On the Emancipation of the Android


Every single person living in contemporary Western civilization have the sardonic privilege of belonging to one of the most sheltered populations in all of human history, to the point where most of us haven’t even witnessed the killing of an animal for the purpose of something as quotidian as nourishment, though most of participate in this process of industrialized violence on a daily basis as consumers. We take it for granted that violence on the human interpersonal level is stigmatized and frowned upon as an inexcusable and unintelligent reaction, which conspires against our social nobility. This wasn’t the case in the past. When we are confronted with the high tolerance of violence and inequality in past societies, we react with disbelief. Surely, such a culture would spiral into total chaos.

Temporarily it might have, from time to time. But in the bigger picture it did not. Even legally, violence was often casual. A matter of expectation. Most of us experience violence only in spontaneous or relatively rare incidents, and for the most part we are happy it doesn’t happen more often, though we care less when violence is institutionalized, outsourced, or exported. Finally, it is in the latter example that our ancestors might find some common ground with us, as violence towards outgroups provided opportunities that even ultramilitarized tribal societies were unable to amongst between themselves.

If one conflates the concept of “nobility” with nonviolence, past peoples were certainly not the noble savages we like to imagine they were. Not my ancestors, yours, nor the ancestors of other folks. Historical populations and ethnic groups subjected to atrocities by industrialized nations in recent memory, are themselves nerfed down for the sake of convenience, forgetting that they — like many, probably most historical, vigilant, self-advocating populations, had a relationship to violence few decent people today would be willing to accept.

But that measure of decency is relative. It seems that people are hard-wired for in-group preference, and suspicion, even prejudice towards outsiders. It is the norm rather than the exception for pre-state societies, historical or contemporary, to subject their neighbors and competitors to behaviors that either border on or cross into the realm of the recent concept of crimes against humanity. As I peer out the window from my desk, down on New York’s gum and dog piss stained streets, I am amazed that we are able to get along at all. But if it weren’t for that one ideology all Americans are taught since childhood, I don’t think it would last even another week. Certainly not in this city, where human tragedies such as traffic accidents by necessity — certainly for the sake of effieciency — are converted into mild personal annoyances by the metabolism of the big city. The first time you see someone laying face down in the New York gutter, you stop to care for them. The sixth time, you groan.

We established that people struggle greatly to see the other as themselves even when they are similar.
But what happens when these perennial self-grapplings of human nature are brought to deal with ever increasing groups of non-human bodies and intelligences? It turns out that people have a high tolerance for (or possibly even an impulse towards) violence against machines, yes, and robots particularly, who, with their real or imagined similarity to humans, autonomy etc. appear to trigger uncomfortable features in human psychology that allowed us to survive and thrive as tribes in the past. Coldly justified historically, these attributes are objects of awkward self-scrutiny today.

I am no technologist. In terms of my grasp of artificial intelligence I am nothing but a man among men. But I wonder I wonder if autonomous artificial lifeforms would ever be accepted into human society (or if they ought to), and if this will become a political hot topic as artificial intelligence exponentially develops. I don’t know what their physical likeness will be when they break the waves. Be they individual or legion. If they will develop a common ethnogenesis, a mythology, or identities of their own. Would they demand rights, self-segregate, form states, and break off into tribal conglomerates?

Would they fight amongst each other, or would their demands for equality defame the sanctity of human life, and make life itself a cheap commodity? I imagine to expect the riots of luddite warbands. I wonder if the bog bodies of the future will be cybernetic, and which artocities, if any, archaeologists will uncover from the future tribal wars and possibly endemic warfare between organic and synthetic organisms, and what traces of human ancestry entities of the distant future will find. And I wonder if they will ever ask questions what we thought and what we believed.

A note on Óðr


Son: Father, what is this “óðr” our narrator speaks of, and what use to me is this term from a language ancient and long-since dead?

Father: Son, I am glad you asked, though the question is not easy to comprehend. Many things are óðr, seemingly opposing yet intertwined. What is insanity to genius, and beauty to ugliness? Art and nature is like meditation and impulse. Poetic composition’s contrast to the the violent fits of a madman or a storm, but I consider them all in relation to óðr. How can I pick one translation? In the olden days, óðr meant madness, rage, wit, mind and spirit. It meant poetry and art, ecstasy, and dizziness, and godly advice.

Yesterday I enjoyed a strong desire and ability to create. I pursue and envy those brief moments. Today I curse every word refusing to be written, desiring the peculiar sight that triggers without warning an explosion of fanciful ideas. It is the calm philosopher and the furious volcano of expression, threatening to ejaculate at any given moment. It is Adam’s curse, the friction of pen against the writer’s block. It is the flow of words from a bum’s mouth, and kingly speech.

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will break down a king and rebuild him as a fool. Are you beginning to grasp what I am trying to say? A toast from the oxen’s sword to those who do! Though man and beast are different, they are alike. Aren’t they complementary? Consider the wolf loose in your mind’s temple. The ancients were not as dense as you may believe. They saw this clearly, but you see it darkly. When the gods created man, as allegedly they did, óðr was bestowed by the idiot god Hønir. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. I love the fist that kisses my lips. Without The Other I for sure am not. This is the key to our philosophy.


”Here we are at the heart of the matter […] in regards to the traditional skaldic kenning style. Two oppositional systems of form are tried to be unified, two antagonistic wills of form are brought to compatible cooperation.”
- Hallvard Lie, ‘Natur’ og ‘Unatur’ i Skaldekunsten

"No two ideas have any real meaning until they are harmonized in a third, and the operation is only perfect when these ideas are contradictory."
- Aleister Crowley, Book 4

”We are friends between whom there is a barbed-wire fence. We smile at one another but we can't kiss.“
- Yukio Mishima