Saturday, March 18, 2017

Pluto in Aquarius: the Robots are Coming


Aquarius is the sign most associated with Science. Practical, detailed Virgo is good for technology and for fixing computers. But detached, inventive, progressive Aquarius is good for dreaming these things up in the first place.

And it’s that detachment that is also the curse of Aquarius. The Aquarian Age that we are entering is an age of inhumanity in the name of the evolution of humanity. An age of mental brilliance and emotional disconnect.

Aquarians have strong feelings – all signs have strong feelings – but for Aquarius those feelings lag behind, or they are transpersonal: the classic Aquarian who wishes to benefit all humanity, but is absent at home.

Aquarius is the water bearer, and one of their tasks is to get to know that water, to become one with it. And the other task is to incorporate the opposite sign of Leo, the sign of individuality. Aquarians are classically the misfits, and this is often the shadow of Leo, coming out in rebellious form. And they want everyone to have an equal voice, this is one of their passions, but it can also mean everyone becoming the same, the shadow of Leo again.

There is another, shorter Aquarian Age we are entering in 5 years, that of Pluto in Aquarius. And there is a lot in the news about the coming age of automation, the age of the robots, the age of artificial intelligence.

The stereotypical robot sums up Aquarius at its worst. Pure intelligence, without a heart. A kind of pinnacle of human ‘evolution’, where we are replaced by something more intelligent. The masses of humanity, no longer needed, confined to a scrapheap of sameness.

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Pluto empowers the sign that he is in. We see the best and worst of that sign. At present, Pluto is in the sign of Capricorn – the empowerment of big business and of government (hidden surveillance – Pluto), and what looks like a return to protectionism, the walls of Capricorn. And, at the start of this transit in 2008, the return of a sense of proportion and of balancing the books to the financial system.

Under Pluto in Aquarius, everything is pointing to an empowerment of automation. Pluto was last in Aquarius in the late 1700s, as the Industrial Revolution was beginning. That revolution was characterised by greater productivity through the use of machines, operated by people doing repetitive work.
It had an alienating effect on the workers. The coming age of Pluto in Aquarius will see that process taken a step further, with a step change in the type of work that machines can do, eg driving trucks, the most common job in the US. The service industries, to which we have retreated, will also be increasingly taken over. Insurance, for example, will be quoted for and arranged automatically. Accountants and solicitors are also under threat.

In the past, new jobs have arisen as machines have taken over the old. This may no longer be the case, such is the pace of ‘progress’. The sign of Aquarius, perhaps more than any other sign, considers the question of what it is to be human. Humanity, in an age (in the West, at any rate) where people are increasingly unemployed, will have to invent new – or old – ways of making life meaningful.

Some people will feel they have been consigned to the scrapheap, without useful work, and without value to society. Others may feel that society is becoming liberated from work as an end in itself. But then how do you control (Pluto) the masses (Aquarius), no longer kept docile by work? So big questions.

Human workers will be needed less and less, while wealth creation and ownership will increasingly be in the hands of a few people: the greater inequality we have seen in recent times will continue to grow as Pluto finishes his time in hierarchical Capricorn. But there is likely to be rebellion under egalitarian Pluto in Aquarius.

And then there is the very big question, which is already being asked, but which is likely to become for real: can machines become intelligent in the way that we are, can they exponentially surpass us and make us redundant? The 'technological singularity'. Robots have always been futuristic: Pluto in Aquarius is the time when we start to catch up with the future.

The current head of Microsoft said we do not need to fear AI. Bill Gates promptly stepped in and said we do. I don’t think anyone really knows yet. But again, it will become clearer under Pluto in Aquarius.

Will our machines become conscious? There are already within academia discussions on the ethics of how we treat robots. In a traditional, pre-science sense, everything is conscious. It changes our relationship to the world, and how we see it, it changes everything, if we treat the world as alive. And it responds in kind. Maybe our dark imaginings about robots are rooted in the (unfounded) belief that the world is a ‘thing’, indifferent to us and dead. A hideous demonization of the universe. And maybe if we remember it is alive, and treat robots accordingly, they will respond in kind.

But what is this drive to create artificial intelligence? It seems to me to be a strange thing to want to do, and to define the whole future of humanity according to its realisation. Isn’t our own intelligence enough? Isn’t addressing our own stupidity difficult enough? It’s as though we are trying to fill a hole in ourselves, a hole that wasn’t there before we narrowed ourselves down, as we became distanced from the natural world.

Humans are splendid beings, and Aquarius stands for that human splendour. Can’t we learn to appreciate that, become that, instead? Again, Aquarius is both: human and inhuman, this polarity.

And it’s not just humans and robots. People are beginning to be implanted with technology, and no doubt biological elements will be introduced into machines. The dividing line between humans and their machines will begin to blur, and we will see so-called enhanced human beings arise, enhanced both mentally and physically. And it will again raise the Aquarian issue of what it means to be human. And an answer to this Aquarian question is, I think, to be found in the opposite sign of Leo, which rules the heart. Aquarius can think it is our brilliant minds that make us human, but it is not that, it is our hearts.

Prometheus is an Aquarian figure. He stole fire from the gods, against Zeus' wishes, and suffered eternal torment for it. He was benevolent but hubristic. It is the perennial message of human hubris, thinking in our brilliance that we are gods, that we know what is what, and we forget how to listen, and everything goes tits up.

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