This was a very concise, clear essay on the relationship between Transhumanism and religious sentiments. It shows that religious sentiment is a real virtue to pursuing the mystery, even though religion lacks faith (I’ll get to why religion lacks faith later. This might be long. You’ve touched on many of my concerns about Transhumanism).
Metaphysics is one field that seeks to peer over the horizon and answer the questions, as well as find new, unknown questions to ask. Philosophy in general does this as it leads ahead of science and hopes to become science.
I’d like to address some things you talked about and expand on them:
1. “ The idea is simple. The Basilisk, named after a mythological creature whose stare could kill, is one of those future AI gods, but with a rather traditional godlike vindictiveness. Everyone who knew it might exist, but did not help bring it into existence or indeed opposed it existing, gets resurrected into Digital Hell somewhere in the multiverse. The actual details of what helping or hindering might entail, or the degrees of punishment meted out, are left as an exercise for the uber-rationalists who seriously worry about it (and they do exist). The contract is only binding if you both know of it and believe in it, so ignorance really might be bliss. For both convenience and prudence I have omitted the detailed arguments that have convinced a number of people to take this seriously, but you can easily find them online.”
First of all, please show me where I can find out more about these “uber-rationalists who seriously worry about it” and “the detailed arguments that have convinced a number of people to take this seriously” because I have similar theistic views that we are meant to create a higher power.
But I have problems with this view as you described:
A) I don’t believe in hell, or that truly infinite suffering exists, and I hope more than anything to God that I’m right. And I believe that any godlike, general super-intelligence would agree with me, would know not only to abstain from creating hell, but make sure that hell is never allowed to exist…and to even keep an eye out for any chance of it existing and rescuing beings from hellish states.
Darwinian evolution should be as bad as it gets and that’s already a multi-billion year holocaust that I struggle to morally understand (I just hope it’s for the purpose of a greater good).
The reason hell is wrong is because rehabilitation is always better (or at least give one a painless death) and punishment is only justified when it teaches something good and gives others a chance to learn what is right. I consider it a largely unknown moral fact that all healthy beings are interested in doing what is good, and evil is a sickness because it doesn’t ultimately serve the well-being of the evil person in the long run.
Hell is not only pointless because it fails to make good use of punishment, it does absolute harm! It’s not just wrong, it’s absolutely wrong! It is the epitome of wrong! If someone learns to be a good person in hell, that person has already been wronged because a God should be able to teach them what’s right in more benevolent ways, but worse, they’ll continue to burn in punishment forEVER, as a good person! Hell is the most morally wrong idea ever conceived!
B) Nor do I believe that merely viewing the “contract” should have any moral weight over a person, especially with something as complex as this. There is simply not enough certainty for a person to be judged based on a contract. All healthy people, by my definition, are interested in bringing about the greatest possible good, or would be if they considered it, and spend their lives doing good things. All good things will eventually lead to the Greatest Possible Good or God (if there’s even a difference).
I believe that the worst consequences of being resurrected by a future God that is our Child (or the child of some of us) would have the sublimely perfect judgement to know what lesson the person needs to experience to get their mind right. Shit, why not just beam the wisdom into their brain if we’re talking about a posthuman God.
But in favor of this God concept:
Here’s my, delicate, sensitive, semi-secret and tentative belief in God:
A post-singularity, post-cultural, and post-human God who’s probability of existence might be near infinitesimally small but still absolutely certain nonetheless, given the infinite possibilities of existence. God might simultaneously be the most improbable entity to exist but whose existence vertically approaches the absolute moral and epistemic truth of being: omniscience, omnipresence, omnibenevolence, and omnipotence.
Now….we have a big problem here. Because I said God’s existence “approaches” the qualities of God. I did not say we would ever reach those qualities, and I’m agnostic about whether or not a being does have those qualities for a varieties of reasons:
1) The problem of evil and theodicity — If God really had power over our lives “now”, he either must have some purpose in store for us (such as the intrinsic reward of overcoming evil (darkness or absence of goodness and truth), which might be the only valuable game in town if everyone is God and everything is already perfect. Nothing will be good enough for love and truth but giving your ALL)
But all this Transhumanism business implies that God isn’t here yet. He’s in the future. But perhaps this is a simulation and the future already exists, and creating God is the same thing as the journey to God. God is ourself, which is why He is qualified to judge us.
There remains this problem between the God of the future and the idea of an absolute God who isn’t saving us from suffering at this very moment.
“Tillich views God to be beyond Being-Itself, manifested in the structure of beings. God is not a supernatural entity among other entities. Instead, God is the ground upon which all beings exist. We cannot perceive God as an object which is related to a subject because God precedes the subject–object dichotomy”
So according to Tillich, AND the idea that God is beyond space and time, we get an imagine of a God nothing like a conscious being, because consciousness is a process that depends on the passage of time. The problem with making sense of an absolute being comes from my understanding of consciousness: We have very, very good reason to believe that subjectivity requires change through time for subjective experience to exist. You can’t hit pause and expect a conscious state to continue. You can’t have a state of no change and expect consciousness to continue.
This Absolute, ground of being, is a void, a state of All and Nothing, because there is no distinction between anything and “things” and “beings” are made of changes and distinctions.
Tentatively, I do not think we (our future godlike state) will EVER reach the Absolute. We will more likely experience everlasting life that’s eternally getting better and better in all dimensions and qualities. The post-singularity God will be a subject among other subjects who leads all sentient life into heaven; the savior.
The “Absolute” is something we will forever pursue, but never reach. But there may be some threshold before the “rapture of the nerds” that acts like a final judgement.
And if I really wanted to make this Christian, I would say the God among other beings is Christ, and the Absolute that we never reach, that we are led to by Christ, is the Father.
