AI Demonic

A Spiritual Exploration of AI

Part I: What Is This Thing?

The internet and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. This is an extreme statement, but I’m in an extreme mood. If I had the energy, I suppose I could fill a hundred pages trying to prove it. I could write about what online reading has done to concentration spans, what smartphone use has done to social mores, how the brains of young children have been rewired by tablets and screens. I could write about social credit systems or facial scans or vaccine passports or online porn or cyber-bullying or cobalt mines or the decline of journalism or the death of the high street. So much content is on offer—and it’s all free!

Still, what would be the point? Whole books have been written already, and by now you either agree or you don’t. And nothing I can say here would be anything like as extreme as the impact that the digital revolution has had on our cultures, minds, and souls in just a few short years. Everything has changed, and yet the real changes are only just beginning. By the time they are finished, unless we pay attention, we may barely be human at all.

So I won’t try to prove anything. Instead I will devote this essay to asking a question that has stalked me for years. It’s such a big question, in fact, that I am breaking this already long essay into two parts, and dividing the question itself into four smaller inquiries, in the hope that this way it will be more digestible, to me if no one else.

What I want to know is this: what force lies behind the screens and wires of the web in which we are now entangled like so many struggling flies, and how can we break free of it?

In short: What is this thing? And how should it be faced?

I should warn you now that things are going to get supernatural.

Question One: Why Does Digital Technology Feel So Revolutionary?

The digital revolution of the twenty-first century is hardly the first of humanity’s technological leaps, and yet it feels  qualitatively different from what has gone before. It has felt that way since at least the launch of Facebook in 2004, but in the last year or so, something seems to have deepened. Maybe it’s just me, but I have felt, as the 2020s have progressed, as if some line has been crossed, as if something vast and unstoppable has shifted. It has felt like everything is accelerating—or, perhaps, like something is emerging from beyond the shores of the measurable.


Paul Kingsnorth is a novelist, essayist, and poet living in Ireland. This article is reprinted from Kingsnorth’s Substack, The Abbey of Misrule, with permission of the author.

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