The Age of Pythagoras is Coming to an End, and We Are Entering the Age of Plato…
Ayşe Acar: Regarding Artificial Intelligence, one of the most popular topics of discussion is Technological Singularity. This refers to the fear of a super Artificial Intelligence overtaking the world in the future, and ending humanity. This is not what I understand by the term “technological singularity.” I argue that singularity may arise in the internet rather in a super computer. What matters here is network and data. I believe what we will encounter as the future Super Artificial Intelligence is ‘Us’. For example, every time we search for something on Google, Google’s artificial intelligence improves using the data it receives from us, but what improves, in fact, is nothing but ‘Us.’ We have data on human history, and now, we are the ones who actively use Google. As all of humanity, we are creating something, and what we create is nothing but us. This is what I call technological singularity. What do you think?
Metin Bobaroğlu: This has already been happening throughout history. We need to adopt a linguistic perspective to explain these things. “Language” is what basically controls, produces, limits, and improves thought, and what acts as the material of thought and consciousness. Therefore, we need to study linguistic issues with the help of Habermas, Wittgenstein, and Ferdinand Saussure. There is something we need to understand: We collect and store materials and form relationships among them to create a network. The relationship itself is important. In terms of information transfer, each material is represented by a piece of information, and there is a flow between them. Here, network itself is the speed of information processing. It also has an immaterial meaning; by immaterial, I mean it has a substance or load in conceptual terms. What do I mean? Information as data, and data itself as potential information or building blocks of information, are chunks of material kept in servers and in the entirety of the network. The presence of these chunks of material there, and whether they are associated with one another and lines are established between them, bring us face to face with something like nature. What is really important is not what exists there or what is uploaded; what is important, or reality, emerges the moment we actually attempt to make use of them for some task.
AA: Freedom emerges at that very point, right?
MB: So does freedom, so does responsibility, and so does reality. What is important here is reality. Reality refers to actuality; what is actual is real, there can be no other reality beside that. This is the most important element. Then, accumulation of information and data banks are potential. Because what is actual is real, we need to look at the task being performed at the moment; are we searching for something, are we transferring information through a server or downloading, are we receiving, using, and sending information? What exactly are we doing? You know the mouse pointer, right? That famous pointer (cursor) is the human will. People are represented in the machine through that pointer. This means that the machine has no will of its own. It has materials, hardware, software, possibilities, maps, everything, but relationships emerge when the mouse clicks on something or associates one thing with another. This means that will is external to the machine. However, we also have a piece of software called TeamViewer. In this case, another person, through another machine, controls the mouse in our machine and the will remains external to the machine; the will of the machine is now in the hands of another person, not ours. The moment we find a way to install this in a machine, it would become autonomous.
Now, the real distinction here is between will and order. In philosophical terms, order corresponds to intellect; in other words, intellect is a faculty of ours that provides order. To understand what we mean by providing order, we can consider traffic or a traffic network. There is a traffic network that spans the entire world. Wherever we go, we recognize the symbols used when we drive. Those symbols tell us what we can and cannot do, and we live in traffic with a shared mind. Traffic itself, in its totality, is a cyberspace. Although there are external objects and the signs are perceived by the brain through sensing the external world, our brain makes decisions internally by associating those symbols with one another. It does what it does in an autonomous way. However, it also knows when it makes a mistake or commits a fault; all those symbols make that possible. To survive in traffic, someone, say in Moscow, must also organize their mind in the same way and enter the network. There is also an order that seems to be an illusion of a network, a potential network; this is the intellect. Intellect thus refers to order, to providing order, to relationships and connections among things, and to bringing them together under a total, holistic, unifying principle.
AA: Traffic is such a good example!
MB: Traffic is a good example. All over the world, say you go to an island, you still enter the same thing, the same matrix if you are to drive. Brains develop common attitudes regarding this, and they remind one another, saying “You made a mistake, you did right.” That network, the signs outside, the road signs, traffic signs and traffic lights that appear to be unrelated create a simulative mental state in the brain, all interconnected. This is important. The simulation itself is in the same place where the human mind or consciousness is; outside, it only has signifiers. The signifiers are organized on the inside to create the network. In fact, every individual who joins the traffic does that, they act with a shared mind. In this sense, traffic is a language. The fundamental language that underlies all languages is the relationships of meaning based on symbols of words, which constitute the language of daily life. Philosophizing about this issue is a different matter. To give an example from daily life or sensory world, meaning emerges when a sound is tied to the image of an object, or signs are attached to images of objects; this is meaning at its most fundamental level. Now, what is interesting here is that meaning is the merger of an image and a symbol. This means that language, in its entirety, consists of symbols, or signs. We make the sign “A”, associating it with a specific sound, and in another language, that same sound is denoted by another sign. In other words, it is not those signs that create the sound “A”, we tie the sound “A” to a certain sign, and this process gives rise to different languages, such as Chinese, but underlying all of them is the language of meaning. The language of meaning is free in terms of symbols, but not so in terms of images. That is to say, the image of a glass can be merged with the sound “glass” or its Turkish equivalent “bardak”, and the meaning is preserved, with different symbols attached to the same image. This is important.
What did I say that? It is not necessary for different symbolic languages to turn into a common Esperanto. What is important is that meanings, which are products of the merging of symbols and images, can be conveyed. For a Chinese speaker to convey a meaning to an English speaker, to a Turkish or Arabic speaker, it needs to be transferred, or translated; one has to find the corresponding symbols in the other language. Indeed, world languages that are translated into one another –and academy is the apex of that– use that cyberspace consisting of languages. Inside that cyberspace, the individual both stores and uses concepts and meanings. As Plato says, every individual partakes in that. The amount and extent of usage determines what is transferred to reality, but the other items in the depot remain as possibilities. Then, creating, belonging to, or understanding a theory becomes crucial both for cyberspace states and the mental states of people. This is very important for consciousness. It is important for Artificial Intelligence studies as well, because imagining means viewing our own mind. Humanity has now entered a phase where we are studying whether “How we do it” is visible or amenable to experimentation.
AA: Artificial Intelligence works with what you call “meaning,” which is born out of a merger of language and representation, of words and their signifiers.
MB: Exactly, because human beings are like that, they are creating themselves. Let me add, and this would be a good example, that Aristotle thought speaking Greek was a precondition for philosophizing or thinking in philosophical terms. This is very interesting. Aristotle is a genius who deeply affected or even shaped all philosophy after him, we could even call him the first philosopher. Another person of the same caliber, who made a comparable contribution to philosophy, I believe, is Hegel. Marx is an ideologue, he is different, and people like Foucault studied very specific fields. In terms of systematic philosophy, Aristotle and Hegel are unmatched. So, despite being such a master, Aristotle failed to see that intellect had its own concepts, he thought it was concepts of language that crated the intellect. This means the following: The reason why Aristotle said, “Others are barbarians and we are the ones who possess sophia, or wisdom” was because he thought others would be incapable, as their languages were lacking. This was an accurate observation of contemporary reality, but Farabi said, “No!” by translating, for the first time, all of Aristotle’s concepts into Arabic and proving that you could do philosophy using the Arabic language as well. Farabi argued that Aristotle was wrong on this point: language was not the main determinant, and intellect had its own concepts, which could be reproduced in a language, in all languages. This is very important. Why do I say that? Because we are faced with the necessity of creating a common culture, a common civilization, and a common law in the future through artificial intelligence. Having said future, let me underline something: Much of the emphasis nowadays is on the future of today’s artificial intelligence; I believe this is not very realistic. Automobiles also constitute artificial intelligence. There is a piece of hardware, we are giving orders to that hardware, and the hardware receives and uses our will. With a mental attitude oriented towards usages, we should say fridges also constitute a realm of existence; they are autonomous within given limits, and hence, they are alive within given limits. What we call artificial intelligence, in fact, is nothing more than the discovery of the natural intelligence of humans themselves; we are discovering our own nature.
