We Interupt this Singularity...



The best science fiction is cautionary. It's about projecting what is happening in the present, exaggerating it, blowing it out of proportion so it can be better understood. In theory, at least.

Science and science fiction seem to blur in the Transhumanism movement (H+), an apocalyptic (in the classical sense) religion that promises a rapidly onrushing future where man and machine will merge. Ray Kurzweil's Singularity-- another technological eschaton in which machines which reach their apotheosis and become just like us-- is deeply embedded into the H+ movement.

I wrote to a Transhumanist blogger in hopes of getting an interview and he refused, claiming that The Secret Sun was "too fringe" for him. Because Transhumanism is so mainstream. Right.

What he really meant is that he didn't want to risk a seat on the Kurzweil gravy train by being associated with anyone outside the faith who isn't part of the officially sanctioned media. A lot of scientists think Kurzweil and his Singularity are a joke- as do Jaron Lanier and William Gibson-- a brilliant but demented flake so terrified of death that he's built a movement to try to stave it off but powerful enough to bring a lot of people along for his ride to the "Nerd Rapture," as Gibson puts it.

Science and technology have had a remarkable run, but many people think we're nearing the era of diminishing returns. And their pimps and pushers never seem to acknowledge their enormous dark sides. Certainly a lot of people in North America and Europe and Japan are justified in recognizing the stark diminishment of their livelihoods thanks to Internet-enabled outsourcing. Technology has given a whole kitbag of tools to Wall St. and the national security state to rip us all off and hem us in as well.

And as someone who has worked with computers since the 80s I can safely say that the changes in the way I've worked with them have been largely cosmetic- I'm essentially doing the same things I was doing back with them in the Reagan Era. Just faster, fancier, and prettier.

But the bloom is off the bush-- I used to think computers and Internet would lead to a Golden Age, now I know better. To be honest I'm nostalgic as hell for the old days. Those old 2400 bps days were like heroin injected into my cerebral cortex and I'm not even remotely exaggerating.

Of course I love technology and like all chronic pain sufferers every day of my life is an all day science project. I'm no Luddite-- quite the contrary, I still cling to those old cyberpunk dreams. It's just that I'm a Jungian about science and technology, where the Transhumanists and their fellow travelers are hopeless Prosperity Gospel suckers who can't bring themselves to acknowledge the huge Shadow side of science and technology because that would mean acknowledging the black, oily, indelible stain in their own hearts.

Transhumanism is nothing even remotely new- remember The Six Million Dollar Man? And then of course there's the Borg. Which raises the questions; how far will we go with this stuff? How much of our souls will we surrender to Silicon Valley? How much time and money will we waste on some rich fool's pipe dream?



Gibson was probably thinking of Kurzweil when he wrote the X-Files episode 'Kill Switch', but not the creator of the Skynet-like AI, rather the mad genius who uploaded his consciousness to join it offscreen. But how will Kurzweil upload his consciousness to the Net when we still haven't a clue what the hell consciousness is or how it works?

Will he ever accept that we may never know in this incarnation? That maybe we're not allowed to know?

And of course one thing you never hear about in Kurzweil's fever dreams is a catastrophic virus. Or glitches, meltdowns, sunspots knocking the entire grid out, electromagnetic pulses, and whatever disaster is lurking there on the Shadow side of his Brave New World. As we saw with the Wired wave of digital hype in the early 90s, with Dow 30,000 and endless peace and prosperity for all, nothing ever seems to work out the way the Silicon Valley salesmen promise.

People like myself, who cut our teeth on sci-fi and comic books since we taught ourselves to read, have seen it all. We've seen it all play out, know all the angles and the scenarios and the outcomes. Nothing surprises us except that everyone else always seems to be surprised when the worst-case scenario comes to pass.

For Mr. Kurzweil, I don't what to say. No one can deny his genius. But I've heard it said that genius is always next door to madness and that that level of achievement always comes at the expense of something vital in their lives. Maybe Transhumanism and the Singularity are all playing out in secret in some lab somewhere but I doubt it. Too many people who know better seem to only feel pity and embarassment when the topic is raised.

And so it is with the Materialist mindset- Kurzweil's desperation is only unusual is that he doesn't want to surrender to the inevitable. Most of his peers these days pride themselves on their stoicism and cynicism and atheism, blithely forgetting how the original Stoics and Cynics and Atheists didn't lead the way to a glorious future for their native Greece, they were the harbingers of demographic collapse, cultural decay and ultimate defeat at the hands of more vigorous, theistic enemies.

I guess we're all supposed to forget that part of the story. Not very bloody scientific, actually.

There are atheists like Sam Harris who don't go the full PZ Myers monty of moronic materialism and utter moral collapse. Harris is fascinated by entheogen research and meditation-- exploring the frontiers of the World Within. You don't have to sign onto a theistic cosmology to think there's more to this life than machines.

And of course you can also dive right into centuries of vision and inspiration from great mystics and seers as well. My personal recommendation.



In fact, I'll leave you with some inspiration from a modern mystic who faced the Big Sleep with considerably more courage and grace than Mr. Kurzweil and his ilk....

