“Will Artificial Intelligence End Human Creativity?” – John MAURIELLO

In view of this evidently inexorable event, the question arises, what remains of the eternal light of the soul once the artificial lights have been turned on? What remains of it after the soul has ceded a good part of its former luminosity to the more and more clever artifacts of the world, to computerized objects? The first machine empowered the soul; the second forces it to question itself.

P. SLOTERDIJK, After God

Technology, Translatio creativitatis and
the Earthly Twilight of Souls

Peter Sloterdijk

In order to understand the present as a time of growing complexities and intricacies, we must gain insight into the proliferation of twilights. At issue now is no longer merely this or that twilight of the gods, which gave mythologists, theologians, and artists pause. If twilights of the gods follow from the very dynamics of cultures of invention, it stands to reason that future twilights won’t stop at the mysteries of the human power of invention either.

Since the early twentieth century we have been able to recognize how an earthly twilight of souls has overlain the metaphysical twilight of the gods. There is a certain consistency here, insofar as God and the soul formed a pair in classical metaphysics. The fading away of one authority cannot be easily conceived without the fading away of the other. The arrival of depth psychologies around 1800, of Viennese psychoanalysis around 1900, and the sublation of both in the neuro-cognitive sciences around the year 2000 are unmistakable signs of this occurrence.

Consistent with this twilight of souls is a concomitant twilight of intelligence. In the course of the latter, numerous accomplish- ments of the human mind are increasingly transferred to the “second machine” – to use a term that Gotthard Günther coined in 1952 (in a commentary on Isaac Asimov’s novel I, Robot). In the processual universe of the second machines, the remainder of the old Indo-European concepts of the soul become secularized.

In view of this evidently inexorable event, the question arises, what remains of the eternal light of the soul once the artificial lights have been turned on? What remains of it after the soul has ceded a good part of its former luminosity to the more and more clever artifacts of the world, to computerized objects? The first machine empowered the soul; the second forces it to question itself.

Must we really entertain the suggestion that the inventors of artificial intelligence had thrust themselves into the vacant position of God the maker? But then shouldn’t they have followed God’s lead and banked on the resistance of their creatures? Is there an original sin for machines? Should machines believe in their humans, or will we have an ahumanism of robots?

What should we say to the antimodernist hysteria that has been blazing for centuries, now that it alleges that the human being would like to “become like God”? And if the answer were that, according to basic Christian doctrine, God wanted to become human, should anyone be surprised then that humans’ certainty of their distinguished provenance from a maker leads them to want to become a second machine?

We cannot foresee the consequences of  this  ever  faster emptying out of human reflections into machine reflections. Countermovements make their stand against it. Dams are built to resist the floods of externalized intelligence. To speak in traditionalist terminology: we no longer live merely in the midst of the first analogia entis, between God and human being, but also with the second one, between human being and higher machine. Being is intrinsically constituted as a scale of  powers and intelligences. Not a few of the shrewdest among our intellectually virulent contemporaries – here I will name Hawking and Harari, but many more are worth mentioning – express their spiritual worries by envisioning humans as taken over by their digital golems.

Perhaps the distinction between God and idols will soon reemerge here for the citizens of modernity – but this time in a technological and political register. For them, theological enlightenment – which is completely different from an instinctive rejection of religion – will be a fateful task.

For the time being, let me leave the last word to the thinker who reflected on the phenomenon of artificial intelligence earlier and more incisively than all of our contemporaries. At the end of his 1956 essay Seele und Maschine [Soul and Machine] (1956), Gotthard Günther writes:

The critics who lament that the machine “robs” us of our soul are mistaken. There is a more intensive interiority that lights up on a deeper level. With a sovereign gesture, this interiority thrusts away its forms of reflection that have become indif- ferent and reduced to mere mechanisms, in order to affirm itself in a more profound spirituality. And the doctrine of this historical process? However much of its reflection the subject cedes to mechanism, it only becomes richer. For it thereby acquires ever-new powers of reflection from an inexhaustible and bottomless interiority.


SLOTERDIJK, Peter, After God. Transl. by Ian Alexander Moore. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2022.


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