AA: You said we are discovering our own natural intelligence. What is intelligence? What is consciousness? Quite a few articles are being published recently about these issues. Many questions are being asked, including “Does artificial intelligence have consciousness?” and “Is it possible for AI to have consciousness?” There are a range of answers depending on one’s position regarding the question of “What is human consciousness?” If you have a biological deterministic point of view, that shapes the boundaries of your answer; you may, for example, describe consciousness as a product of brain activity. Yet, the mystery remains, we are far from having a complete understanding of the human brain and consciousness. Are we discovering our own consciousness in creating artificial intelligence?
MB: It is always through things and objects that intelligence reflects upon itself and human consciousness becomes aware of itself. We give names to objects, compare them with one another, and learn how to make use of them, thus creating a language. In so doing, we do not reveal to ourselves how we wield our thinking and intelligence in that medium. We assume we are dealing with external objects. When we later deal with external objects, the objects themselves do not enter our brain, it is their representations –image is a representation, sound is a representation and a sign– that evaluate and make sense of the outside world in the mind. It is all a simulation, from the very beginning. So, the view that we will transition from the post-industrial world and start living in a simulated world the moment we create artificial intelligence is wrong, it has always been a simulation. This was why Sufi movements –which, by the way, were Neoplatonist– called the external world, the sensory realm the “realm of shadows.” “Shadow” was their word for what we today call phenomena, and because a shadow cannot be separated from the object itself, a shadow that shows reality is real.
AA: Now I need to understand the concept of simulation to proceed. What do you mean by the word simulation? Would you elaborate on that?
MB: The language itself.
AA: So, it is something that exists.
MB: When we say something exists, when we think about existence, what is its reference point? We sense them. Then, on the basis of sensory reference, we say they “exist.” However, sensory references tell us about appearances only, not substances. They do not convey forms of existence, background relationships, or forces. Our senses do not inform us of the forces in objects. Therefore, everything in the outside world that we call sensory reality is a “shadow,” they are not things that we can use.
AA: So, we cannot associate them with reality.
MB: We could say they constitute the sensory aspect of reality. There is also an emotive aspect. Say we receive a piece of news, saying “so and so fell and broke their leg,” we receive a piece of information over the phone. The brain takes this information, recognizes, gives shape to and reconstitutes the person in question, and this word, that someone “broke their leg,” is transformed into certain emotions in one’s internal world, and the person maybe starts shedding tears. Now, this is not a sensory reality, it is virtual, right?
AA: Virtual, right.
MB: We were not present at the scene, we haven’t actually observed the trauma; we only have a piece of data –not even knowledge– and we turn it into knowledge by remembering our relationship with the person in question, remembering our responsibility toward or love for that person, and eventually make a decision by connecting all of them together. This is artificial intelligence, pure and simple. When we speak of intelligence, we make it sound as if “artificial” is such a negative and “natural” is such a positive thing, but in my opinion, artificial intelligence is intelligence controlled by humans, and human beings will become themselves only through artificial intelligence. Human ontology, in the beginning, was ape-like. By ape-like, I don’t necessarily mean a genetic transfer –which applies to the body, but I am not talking about that– I mean imitation. During childhood, we learn everything through imitation, we never learn through meanings. Then, by using these imitations, forming associations between them and comparing them to one another, we move towards a meaningful world, and towards intellect; we proceed from senses and intuition to intellect. Now, my understanding is this: Humans have been looking for their intellect in nature from the very beginning, but this is not intentional, it is not like they say “Let me go search for my intellect.” They want to use nature, and in the process, recognize that they cannot use it on the basis of appearances. Every object in the external world has a resistance; for example, when we want to take iron and make something out of it, say a sword, we realize it has to be melted first, it melts at such and such temperature and hardens at such and such temperature. The more we learn about the resistances of objects and their laws, the more we can make use of them. The act of using is real, apart from that, we can only talk about a sensory reality.
AA: When you mentioned our journey towards the intellect in history, it reminded me of Hegel’s “Spirit.” It is as if he was talking about a network. Can we say it is a network?
MB: Of course. It is very simple. Aren’t we using a language to speak?
AA: Yes, we do.
MB: Now, are we able to utilize the full potential of that language? No. Shakespeare used 40 thousand words to write his works, and the average author here uses 5 or 6 thousand words to write a book. Using 40 thousand words can make it appear to be very rich in literary terms, but in philosophical terms, the less words you use to clearly convey a concept, the closer you are to reaching pure thought free of the cacophony of artificially multiplied words. What we call pure thought is the intellect itself. What I am trying to say is this: Forces in nature constitute, as concepts, the human intellect. What we call the intellect is in fact the forces in nature. The first people to make use of that were the masters who built structures, such as the Egyptian pyramids. This is interesting; over time, we have started living in the intellect instead of in nature. This is crucial. We say that a human being among natural objects –in ontological terms– is a human as a natural being. On the other hand, contemporary urbanites, who live among products of the intellect and within a culture, do not live in nature, they live in an entirely human-built environment. Yet we use the word “human” to refer to both the urbanites and the cage-dwellers. When we talk about human ontology, we speak as if there is only one kind of human, who is the same in terms of potential, hardware, and body, and it is this same entity that learns and acts over the ages. This is not the case. In fact, humans are beings that tie their own ontology to their epistemic action. Human beings create their own existence, it is not constructed either by nature or by God. The hardware itself is given; we have the brain and we have nature, but building houses, living in houses, having kitchens, placing the fridge here and the flowers there, etc., all are taken from nature, yes, but they are designed differently, they are designed as we wish.
AA: Nature acts as material.
MB: We use nature as a material and reproduce nature. This reproduction is a network; this applies to language, to music… When you try to make music, you are bound to use the same sounds that exist all over the world. Therefore, when I said masters who built structures were the first to use the intellect, I mentioned the Egyptian pyramids as an example – yet not because it necessarily starts there. Pyramids are important, they are different from other structures. For example, they built houses in Harran, in which people lived; such structures existed even before Egypt, so why shouldn’t they count as buildings? Of course they do, because we have people who reproduce the cave as a human dwelling place. The ontology of the people who built those houses and the ontology of the people who invented the plow and agriculture are very similar to one another. The ontology of the hunter/gatherer, on the other hand, is quite different. When you think about it, in ontological terms, a gatherer and someone who sows a seed and then consumes the harvest are worlds apart. With agriculture, people started relying on their labor for the first time, they started consuming what they produced; yes, they still learned from nature, but nature was turned into a material. In the ancient period, on the other hand, nature or Cybele used to nurture us, and we were like children.
AA: We were contents to nature, it was just the opposite.