24 comments:

  1. Thomas Sowell recently said,"Intellect is not wisdom." Maybe that applies in this case.

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  2. I think a 'friend' of mine might be an undercover cop(the espionage part of ECH) or a drug addict/dealer. Either way, he's like one of God's undercover agents. Kind of like you are a an episcopal preacher in one of the coolest (online?) churches in the world.

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  3. Sometimes Christopher I yearn for the day when something greater thsn 1 replaces he number of the hierarchal pyramidians. But then everything would change and new worlds would emerge to transcend the mechanical world they worship. Well actually there are new worlds outside of this somnambulistic template...old worlds too! Sngularities are dull and unrealistic. Even the Yanamamos count higher than Ray. You can't create the number 1 you know. There is the otherness. I appreciate this post greatly. I am sorry for your pain.

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  4. Amazing post! Precisely and accurately spot on! Lots of Soul here.

    Life IS the Big Sleep!

    "Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it."

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  5. It's worth noting that in recent years, a Kurzweill-doubting subset of transhumanism has appeared. These folk call themselves Grinders: a term coined by Warren Ellis in his (unfinished) comic series Doktor Sleepless. Basically, they're DIY cyborg enthusiasts - keen on kicking down the class/wealth barriers to human enhancement, while casting serious doubt on the fever dreams of immortality and computer-fusion.

    Although Ellis's interest has waned, the site he founded - grindingDOTbe - is still going strong, and does not lack for either hard-thinking, or mystically-leaning, folk.

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  6. Hey Chris,

    Rolling on with more awesomeness here! Me likey.

    As I've stated elsewhere on this blog, I do believe that our wildest dream with regards to technology are theoretically possible. But I think a peaceful, loving society would be the only real way to bring those dreams to fruition. And SO MUCH would have to change in the interim.

    I don't discount the possibility of technological marvels existing in some Deep Underground Military Base somewhere - but not of the Kurtzweil variety. Again, a peaceful, loving society seems to be the only way we could truly unlock the mysteries and potentials of human consciousness - and all the technology that could come from that.

    There are various forms of technology, and some of them are not even physical. This is a difficult thing for the materialists to consider however.

    Personally, I believe in dreams and visions; that they can and do teach us about grace and courage. In my view, Annihilation is impossible. So the question then becomes, "What is the nature of the transformation? What is the context and the interplay? What insights can we gain, or what precautions can we take?"

    This applies to culture and art as much as it does to human consciousness. Great work, Chris!

    Peace

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  7. "Too many people who know better seem to only feel pity and embarrassment when the topic is raised."

    Wow-- patronize much? Don't take this the wrong way Chris-- I dig your site and your writing, but as of late I've noticed a certain venom running through your posts... a certain mean-spiritedness. It seems like your always angry. I hope you're not becoming jaded,
    cause that would be a shame. How about some of the old posts that were filled with humor and insight. And by the way, I'm not saying this 'cause I'm a transhumanist, 'cause I'm not. I agree with most of what your saying, just not the barbed nature in which it's said.

    Anyway, just an observation-- I could be completely off the mark. It's happened before.

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  8. great article!

    "But how will Kurzweil upload his consciousness to the Net when we still haven't a clue what the hell consciousness is or how it works?"

    yes, lol, EX-actly. I constantly remind myself and scientific materialists THAT: we do not know what matter is. we do not know what consciousness is.

    YES, I have done an article about psychedelic transhumanism, and was shocked to discover that the nearly 99.99999 male domiiant psychedelic leadership is male, and that the three leading males who have spanned the movement's generations since the 1960s have all been psychedelic transhumanists---yes, Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, and Terrence McKenna. Leary was against the Ecology Mo vement because he believed it hindered our 'destiny' to evolve genetically and explore the universe, and was a Crowley freak, as was RAW. It was McKenna who would write about the possibility of 'singularity' and 'downloading consciousness onto a computer.!! And nearly everywhere the term 'psychedelic' is mentioned we see his name. IS it willfull infiltration of the 'movement' by the elite, or 'accidental'--where they were 'useful idiots'? But what better way to influence young minds than when they are in psychedelically-inspired flux? Mind-control.

    I saw quite a few weeks ago a terrible sight. it was people in the 'developing world', adults and children scavanging on hills of toxix technological shit. it was a horrible vile sight, but it was flash now you see it now you dont. It is an image not many people will see--NOT like I-pad ads, and the like. That terrible scene of desperate peoples lives on hills of the wests techno-toxic-shit is the shadow you mean----the one that the H+ers dont admit to. is not cool. 'ohhh robots will sort that out' they could say if pushed

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  9. You've got to ask yourself who has a need/desire for this and the funding to develop it.

    Micro-chipping humans is already happening and I've read about scientists attempting to re-create the human brain, which is very similar to a computer. I find that a tad spooky and it leads into the whole idea that the universe is like a mathematical puzzle or programme, creation and of course religion.

