I Long To Be Free Of This Corporeal Form

The disembodied voice of Grimes.

I Long To Be Free Of This Corporeal Form

When you tug on any single thread of reality, it all comes apart.

The process of growing up is really a process of forgetting.

We forget our own curiosity and creativity, forget the questions we used to ask, we forget how confusing the world once was, we forget its magic; to fit in, we regulate our moods and emotional states, our physical movements, our facial expressions; teach ourselves good manners and trick ourselves that knowing the names of things, basic facts about commuting and finance, garnering a solid LinkedIn bio and trivia on the names of dead poets, etc. is in effect to truly understand the world, enough to create a passable simulacrum of a person.

This is bollocks.


Reality is a loose weave and as we get older we just forget.

95% of the universe is unknown (dark energy + dark matter), so each time we speak with confidence we do so from within the crushing weight of our ignorance. Our collective knowledge is, by definition, capped at 5% of everything. The rest of the universe is not fundamentally unknown as in, our knowledge is incomplete, nor do we misunderstand it. We lack even a basic grounding in it: we barely know what we barely know.

Strong opinions held with no shred of irony must therefore be treated with palmfuls of salt. Our natural state is doubt. The stories we tell ourselves are unreliable, though some are useful. Identity, place, power, self, law, connection, love, diet, country, history; the truth is, we shouldn't take any of it seriously. It's just life, yeah?

The real threat of AI isn't the kind Yudkowsky promises, where superintelligence annihilates us. It's where automation kills our banal realities, all our bullshit jobs, and we're forced to re-address our fundamental questions. Figure out how to live again, find purpose rather than exist as simple dead players.

'I think it's cool to be fused with a machine.'

Grimes has an answer.

She's said many things like it, and caused a little stir when she said thisβ€”

Figures; she's transhumanist. She goes full android, wants all the upgrades, named her son like a password.

So copyright is the least of it, but to give it its due: relinquishing IP makes sense if you're a transhumanist in a way that's hard to see if you're not. It seems illogical when you care about your precious possessions (and what possession is more precious than your body?). Β IP is just the grown-up way of saying MINE, the way little kids do. A set of laws in dire need of revision, but set.

But the game β€” the fantasy of transhumanism β€” is to be disembodied.

The earliest cyberpunk writers captured it. In Neuromancer, the protagonist's dead friend exists as a read-only construct in his computer. They continue their friendship based on stored memories, a duplicate of his consciousness.

It feels like we're only minutes away from that.

Scott Alexander wrote about Typical Mind, getting his head around gender identity, likening it to the miswiring that gives rise to phantom limbs.

What if your whole body felt like a phantom limb? What if the you that is in there belongs in a different form-body altogether?

The boring transhumanists talk about life extension and disease control. The wild ones recognise where we're already headed; atomised, distorted, disembodied.

We're gene-copying machines.

The desire to replicate ourselves through reproducing our DNA powers our impulses, instincts, society. First comes survival, then reproduction; the desire to swipe right is hard-wired.

Creativity gives us a meaningful alternative; artists propagate ideas and images that persist and thrive. Concepts that survive and outlive them, piece of themselves that persist.

Look at DNA again β€” it's a language of code:

So what if we were to become code copying. Replicating ourselves not as cells but scripts?

When we're disembodied, existing purely as data, then with enough servers, grand enough distribution β€” you're infinite.

That narrative self is gone.

I've often felt that technologists are simply trying to reinvent religion;
artificial intelligence is the reinvention of god; Singularity is just The Rapture with better special effects. Immersion and disillusion of the self is a common theme in spiritual practice β€” Sufis long to be lost in the divine ocean, Zen Buddhists seek nirvana's light.

Some believe that in dreams, our souls leave our bodies, which is why when we wake we feel rested. During the night, our spirit forms wander, encountering others (shared dreams), sometimes venturing to the distant places where angels speak of events yet to pass (predictive dreams). I must admit that is a cool way to mingle; bodies are boring, and sometimes I wish we could have met under different circumstances (not in this physical realm, not bound by these corporeal forms).

So you can choose to have faith in the grand Grimes scheme or not.

Beneath the words she says, we don't have to be attached to the same stories. It doesn't matter what we've convinced ourselves of. That narrative self is gone.

There was a truth we knew when we were young, which is that we could be anything, anyone.

We grow up, and many of us forget that possibility.

Be Grimes; be free, no label; free to create new conventions, sidestep the law, sure... but also free to create a new story of yourself. You don't have to subscribe to the old one, even if it is warm and familiar. Even if it's what everyone says they want. Be free to be yourself, alone; or be many, everywhere.

Rewrite yourself, be disembodied.

Be you, a drop. Be code, an ocean.