The first step towards an interspecies future, Mr. Bridle argues, is showing more appreciation for other forms of intelligence...To some extent, this is already happening, starting with cephalopods...Through films and other initiatives many people now know that octopuses have an advanced and strange intelligence...Human beings’ last common ancestor with the octopus lived 600m years ago, compared with 16m years for the chimpanzee...Yet the octopus eye resembles the human kind. If similar eyes can evolve through separate routes, so might intelligences...The next step, Mr. Bridle asserts, is recognising that people live in an 'entangled' and 'more than human' world...Everything is messier than it seems...Other intelligences have developed from a common evolutionary base, and they overlap in ways that science is just beginning to discern...Mortal intelligence is not only limited by its capacity, but by its type: people are bipedal primates who see and hear better than they smell and touch.
Bridle offers a heady and often astonishing survey of recent discoveries from the 'more-than-human' world, where science is only beginning to glimpse the myriad forms that nonhuman intelligence can take ... Spanning millenniums, continents and academic disciplines, the scope of Bridle’s curiosity and comprehension is immense, and the possibilities of how other intelligences might augment or complement our own are exhilarating to consider ... Just as, 50 years ago, Berger challenged consensus societal values by questioning the assumptions viewers bring to bear when they look at a piece of artwork, so does Bridle now hold forth recent scientific discoveries as ways of upending our limited, self-serving and toxic understanding of what intelligence can be ... And yet, the Western, anthropocentric outlook that Bridle presents here, the one they seek to disrupt, seems in places both overly monolithic and outmoded ... Still, when seen through the clouded, ominous light of 'paranoia and social disintegration' Bridle conjures so vividly in New Dark Age, there is something hopeful and even heartening in their faith that our current disastrous course might be shifted not only by new policies and technologies but also — and more fundamentally — by the power of new ideas. Even if Bridle’s language occasionally overreaches or overgeneralizes, the urgency of the moment perhaps necessitates the hyperbole. After all, to ignore Bridle’s premonitions and revelations might be like ignoring those spooked goats on Mount Etna, frantic with the imminence of eruption under their hooves. Catastrophe is coming, and we might only save ourselves if we can find new ways to look and to listen.
If you plan on reading James Bridle’s Ways of Being — and I cannot recommend highly enough that you do — you might consider forming a support group first. The ideas in this book are so big, so fascinating and yes, so foreign, you are going to need people to talk to about them. Have your people on speed dial, ready to go. And make sure you set aside a good amount of time for reading. You probably won’t be reading this book once. You’ll want to read it several times. This book is going to stretch you ... In this book, Bridle has created a new way of thinking about our world, about being. How would we live our lives and change our world if we embraced this thinking? If we did not place ourselves at the center of everything? Please read this important book. Read it twice. Talk about it. Tell everyone you know.
With habitual insouciance, the writer blurs the distinction between individual and species ... The author’s enthusiasm for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’s predictive scale model of San Francisco Bay is infectious, but the very act of scaling the entire bay down to the size of a football field implies some complexity is lost—despite any claim to the contrary. And they leave to one side the reasons why the Bay Model was demoted to a tourist attraction, the calculations passing instead to a supercomputer based in Vicksburg, Miss ... The author scorns captains of digital industry such as Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Shane Legg, who warn that AI presents humanity’s 'biggest existential threat.' But the book’s answer to adversarial AI appears to be the hope that the intelligences we construct will join the envisioned planetary web of more-than-human solidarity. Given the difficulty of forging lasting solidarity among humans alone, it’s difficult to see how this proposal could be achieved before AI surpasses human intelligence—a prospect most experts predict within a century or so. Readers who agree with the author that the climate crisis is 'the central question of our age,' and who share their concern at the inequality, injustice and environmental destruction of the Anthropocene, will find Ways of Being inspiring. But it’s hard to see how it will persuade those with their hands on the levers of power to set course for the 'infinitely entangled' world, 'singing, full-throated, the song of its own becoming' that the artist would prefer.
Bridle, an artist and philosopher with a keen interest in the impact of technology on contemporary life, explores the ways in which a broader and more accurate understanding of rationality must force us to reevaluate assumptions about the preeminence of humanity...Bridle champions a philosophical reorientation that would dislodge anthropocentrism in favor of an ethic of relationality, which encourages a responsibility to the teeming subjectivity of our environments...This is an accessible but also technically precise book, and it makes a remarkably compelling case for the universality of reason, the benefits to be reaped by acknowledging it, and the urgent need to do so given the reality of looming ecological collapse...Among the most revelatory of the chapters are those in which Bridle describes the intelligence of animals such as octopuses, baboons, and bees—and, even more startlingly, of various plants, whose sophisticated communication networks and mnemonic abilities have just begun to be fathomed by scientists...A provocative, profoundly insightful consideration of forms of reason and their relevance to our shared future.
A human-centric notion of intelligence takes the backseat in this fascinating survey from artist Bridle...Intelligence, he writes, 'is not something to be tested, but something to be recognized, in all the multiple forms that it takes'...To that end, he notes that plants have the 'ability... to remember' and self-driving cars exhibit knowledge with their neural networks and learning patterns...Bridle makes a solid case for his argument that 'everything is intelligent' and that all life on Earth is interconnected, and his notion that intelligence is 'one among many ways of being in the world' is well reasoned and convincing...This enlightening account will give readers a new perspective on their place in the world.