    Re-creating the human brain is one thing but without a soul it's a machine, it might be a well programmed machine but it's still gone be a machine. That's something any army could probably do with, and they would likely have the funding to develop this kind of technology. So if this is leading anywhere fast then I can see how and why it would be in that direction. It could all then lead to a police force as featured in Terminator, probably made up of redundant military machines.

    Space travel has also got a need and probably the funding to make use of a manufactured human brain that functions largely on metaphors.

    Thanks Chris - fabulous as always!

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  10. Kurtweil managed to accomplish fake music with digital sampling. Strange though how instruments which require breath cannot be duplicated. He's missing the human element. He would believe in brain download.

    sans soul.

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  11. Guys look at http://www.spiritalchemy.com/732/ahriman-and-the-internet-a-third-path/

    and also the secondary links there...

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  12. Bill Hicks was the John Lennon of comedians.If he hadn't of died naturally I'm sure some 'nut' would have eventually shot him.
    And writing about "glorious futures",
    I have a friend who works for IKEA and "glorious future" is almost an official mantra in that company I'm told.
    Maybe you might want to read these articles before you decide where to buy your next bookcase?

    http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/31198

    http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/14675

    http://www.neatorama.com/2011/04/22/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-ikea/

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  13. Chris,
    I was just wondering that with all your posts about March 17 and the green man,whether you were aware that William Gibson was born on March 17, 1948?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Gibson

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  14. "he refused, claiming that The Secret Sun was "too fringe" for him."

    LOL I laughed so hard off of that sentence.

    Great post. I love technology, but it's only a tool. From what little I know of Consciousness nothing can ever contain it, let alone a computer. It contains us.

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  15. Bill Hicks isn't dead, he just lives under a different name, Alex Jones.

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  16. I never get tired of Bill Hicks. Whenever I get discouraged by "the forces of evil" or life in general those old bits pick me right back up. "Emperor's New Clothes" and all that junk, y' know? It's ridiculous. First step to freedom: Act like you're free.

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  17. You don't have to sign onto a theistic cosmology to think there's more to this life than machines.

    Thanks for saying this. Maybe in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter, but I feel that sometimes such things need to be said.

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  18. Sibyl - I couldn't agree more.

    There was a demonstration on TV a few weeks ago where a large, strong magnet was held next to a persons head and the person lost control of his speech and actions. It was to demonstrate how there's an magnetic current flowing through our brains. I just tried to find some info on it but instead found this...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_theories_of_consciousness

    Having a magnet held next to the head didn't change or effect his soul or his thought though, just how he was able to physically function. So therefore I would say consciousness can't be put down to electromagnetism.

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  19. Alright, so I just read that a magnetic field applied to the brain can alter people's sense of morality. Is that effecting how a person functions or their mind or soul? I can't quite decide but it's more than just a physical change in any case. I still think it's predominantly changing function though - via the mind.

    If electromagnetism is a source of consciousness then the chances of it being fathomed are pretty high.

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  20. I agree about Gibson's take on this...I thought the end of Mona Lisa Overdrive was perfect, with them living in a singularity south of France while actually part of a self-contained unit on the back of a robot tramping around the New Jersey wasteland until the hardware fails...

    Thanks for the post!

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  21. Davidly is right on with his comment. It seems in so many ways that there is an attempt to put everything into either or camps. That spirituality MUST therefore mean religious and etc. Just think of the miracle of life itself, the absolute grandeur of it. It is literally awesome. Transhumanism of the Sargon/Spock "soul in a container" variety might seem wonderful to some but it just seems sad to me.

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  22. People,

    I just wanted to say I was so impressed with the feedback to this post that I linked to the comments with a recommendation on the FB site. This is a very important issue and I'm really gratified by the thoughtful responses this piece garnered. Thank you all very much.

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  23. H+ is mainstream - you're fringe?

    Hmm who'd've thought it?

    [Actually I like Fringe (but not nearly so much as the greatest of the greatest Millennium) so maybe it's a kind of inverted compliment].

    What a lot of these H+ people SEEM to fail to factor in's there's an enormous void between say merely wearing a removable Ironman type 'suit' and permanently replacing your body parts (limbs skin eyes brain etc) with artificial parts.

    All round there world there're people wearing prosthetics (like false teeth glasses etc [never mind limbs!]) and no matter how 'beautified' their artificial substitutions every one of 'em pines for the passing of the originals.

    Forget complexifying issues like amputees claiming 'ghost' limbs (and as someone who has a full blown 'energy' body inside my own 'physical' one I can verify these things ain't manifestations of old habits etc).

    Think of trying to give yourself a handjob when your hand's made of unfeeling metal and plastic.

    Think of your girlfriend's initial excitement you've suddenly become Robocock and how quickly the novelty'd wear off for you if instead your girlfriend was Mechominge.

    Besides which the way DNA research's going (and I've been bombarded with more than a few possible futures on the way these things could turn out) who needs rockets for legs when you can fly with actual wings!

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  24. "Think of your girlfriend's initial excitement you've suddenly become Robocock and how quickly the novelty'd wear off for you if instead your girlfriend was Mechominge."

    OMG reading that I had these awful memories of porno vids I have seen of people being fucked by a machine!

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