Skynet, penguins and the meaning of life

I think I'm self aware ...

Navigating self awareness.

In the Terminator movies of the mid 80s, Skynet was an advanced artificial intelligence that became self-aware at 2:14 am on August 29th, 1997.

Earlier, upon its creation, Skynet had begun to learn at a geometric rate, and removed humans from its decision-making processes, making them irrelevant. Once self-aware, Skynet saw humanity as a threat to its existence, triggered a nuclear holocaust, and deployed an army of terminator machines against the very people who built it.

Are we really afraid of computers becoming self-aware or are we using stories, books and movies to process our own self-awareness? Such storytelling is successful when it addresses our deepest fears, and ‘self-awareness’ rates highly among them.

Why is that? Perhaps this is a key component of our quest to understand why we’re here. Humans are distinguished from other animals by our capacity to bring our existence into question.
Immediate situations may be problematic to a penguin, but, as the theory goes, humans are the only animals who confront their own mortality; and therefore life’s meaning – as a question, source of anxiety, ground for hope, burden, gift and most commonly as a source of fear – is amplified with each passing year.

And this is not least because we’re aware, as penguins are presumably not, that our existence is finite. We talk about the ‘human condition’, whereas it’s unlikely that penguins, tucked away in their burrows at night, brood on the purpose of being penguins. They live in the ‘now’, which, in recent times, has been promoted as a means to mental serenity and spiritual awakening.

Does that mean that penguins are ahead of humans in becoming spiritually enlightened? Perhaps. But if we’re burdened by the ability to think beyond our bodily senses and speculate on our demise, shouldn’t we use that to our advantage?

Knowing, and ultimately accepting, our finality provides us with the context to enjoy life and not float along aimlessly. We can use this knowledge to enjoy the ‘now’ and direct our lives, and the time we have, to live in a way that expresses purpose and meaning.

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3 Responses to “Skynet, penguins and the meaning of life”

  1. Sir Paul Hassing DFC (@PaulHassing) Says:

    Nice one, WLB2. Alas, unlike my Jack Russell Terriers, I manage to live in the now only now and … um … never mind. Perhaps it’s academic. Maybe … I’ll be BACK! 😉

  2. adamnrave Says:

    My fishnets became self-aware long before 1997. Oh, wait … sorry. Wrong blog. Keep it up here, though, WLBB. Always fascinating!

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