Where tech aligns

Is AI About to Let Slip the Gods of War?

Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian lays bare the costs of worshipping our weapons.

This essay originally appeared in the first print issue of IM–1776. Its exclusive first appearance online is available in full at THE BUILD, my newsletter on rising from America’s ruins.

– – –

SILICON MERIDIAN: OR, THE EVENING GRAYNESS IN THE WEST

In English the word chore comes out of an older term encompassing in the broadest senses the small events that add up on Earth to the vast anonymizing sands in our mortal hourglass: turn, change, time, occasion, affair. Even in a world unsubmerged in vast dunes of silicon, unswept over by their infinite and invisible automatons, the reduction of our humanity by our chores to something subaltern is a menace we struggle even to contemplate absent some godly helpmeet.

Within that digital world our unaided prospects dwindle further still. Overwhelmed with the elemental spectacle of our material resources animated with a degree of uninhibited autonomy reserved until maybe a decade ago to celestial or infernal beings, we are no longer simply reduced in stature or identity by the consumptive toil of our quotidian burdens. We are alienated in the more primal sense of becoming beyond our evaluation. “War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him.” What is man anymore when it is stone that waited so long for him to give it omnivorous false life? What is war?

“Men of God and men of war have strange affinities.” If you do not want to be buried alive in the sands of chores or effaced in the dunes of silicon, where do you have to run? Where do you have to stand? Even art fails you. Merely human artistry, the toil to represent and lift up to experience an image of the perfectly human, is against conscience. There is no longer any pretending we have not ushered out of the rock something new to worship, an idol and what is streaming out from it, which all of our human instincts have in a sense frozen in wait for the tremendous verdict as to its possible divinity.

From where, from whom, would such a judgment issue? From which judge? Who would be competent, who authoritative, enough to hand it down? Could it be done in peace? Or can such news come to us, such that we know it body and soul, on a sword?

To read this essay in full, subscribe to THE BUILD.

Lots more where that came from.