject this and still consider it sentimental, pagan, anti-human (as Midgley said). The Soviet historian Pokrovskiy put it in 1931: “It is easy to foresee that, in the future, when science and technique have attained to a perfection which we are as yet unable to visualise, nature will become soft wax in man’s hands, which he will be able to cast into whatever form he chooses”.
Yet we know that this planet is not in fact an inert, infinite store source of ‘resources’ for our needs. What if the earth, or even every quark, is aware? What if this series of systems within which we’re enmeshed, and on whose continued activity we are dependent, has awareness, not consciousness but some way of experiencing, our human activity, qualitatively, as good, or as destructive? This possibility is extremely unnerving. This morning I learned that there is a mite that lives on our skin and comes out of the pores to search for a mate, reproduce, lay eggs, and whose DNA has so simplified itself that it is now, effectively a part of us. We really are not alone …
What we have to attend to is the picture we have of the way we are in the world. The natural world is not a static background. It is interacting with us, it is, indeed, the matrix within which we exist. The current paradigm radically obscures this reality. We are not detached observers but living creatures continuous with all other such creatures and constantly acting upon them, and they on us, to the point where them and us blurs into meaninglessness. Our blindness causes us to act in ways that destroy the very fabric on which we are dependent.
In order now to shake the grip of this illusion, we need a different vision, a picture which will correct the delusive idea that we are either engineers who can redesign our planet or chance passengers who can detach themselves from it when they please. I think that we need, in fact, the idea of belonging. This would give us the incentive to act with awareness that awareness itself is not exclusively human, a radical thought indeed.