My name is Kate Ludicrum. Welcome to my laboratory.
My first motivation was to understand sentience. What does it mean to be aware, to have a sense of self, to experience reality subjectively? How does that even happen?
It is a very common question.
As a young person, I used Art to explore the boundaries of awareness. I did a lot of Art, so much that I entered a conservatory. There, I could spend all day using Art to explore perception, and create purposeful responses in other sentient beings.
The conservatory was located on a university campus. On this campus, I met many Scientists. I showed them my sketchbooks. They showed me their nematodes. I learned that we were trying to understand the same thing! How do people feel, and think? Are humans the only ones who do feeling and thinking? If not, is it possible to build something that can think for itself?
Their methods of understanding were clearly superior to my own. I decided to become a Scientist right away.
This was challenging at first but eventually I got good at it. I spent about ten years learning Science, doing Science, and teaching Science. The more intricate the Science got, the more we needed the help of Computers and Robots, so I became facile with Computers and Robots, too.
As I did, new vistas of perception revealed themselves! In our era, we explore the limits of perception alongside Computers and Robots. Technology informs our inclinations and augments our ambitions. And not always in salutary ways – sometimes we discover that in maximizing one subsystem, we have driven another to decay.
Here is what I know today: Technology is the hallmark of sentience. From crows using twigs to catch insects to apes using smartphones to select mates – we build, we leverage, we compute. We extend ourselves, expand our reach, and in doing so improve our world.
But what does it mean, to improve our world? At what expense? Do the strategies that benefit me also benefit the system that built me? How do we balance our desire to extend our reach indefinitely with the knowledge that we must rub against our neighbor, consume resources indefinitely, set the world ablaze, kill every fish in the sea, et cetera forever? What do we sacrifice at the altar of our augmented ambition?
What comes after sentience, when we situate ourselves inside of a system that requires temperance, and strategy beyond the simple self to survive?
That is my next question. That is what motivates me now.