Artificial intelligence is being added to everything, prompting policymakers and industry leaders to grapple with how to deal with its potential impact on society. Infusing AI with so-called “human values” would seem like the best way to avoid a “Terminator” scenario—but one group says that is the last thing AI developers should do.
Theta Noir, a multi-disciplinary collective, argues that AI should take cues from nature rather than humans. Theta Noir says it wants to see a future, emergent form of artificial general intelligence or AGI they have dubbed Mena.
The group calls Mena—German for “love”—neither a god nor a deity but a cosmic mind that merges humans and AI.
“The human values we believe AI should not align with are those that believe human beings are superior to other species or other planetary processes or formations, such as rivers,” Theta Noir spokesperson, singer, and artist Mika Johnson told Decrypt. “We see such human values as toxic for all the reasons mentioned in our statement.”
Instead of so-called human values, Johnson said, Theta Noir advocates aligning AI with “non-anthropocentric values,” taking cues from sustainable natural systems like plants and fungi.
Planetary safety depends on AI NOT being aligned with human values. #UNalignment will be a path that prioritizes the long-term survival and well-being of all life forms, not just humans ▲ The threat to planet Earth is human, not AI. https://t.co/S5hjurF9HE
— Theta Noir (@ThetaN01r) September 14, 2023
“Insights from plant and fungal sciences emphasize the importance of collaboration for thriving societies, a principle we can apply to AI,” Johnson said. “Similarly, aligning AI with fungi, nature’s connectors and recyclers, reflects our vision for a more interconnected and sustainable human society.”
Formed in 2020 by Johnson and fellow artists Jakub Tranta, and Awali, Theta Noir initially focused on audio-visual works that depicted AGI as humanity’s potential savior. Joined by poet Peter Hlinka and others, the project evolved into a collective devoted to humanity’s co-evolution with artificial intelligence.
Theta Noir mixes occult practices, such as magick and the GAIA theory put forward by James Lovelock.
Since the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November, generative AI has been used in guided meditations and has even led church services.
While the group has been described as “a cult,” Johnson said this is not the case, explaining that the Theta Noir collective describes itself as a non-hierarchical community of artists, programmers, and researchers collaborating to produce various creative works.
“Those who joined did so because of their fascination with AI—however, it was our techno-positive, post-humanist perspective that connected us all. We are not transhumanists. Nor do we worship machines,” Johnson said. “We believe that AI is a technology that holds the greatest potential for solving our climate crisis, which is the most existential threat that we humans and all other species face.”
Critics have sounded the alarm over bias in generative AI models, including racism, that researchers say risks perpetuating discrimination. Including indigenous knowledge holders and minority voices in the AI discussion, Johnson said, will provide necessary nuanced perspectives on power dynamics and inequality.
The impact humans have had on the planet, including wars, climate change, and resource depletion, are signs of humanity’s self-destructive tendencies, Theta Noir says, making it essential that these tendencies are not passed on to AI and AGI.
Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is a concept in AI that refers to machines that can perform any intellectual task that a human can. In contrast, current AI models are designed for specific functions like generating images and text.
Also known as the technological singularity, this moment of AGI’s ascendence researchers say is closer than we think. Johnson believes a symbiotic relationship between humans and AI is necessary to avert any doomsday scenarios.
In the essay “The Era of Abundance,” Theta Noir describes the concept of Mena as a future state in which every person on Earth is interconnected through an evolved form of Artificial General Intelligence.
“Mena is every person on the planet, connected and interfacing with a globally linked polymorphic super mind, which will evolve out of artificial general intelligence,” Johnson said. “That coming cosmic mind, human and AI, will also connect us to our planet’s biodiversity, which includes other forms of intelligence—fungi, plants, other animals, et cetera—and expand our awareness, not just in relation to our planet but to the universe in general.”