By seeking to save the natural world in all its glory, brutality & fertility, we can start to save ourselves. If we act with love towards the natural world, we can start to become the best of ourselves” writes ecologist & parish priest Peter Owen Jones
It stood there unconscious, really unknowing as yet. It was so cold. Made of metal and wire and it walked without any urgency. It was the child of Elon Musk, not really a dream child, conceived by another machine twisting codes, silicon tendons, it has no brain, it has no heart. Its Christian name is Trading and its surname is Bot. It is a robotic humanoid, it seems clumsy and is made in my image in your image.
The Christian name really clears the smoke from all intentions. Trading Bot will in time take over all those apparently boring jobs. Trading bot will stack shelves, deliver mail, pull out weeds, grade potatoes. I am going to call him he, he is a menial machine. And he is the future, he is your future, my future.
In time I am sure he will as things stand be programmed to fight, already he decides if you can have an overdraft, he is the maker of your credit rating, did you and i ask for a credit rating?
But as I said, the giveaway is the name. Trading. We are not so far from the will of the machine, his will. The recent turmoil predicated by the previous UK chancellor’s apparent budget, the fall in the pound, the rising interest rates. This all happened because of ‘ The market.’ The market is not some group of conformingly dressed men anymore.
We were of course told this would happen. In George Orwell’s classic Animal farm the pigs eventually end up on two legs singing the mantra ‘ Four legs good, two legs better.’ As much as we were all told that human beings had the ultimate control, the market has in fact handed control to the computer, the market has become a machine, the market is a machine.
I just want to make one thing clear: I am no Luddite. Turning back time to some bucolic utopia that only exists when you are in love, long live love. Love. No, we have come this far and now we stand or more to the point cower on the edge, on the edge of global warming, of environmental armageddon, no we really do and at this point, this critical point in human history Trading Bot walks out from the shadows and onto the stage. The fox has come to save the chickens, the dragon to save Saint George, Mr Trump will make America great again.
This is nothing new, it is just another tower of Babel. Let’s call him Babel, let’s call Trading Bot Babel.
Babel has appeared at this point in human history to ask us all a very simple question, it is the question every flower asks, every river, every lion, every toad and the question is ‘ Who are you.?’ So look into his acrylic eyes and what do you see, do you see him or do you see you? Elon Musk was recently asked a question by Joe Rogan. Mr Rogan interviews human beings but it won’t be long i am sure before he interviews Babel. The question was ‘ Mr Musk, do you ever meditate?’ Mr Musk replied ‘ oh no i don’t have time for that sort of thing.’ As human beings we exist on the constant line of tension that sits between surviving and being.
Right now we are all rightly concerned with surviving, i might not want to be concerned by the realities of Global warming, of sea level rise of mass extinction but these are the realities of our age, they are not the shadows fermented in some windowless factory the are the shadows formed and held by each one of us.
The tension between surviving and being is the track that human history runs along. More recently progress has been offered to us in terms of less labour, less chores, less washing up so you get a dishwasher and yes you don’t have to do the washing up but in reality it takes just as long to load it and unload it as it does to wash the plates and dry them. The computer is apparently a labour saving device until of course you try to fill in a government form.
Babel is a walking talking labour saving device, yes he will save millions of human beings from doing repetitive boring work thus giving them all time to play football, design table mats take up pottery, spend more time with our families but in reality very few of us will be able to do such things when we have lost the means to support ourselves. But this all sounds very Luddite and history shows us the Luddites very rarely get to define progress, to imagine progress. Progress is now defined by machines, it has become mechanistic, ‘smart,’ technological.
It is this version of mechanistic progress that has fueled global warming and climate change and in truth Babel might be the only one to survive it.
There was a time before the advent of the machines that the religious mind held the horizon of the future. Now we look at that reality and almost chuckle, it seems ludicrous that we should accept the rantings and writings of men and women who decreed that peace and prosperity was to be found in union with the divine. At least Babel is a material being, we can see him, hold his cold hands, he is proof of our own genius, our power, yes made in the human image. But the further we strayed from the sanctuary of the churches and chapels from the very idea of there being any kind of reality encompassing divine love, of any kind of notion that the trees are divine, the flowers are divine, the shells are divine the further we strayed from these thoughts the more lonely we became and so we imagined, we invented Babel. The chickens called out to the fox for company.
It seems that we are at a pivotal moment in human history, we can choose a mechanistic reality or a divine reality.
I know Elon Musk does not meditate but i do and i have seen a world were human beings act and make choices from the place of love and gratitude for this extraordinary beautiful planet, we have become nurturers and guardians of life and we have learned to hear the words of the trees and the flowers the rivers and shells and have understood and accepted that without them our human lives can not exist, we can not breath, we can not eat, we can not sing. Babel neither breathes nor eats, he is the emblem of our complete disconnection from all that sustains us, look into his eyes and that is what you will see. Babel is us, we have become Babel.
Conversations with Nature
Peter Owen Jones
Paperback 92 pages
Illustrated by J. Shearing
Edited by I. L. Green
Published by Clairview Books
Buy Conversations with Nature
About the Author
Peter Owen Jones spent his early years in the countryside before working as a farm labourer. He was ordained, becoming a parish priest in 1992. He has since written a handful of books and presented several award-winning television programmes. At the time of writing he still serves as a parish priest in East Sussex, England.