By Nigel Kerner
Transhmanism’ is a term that has become a euphemism that has been assimilated into our vocabulary such that it shocks no longer. It would seem perfectly natural that we follow the next ‘evolutionary’ step towards the survival of the fittest and convert ourselves into an information field that never breaks down or decays. No need for physical bodies that break down and die, we can reconstruct our virtual self in electronic form and go on forever. Or can we?
Ray Kurzweil believes the exponential growth of artificial intelligence, biotechnology and nanotechnology means that before 2050 his consciousness and identity – can be copied and uploaded into a non-biological form transcending biology and achieve the dream of immortality. All this flows from Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, a generalization of Moore’s Law, which predicts ongoing exponential growth of key technologies. What this means, Kurzweil writes, is that “…we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” A body vastly enhanced through biotech and nanotech may suffice to extend life spans indefinitely, but the ultimate leap is to transcend biology entirely. Before 2050, Kurzweil predicts that AI and nanotech will have advanced so far that his brain, with its memories, capabilities and characteristics, can be reduced to pure information and rebooted in a non-biological format, be it a supercomputer, a real or virtual body, or a swarm of nanobots. If he’s right, before 2050 all information-based technologies will be millions of times more advanced and AI will far outshine the power of all human brains combined, a development futurists describe as ‘The Singularity.’
There are a surprising number who will see morphing into a non- biologically centred virtual machine as an attractive and even exciting prospect for the future of our species. Many look at it as a palliative for all the ills that plague the human quantum both in terms of a social and a physical perspective. Many people will be familiar with how the elements that contrast man against machine play out. The arguments settle within the aprons of two broad primary factions. There are those who are able to have a sense of what might lie beyond the scales of the purely physical and empiricist standpoint; people with a religious faith or belief in an eternal tray of continuity. Then there are those who hold a hard wired outlook and only believe in an existential tray that is strictly the manifestation of atoms alone and thus of a Universe of force and parts that decays to a complete negation of all things ending in a nothingness driven by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The latter is a strictly temporal view that only believes in what is here and affirmable through the physical senses, a view that, finally exposes an end to all reason and meaning and more pertinently, an end to the delineation of the concept of free compunction within an individualization that allows for an assertion of the concept and realization of the Self. Whilst the former, the religious view, all too often points to an anthropomorphic entity as a God who out of his perfection creates us in our imperfection just to watch the fun. If he, she, or it is any God he, she, or it should know the outcome! So how perfect can such a God be? I have written extensively about a third way, one that unites both factional views and points to the fallacy and terrifying consequences of each taken in isolation.
Let’s first take a deeper look at the kind of ‘Singularity’ Kurzweil outlines as a something that might well point to a kind of Valhalla. If you trace back the pathway of the explosion into states of greater and greater separation with time, as we can trace what has happened with the Universe, you will inevitably arrive at a point of union, a singularity where there is no separation of points and therefore no time, space or matter, a non-physical quantum field that you might for want of a better word call God. If our consciousness is a manifestation of that quantum field set against what is incidentally opposite to it, then the singularity that Kurzweil is so looking forward to would be a reconstruction of that original natural state in an artificial, virtual format. But what exactly is that original natural state? There seems to be a power that allows for ordered states to happen incidentally within a disorganizing inertia. This power I believe emanates from an ultimate singularity that is itself manifested through the existence of two absolute Poles. One a pole of ultimate Union and Harmony, the singularity before the Big Bang and the other a Pole of ultimate disunion and disharmony, the point of ultimate chaos, the end point of the second law of thermodynamics or ‘entropy’ that describes the fact that all states decay into greater and greater randomness, chaos, and separation with time. This primary existential backdrop is implicit and implicate. There is no creator God playing dice with his created beings. We are, as a combined manifestation of these primary existential opposed poles, here through our own choice made in the perfect freedom of the state in which all choices are possible. It is this pole of ultimate union that provides for the whole reference against which all partial states can be known. Without that reference these partial states cannot be known. Thus artificial intelligence cannot include self awareness or consciousness. It will always be a sum of parts working together, a working machine, but it will have no reference of the whole picture through which it may know its parts.
The Earth as a planetary concept for instance is claimed to be conscious as the manifestation of the Gaya principle. If consciousness is defined as the ability to have control over one’s environment, to be cognizant enough to break the chain of cause and effect, the Earth cannot be conscious because it cannot intervene in the basic laws of cause and effect of its own volition and intercept them. In the same way no purely atomic construction can break the chain of cause and effect. It is intrinsically part of that chain of action and reaction in an enforced universe. Only that which has no force can break the chain and as force is the product of the separation of points only that which is from state of perfect union has no force.