MB: Yes. Matriarchy gave way to patriarchy; matriarchal and patriarchal societies are very different. If we were to think about the concepts of “cultivator” and “cultivated” as active and passive, then the will that transforms nature for its own purposes also creates humans as we know them. Aphrodite, in other words, not Cybele. Cybele is the symbol of a fertile woman embodying nature, it is nature itself, but Aphrodite is the “modern” woman. In other words, she is a woman that makes her own self and attracts men with her charms. Cybele the mother used to keep men by extending her protection, whereas Aphrodite attracted them with her charm. Aphrodite is quote and quote modern. It is not what the nature provides, it is something that we shape ourselves. The human ontology is closely related to the way in which people produce or create themselves, closely related to the manner of this creation. We don’t find ourselves ready-made in nature, we may find ourselves as ape-like or human-like, but we become humans through our own labor and efforts.
AA: But this should apply to every individual then.
AA: You are talking about something that is true at all times.
MB: Yes, this is what I am saying, this is how the human ontology is like. The human mind perceives the outside world through images and symbols, and this is important: there is no other way it could be grasped by our consciousness. A language is thus formed, as well as a world of meanings and feelings, and we dwell this world. The positivist view –which I disagree with– says: “We have a brain that is also our intellect.” This implies that brain is essential, and thoughts and consciousness are like secretions of the brain. Consciousness is taken to be a product of the brain, but with artificial intelligence, we are beginning to discover that what matters is not the brain itself, but the networks of communication in the brain, as well as electric flows and the electromagnetic environment. It is not that our brains have intellects, to the contrary, our intellects have brains. In terms of physics, the human consciousness is an environment of subtle physical energy that we can prove in the future through artificial intelligence. What is artificial is valuable, or artificial is essential. The moment we manage to store not our bodies but our memories in an energy environment, we will have copied ourselves, together with our will.
AA: I find your statement “what is artificial is essential” very important, and I would like to talk about a case of blurred boundaries that we are already experiencing today. There are so-called ‘chatbots’ on the internet, which are a type of artificial intelligence software. There are ‘chatbots’ that work as customer representatives. When you are shopping online, something pops up from the lower right-hand side of the screen, asking “How may I help you?” It doesn’t even occur to me, sometimes, that I am interacting with a software. If I were shopping for a t-shirt, for example, I inquire about the ‘small’ size or the white color. It provides instant service like a customer representative, and the communication feels like I am having a dialogue with a human being. Boundaries are being blurred like that. Either my definition of “human being” is problematic, or we are fast moving toward a future where the boundaries between what is a human being and what is a machine will be completely blurred.
MB: I certainly agree, but philosophy is the only discipline that can provide an answer to that. Science cannot yet explain this field in question, the human products concerning humans and their existence, including their relationship with artificial intelligence. Religion provides certain intuitions without proof. Art creates some intuitions, through self-expression, but these do not constitute an answer to the question “What is a human being?” Is the human ontology a result of epistemology, or is it mutual? There are occupational deformations, and we see formation through deformation. Then, there are professional formations as well. The ontological personality of a teacher of 40 years would be different from that of an engineer or an architect. The definition of a human being based on a common identity, on belonging is “self-consciousness,” which means being aware of oneself; this is the most fundamental thing.
AA: What would you say about “personality,” then?
MB: Personality is a consciousness that evaluates issues and adopts positions on the basis of these evaluations. When you use soul and consciousness interchangeably –and I should note that I am using the term soul without any religious connotations intended– if we were to call self-consciousness “soul”, is that fixed, or does it change, does it evolve into something else over time? Does it transform into something completely different from its previous form in the realm of consciousness, like the difference between caterpillar and butterfly, or are we improving nature like extensions of nature? We can think of something like this: A cage dweller… Or let’s forget about them and think about contemporary Aborigines. If we compare the bodies of Aborigines and the bodies of their grandchildren, the urbanite, educated grandchildren would have different faces and appearances; thus, there is an organic difference as well. What is the cause of that? Knowledge. Knowledge changes the organic make-up of human beings. This is found in Jesus only; the Bible says: “You cannot enter God’s realm unless knowledge becomes your flesh and blood.” Knowledge being flesh and blood is proven today, protein collapses.
AA: By the way, they are developing a protein-based computer.
MB: It is possible, the brain itself uses the protein. It stores information by producing proteins. What we call information corresponds to a molecular sequence here; those molecules are stored in the brain in the form of protein molecules, and they can provide feedback. Now, what is the difference between artificial intelligence and the human brain programming itself through language?
AA: I don’t think there is any difference.
MB: There is no difference, we are still moving within the intellect. Let’s say we have two people facing one another; when two people communicate, when they start talking about communication and understand one another, what does that mean?
AA: It means a meaning or agreement through language.
MB: If this communication involves new information, and one side has that information whereas the other doesn’t, then education is required to generate that unity in information or shared consciousness. What I mean by education is that one side needs to convey to the other how they arrived at that information. And, when the other also arrives at the same information, they should be able to say, “Yes, it turns out you were right!” as if they conducted a laboratory experiment and obtained the same results, even though they have separate memories and experiences, right? Here, mind and body encounter one another. What we call soul is the “singularity of self-consciousness.” In other words, self-motion. It has self-motion, but in the form of self-consciousness, being aware of itself. Animals have consciousness of “things” but not of themselves. We name animals and when we use these names to call them, they respond; in other words, they start transforming into self-consciousness, in a symbolic sense. Dogs can learn 32 different words, and when you call them, they come running, as if saying “I am here,” aware that they are beckoned when that name is uttered. What I am trying to say is this: Self-consciousness is not exclusive to human beings; in terms of the things in nature, in the world that we can see and witness, all beings that have resistance also have a self-state. When this self-state has the potential to turn into self-consciousness, we call it a “human being.”
If artificial intelligence has self-consciousness but is a piece of metal from the outside, we cannot say “it is not human, then.” We would be before a human being, it is not the metal that matters. Intellect is what defines humans. I believe we will witness that with further progress in the world. We are already in it, but people make distinctions between ages. We identify ages with regard to philosophy, science, and anthropology, among others. I make a distinction between the Age of Pythagoras and the Age of Plato. Pythagoras was the first person to establish awareness of consciousness through abstract thinking, that is to say, through mathematics. Pythagoras invented philosophy. He was the first to make a systematic introduction to self-consciousness in humans. Pythagoras and his followers argue that everything that exists in the entire universe is numeric or digital; there are relationships, but these relationships are proportional. They argue that music is the best numerical application –in the sense of a positive application of the ability of consciousness to produce mathematics– to conduct scientific study of these relationships and discover their laws. Music is such an interesting thing. Sounds in music, how certain metals have certain thicknesses, lengths, and tensions. Pythagoras, looking at how these work, noticed that the same pitch could be obtained from the same vibrations. There are proportions. Think of a string, for example, think of its pitch. When you take a string that has half the length, it plays a pitch that is exactly one octave higher. The seven notes are created by distinguishing between different sizes and vibrations in this manner. It was Pythagoras who came up with this idea. He also gave poetry lessons to raise symbolic awareness.
