The Human Curse

The longer I live, the closer I come to understanding the metaphor of the “Tree of knowledge” found in Genesis. If only it could have been written without Gender.  In fact, that it WAS gendered presages my thoughts:  what we “know” gets used against us until we “know” better.  Since at least the time Genesis was written, we’ve been getting “what to do with knowledge” wrong.  It is our curse.

See this piece, as we bite the apple of AI and machine learning. 

Inherent in the headline, our conundrum forever:

Pro: Machine learning will identify deep traits and patterns we can’t see with regular observation and limited time/statistical capability to analyze. Excellent.  New insights and angles will be discovered. “Cures” advanced.

Con:  The attempt to eliminate traits “labeled” undesirable will result in another wave of scientific hubris — who am I kidding? — STOKE the never-ebbing tide of human compulsion to try to shape the world, with reckless disregard for unintended consequences, by those who already hold power, with reckless neglect of the powerless, and with no plans to ameliorate the gap widened by the effort, other than to suggest one find one’s bootstraps.

What will we weed out, to make humanity more “productive?”  Art? Compassion? Love?

Remember: before machine learning, in 1951, the American Psychological Association sent a list of 151 proposed definitions of mental illness to its membership to create the DSM-1. They sent the ballot to 10% of their members. Of that group, 46% responded, with 93% of that subset agreeing to the proposed definitions. And so it was that 4.278% of the membership of a professional organization defined the canon of mental disorders — including homosexuality!   It wasn’t until 1973 that they remedied this error.

What horrors those two decades wrought? Not unlike the ancient council purging gnostic gospels?  Not unlike Genesis’s author (spoiler alert: some human) defining the cause of good and evil in the world, and linking it clearly, on best available information, to women and snakes tempting us to think.

What horrors has THIS “knowledge” wrought, which we can’t seem to find a way to relinquish as quickly as the APA did with the DSM.  Texts are powerful.  Un-editable texts, deadly.

Go ye gently into this bold future, mindful of how badly we got it wrong in the past.

Marc Maron Photo

Marc Maron; Host of the “WTF” (What the Fuck!?) Podcast.

Marc Maron does a number of bits in his comedy about how badly he hurts people with his anger, only to eventually recognize his own role in the problem. His revelation in trying to fix himself? “I’m trying to shrink the gap between “Fuck you!” And “I’m sorry.””

Humanity needs to shrink the gap between “We know, and will act!” and “Oh, we didn’t know and we’re sorta sorry.”  Is claiming to “know” a form of ‘Fuck you!’?


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