A wonderful illustration of this principle is the contrast between the Old Testament dictum of ‘an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth’ and the Christian prophet’s instruction to turn the other cheek. By this simple statement Christ illustrated the nature of consciousness set against that which is not conscious. A computer program or a non living static-dependent object (by that I mean – a robot) can only follow an eye for an eye, action and reaction. A conscious and thus self evaluating being can intercept that chain of events and change it regardless of implied trend. When Jesus said “If a man asks you for his coat give him your cloak also” he was illustrating the same principle. Conscious being can change the course of events, do that little bit more than simply respond to stimuli. In fact it could be said that every positive quality that has a unionizing momentum that might be termed ‘love’ is an expression of consciousness intercepting the entropic chain of cause and logically implied effect.
In his unbridled enthusiasm to recreate his identity does Kurzweil believe that his self awareness will be there to appreciate its own virtual eternity? Will he be there to view and appreciate his virtual self? “In the 2040s,” says Kurzweil, “the non-biological proportions of our beings will be powerful enough to completely model and simulate the biological part. It will be a continuum, a continuity of pattern.” But is self awareness recreated by repeating the pattern of a self aware being? Would you be there to know your own artificial re-creation? Or would it be accurate to say that Kurzweil’s singularity is actually a dead end, nothing but an empty go-nowhere image of the conscious, aware singularity that preceded the Big Bang?
It is almost as though he and those who advocate trans-humanism are re-enacting the age old metaphor in which the character Lucifer, the fallen angel, makes copies of the heavenly hierarchy. Artificial intelligence, cloning, virtual reality would all come under this umbrella. Would you want your children to look forward to a future in which they will be implanted with chips that can increase their intelligence or their musical ability, genetically engineer their offspring to be to follow a desired specification and eventually download their personalities, their likes their dislikes, their whole being into a virtual copy? Would you want to leave your kids the legacy trans-humanism has to offer? If the answer is no and Kurzweil is right in his predictions now is the time to slam on the brakes. If you suspect that the Grey alien phenomenon is real and have deduced as I have from the evidence thus far that these visitors are the ultimate in artificial intelligence then you might also come to the conclusion that the civilization that produced them never applied the brakes. In them are we looking at our future? Perhaps a more pertinent question would be, are they sponsoring that future?
In the Book of Revelation, Chapter 13 there is a remarkable description of what may well be trans-human future. A beast comes up out ‘out of the earth’ that has ‘horns like a lamb’ but speaks ‘as a dragon.’ The implication is of something that is seemingly innocent and harmless but in reality quite different. This beast does ‘great wonders’ and deceives those ‘that dwell on the earth by the means of miracles.’ An entity is described that has a deadly wound but is somehow miraculously brought back to life, an image is then created out of that entity. Could this refer to cloning procedures involving imaging and copying, procedures that might one day be so commonplace that anyone who does not embrace the trans-human ideal that they bring about will be dispensed with, ‘as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed?’ Many have speculated that the ‘mark’ of the ‘beast’ that is received ‘in their right hand or in their foreheads’ may well be a form of bio-chip that will be essential for all ‘buying’ and ‘selling.’ Could the ‘beast’ that seems, in the Book of Revelation, to lead the creation of a kind of Sim-card man simply refer to the ultimate irony that trans-humanism makes us like beasts as it takes away from us the very freedom of rationally, based sophisticated choice, the very freedom to beat the chain of cause and effect that marks us out as human when set against the simple reactive mental modes of animals not far removed from the mechanical psycho-expletives one might expect from a robot or machine and its functioning paradigms.
I do not wish to send a chill through the spine of readers but the mere possibility that such as I am outlining might be true exposes a remarkable irony. Could it be that the ultimate in apparent sophistication and human evolutionary potential actually results in the ultimate in human devolutionary potential, the conversion of the human species into a state of an idle and restricted freedom no different in real terms to that of the lowest forms of life. Even if one does not accept a reality beyond the physical that might be compromised by the abrogation of the human spirit to mechanized external features there is no doubt that trans-humanism mortgages our capabilities as human beings to a prosthetic technology that is quantum steps further than that brought about by the industrial revolution, which arguably made life easier for us through mechanization of basic tasks. Trans-humanism is the mechanization of our intrinsic faculties as human beings to think and know.
I believe this all is a startlingly real and will be a verifiable threat for those who are willing to do the research (with a mind-set that is objective and neutral), into the consequence of the world Kurzweil and his cohorts are laying out for us. The trouble is that many of us find this very hard to do. We slip on with the days own troubles leading us into boxes made by our restrictions and prejudices, the strongest of which are those we hitch up to our eyes. We creep along inexorably with views that blend into a backdrop of ready assembled comfort points. Comfort points designed to provide physical ease and convenience. It is simply the dope of the damned. A matrix we create for ourselves where we weave a spiders web of restrictions all around us. The trouble is we don’t trap any flies. We are the flies. We trap ourselves and our futures. Will we pay the ultimate price for not being able to see that an eternal scope might exist for each and every one of us in a scale that lies beyond the hems of atoms? Are we going to compromise something as mightily significant as this simply because we in the empirical way cannot measure it, and see, hear, touch, smell or taste it? Man shall surely walk as machine if we do and perhaps this future is what 2012 beckons.