Mathematics is the first form through which humans discover their intellect. There are two things in mathematics; there is arithmetic, that is to say rhythm, and then there is geometry, that is to say measurement. Rhythm and measurement do not exist in the outside world in sensory terms, but knowledge of arithmetic and geometry, or mathematics, is required to grasp the physical reality underlying all objects in nature. Knowledge of mathematics, even though it is created by the intellect and does not exist in the outside world, helps us see how nature works and how, for example, a building can be constructed by taking those forces and principles into account. Triangle is a form of intellect. This is important because it leads to the following point: I have argued that intellect provides order, it organizes existing forces by establishing certain relationships between them, but intellect is not creative, it merely organizes. Artificial intelligence is also the forms of establishing relationships between programs, so we can call them intellect. We call the programs intellect, and intelligence is the presence of a will to establish relationships. The ‘mouse,’ in fact, represents our will, attention, and intelligence. So, we have the term intelligence. Intelligence; processing, information flows, speeds. We have things to store, convey, and associate, and then open and close, open and close… This so-called binary system, which powers computers at the most basic level, is crucial for Pythagoras. He says, “1 is not a number. 2 is making a distinction, or becoming aware, because awareness results when you divide something. So, 2 is the beginning but it goes to infinity, and 3 is required turn it into an object.” Here is the triangle for you! Triangle is intellect. Seeing through one’s intellect means seeing through geometry and mathematics. Mathematics is clearly the language of positive sciences today, right? However, mathematics itself is a simulation, isn’t it?
AA: Of course it is.
MB: The sense of amazement and wonder today concerning the definition of artificial intelligence, as if something new were discovered, is good in the sense of spreading awareness, but when you look at the essence of things, we are simply seeing answers to the eternal philosophical questions “What is consciousness?” and “What is a human being?” organized in the external world; we are at that threshold. Humans are now on a trajectory to create their own intellect in another body, one that is not organic.
AA: This reminds of the verse “I will create a viceroy (caliph) on earth.” It seems as if humans are creating viceroys of their own.
MB: Yes, unless and until they create a being that resembles themselves, human beings cannot end their yearning for knowledge.
AA: I would also like to talk about some common anxieties and reflexes that masses have regarding artificial intelligence. I am curious to hear what you have to say about these anxieties. There are a lot of people who have these anxieties, and dystopic narratives are very popular. Due to Hollywood movies we have seen for many years, or literature we have read, such as dystopic novels, we have this fear of the unknown as a reflex. Whenever I have a speech to give on artificial intelligence or I am to talk about my novel, the first question I always get is: “They are going to destroy us, aren’t they?” Lights-out factories and automated manufacturing without humans is becoming common. People have an anxiety of losing their jobs.
MB: Dystopia is usually experienced by people who do not have sufficient knowledge or awareness of a specific issue, and this could be any issue. People fear what they don’t know, and because they cannot know about the future, the fear of future is always manifested as dystopia. It is like a yearning for assurance that people experience in an environment they cannot control. Look at the Eastern societies; they are all obsessed with religion, and keep calling on God every day. Why has this disappeared in Western societies over time? They only remember God when they need to make a good presentation. Constant prayers to God, for example for protection, are no longer. Why? Because they now have an insurance system. When people became confident about their tomorrow, they stopped being beggars. We keep saying “God,” but who and which function has created this image that we keep talking about? The god of the beggar, and a god to whom we make offerings and say thanks. People have always been afraid of inventions, because these are not familiar. The fear of dystopia, like “machines will destroy us, and humanity will come to an end,” etc., these are partly Hollywood exaggerations. Dystopia gives rise to fear and fear is an aesthetic element of art. Add marketing interests to that, and it is only natural that dystopia would be talked up. People don’t think much of utopias, positive things do not arouse much curiosity.
AA: Why, though?
MB: An existential touch is required. There is no utopia in which dystopia is not overcome. The moment it is overcome, utopia shines like a ray of hope. Dystopia is born of external forces, whereas utopia is a product of confidence in one’s own actions. When this happens, the person undergoes an internal revolution, a transformation of the soul, and a huge energy, a huge potential emerges, which is the feeling that one can do anything. What creates utopia is hope. In tradition, hope is religion, it is the essence of religion. Religion, in fact, is nothing but hope. People’s hopes for future are turned into religion when they become attached to and believe in those images. There is also organized religion, which attempts to organize society around certain images and thus keep society under control. This is also religion, but a sociological one; in other words, it exists to control society, it has officials and designated places of worship, but the other religion, the religion of hope, is the real religion. This is mentioned in the Quran as well, in a verse; most people are not aware of that, but it is in their nature. Our nature is to have hope for the future. People who have no hope can have no future either, and they die.
AA: This hope you are talking about… It is left in the hands of God in religious texts, isn’t it? Heaven, for example, is imagined to be something you can hope for in the afterlife, not something you can attain in this world. In the modern age, on the other hand, in modern societies, heaven will be attained in this world as a product of our labor, and not received from the hand of God.
MB: This is a problem of audience. A peasant and an urbanite cannot think in the same way. An academic’s approach to this issue is bound to be different from those of other classes in society. This is why generalizations are misleading. People are this, people are that… Which people? People who have which ideas? These are important. For example, after the agricultural revolution, upon hearing that “Those who don’t know how to cultivate the land shall disappear,” some people may have thought “Poor things, they will perish.” They may have expected that there is a group of people who, now that agriculture is invented, shall be destroyed. In fact, they disappear in the following sense: Their children and grandchildren start practicing agriculture, and their mentality is thus abandoned and disappears. This applies to industry as well. In ontological terms, people who embrace and utilize industry in a society are dwellers of the intellect. Peasants would not be able to grasp that. The urbanite who dwells the intellect would have demands that are different from those of the peasant. We are talking about two different types of people. One is shaped, determined by their occupation, and the other is oriented toward the possibilities of their occupation. Definitions of human beings that treat them as a single ontological being are wrong. There is a hierarchy. I say hierarchy because someone with a superior consciousness is bound to affect, shape, and control someone with an inferior consciousness. This is inevitably so. Academics are tasked with educating everyone else, right? What is the purpose of that education? To turn them into different people, to prepare them for industry. For all education is preparation for some place, thing, or situation. Education today is not preparation for industry. In this age of information, knowledge of hardware, software, and the like gained more currency. We still have industry, of course, we still train for industry, just as we have people training for agriculture and livestock farming. Virtual reality already ruled supreme in the Industrial Age. People’s dreams have come true, and we are now busy dreaming or imagining new things. In a Pythagorean sense, intellect, geometry and mathematics are the language of science, but which science? Empirical sciences, even statistics… Alright, but what about imagination? Imagination is a different story. People have two basic faculties; one is reason or intellect, and the other is imagination. Reason provides order, and imagination creates. At the moment, artificial intelligence is completely rational, that is to say, digital. So, it has no imagination. Because it has no imagination, it has no hope either. It cannot have hope, for hope is born of imagination, and so is art. This is why we can have a robot make a work of art, but it only takes the form of reproductions or collages after we upload previous works of art to its memory.
AA: Of course, it engages in imitation or mimesis.
MB: Artificial intelligence always has to engage in mimesis, this is one of the reasons why it was named artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is done, but where is “artificial imagination”? Intelligence is the center of rational and mental faculties, but what about the faculty of imagination? As Kant said, what is creative is imagination. The faculty of imagination in humans is creative. Einstein also said the same thing: “I have used my imagination to come up with theories of physics.” This is very important. I argue that we are beginning to see the end of the Age of Pythagoras. At the moment, we have computers, digital computers with extraordinary speeds thanks to networks, which can only be grasped with the help of cybernetics. However, no matter how much we improve on that, it will always remain a quantitative improvement, i.e. ratio. However, will, or decision-making, is left as learned decision-making. For creative imagination, we would need an artificial intelligence modelled on humans, and we should call it something else.
AA: Maybe, at that point, they would choose their own names.
MB: Maybe. However, our attitude should not be “There are machines and there are humans; let’s deal with the machines using our approach to human problems.”
