The Panaceans lived for returns. They were shocked to the core every time a member died, but found comfort in the idea that all their compatriots would be back before long, bringing Christ with them. The feeling of waiting for an overdue return keeps coming up. The Panaceans anticipated the return of order to the world – with beds made and dinner places laid out for the elusive Archbishops, should they arrive one afternoon unannounced.
The Panaceans’ efforts supplied order and a sort of carefully regulated hope, in this interwar period when loss and disruption were rife. They sought original answers to old problems, but the Bible wasn’t enough; this was happening now – those who lived through the atrocities of the Great War must have been left wondering if God had forgotten them altogether.
This idea that conventional rulebooks leave an opening, unfinished business that can be concluded by specially chosen individuals, is surely just as irresistable today. It’s certainly something I see wherever I look, in the tech community.
There are a number of parallels in the way we have come to think about technology in 2018. The digital revolution has lifted us out of our nihilism, but only because we have been looking for something to do so. There’s little inherent in digital that should inspire such hope, any more than the arrival of the railways or the invention of the combustion engine. The latest subject of our evangelism seems relatively arbitrary.
This is a lengthy preface to the idea of a robotic ‘Artificial Intelligence’ crow – not much of an A.I, technically, but as fantastical as any alive-seeming A.I in popular culture, and standing for them.
Jack2 is a kind of mash-up of the return the A.I evangelists want, and the return the Panaceans hoped for. It’s a be-careful-what-you-wish for parable, but it’s also a focus for the silliness and sadness, the absurdity of these impossible beliefs we sustain to hold off the equally impossible alternatives.