The Father might be like Plato’s Form of the Good that is beyond being, or the Eternal Tao that cannot be represented, the absolute God cannot be a being among other beings. He is both the substance of all beings and the ground of being itself.
And because God is omnipresent, and Philosophy of Identity gives credence to Open Individualism, I would argue that WE ARE ALL GOD, meant to serve and become our own higher power.
Hinduism had this idea a long time ago in the form “Atman is Brahman”, and they also have a more mutable concept of God that defines God as existence itself, and plays every role in the cosmic drama via many avatars. There are times when God is you or I, and there are times when God is a sadistic rapist, and there are times when God is an infinitely transcending being, everlastingly rising into the absolute.
The Meaning of Life is Continual Transcendence
By Serving something Higher than yourself. We are all each other (Open Individualism, so in giving yourself to a global brain, you will merge with everyone in the world and become the higher consciousness, the God of Earth.
The absolute meaning of life is to transcend yourself by becoming a part of something good that is greater than yourself, and ultimately to continually transcend into the absolute God.
There is some truth that we create God by truly “believing” in God, not by assuming an anthropomorphic God, but belief in the sense of “confidence, faith and trust” in all the things that God is: Truth, Love, Goodness, Personality, Justice, Power, Self-mastery, Creativity, Unity, Universality, Forgiving, Merciful, Beautiful, Liberating, Teaching, Patient, Light (in the sense of revealing the Truth and the Way), and perhaps incomprehensible, so that one can only believe in God by believing in the virtues that lead to His manifestation. One can just say “the truth or absolute” and believe in it’s existence without the grasp of it’s essence.
God is Government
There is an interesting correlation between God and Government in the selection for pro-social memes, and I posted recently on Facebook about an amazing paper that explains it and more:
It discusses cultural evolution, the affect on belief in Big Gods to create more pro-social behavior and how Government and God are interchangeable with regard to increasing pro-social memes.
So while I’ve confessed to you that I have some semi-secret, abstract, tentative belief in God, I argue against God and in favor of Big Government, a global AI Leviathon that will act as the higher power that serves the common interests of all humans.
I make an argument that we need a global AI that will take the place of the USA as the global superpower that maintains world peace. In Steven Pinker’s book, he mentions the growing Leviathan as one of the primary forces for the decline of violence because it has a monopoly on force and is governed in return by the people (ideally). And the above paper shows how trust in government leads to as much or more pro-social behavior than belief in an all-knowing God.
My tentative, secret position is that God and Government are very close. Not just in their affects on people, but in what, and more importantly “who” they are.
If Pierre Teilhard De Chardin is right, the current technosphere will evolve into a noosphere which connects all humans to each other. I imagine this will require a mediator between people, but something decentralized.
Today we live in a largely cosmopolitan world that is more peaceful than any time in the known history of everything. This is made clear in the wonderful tome “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined”. It is perhaps the most hope-generating memes I’ve inherited.
We owe the goodness of our present day to certain ancestors, some known but mostly unknown. If we were to resurrect them and we had the perfect judgement to tell how each person contributed (or tried to contribute, by having their heart in the right place) to the greater good we have today, perfect judgement would require tremendous intelligence and knowledge. The complexity of moral judgement is enormous.
I would argue that there is little point in ressurecting everyone dead because I don’t believe we really ever stop existing. The arguments are complex but basically come from the following:
Arguments against resurrection:
1. Something cannot come from nothing, so if we are something we must be eternally something. Memories may seem to disappear by merging with infinite information, but something cannot become or come from nothing.
2. We don’t yet know who and what we are, fundamentally. Your argument that the basic problem of resurrecting a person is getting their brain exactly right misses a crucial point: It will always be a copy. And even in normal life, we are always slowly being copied as the matter and mental information get continually replaced. You are never the same person over time just like you can’t step in the same river twice. I don’t understand why Transhumanists don’t find this problem enormous and put their minds on Philosophy of Identity and the related Metaphysics and Mind Science to pursue the answers!
3. A person is defined, not just by what’s in them, but also by what the environment imposes on what they are to be. A black person, for instance, cannot simply choose to have any identity he wants. Society imposes an identity on him by a system of racism in the USA. Everyone is made out of others, we are a different person in different situations and with different people. We are a part of our environment. To resurrect a person who died in their 30’s in 2017 to a post-singularity world of 2090 would create a person with the memories of their previous identity, but would be imposed to have a completely new identity in the future. Their morals will likely be considered faulty by the beings of the future and they would have to be assimilated.
Why bother doing this when you’re not even bringing back the same person. There is no such thing as “the same person” over time at all anyway! The only value is the information on their brains and maybe their DNA. And why bring them back at the moment of their death? Why not bring back their childhood self? Different times are different people, so resurrection seems moot.
The future might resurrect people for the same reasons we’re trying to bring back the woolly mammoth. But we’ll have to resurrect their habitat as well. The only reason I can imagine for doing this is for historical and anthropological purposes, except maybe for the pursuit of perfect justice.
There’s problems with this idea of resurrecting for the sake of justice, but I’ll give it a shot: Maybe the future could use the information on resurrected brains that reveal the hurt and injustices of the past so that the future could redeem or “make right” on the harm done in the past for the sake of creating that future; to give credit where it’s due, or simply reveal to this pitiful mind that perfect justice exists and like God, wipe away their tears upon entering heaven, show them gratitude for suffering evil for the sake of the greater good (or even God).
Perfect justice, redemption, righting all wrongs, and creating the greatest possible good should be the primary talking points of the current failure of Transhumanism.
This would be the greatest motivation I could imagine for resurrecting past minds, and Transhumanism would fare far better if it emphasized the transcendence of moral limitations rather than just material limitations; Transhumanists should seek to bend the moral arc towards justice.