AA: Do you mean we should go beyond that?
MB: First, we need to look for that in humans. Is everyone capable of using their imagination? What is the difference between those who can and those who cannot? Think about people who are stuck at the level of imitation no matter what they do, whether they like it or not, and people with creative imaginations who come up with all the inventions in art, science, and philosophy. Aren’t they qualitatively different? To speak in terms of percentages, I would say about 90 percent of people are still living as automatons. What the ancients termed bashar, distinguishing it from insan (human being), was in fact an automaton.
AA: Someone who doesn’t have free will.
MB: Yes, someone who is limited to what they are taught and cannot imagine anything else, cannot go beyond, cannot improve upon their given language or transform themselves to utilize other languages. These people make up 90 percent of the world. So, there are people who have self-consciousness and are able to use their creative imagination, and we should not make the mistake of lumping them together with others as a “species” just because they have the same physical appearance. They are a different species. The discourse of “We are dead, we are finished, we are done” concerns our physical bodies, right? We keep producing bodies, so what? Everyone keeps reproducing, be it urbanites or country-dwellers. Because it is instinctual and also involves pleasure, we will keep reproducing forever. Now, are all of these bodies humans? We need to think in terms of our definition of a human being (insan), in terms of anthropology, and anthropological ontology, not natural ontology. Natural ontology is limited to animal qualities. Human beings are not natural ontological beings. They are not products of nature. The physical body, which is a product of nature, can only be called a humanoid, it has the potential to become human. The physical existence of humans depends on the forces of nature, but their spiritual existence depends on their own knowledge, skills, and actions. Human beings are born of themselves. They create their virtual consciousness using language, first and foremost, and build themselves up in that internal, virtual world.
AA: This is the first time I see someone use the concepts of virtual and simulation in a positive sense. In my readings so far, these concepts are positioned against reality or as hyper-reality in literature, not as forms of reality.
MB: What they call reality is merely sensory reality. Let me give an example. Let’s say I am to construct a building; I am to build four walls, place a roof on them, make partitions within the building, and make it into a house. The calculation that makes it possible to place a roof on four walls is a geometric calculation. Those walls, made of some stones or concrete, are required to bear a load. Let’s say it is 3 meters high, 35 centimeters thick, and 10 meters long. This bears a load, and when I add another wall next to it, which can be made of stone, concrete, steel, or even glass, the material doesn’t really matter, what matters is the pressure they exert on one another. As long as these pressures are able to balance one another, the building does not collapse. However, if you move away from right angles, in any way, it becomes difficult for the forces to balance one another, and the building collapses. When you have a perfect right angle –one hypotenuse on this side, and another on the other side– the two triangles that result form a rectangle. What we call a rectangle is, in fact, two triangles. Two triangles indicate a balance of forces, for there are forces. What we do with these angles, the calculations we make using lengths, all take place in the mind. If I am using different materials, I also need to make sure they have identical specific weights. What is identical or different here are the forces. We cannot perceive forces in nature through our senses, we only grasp them through our intellect. Therefore, because artificial intelligence already operates in the field of intellect, it will offer more of that to us, to humanity, and computers will become more useful than physical human bodies who have yet to achieve creative imagination. Let’s call them robots; that would be more accurate. When we say robots, we tend to think of the metal, and ask questions such as “How will tactile, external, bodily pleasures and fears work?” However, silicon is gaining more widespread use, and in the future, the problem of senses will be resolved through electrical flows within silicon and nerve networks spread throughout the body.
AA: They have built artificial muscles for robots, and in a recent development, managed to integrate a live muscle cell with a robotic finger.
MB: Yes, humans are nothing but brains externally, and nothing but thoughts internally. The external part that we call the body, in fact, is an extension of the brain. Think of it this way: the brain has certain organelles on the outside. Humans are nothing but brains, but the brain is a monitor. From a philosophical perspective, the brain is a monitor, it is not a generator. I am saying this in terms of intellect and intelligence. At the quantum level, intellect and intelligence are formed in the sub-atomic energy field, in a chaotic environment. Supra-atomic level is cosmos. Consciousness is located at the sub-atomic level because molecules cannot move freely in the cosmos, where it is unable to engage in chaotic, creative imagination, and is limited to providing order. This is my argument.
AA: There have been some academic publications making a similar argument.
MB: People will gain self-consciousness to the extent this is proven. However, this can only be proven through work on artificial intelligence, there is no other way.
AA: Will artificial intelligence have imagination?
MB: Yes. I had mentioned this in earlier speeches, and it is proven now: imagination will be possible once we are able to store and retrieve information from light. What I am trying to say is this: Scientists have now managed to store information in liquid crystal through electricity. Once it is stored in light, it will be a qualitative change. Relative light, I mean. There is free light, the photons that travel in space, and then there is relative light. Electrons are relative light. Movements of electrons around the nucleus are in fact radiation, and we would be mistaken to thinks photons are the only type of light. Within the range of radiation, photons make up only a few centimeters of a one and half meter band. The rest are X-rays, gamma rays, and infrared waves, among others, found in the one and a half meter band, and this is scientific, factual data. When we are able to store data in relative light environments and not just in liquid crystal, we will have computers that can imagine. From what I gather, this is confirmed experimentally, but not yet turned into a technology. Artificial intelligence will be able to imagine as well, and wield intellect in a perfect manner. We are moving towards a world in which it will be possible to engage in error-free reasoning, which will change the human species. Therefore, this kind of human being is right to be worried about becoming extinct. This type of human can no longer exist, it will disappear as a species. There have been people who think this way, and I agree: Human beings are evolving from the human animal –which I am using to refer only to the body– to the world of intellect that is their own product. To the extent we get rid of the natural –and I should note that what is commonly termed artificial is in fact not artificial, it refers to a more fundamental, more superior nature that utilizes the forces and energies in nature– we will get rid of this animal body and exist in an entirely different kind of body. This reminds me of something, a narrative that I like, that is used for Jesus only. In the Bible, Jesus says “after the crucifixion, I will be reborn in three days” and is said to appear to the disciples in a body of light.
AA: Like a hologram?
MB: It is said that he appeared in a body of light, like a hologram, to his disciples after death, and the disciples held him, touched him, and talked to him, saying “Yes, this is real.” Even if this were a product of imagination –and it appears to be one– it is this imagination that creates science. However, it is the intellect that organizes and generalizes it, making it everyone’s. Will is between these two faculties, and a human being is nothing but “will”. There are robots that can keep doing and repeating certain movements like a ritual when given an impulse. This is what will is; it refers to starting and then ending a certain trajectory or program. There is the problem of free will, but to repeat, when some people have free will, others are automatons to them. Robots will replace automaton people, who can be called flesh and blood robots.
The most important thing here is the legal arrangements. For the time being, the relationship between robots and humans will be similar to the parent-child relationship. Whoever claims a robot will be responsible for it. However, the day they are able to imagine and make their own choices, this will come to an end. They will start defining themselves. This is currently not the case. Will refers to making choices, but also to resisting.
AA: Choice, yes, but artificial intelligence has no resistance.
