Climbing Mount Improbable

From Transumanar:

To read the rest of this fascinating article, click on the above link, good stuff!

From the Inquisition placing Gallileo under house arrest, to the Scopes Monkey Trial, there have been examples throughout history of dogma standing in the way of scientific knowledge. Transhumanists know only too well the frustration that must have been felt by those individuals whose ideas have been attacked on the basis of contradicting entrenched dogma. It also seems that, where transhumanism is concerned, fundamentalism has a certain advantage over its predecessors. I mean, if you hold the belief that our planetary system has the Earth at its centre, and not the sun, the objective truth will ultimately be determined, since we are talking about an outcome of physical laws laid down tens of billions of years before human beings existed. Fundamentalists could deny the objective truth, but could not actually rewrite the physical laws of nature and inevitably their folly was exposed. But transhumanism is somewhat different. It IS in our control, we DO have an active influence in the direction technology heads. This was the take-home message of Bill McKibben’s book ‘Enough’. Literally, that society could, if enough people wish it, decide that we need not guide technology down roads that lead to a fundamental redesign of the human species.

While McKibben wrote his book, and while I read it, there were several companies and organizations explicitly working on technologies that will usher in the radical future. As well as providing the research and development required to realise transhumanist dreams, I believe they serve the purpose of giving false hopes to those groups who stand opposed to these goals.

This sense of security comes in two forms. Firstly, the difference between what would be required to realise nanotechnology, negligible senescence and strong AI, and what represents today’s state-of-the-art…well the gap seems so huge it is foolish to believe such breakthroughs can happen in a lifetime. So it seems! Secondly, when it seems a breakthrough is likely, the opponents no doubt think they can prevent it. All they need do is get the public on their side and lobby for the closure of these organizations, and we will all go back to life As It Was Meant To Be (copyright, Leon Kass).

I did say these were false hopes, and the reason I believe this is so is because I see the radical future emerging, not so much because of a few institutions explicitly working on it, but because it is the inevitable outcome of cumulative and convergent knowledge. D’you remember how Velociraptors hunted in ‘Jurrassic Park’? One distracting its prey’s attention while more sneaked up on it from behind? That is what companies explicitly working on GRIN technologies are like. They direct the attention of luddite groups, get them focused on one narrow area, and while they are distracted technology as a whole can sneak up.

Now, I do not believe that this is an intentional strategy of these organizations. It is just that they give the impression that nanotech etc is the pre-determined goal of centralized institutions. But the majority of inventors, companies and organizations have no interest on explicitly realising transhumanist goals. They only wish to research and impliment sensible, reasonable upgrades to existing tools and services. It is this ongoing effort, the desire to provide better medicine, more efficient manufacturing, software a bit smarter than last generation’s, that the goals of transhumanism will actually arise from. Keep your eye fixed on the likes of Zyvex, or the Singularity Institute, and you are probably going to miss the direction from which GRIN tech really comes!

But when it does seem that breakthroughs are near, a public scared by such extreme tech will give weight to Luddite calls for relinquishment, right? Actually, I think a propper consideration of ‘cumulative’ knowledge shows the answer to be ‘no’. Cummulative knowledge is most eloquently explained by Richard Dawkins as ‘climbing Mount Improbable’. In his own words, ‘one side of the mountain is a sheer cliff, impossible to climb, but the other side is a gentle slope to the summit. On the summit sits a complex device’.

Chances are I’m going to be flamed for this post, from people who believe in God, and people claiming that I’m playing both sides of the fence. That’s okay, because I’m stating issues as I see them.

I explained when I opened this blog why I consider myself a transhuman, because modern technology saved my life and improved the quality of it. And I believe, barring a man-made crisis, that technology will improve exponentially to a point where there will be a Singularity, where one cannot predict the outcome of the technology sufficiently to get a handle on things. An example would be the invention of a true self-aware computer, or any kind of artificial intelligence that utilized quantum computing and quantum tunnelling. The machine would be able to “talk” to itself forward and backward in time, thus enabling itself to improve itself to the point where it could become “godlike”. And this could take place in a matter of minutes, or even seconds once the creature awakened. One would only have to be familiar with Moore’s Law to see that this isn’t just fantasy. Another example would be a human being augmented with AI gear, such as an Alzheimer’s patient, hooked to the Internet, to enhance the person’s memory. I could go on. So the ability to improve humanity to the point where we don’t require physical bodies any longer and become “god-like” is not beyond the weird or tinfoil. Now the question is, “Will the NWO suppress the technology and keep it for themselves?” Sure they can attempt to. But every time an authoritarian regime tries to attain complete control of things like the Internet, some smart hacker kid in his/her basement ruins things for them. My friends who believe in God say that Lucifer is creating the lie of science and that none of this will happen. And becoming “god-like” is the ultimate blasphemy against the Lord, and that is why Lucifer was cast out. I ask, “If science and its ultimate quest without God is evil, why is the Universe so huge and immense?” It would seem to be a total waste of space if you ask me. A friend of mine told me that our measuring instruments aren’t accurate and that our observations could be an illusion. Maybe. But I trust our observations of the Universe so far, I don’t have a reason to doubt them, yet. My atheist friends would say I’m a closet religionist and that science doesn’t have any reason to support the possibility of God, or god-like beings. But as the posted article says, “will science reveal the answer? Or maybe philosophy? Perhaps theology? Or should we conjecture that these are all manifestations of a grander overarching conceptual framework that we currently cannot comprehend, but may come to appreciate as we ascend to a state that might appropriately be defined as ‘God’

Extropia DaSilva is a “transhumanist avatar”, a ‘Fascinating and Mysterious Virtual Personality’, and is the author of this article.

