What’s So Good About the 21st Century? #Change11

I’m tired of the 21st Century, and I’m ready to skip ahead to the 22nd. I’ll think we’ll have things figured out by then.

The 21st Century is clearly a Dark Age; human intelligence and culture is in retreat. We’ve traded the life of the mind for the buzz of the hive.

It is also the era of misplaced concreteness. In the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness occurs whenever someone mistakes an abstract concept for a concrete phenomena. We seem to think that the internet itself is a living, thinking connective tissue. Kevin Kelly is perhaps the biggest offender with his notion of “The Technium” becoming the 7th Kingdom of Life.

I’m confident that in another 100 years we’ll have put artificial intelligence in its rightful place, as a kind of hollow butler stuffed with our to-do lists, a slightly more realistic-looking Jeeves.

Artificial Intelligence is an oxymoron, since intelligence requires embodiment, demands biology. Computation is not intelligence. The only way to “artificially” replicate human intelligence is cloning. The most effective method of cloning is sexual reproduction. All of this progress and we’re right back to where we’ve started from: perfecting our pick-up lines.

It’s time to skip ahead to the 22nd Century when we’ll (hopefully) figure out the right balance between technology and humanity and between civilization and the environment.

Learning actually hasn’t changed that much. Its delivery method has. Learning is still the same. It requires a whole mind, not a fractured one. It requires a real mind not a hallucinated one.

Leave a comment


  1. The main problem with the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness is the choice of words often used to describe new things, we use existing words and then people get confused – AI is one, memory in your computer is another, and as for comparing the computer to the brain – no wonder people are confused.

    Once you have your Jeeves, please send me a copy.

    • Andrew Neuendorf

       /  January 11, 2012

      I agree. It’s largely a semantic issue, but of course words have power and hold meaning so the terms we use really do define the issue and create its parameters. This is probably why we need poets and writers to forge the future, since language will make a space for new concepts.

  2. Alain Goyé

     /  January 11, 2012

    The semantic confusion is not one; Artificial Intelligence is the fruit of 200 years of materialism. Mind would be no more than a complex but deterministic system and we just lack computational power to model it. You know that’s wrong? Just convince “life sciences” mentors, most of whom still ignore it. Hopefully the 21st Century will be the one of that discovery.


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