In this interview for the Emergence Magazine, Richard Powers, author of Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Overstory talks about how a trip to the Santa Cruz Mountains an an encounter with an old-growth redwood tree has shifted his consciousness. He says that human consciousness is greatly intertwined with trees, and the loss of old growth forests in favor of homogenous man-made structures have led us to think that each human individual is separate and different from the other.
According to Powers, we must realize that human consciousness is intertwined with one another, our purpose, and meaning is defined by and derived from our communities.
Tree consciousness, Powers’ own term for a consciousness that considers context and interconnections, is the perfect antidote the growing de-personalization of technology. It transitions us from the “master of the world” mindset, to becoming an integral member of the community of nature. In the same way that we need nature to survive, nature needs us to thrive and evolve.
Implications for AI
This article shows to us that nature consciousness is a portal towards the human awakening to broader, more encompassing consciousness. It honors the technology we have created, but at the same time, places it in its rightful position – a tool that we can use to further the goals of our nature community.
The biodiversity and vastness of nature brings us back to a space of awe and humility, and forces us to return to the “others” who are experiencing our same plight. This return to community is an important first step towards transitioning from materialism to a post material world.
When we have accepted that our world is a living being and must be respected and revered as such, we begin to care for it appropriately. This enables us to rediscover our deep humanity, and see that the other, our fellow humans, are an expression of a nature that must also be respected and revered.
Back in harmony with our human and planetary communities, transhumanism loses its place. For after all, why would any one want to employ a technology that could inadvertently destroy the very harmony we worked so hard to achieve?
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