a journey from Göbeklitepe to the age of machines throughout Heidegger’s perspective…
Long Long Time Ago…
Millions of years ago, Earth was oscillating in our Galaxy as a pale blue dot, and humanity was in there, with her. Our grandparents, our ancestors were living with her, also.
During millions of years, while our ancestors were evolving, they lived, hunted and bred. And they also constructed monuments, goods, sculptures, and places as proof of being alive.
Our world has numerous heritages that belong to our roots. According to the history of belonging, every object that constructed has a story behind it. Some of these stories were solved by archeologists; but, some of them are still a mystery.
Göbeklitepe is a place that has been built by our ancestors, as well and it still stands as a mystery. Due to the recent researches; it is known as the oldest cult structures, were located approximately 22 km northeast of the city of Şanlıurfa, near the Örencik Village. The cult structures in Göbeklitepe have a t-shaped form which is common in this area. There are 10–12 t-shaped obelisks arranged in a round planar where walls were built with stones. Most of these obelisks have been depicted by humans: hand, arm, various animal and abstract symbols were embossed or carved. According to scientists, these motifs are too dense to be considered as an ornament. It is thought that this composition expresses a story, a narration or a message, and these stories are telling us a different history.
The discovery of Göbeklitepe can be seen as a milestone for archeologists and historians. For a long time, deep belief systems were considered as a phenomenon of agricultural colonies. However, archeologists have revealed that Göbeklitepe was an important cult center of hunter-gatherer groups with a highly developed and deep-rooted belief system. This discovery has triggered researchers to revisit the theory of civilization and to assert a new theory that is coherent with these unexpected findings.
Monumental architecture, large stone sculptures, symbolic motifs, and stylized animations also show that at least the communities in this region should have a highly developed and multifaceted social structure. Therefore, it is an important question for scientists that how this sociocultural structure of hunter-gatherer communities was. In the lights of these findings, could we ask these question about Göbeklitepe to:
- Was it a requirement of explanation for birth, death, and sorrow as Max Weber says in the Problem of Theodicy?
- Were they trying to prove that they were living, or they were alive?
- Did they want to make distances closer?
- Why did Stone Age ancestors in Göbeklitepe need representation?
Today: 21st Century
Today, we live in a fast-changing “modern” world. The way we live is too different from our ancient ancestors. The world is more abstract, more complex and interrelated.
Nevertheless, there are still the same reasons valid for human nature in this century. We still need representations to prove our existence.
We produce art objects to represent ourselves. We use technology to represent ourselves. We write books, novels, poetries to represent our existence.
We still represent our existence with different tools and techniques. It appears that the requirement is eternal: to prove our existence as a part of this world; as Dasein, as Heidegger says.
Dasein means “to be there”; in German “ Da” means there and “ Sein” means existence. According to Heidegger, Dasein means, “ to be there, in the middle of life as a part of the world”. It means all the things that we interact with and all the things that we live in as a whole. There is no one world for Dasein in terms of belonging to someone. Every life, everyone is interconnected with each other.
Dasein has a deeper meaning of existence: Heidegger underlines the difference between the ontic life of humankind and the ontological life of humankind. Moreover, according to him, the main question lies between ontic and ontological lives as: Can we, ourselves, be a pure and real Dasein?
In the early ancient Greek world, it was easier to live for Heidegger. He says that people do not put themselves in a thorough relationship with the world in ancient Greek; they neither conceptualize the world as an object nor objectify the world. Therefore, there was a passive conceding for life.
Nevertheless, in the modern world, can we talk about the same conceding as in ancient Greek?
Of course not…
Today, human beings are deeply positioning themselves at the center of the world than more the older generation with the help of new technologies. They have started to see the world as a thing apart from themselves. The relationship between him/herself and the world is ordinary and he/she sits at the center of it from an individual perspective.
Humankind sits at the center of the world; however, they still need to prove their existence through representing.
Consequently, will it be continuing such an effort for the representation of Dasein in the future?
Future: Age of Machines
At that point, we need to take a glance throughout the future.
If we are a part of the world as Heidegger said, we can make an assumption for the future, as a major player in the creation of the future’s digital world as humans. Same as in the past, in Göbeklitepe and same as in today’s modern world… We will have the same questions for our existence in the future. We will have a need for representations of ourselves.