MB: We call choice iradah (will) and resistance ikhtiyar. What makes us human is our ability to say “no”. We become humans in one of two ways. Insan, the Arabic word for human being is related to nisyan (forgetting) and unsiyyah (familiarity). This is a linguistic perspective: Humans are those who are familiar with laws, it is not a name for an organic being. Someone who abides by the laws becomes familiar with rights, and is thus called a human being. Nisyan is another term closely related to insan. Nisyan means forgetting. Humans are capable of forgetting. A robot does not forget. Humans forget, lie, say “no”, resist, and reject. Of course, there are mechanisms that determine these things. Humans are in fact products of the values they are taught and made to believe in by their parents, teachers at school, and other people in their social circles, and there is, in fact, no one to speak of. This is why when someone like that dies, sufis say, “They didn’t die because they were never born.” They were automatons, whatever they were taught had become their will. When this piece of bread falls to the ground, he may take it and place it on his head as a sign of respect, and this may be so important to him that, if a loved one were to trample on that bread, it may be over between the two. This is a value. If no such value is taught in another society, members of that society would obviously not behave in the same manner. Therefore, a robot would gain social acceptance to the extent they comply with the values taught in that society. By the way, when we speak of robots, I include the subway as well.
AA: How so?
MB: When we take the subway, which is a common transport network, we participate in a system from the moment we pass the turnstile.
AA: Yes, there is a software.
MB: We now exist within that software. When we are outside of it, its will does not rule us because we do not exist within the software, but from the moment we enter, our will and choices regarding where we want to go comes together with the inevitability of the options the subway offers. They, together, are the reality; this is how reality works.
AA: We are probably missing things and making mistakes in our readings and evaluations because we assume “reality” refers to natural reality.
MB: Contemporary scientists usually have a problem with their definition of human beings. We should not be content with scientific anthropology, or the anthropology of positive science. We of course have to know about it to understand the body, but we really need to pay attention to the definition of human beings from the perspective of philosophical anthropology. This definition may be better equipped to explain intelligence. This is because looking for possibilities offered by artificial intelligence in terms of hardware would solely concern the bodily functions of artificial intelligence, not its will. The moment we start talking about will, it stops being a matter for science, and philosophy is required. I believe Plato’s forms are visions and wills. But the wills, visual wills are imagined, they are products of imagination. This is how I see it. When you look at the philosophical literature, Plato’s forms are explained as ideas. I say they are not ideas; they are ideas as projects, yes, because projects are products of imagination. Forms mean seeing with projects. Seeing with a “form” means seeing with a “project.” Let’s say we are running a restaurant and looking for a waiter. We would like the waiter to have the required knowledge, be easy-going, and have training. Now, what does it mean to look for a waiter like that? We are not looking for an organic being, we are looking for a skill, a mastery. If we were to define that mastery as being human, then the shape of the body does not matter at all; they could have the body of a frog, for all we care. What matters is that they should have self-identity and be able to reflect upon themselves. Symbolic thinking is what makes humans humans. Artificial intelligence will make –and does make– heavy use of symbols. We need to pay special attention to this point because meaning emerges in the relationship between images and symbols. Images without symbols lead to lack of awareness.
Today, the knowledge we consider to be reliable is provided by academic education. Where is this knowledge, recognized all over the world, stored?
AA: In the literature?
AA: In digital environments and books.
MB: In encyclopedias. Universities are responsible for teaching encyclopedic knowledge. What we call an encyclopedia is knowledge written and stored with the joint decision or approval of editorial boards comprising academicians. There are three dominant encyclopedias in the world, Americana, Britannica, and Larousse; all other encyclopedias are reproductions, and the world academia, or universities, teach that knowledge.
AA: You pointed out another network.
MB: Knowledge contained within encyclopedias is like nature, they do not exist unless they are put to use. They remain part of the literature, but action starts the moment we consult reliable, approved knowledge regarding some topic. Consulting constitutes action, and so does utilization of knowledge. This is where reality is. That moment is real. Knowledge contained within the encyclopedia is knowledge that all universities in the world are required to teach, be they in Japan, Australia, Turkey, or Canada; no one has any knowledge apart from that. This is our common intellect. Now, are we ruled by that intellect, or do we rule one another by using that intellect as a reference and doing our own work? Thinking about this could also serve as a model to understand the relationship between artificial intelligence and human beings. Doesn’t that common intellect establish a simulative sovereignty over the entire world?
AA: It always did, didn’t it?
MB: Yes. It became very popular with the robots, and was noticed by the masses. It gave rise to worries and excitement among the average people, but scientific and philosophical circles have always been concerned with these issues: What is a human being? What is consciousness? What is soul?
AA: Hegel turned out to be prescient!
MB: Hegelians are problematic, though, because they tend to focus on the subject or the object side of Hegel’s balanced narrative; they fail to think about Absolute Spirit. And, unless we think about Absolute Spirit, we cannot grasp human beings. I believe the entirety of Hegel’s philosophy is encyclopedic. His philosophy contains all the philosophical concepts. Yet, the entire philosophy of Hegel can be summed up in an Anatolian saying: “Actions are the mirror to a man, not words.” Actions are the mirror; look at people’s actions not their words. This is what Hegel says. What he called “speculation” –a term unfortunately used by his successors to mean “empty talk,” speculative thinking, or baseless claims– referred to thinking in his usage, or to thinking that produces action. In Hegel, reality is always an action. There can be no reality apart from action. However, opponents of Hegel argue he worshipped a ghost and was far from reality. This is an ideological debate, not a philosophical one. If we were to engage in this debate riddled by ideological illusions, we would have to reject Hegel. There is a difference between having a philosophical grasp of Hegel and a grasp conditioned by ideological oppositions. This applies to other things as well. For example, I argue that the essence of Quran’s narrative can be justified in terms of its meanings within the Sufi school of thought. However, I have no option but to oppose the way it is interpreted in Muslim societies. I have to oppose the religion based on contemporary Muslim societies’ understanding of Quran; it contradicts Quran’s recommendation for self-consciousness and is enslaving, whereas Quran is liberating. What distinguish human beings at the most basic level, the consciousness that is to be both regulated by law and expected in psychic or philosophical processes, are two qualities: Being free and unique. Freedom is not enough; freedom is opportunity, but what matters is uniqueness. If a person has created and shaped themselves so that they can be distinguished from all other people and pointed out, then that person is a human being (insan); if not, they are in the process of becoming human. Being in the process of or on the trajectory to becoming a human being also qualifies. Therefore, being a human is a process, not a completed task. Because human ontology is related to a process and not complete, people are transformed and become amorphous every time there is a new definition of human beings.
Human beings exist in the delicate balance between the orderly intellect and the creative imagination. Unless they pertain to the problem of human existence, nothing to be said about artificial intelligence would be very meaningful. If we want a philosophical conclusion, we should treat philosophy as the foundation in the sense of “self-consciousness” and pay attention to how people develop consciousness of their own consciousness. There is also consciousness of objects, that is to say, science. The distinction between scientific consciousness and philosophical consciousness is this: Scientific consciousness is methodological consciousness concerning objects, whereas philosophical consciousness concerns consciousness itself, it treats consciousness as its object. Philosophy is the path to self-consciousness, and if one day we have artificial intelligence that asks “What is consciousness?” for itself, instead of asking “What is a human being?” in a sociological sense, then it would be on the road to becoming a human being. Most of humanity today is not on the path to becoming human, this is why I make this comparison. Nature, when elevated, turns human. The pinnacle of nature is the human being. The end point of nature is humanity. The term human designates self-consciousness. Whoever has no self-consciousness is animal even though they may appear to be human. A human being is the unity of the faculties of intellect, imagination, and will.
