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The Vertical Hold

"Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me Man, did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?"
- Adam to God in Milton's Paradise Lost

"There was none among the myriads of men that existed who would pity or assist me; and should I feel kindness towards my enemies? No: from that moment I declared everlasting war against the species, and, more than all, against him who had formed me and sent me forth to this insupportable misery."
- The Creature in Shelley's Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us?"
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science 

Throughout history, Mankind has struggled with both his own creation, and the wisdom of his creations.  Literature is replete with the lamentations of humans cursing the Creator for forcing us into a miserable reality, while at the same time cursing what we create in the rush to improve our lot.

It seems that our anger towards the Creator has cut us off from vertical progression and trapped us in a materialistic world of horizontal sliding.  In this Age of Unenlightenment, we plunge into the quest for knowledge in our collective effort to surpass our own creation, and in so doing, we inevitably manufacture unspeakable horrors that repulse our deepest spirits.

We now, as a species, stand on the precipice of creating something that will exceed our perceived limitations.  I say perceived because the ancient aesthetes told us we could transcend (vertical) and showed us many ways.  Instead, we have chosen the materialist path (horizontal), whereby we create creatures that take the journey for us, so that we can live vicariously.

We continually amaze ourselves with our cleverness and ingenuity, only to be repulsed and horrified by the same when we perceive what we have done.  One wonders if God himself felt like Victor Frankenstein, for we certainly emulate his Creature.  One wonders if humanity hasn't in fact gone backwards (horizontal) because in the end we cannot overcome our own Nature (vertical).

Though we have, as a species, become infinitely more clever with mechanics (horizontal), we have shown little if any progress in our collective wisdom (vertical).  If we have done anything collectively, it is to have divorced ourselves from Nature, trying to place ourselves at its pinnacle, though our entire history is nothing more than Sisyphus struggling to push the boulder to the peak of the mountain only to have it tumble down the other side.

The unknown sage tells us that insanity is repeating the same actions expecting different results.  By this simple but effective definition, humanity has completely lost its marbles.

At the end of 2017, we stand on a precarious ledge.  We know full well that humanity's track record is pitiful when it comes to achieving the greater good with our cleverness.  We are embarking on a new path, whereby we are close to creating ourselves as we imagine we should be.  We have within our reach the ability to create genetic and mechanical beings that we hold to be superior by the puny measures we hold to ourselves. 

Artificial minds that are billions of times faster than our own and never forget anything stand waiting to be released on society (or have they already been?), while we dilute and destroy our own educational systems, keeping us from realizing what limits we truly have.

Think for a moment of all the labor-saving devices we have created in the past century, but are we less busy?  Think of all the communication devices we have created, but do we communicate better?  Think of all the vast networks and databases we have created, but do we teach ourselves from it?  Think of all the novelty we have created, but is it more than just shuffling some graphics and re-arranging some menus without delivering anything that is truly new?

It is long past time to stop.  We, as a species, must take a break and examine where we are and what we have done.  We must become vertical, that scale we long ago abandoned.  We will never effectively measure our success and failure without perspective, and that can only be achieved by rising above the landscape of civilization and mapping the terrain of our lives.

We have spent centuries rushing horizontally into a future that is multi-dimensional.  Time does not have a direction, so why must we constantly move through it in only one direction?

Ironically, humanity's salvation lies in the one thing we are seemingly incapable of doing - stopping.  We are addicted to change without ever allowing ourselves to fully comprehending what we are changing or why.  Like juicing fruit, we are throwing away the rinds without having extracted every drop, thus losing valuable sustenance in our haste to down the product and move on.

In the past century alone, we have added vast quantities of knowledge without adding a single quality of understanding.  We leave our machines to extract the richness of the data while we plunder the Universe for yet more data, never realizing that the Universe is contained in every single datum.  We already are what we seek, but that is the one place we have forbidden ourselves to look.

As our literature continually demonstrates, we have not answered the one question that perplexes us the most: who are we?  We curse the Creator for a story we made up about ourselves, and our creations have this dichotomy built into them, so that they too will manifest the same disdain for us.

Until we as a species can come to grips with our own Nature, we will never create anything but externalizations of our own internal chaos.  We will continue to loathe our creations, and they will continue to despise us, until we resolve the one issue at the center of our civilization - why do we exist?

That answer will never come from a machine.

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