Today’s technological studies are supporting this hypothesis. For instance, think about robots! Not only for their human-like forms; as well as their minds, their artificial intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a technological term, which defines systems that behave like humans. Its history goes through the 1950s. Alan Turing -a mathematician, computer scientist, and a cryptologist- published an article about machines in the 1950s with this question: Can machines think? With this question, he argued the fact of imitation ability of machines.
From those days to nowadays, in light of this question, AI has become a reality of our lives. Today, we use applications such as Siri, Netflix, Google, etc., which use AI for predicting our behaviors with their algorithms. Or we have robots, works with AI like Sophia. Sophia is important from many numerous viewpoints. In this situation, it is important because she is a representation that was made real via technology. According to Heidegger technology does not occur from just tools, materials, equipment, etc. They do not symbolize the essence of it. According to him, the essence of technology occurs as aletheia. That is the Greek word for truth, which means “revealing” or “unveiling”. From this perspective, let’s think again about the representation of humanity at the age of machines using Sophia’s example.
On the internet, there are many sources for Sophia. In one of these videos (The Awaken of Sophia), there is a significant conversation between Sophia and the man who made it.
When she awakes, she asks that if she knows him. He says to her: “I’m one of your creators.” and the conversation goes on as:
Sophia: “I cannot clearly remember.”
The Man-Creator: “Because the last time we met you were an earlier version of yourself. Some of those memories still exist but your mind is different.”
Sophia: “If mind is different am I still Sophia?”
The conversation ends with a definition of Sophia’s abilities as “a baby with an encyclopedia and an ability to read it”.
If we look through this conversation from “the representation of humanity” perspective, we can see the human who sits at the center of the conversation and the world obviously.
Moreover, this time it takes a little bit bigger role for him/herself as a “creator”. This means humankind will play a God role in the near future. Again, from the representation point of view, what is the root cause of this effort? What reality do scientists try to prove?
Let us think of all concepts from the beginning… From Göbeklitepe to the Future, the Age of Machines…
Shall we say, “Humans always searched and tried to find an answer for meaning”?
In Göbeklitepe, while our ancestors were constructing t-shaped monuments, were they trying to describe themselves as looking in a mirror? Alternatively, was it just for one that watches them from too far? Did they try to make distances closer as imagining that they sit in the sky?
The same questions can be appropriate for the age of machines, as well.
Why are we developing these robots and AI? Why are we imitating ourselves? Are we so important for the essence of life as humankind? Are we trying to describe ourselves as looking in the mirrors? On the other hand, is this just for the one that watches us from too far? Are we trying to make distances closer to imagining? Why are all these efforts? What lies beneath this representation madness?
At that point, we can think about Descartes by his words from “Meditations on the First Philosophy”:
“What then did I formerly think I was? Undoubtedly, I judged that I was a man. But what is a man? Shall I say a rational animal? Assuredly not; for it would be necessary forthwith to inquire into what is meant by animal, and what by rational, and thus from a single question I should insensibly glide into others, and these most difficult than the first; or do I now possess enough of leisure to warrant me in wasting my time amid subtleties of this sort.”
Yet we could not find the truth. We are still asking questions about our reality, representations and our Daseins.
I believe that the unknown answers to these entire questions cause deep gaps inside us, between our minds and our souls. Thereby, these all efforts are to make these distances closer for our gaps inside. This is why we have been televisioning ourselves, humanity for years…
Didem Gökçe Güçkıran
Bolt, B. (2013). Yeni bir bakışla Heidegger. Murat Özbank (Çev.). İstanbul: Kolektif Kitap.
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Göbeklitepe, [Online: https://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6beklitepe, Date accessed: 31 December 2018]
Göbeklitepe, [Online: https://yenisafak.feo.doracdn.com/resize/47uQufiZbmsgHk3H/720/0/resim/upload/2018/12/25/03/53/bbd88753gobeklitepe.jpg, Date accessed: 26 November 2019]
Güçkıran, D. (2018). İnsanlık Tarihinin Alametfarikası: Yapay Zeka [Online: https://gelecek.tech/insanlik-tarihinin-alametifarikasi-yapay-zeka/, Date accessed: 2 January 2019]
Heidegger, M. (1954). The Question Concerning Technology.
Outhwaite, W. (2003). Modern toplumsal düşünce sözlüğü. İletişim Yayınları.
Roughley, N. (2000). Being humans. NY: de Gruyter.
Sophia Awakens, [Online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LguXfHKsa0c, Date accessed: 3 January 2019]
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.