AA: In your writings and speeches, you make frequent references to Islamic Sufism or Sufi traditions in general. So, where do you place conscience? You mentioned intellect, imagination, and will, so where does conscience figure in all of this?
MB: Conscience is all about values. Values are based on morality. In every society, there are organizing assumptions that regulate social and personal relationships, regarding work, relations of production, and distribution. These are verbal assumptions, conventional in nature, and they shape morality. In their historical journey, people create values within that morality. These values are their conscience. In modern societies, however, this was replaced by the rule of law. People are now expected to live on the basis of legal values instead of moral values. Rural conscience is conventional. Conventional conscience is not the same thing as urban conscience shaped by laws. What is conscientious in one may not be so in the other. In Hegel’s philosophy, prior to modern societies with rule of law, before rights and freedoms were protected, conscience is said to have been in the hearts of people. In other words, when people rebelled against injustices done to others, they did so out of compassion, comparing it to what they themselves have suffered. Hegel calls them “heroes” or “knights”, or “saints” in religious terminology. Saints, knights and heroes undertake the work of discovering values, morality, and virtues in their hearts, turning them into a faith, and then urging other people to take up this morality and avoid others. According to Hegel, “When this becomes, in modern societies, a function of the state in the form of rule of law, heroes, knights, and saints can no longer exist.” Trying to mix one’s own alternative values with legal values would be disruptive to order; this is why they are eliminated or imprisoned in modern societies. People who would be designated saints in the past are now imprisoned because they appear to be imposing their own egos and not complying with the consensus. Who, then, would replace them in modern societies and think about issues of conscience? According to Hegel, artists would. In the past, they used to go and protect the poor and the victims in person, but now, in modern societies with rule of law, inspired artists remind everyone else of this responsibility. It is not just spotting injustices here and there and calling upon the state or concerned people to rectify them. What we call a state is in fact a virtual, imagined construct. We have never met this state, nor seen or greeted it, but it still exists and takes action. Justice is managed by a state institution, legislation is managed by another state institution… What we call a state is a mechanism. But there is no physical state, it is virtual. It is virtual, but not imitation; it is real and tangible in its actions. It is an invisible being with visible actions. Theoretical evaluation of state requires a technical language, a meta-language, which is also invisible, like the intellect. The actions of the intellect are also invisible.
AA: One of the meanings of the word “virtual” is actual.
MB: What appears to be artificial is in fact not artificial. Culture, in its entirety, is artificial. Yapay, the Turkish word for artificial, has negative connotations, so it is better to use a term from Western languages. For culture itself, I should probably use the term “synthetic” for “artificial” would not be completely accurate. What is imagined or synthetic is real because it involves human action. Science requires analytical reason, which is the mind. Analytical reason engages in science, and synthetic reason engages in philosophy. One is synthesis, it synthesizes differences, and the other makes distinctions. We gain a deeper familiarity with understanding of objects by making distinctions, but synthesis is required to utilize them. Human beings are always synthetic. This is what Descartes said in a Cartesian sense: If we are to make a building, to construct, we need construction elements. What are we to build? We are to build a house. What do we need? We need doors, windows, a foundation, walls, timber, glass; we need materials, in short. These analytical distinctions… “What do we need? We need this, we need that…” Say we brought all materials –steel, concrete, etc.– to the yard, and we have someone next to us, and we say, “See this land?” “Yes?” “I am going to build me a house on that land using these materials.” There is nothing yet, no sign of the house. We only have materials and the land. He says, “What sort of house are you going to build?” I respond, “It will have such and such rooms, the roof will be such and such, the windows will be such and such…” “How do you see them? They don’t exist,” he says. It is all in my imagination. I could turn this imagined house into a project and draw it on paper, or I could keep it in my mind. Then, “synthesis” would be when I bring those materials together in the form of the image I have. A house is a synthesis, a school is synthesis, a car is a synthesis. Bringing together is unity (wahdat). This is what wahdat means in Sufism; bringing together.
What we bring together for ourselves is culture. We first separate the analytical parts for synthetic use, and then bring them together as part of a project. This project is a “form” (idea). Form initially exists as a vision, then it is realized as actuality, as action, and becomes reality. Considering these analytical and synthetic parts of the definition of a human being, what artificial intelligence currently has is digital distinctions, or algorithms. If imagination can enter the picture, then the computer will be able to imagine what is synthetic. It will gain consciousness. Some people argue that this is impossible, that human beings, alone in nature, have a supernatural soul, a divine soul that cannot be transferred to computers or robots. People who made this argument had the same objections to digital photography from the very beginning. They said, “Digital cannot replace analog photography!” Today, factories making analog cameras are closed down. They failed to foresee future developments. Were they the same people as those who made this progress? They were not. What the academic circles see, like the person who sees the house in materials, is the image of a future world of artificial intelligence, which others cannot see and thus reject. They will make conclusions, negative or positive, based on their own states of consciousness. This is of course valuable in terms of understanding a society, but has zero value in terms of science. Nothing is done on the basis of their demands. For example, smartphones, computers that we use for communication today, are robots, aren’t they?
AA: Of course, they contain software.
MB: We cannot live without them any longer, and everyone can connect with one another, wherever they may happen to be in the world, make evaluations, reach conclusions, or influence events. A common network means a common intellect, a common space for communication and interaction. We ask Siri, “Siri, look this up for me.” Doesn’t it exercise will when it makes decisions and unearths information?
AA: Absolutely, I believe it exercises will.
MB: Of course, my guess is that these and their boundaries will keep expanding exponentially.
AA: I look at the new Google assistant, for example, and it arranges for a baby-sitter or makes a reservation at a restaurant, but it uses common sense. “These hours are not available,” it says, and if you respond “Alright, what about those hours?”, it says “Okay, great.” As an assistant, as a personal secretary, it helps people communicate with the outside world.
MB: Of course, and as it keeps being fed more information, it will make faster, more accurate decisions; this is inevitable. We will find this difficult to understand as long as we keep calling flesh and blood beings humans, for intellect is not a quality of flesh and blood.
AA: In the future, people will turn into cyborgs, and I don’t think they will find it odd; it will become normal like a hip prosthesis. I have a question I would like to ask: There is a debate regarding whether transfer of consciousness is possible or not. What would be your take on that?
MB: If we think of consciousness as a memory of information, this memory can already be transferred to computers. This means consciousness is not memory. What is at issue here is the will. It is the faculty of will that searches for and brings up something in the memory. Will requires attention, will requires intelligence. It is the action of the intelligence; we call it will the moment it makes a choice or resists. This is done by intelligence, the subject is the intelligence. It is the will that makes choices, distinctions, or associations. Therefore, we should not be asking whether transfer of consciousness is possible via memory; instead, we should ask whether it is possible to transfer will. In fact, each computer or robot, artificial robot, has an algorithmic will for common behaviors installed, and is an individual being because it uses that will to associate and respond to information we transfer. It can represent a person, but cannot become identical to that person. Twins, including monozygotic twins and identical artificial intelligences, never display identical actions because action emerges when they reply or respond to momentary encounters, in real time.
AA: You said, “Intelligence is the subject.” Let me ask one more time to understand better. What is personality?
