If you can’t tolerate critics, don’t do anything new or interesting.
~ Jeff Bezos
One of the goals of author Lee Baldwin’s breakout science fiction is to show that even with such current obvious effects as workers losing jobs to smart machines, technology will in balance be a positive for human progress. It will not come in a single stroke. That’s because Baldwin sees humanity’s future as a community of post-biological intelligent individuals. People.
People that are part human and part machine? That is here already, they are among us. Baldwin visualizes a slowing of urbanization toward a softer footprint on the land, leading humanity to a more pastoral way of life in concert with the needs of plants, animals, and the living Earth. This author feels that these beliefs will promote the evolution of humankind. When we can agree on what that evolution is to be.
In Baldwin’s future worlds, humans are confident in their technology once they become confident in a shared intention, an intention which in his fictional worlds, springs from many regions of California. In this vision, high technology is not seen as having power over mankind. The much-vaunted artificial intelligence Singularity, a near-reality in terms of technological power, will not prove out in its doomsday mentality.
In Baldwin’s upcoming novel, Hidden Perils of Suicide, set in 2099 California, some individuals prove smarter than computers. In that society, people generally regard themselves as the equal of their tools, in the same relationship as anyone who can operate a vehicle today. The 2099 California population shows itself as master to the tools. Technology does advance, controlled by a shared sentiment about its purpose, which is to serve humankind. Like Philip K. Dick, but for much different reasons, Baldwin believes the solution to human misgivings about technology is to accept it, not as an infernal boogeyman by as the servant of humankind.
Baldwin’s series of science fiction novels, Next History, Halcyon Dreamworlds, Aliens Got My Sally, and the coming Hidden Perils of Suicide, expresses his ideas about technology as part of human evolution toward post-biological intelligence. Here, Baldwin sees no Frankenstein, but cautions that the divide between human beings and their inventions must be kept clear. The problem is not whether androids can approximate humans, because to achieve the goals of the State the sheer cost of humanoid simulacra such as an army of androids makes that approach non-competitive when compared to virtual sex in the dreamtime slides. The question then becomes, why should we see smart machines, conscious or not, as sacred?
Baldwin is clear in his assertion that machine intelligence will one day become conscious and self-aware. But this does not rule out a harmonious future between biological humans and artificial intelligence. Even in 2017, the definition of human is challenged and redefined by human ventures into the alternate worlds of virtual reality, simulations which become ever more realistically realized in the minds and bodies of the players. This vision was elaborated in Baldwin’s 2015 novel, Halcyon Dreamworlds.
In sum, Baldwin’s fictional universe relies on humans dropping all pretense to realize what they are, and accepting the assistance of smart machines, even as we today accept pacemakers, artificial hearts, titanium knee joints and self-driving cars. The best least effective way to define our identity is to feel compelled to defend it as special, instead of being simply unique.