Transhumanity Debate: ‘A Coda’

singularity debate books

             (Video here with explanation)

“The great machine of science does not yield answers to problems of metaphysics or morality: to reduce the central problems of human life to problems of means, that is, of technology, is not to understand what they are. To regard technical progress as being identical with, or even as a guarantee of, cultural progress, is moral blindness.” –Isaiah Berlin

I would add moral abdication to Berlin’s blindness. In the most important book in the Bible, Job with great deference and politesse instructs god in moral agency. God is infinite and without discernment. Man is the moral agent of the universe. This is clarified in one of the murkiest and most challenging paradoxes of the New Testament: Son of God, Son of Man. Man is God so that God is Man. Technology makes a poor surrogate for both.

We are pre-ordained, hard-wired if you like, to fail. It is Luciferean sacrilege to think that we night surpass or somehow avert that failure, to think we might pass the baton to something, shirking or deflecting all that God has ordained we must and will fail at.

Nick Danaylov suggests man is an unfolding process or continuum of which transhumanity would be only the most radical change to date. Change, says Nick, is the only constant.

I would agree that the journey of life tests and instructs us in an experiential sense. Yet change, while an apparent constant, is really a whole-cloth illusion.

There is a central fixity, a soul. Call it a consciousness if you like. I think of TS Eliot’s still-point. I am convinced the soul I have today is the soul I rode in on.

Curiously paralleling the Berlin quote, though with an entirely different spin, Kurzweil says this of the Singularity:

“Most long-range forecasts of what is technically feasible in future time periods dramatically underestimate the power of future developments because they are based on what I call the “intuitive linear” view of history rather than the “historical exponential” view.” –Ray Kurzweil

In short, we cannot possibly see, much less consent, to all that lies in store for us. Linearity comports moral agency. Whereas exponentiality returns us to a pre-Job state. Man is indeed rendered superfluous in an exponential unfolding where human agency is rescinded and God is once again left to His infinity, His quantum possibility, His incoherence and yes, His blindness. Moral agency is a delimiter. This behavior causes that outcome.

Thus we have a more climactic, and I might say ill-considered, take on Berlin’s human abdication, what Kurzweil calls the singularity. I suppose if we hurl ourselves into a pit there is a chance we might land on our feet, reinvigorated and unharmed. But who is coaxing us to hurl ourselves into a pit and with what motive? I have an idea. But I’ll keep my religion mostly to myself.

Just as hubris leads to denouement and pathos, the human pyramid is a disguised abyss.

Kurzweil champions blindness and the embrace of all that cannot be seen nor morally appraised. The idea that a machine torqued up a trillion, trillion times from a computational speed of 10 -16, the human brain, to 10 -40 will cause some analog of human consciousness to rise out of the heat and friction, well, that seems like a fanciful non sequitur.

If human intelligence is so damn smart, why does it unfailingly deliver us to hubris? If human intelligence is so damn smart, why do we need transhumanism to rescue us from the former’s endless bounty?

Finally, transhumanism does not come towards us unaccompanied by power. Technology is a control paradigm. Hi-tech surveillance is our future. Moreover our shocking capitulation was anticipated by Jacque Ellul who, speaking of technology said:

“I cannot help recalling the story in the Bible Esau and the lentil broth. Esau, who is hungry, is prepared to give up the blessings and promise of God in exchange for some lentil broth. In the same way modern people are prepared to give up their independence in exchange for some technological lentils.”

Abraxas will not be unseated from his juggernaut until the end. I am a Christian. I am an eschatologist. I believe in the purposeful unfolding of human history, no prefixes please. I believe history will end before the post-human era begins.

–Norman Ball

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Transhumanity Debate: ‘A Coda’

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