MB: What we call personality is the internalization of values, it is also intelligence; intelligence is the master of a human being. There is also universal intelligence, or total intelligence; society has conventional or constitutional assumptions. The moment a person accepts those wills, he/she merges with them and may turn into a leader expressing social will. There can be no leader without social will. This can be done by a computer too, as Siri already does. Siri does that. It has a literal and social will. Wherever you are in the world, whichever language you speak, be it Japanese, Turkish, English, or something else, the database translates it and provides the same information to everyone. When two people ask Siri, in Japanese and in Turkish, “What is the current time in such and such place?”, it provides the same answer, showing that a common intelligence encounters and cooperates with other intelligences. Reality emerges at that moment and place. Neither our intelligence nor its total intelligence is real.
AA: The unity of the two is real.
MB: Yest, that is what’s real. This means that reality can never be in time. What is in time is the mind. So, mind is simulative, but act, action is momentary. Therefore, act transcends artificial intelligence, individual human intelligence, and total, universal, natural intelligence. Act is beyond time, it is now. Now is a term that denotes time, but it is not in time. Act is momentary, it is now. Reality is always momentary, it can never be accumulated. We evaluate all our accumulated knowledge, make a decision, and take action. Reality emerges at that very moment, and this is the fate of human beings. We write our own destiny. What we do is what we write, and what we write becomes our destiny, created simultaneously. Now, let’s say we’ve broken someone’s heart. Can we ever turn the clock and unbreak it? We made it part of our existence, it became real with our action. People think there is a common reality and that reality is like a dress. No! There is a common necessity, and every individual has endless desires. The common necessity comes together with one of these desires and turns into reality, thus creating an acquired reality. What we call reality is something that emerges with every act and becomes a fact, turning into something perceptible, communicable, and trainable. It is always momentary, but interestingly, given that the relationship of every subject determines their own moment of act, how can they be synchronized? Can a common brain, imagining the universe itself as a common brain be useful for that? Could the entire universe be working like a brain? These are topics to be studied by physics. They may not be confirmed forever, but as imagination, they provide people with new horizons. What I am trying to say is this: Let’s say we meet up and start talking. I say “Let’s but this product from such and such firm in Japan.” The firm in Japan understands us, charges our credit card, and sends the shipment. We see that this shipment is also handled by robots now; in many fields, machines do most of the work. Now, there is common consciousness here, but the existence of that consciousness depends on the person who coded it. Isn’t every person like that?
AA: I completely agree.
MB: Aren’t we prisoners of the language of our society? If I were to speak Chinese to people here, what would they understand? They would hear sounds, ask “What is this?”, but would not be able to hear the meanings. I am in favor of thinking about questioning these things on the basis of absence instead of abundance. Trying to arrive at knowledge by asking “What happens when something is absent?” The question of “What is health?” can only be answered by talking about illnesses. People pay attention to their bodies when they have some pain; in the absence of pain or obstruction, people are not even aware of their bodies. We can say people are healthy when they are not aware of their bodies. This applies to the intellect as well. If the intellect is obstructed, people start questioning; there is no questioning in the absence of obstruction. Therefore, people with consciousness at the level where issues of artificial intelligence are questioned, like we do now, do not do so out of a curiosity as to how the industry will manage that. They take this seriously and think of it as a mirror to questioning their own self-consciousness. This is not for ordinary people. Ordinary people do not have such concerns at all. What will artificial intelligence do in the future? The only thing that can be said to these people is, “You used to work at the factory, but we have now invented this thing called artificial intelligence, which will take over your job, and you will lose it.” It is as if the system that compelled them to do factory work had made a big promise to them and is now reneging on that promise. In fact, the reason people in nature gave up their enjoyable existence in nature for a compulsory existence in factories was that they were promised various toys, modern toys such as television, car, etc. They rent their entire life from 9 to 5 to the factory to obtain these toys, don’t they? Were they to get rid of the leash on their necks and say “I can live in nature with a couple of hens. Do I really have to serve these masters? I can live without a phone. Who needs a television?” etc., would they have much to lose? They could intuitively live in nature.
What I am trying to say is that masses are not the target audience here, the audience that asks these questions is different. These are issues concerning truth, and truth does not work with democracy, just as an army does not work with democracy. Say you eliminate the hierarchy in the military, and decide to have a democratic military. You are holding elections, and a sergeant says, “I am voting for this Major, not that General. He should be the one ruling us.” Would that work? Or say you are in the academia, can you have democracy in your work? Can you say “Let us democratize physics”? The chair of physics represents the will of the discipline of physics; that will requires specific knowledge and methods. The faculty of geography, on the other hand, has a different will. It is these wills that are properly called forms (ideas), and it is these forms that can see. The dean of the law school is an administrator, and he/she may be appointed from the outside, but the chair of the department of law cannot be appointed, or more properly, he/she would need to have certain academic credentials to be appointed. The chairperson is not an administrator, he/she represents the knowledge of that department. Thus, he/she is free, but free under that will. Which will? Law. Law is its form (idea), and the moment he/she strays from the form, his/her will becomes subjective interests because it is outside of law. Look, law is also virtual, and we want what is virtual. We want the rule of that virtual thing, the rule of forms, principles, of things that are invisible. This applies to institutions that regulate the relationships between people who currently have organic bodies, and it would still apply in the case of robots.
AA: Natural, artificial, virtual, real, human, and simulation… All these concepts have now become much clearer.
MB: What we call simulation is in fact gaining existence under decisions we make ourselves, and opening up a new field of existence. We are creating a dream for ourselves, as well as a society under that dream. We make transportation, communication, and other phenomena real. They did not exist in nature. Let me give an example regarding natural intelligence and artificial intelligence. This is both artificial and synthetic. Regarding music, what does natural intelligence look for and find in nature? Sounds. Sounds in nature are random and chaotic. When we take these sounds, classify them, calculate the ratios between them, and apply them to instruments, what results is nature, it is physics. Music is physics. Using physics, we try to reach harmony between the sounds we choose, and bring them together in a composition to create a work of art. For example, there are sounds in nature, but no Symphony No. 9 by Beethoven. There are people who use the concept of God to approach these issues, who attempt to evaluate artificial intelligence by saying things like we are meddling in God’s affairs, we are distorting his word. Can these people say the following: “Isn’t it possible for God to listen to Symphony No. 9 by Beethoven? Isn’t is possible for God to enjoy that?” It is possible, he could listen and enjoy it. But it is artificial, not natural; it is not found in nature. The sounds of the symphony composed by Beethoven are found in nature in terms of physics, but the composition, the harmony, the bringing together of these sounds under a will are all artificial, they are products of an artificial intelligence; this is what intelligence is, not something else. It is human beings who transform the chaotic sounds in nature and turn them into music. In existential terms, a peasant cannot listen to a symphony from beginning to end. This is why, when we look at popular music, we see short sentences and repetition. The shorter and the more repetitive they are, the catchier they become, for the memories of those people cannot hold long sentences, novels, or big narratives. They are uneducated, they would need to be educated for that. Most people, believing they must have good taste in music because they have a high status –or assume they have been educated since childhood, listening to them– go to the opera or to listen to big symphonies. But when you look at them, they inevitably start dozing off. Why? Because their intelligence cannot follow these sounds from beginning to end, because they are not educated for it, because they are left out, they gravitate toward the natural. So, what makes people human is not the natural field, but the field that they create by their own hands and labor, by transforming nature; in other words, it is culture. Human beings are cultural beings. Culture is composed nature; it means humanizing nature, turning nature into human beings.
* This interview with Metin Bobaroğlu was conducted by Ayşe Acar in July 2018, translated by Dr. Emre Eren Korkmaz, and revised by the editorial board.