infinity

“If Facebook were deleted, I’d be deleted. … All my memories would probably go along with it. … That is where I am.  It’s part of your life.  It’s a second you.”*

‘The question each of us has to ask is simple (but difficult): What can I become quite good at what’s really difficult for a computer to do one day soon?  How can I become so resilient, so human and such a linchpin that shifts in technology won’t be able to catch up.’**

I’ve pulled these two quotes together as they’re both about the impact technology has upon our lives – one negative and the other, positive.  Seth Godin argues that artificial intelligence nibbles away at the things we don’t really want to do, that who we are is formed outside of this.  We cannot allow ourselves to be formed within technology.  In the first quote, though, Audrey sees her online self as being different to her offline self, being the person she wants to be but isn’t.  Her words are full of angst.

Then this poem from John O’Donohue about our lives seeking their own shape after we are born:

‘Since then something within me
strains through closed pores
of words to get its echo out,
but becomes dumb again
when it hears their foreign voices
mangle outside what is tender within.’^

Perhaps Audrey’s ‘foreign voices mangle’ offline, making her run to her online ‘tender within.’

In Godin’s words I hear an echo of my hope that everyone has something they can ‘become quite good at.’  We do not find it by hiding with some wrong idea of self, hidden from others.  Rather it is in others we discover who we are.  O”Donohue continues:

‘I open like a swift breeze
over a meadow of clover
seamless, light and free;
helplessly, everything in me
rushes together towards
the dark life of your eyes.”^

‘Your little “I Am” becomes “We Are.”^^

Thereafter, when when we sit still with ourselves, we perhaps will notice this charge of excitement within (literally: to set in motion) and not the dull ache of angst.  In noticing this, it becomes stronger.  This is our infinity.  I’ve borrowed this word from Lillian Lieber’s book on science and mathematics Infinity: Beyond the Beyond the Beyond for exploring the unlimited nature of our lives and the contributions that emerge.

Lieber points to the need for facts (S), intuition (A), and reason (M).  Capitalisation of SAM indicates the fullness of each.  A SAM life is what we must aim for, not Sam, sAm, saM, SAm, sAM, or SaM, so:

“The yearning for infinity, for immortality, is an intuitive yearning (“A”): we look for support for it in the physical world (“S”), we try to reason about it (“M”) – but only when we turn the full light of SAM upon it are we able to make genuine progress in considering infinity.”*^

This is our universe of possibility.

(*Sixteen year old Audrey, quoted in Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(*From Seth Godin’s blog post 23 Things Artificially Intelligent Computers Can Do Better/Faster Cheaper Than You Can.)
(^From John O’Donohue’s Echoes of Memory: Arrival.)
(^^From Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.)
(*^Lillian Lieber, quoted in Maria Popova’s BrainPickings.)

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