You might have seen this news item from last week and rolled your eyes with a sigh or a ‘tsk-tsk’: Researchers at Microsoft decided to let loose on Twitter a form of Artificial Intelligence (AI)—a machine learning program—to learn how to interact like a human being on social media. Perhaps unsurprisingly yet still dishearteningly, the Twitter bot fell prey to trolls and the lowest-common-denominator factor online, and soon began spewing bigoted, callous hate speech.
As Vice magazine reports, “Within 24 hours, the Twitter bot @TayandYou had turned spectacularly ugly in the way only the Internet can turn things ugly, spewing racism and hate at Twitter users in a series of horrifying tweets.”
Microsoft took it offline, deleting most of its 100,000 tweets (screenshots still exist of some). What happened after Tay’s initial, enthusiastic greeting of “Hellooooooo World!!!”? Well, just ‘the usual’ in that vast, cold wilderness of cyberspace; except that Tay, not being human, had no way to screen out harmful influences. Instead, it was subject to mirroring whatever kind of online dialogue came its way without being able to weigh consequences, or check a person’s comments against some kind of ethical standard or sense of empathy.
The Microsoft researchers encountered what you might call a form of “radical intervention”: their plan was for Tay to model human behavior, but Internet trolls had their way with it and sent Tay off the rails. Presumably, if the folks at Microsoft continue trying to improve this type of machine learning AI, they’ll need to find a way to guard against this type of unexpected negative influence. But how can you design any kind of foolproof AI, in terms of a machine or program that could possess the faculties of true empathy, consideration, critical thinking and those ineffable qualities that lead us to becomes better people, both to ourselves and toward others?
As the Vice column points out, “Microsoft's AI developers sent Tay to the Internet to learn how to be human, but the Internet is a terrible place to figure that out.”
Astrology, on the other hand, is a great place to learn how to be human; or, rather, if you’re already a human, it’s a great place to discover who you are, who you could be, and how to evolve in your individuation and sense of core self—no matter how much the path might spiral over similar ground on a regular basis. Life-lessons and soul-lessons tend to need repetition in various forms, so that we can integrate them on different levels of awareness.
Astrology shows us patterns of these layers or waves of evolution on a regular basis, in many different formats. We have one of those multi-layered processes happening over the course of this season, as we approach the Uranus-Eris conjunction in Aries in early June.
First, a note about Uranus and Eris in Aries. Uranus in Aries has been providing the revolutionary fuse that has sparked a great deal of upheaval in the world since 2010-2011. In concert with Pluto in Capricorn (in a still-close-but-separating square) Uranus has been inciting society to evolve, through events ranging from the positive Occupy movement to the tragic Fukushima disaster. Eris, on the other hand, has been in Aries since 1927, serving up the kind of identity chaos and individuation impulses that have marked the 20th Century through now—and which we rarely notice, since it’s been so inherent for generations.
Eric Francis has been covering Eris extensively (including here in the context of Rachel Maddow’s chart; and in the context of Uranus, last week here). Last year in April, he wrote, “Eris has the property of radical intervention.”
As you can see from the AI experiment, radical intervention in the form of the Internet does not always have positive consequences. Now, you are not a robot. You have multiple tools available to you as you interact with others. But as studies are showing, the Internet is changing how we think, shifting us to shorter attention spans, shallower thinking and less patience for full evaluation and inquiry into what we encounter.
Uranus conjunct Eris in Uranus suggests that we’re in for a form of radical intervention that might be quite unexpected. You could argue we’re seeing it already, in the way that the ‘radical’ positions of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have intervened in the ‘business as usual’ processes of both the Republican and Democratic establishments, whipping up an Eris-style political identity crisis for the U.S.
Luckily, on the personal level, you have greater agility than a political party does. You can respond to new ideas and challenges to your usual way of being by evaluating them against your ethics, desires and sense of purpose—internally, without having to stage a debate on Fox News. You can integrate new facets of yourself that you discover (or birth) without putting it to a nation-wide vote. And then you get to morph or individuate on your own time, with full awareness of the many layers of your being.
On our way to peak Uranus-Eris, this week Mercury contacts both of the planets in turn. Today Mercury conjoins Uranus at 4:49 pm EDT. This is an aspect that fosters fast thinking and intuition, and original ideas; so if you have to be creative at work or clever with your lunch date, the planets have your back today.
Because Uranus is not quite exactly conjunct Eris, Mercury will not meet her until Saturday at 3:27 am EDT. Since Eris and Uranus seem to share some similar properties of the sparky/surprising/this-changes-everything variety, Saturday also looks like a day to be open to and aware of new concepts—especially the kind that challenge you to drop outmoded ways of thinking.
Next weekend, the Aries Sun will do the same thing: conjoin Uranus and then, a few days later, conjoin Eris. It’s like the universe is letting us grasp Uranus-Eris on the intellectual level first (Mercury), and then we get a sense of it on the personality or ego level (the Sun).
Two months after that warm-up, Uranus and Eris finally peak. If you can keep moving and morphing with the “radical interventions” to your way of thinking and your sense of yourself, you’ll be in good shape come June—just remember not to feed the trolls on Twitter.