As Pluto moves from Capricorn to Aquarius we’re heading for new challenges and particularly changes in the nature of power. Pluto was Lord of Hades, the abode of the dead, and his influence is one of transformation at the deepest possible level.
While Pluto has been trucking through Capricorn we’ve been living through transformations of business and political structures: the financial crisis of 2008, the economic devastation wrought by the impact of the pandemic, the growing awareness of the fragile nature of our democracies. And now Pluto is moving on into Aquarius and the agenda is changing. Aquarius is an air sign and air is the medium of communication of ideas and to do with intellectual processes.
This can also be seen in the other air signs, Gemini and Libra. While Gemini deals with the polarity of debate, of pros and cons, either/or; and while Libra is concerned with the establishment of harmony and consensus by taking into account and balancing various points of view; Aquarius operates through a process of dialectic, taking an idea (the thesis) and its opposite (the antithesis) and finding a position that contains or transcends them both (the synthesis). Often this happens by a leap of intuition.
More on the relationship of the three air signs here.
Before the invention of the telescope both Capricorn and Aquarius were ruled by Saturn, the planet of limitation and restraint. Capricorn, an earth sign, was concerned with the Saturnian business of established traditions and societal and tribal structures, while Aquarius – as a fixed air sign – was involved in traditional thought processes.
The discovery of Uranus in 1781 changed all that, leading to the blossoming of scientific thought, and the tide of innovation in the (first) Industrial Revolution, the collapse of monarchies in Europe and the spread of democracy. Politically, Aquarian dialectic evolved into dialectical materialism, the basis of Marxist theory and the cornerstone of Communism. In the early 20th century, Aquarius was variously described as ‘bohemian’ or ‘unconventional’ and was associated with modernism in the arts.
Then in 1930, Pluto was discovered. This was a time associated with the rise of the dictators such as Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. At that time Pluto was in the sign of Cancer, the sign associated with homeland defence and nationalism. But there had been dictatorships before this time, throughout history in fact including the likes of Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler and Mary I Queen of England, though they were never called dictators. What changed in the 1930s was that we now had a name for this brand of authoritarian, political despotism. In other words Pluto had brought the game out into the open where it could be seen for what it was and dealt with.
This is an important part of Pluto’s process; that of bringing issues such as corruption, poison etc to the surface where they can be cleared. While this transformation may involve real or apparent destruction, it always leads to a rebirth, a reincarnation, a fresh start.
So, with Pluto taking residence in Aquarius until 2044 we’re looking at the transformative power of Pluto in the Aquarian arena of technological innovation, human and humanitarian values and democracy. And from this remit, Artificial Intelligence seems to fit the bill perfectly, particularly the application of AI in programs such as ChatGPT, and other so-called Large Language Models (LLM).
Essentially these programs have access to all the texts available online and can use them to construct other texts in response to questions or instructions. In this way, from an astrological point of view, they are Saturnian in that they use past material to generate their responses. They are incapable of the innovative or predictive thinking of Uranus or the imagination of Neptune.
Saturnian thinking takes the past and extrapolates it into the future. The graph continues in a straight line to wherever it is going. Uranian thinking on the other hand is required to respond to change. For example if an AI system is being used by a bank to decide whether or not to lend money to an individual or a company, its Saturnian method is to see if the request fits with previous agreements. This militates against any innovative thinking, in the sense that it cannot take into account the reality of changed or changing circumstances.
Paradoxically, although AI is the result of technological advance and experimentation, ChatGPT and similar systems cannot deal with the experimental or innovative. These will be ‘corrected’ to fit with the clichés of previous models. This means for example that poetry generated by AI is useless crap; for poetry is not just text constructed with short lines using meter and rhyme, it is the means by which a language renews itself and if necessary, breaks rules and expectations to find freshly minted expressions in order to wake us up to new ways of experiencing the world and connecting with each other.
And while you would suppose that AI would be a perfect fit for someone with Mercury in Aquarius or Mercury in aspect to Uranus, in fact the way these folk think is original and inventive which is totally incompatible with the strictures of AI.
Similarly, the Neptunian faculty of imagination is nowhere to be found in AI. Imagination breaks the Saturnian mould, opening us to other possibilities, taking us to other realities. While Saturn can only provide us with formulae. Hollywood movies are a case in point.
On its journey through Aquarius, Pluto will make an opposition to the sign of Leo. And for those born between 1938 and 1957 they will be experiencing transiting Pluto opposite their natal Pluto. It’s too early to say what impact this will have on individuals, except to say that issues of personal power could be brought up. Leo is the sign of personal well-being and the strength of the ego. Its colours are gold and scarlet, regal colours, the gold of the sun. In medical astrology Leo rules the heart, and Leo’s character is big-hearted and generous. The challenge from Pluto in Aquarius in its manifestation as Artificial Intelligence is that it shakes the authority of the individual author and makes the whole process of creation a lot more democratic. From Leo’s point of view, AI is a threat to Leo’s regal authority, its ‘divine right’ as an individual creator, replacing it with an authorship that is collective.
As long as it remains in Saturn’s sphere, doing Saturnian stuff like writing legal contracts or computer code, AI will be acceptable. It will take the pain out of essay and dissertation writing for students and will challenge teachers to find new ways to evaluate their students’ abilities. But when it comes to generating unwritten sonnets ‘by Shakespeare’, unwritten symphonies ‘by Mozart’, unpainted pictures ‘by Van Gogh’, etc, it starts to encroach on our creativity which is at the root of our sense of being human.
At the moment, while AI is just a rehashing, albeit a brilliant rehashing of the works and words of the past, there is no challenge. Whether it will eventually be able learn from and integrate experience of the world, to innovate or ‘imagine’ anything beyond the limitations of our present reality remains to be seen.