6 responses

  1. I guess you could consider a transhumanist avatar like a blog handle. But most people don’t hide their gender with a blog handle. In post-Singularity societies, an avatar programmed with sufficient intelligence could be sent instead of its “parent” being to do minor errands.

  2. As for myself, all that I can say is what I’ve said before… that there is no way that I can prove to anyone’s complete, 100 per cent satisfaction what it is they require for belief in any scenario; whether it be science or religion… even after having had the benefit of being on BOTH sides of this issue, whereas many have only seen one side. As an Intelligent Design proponent, I also have the disadvantage of promoting a belief that, itself, states that it can only be considered as foolishness by “the world” and cannot be understood by “the world.”

    However “God” came into existence is beyond my understanding. I wasn’t there. Just as there are some things in the natural and scientific world that are beyond my understanding, so is God. Perhaps it will always be so. I take no “comfort” from the knowledge that from either perspective; Intelligent Design or evolution, that I am essentially a bug in this universe. Perhaps, I am a lesser bug for believing that an all-powerful deity, in love, created me, and I’m not just the end-product of electrically-charged slime from some primordial puddle. The logistics for the survival of any organism under those circumstances are beyond the comprehension it takes to believe in a deity, in my view.

    In the end, we all settle for what comforts us, because if we’re honest with ourselves, there is no definitive proof for anything we choose to believe. There is always room for question and doubt in any issue or belief, and Intelligent Design is no exception. I’ve found that is true with science, as well. In fact, science, to me, is riddled with doubtful dogma.

    Even if all I have is a fond hope for believing the way I do, I do, at least,have hope with ID. Fortunately, for me, it is more than just an emotional comfort, but a logical and beneficial one in that living a just and moral life can only benefit me and those around me, as opposed to living a comparatively precarious existence by the law of fang and claw that a Godless universe must necessarily live by.

    Consider yourself “flamed” Marine! LOL!

  3. Some people have no problem with superior beings. And for all we both know our Universe is suspended in a lab somewhere in another dimension, created by another intelligence.

    All I’m saying is that older intelligences than us might have gone through their Singularity and become transcendental, one couldn’t even tell them from God, gods, Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Great Galactic Ghost or my Aunt Alice for that matter.

    David Brin’s Uplift Series delves into this and explains things from that perspective better than I am at the moment.

    Depending on how one looks at it, we both could be right. No jeers, just cheers derkurier. 😉

  4. As I’ve written before, I hold that humanity created “God” and a belief in a superior being in response to fear of death.

    It’s the ultimate parent-child dynamic: if you’re a good boy or good girl here on earth, you will be rewarded with an eternal afterlife sitting at the side of the “Holy Father.” An all-knowing, all-loving, superior being where you can exist forever.

    If people need or want to embrace this belief, cool beans, whatever makes the reality of mortality easier to handle is OK by me.

  5. Alot of people are comforted by their beliefs in a God that cares for them Christopher. I’ve seen it myself. My oldest daughter suffered from bulimia, depression and suicidal tendancies. My wife and I sent her to three psychologists. Not one of them were a help, especially when the child was uncooperative as hell, she was not going to tell them what bothered her. She lied to them and she was self-destructing real quick. Until one day, a friend of ours asked if she could come to their church. I’m not a Bible Christian in my transhumanist self, but I was raised one, so I wasn’t adverse to her going. Well, after one year of going to church, she stopped being depressed, bulimic and suicidal. Is that a miracle? Some people would call it that. Was she weak-willed and couldn’t handle life as it is, and she needed the “crutch” of religious belief? Maybe, but the child always seemed willful to me, and her defiance to the psychologists supports that. All I know is, the girl grew into a beautiful young woman and is getting married this summer. Did God, or “gods” or some future post-intelligent descendent intervene on our behalf? Depends on what you have faith in I guess.

  6. Dad, you’ve got some cool ideas on what we know as the Universe! I’m loving it. Your explanation makes more sense t me.

    About superior beings…the fact that my friends and I when we were little were able to “see the monster” who lived above the trees in the woods behind my friend Rhonda’s house has always led me to believe that any of us can be convinced of stuff that is not there and is not real. This is how I view the Christian God. It’s just brainwashing at it’s finest. But then again, that’s me. I question everything and can’t be led down someone else’s road.

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