Apocalypse Stew: Where are we heading?
So though we’ve defined Atheism as a lack of belief in Gods, Atheism has of course become more than just a point of view concerning religion. Whether or not non-religious choose to identify with Atheists, there are often issues in the world that we all hold in common esteem. Human rights, health, science and knowledge about our world – just to name a few, and there’s also still so many unanswered questions about our universe, or our own minds.
For instance, there is that wishful thought of a soul, - that question has so far eluded proof. We all have wondered what dying will feel like. It doesn’t help to know that we’ll all get to experience it eventually. Death can’t help but sound like an unpleasant experience, and our lack of personal knowledge about it may be making it seem much worse than it actually will be, kind of like your anticipation of going to the Dentist when you’ve never been before but heard stories. . . Since many of us will probably be brought down by a slow degrading disease or organ failure brought about by “old age” there is a real likelihood that you’ll get sick of enduring the discomfort of life and will actually welcome the end. As I said before, we value time and energy, if you’ve got time but no energy and no ability to do anything except a drug induced sleep, is that really a life worth living?
Brain death is unavoidable, but with technological progress going the way it is, many are wondering when Scientists will develop a way to copy a person’s mind – as in down load it into a computer. Oh no! don’t think that’s transplanting your awareness out of your body and into a computer, even if an ambulatory android like computer, no you’ll still get to endure death in your physical, human body. If the copy is made of your brain though while you’re dying. . .will your copied mind then have a valuable insight into what death feels like? Will that memory be worth keeping, will your copied mind want to re-experience it? Or will it be something best forgotten? like the pangs of birth?
Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? Sure, but then I remember watching Star Trek Next Generation, Deep Space Nine etc. and thinking their little tablet books for writing and reading looked like an awesome thing that I wanted, but devices like that seemed a long way off back in the 90’s, am I right?! This is why many of us say we’re living in the future!
The prediction of the Singularity
There’s this future event predicted – some people will call it an apocalyptic event, but it might not be, it might actually be both the best and worst thing that ever happens to our species, but what it is really, is just the natural extension of Moore’s Law. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law#Futurists_and_Moore.27s_law
It’s called the Technological Singularity. It’s a point at which the combination of AI, bioengineering of humans and computing power lead to development of ever increasing artificial intelligence and further technological development progressing beyond human beings’ capacity to understand. Think about that for a moment.
What will it mean for humanity? Other than the very real possibility that we could retain copies of the deceased’ minds on a computer hard drive? Imagination soars at the possibilities and then there’s the fear.* This technological event is important particularly because we cannot speculate with any confidence about what will become possible. One thing seems likely to me though, and that is finally the existence of disembodied people, as close as we may ever get to ghosts or spirits. These disembodied voices or formerly living citizens of the world may only ever exist in a virtual reality, it might not be a viable expense to have large numbers of android people walking about but if we do, it may seem more like the television series Dollhouse with temporary downloads for specific missions or duties.
One thing I must point out is that if human minds are transferred into android bodies, then the questions of the rights of these transhumans will become an issue with the still living humans. This is of course assuming nothing bad happens with our development of AI.
Let’s hope Humanity can be a good collective parent to the incipient higher intelligence because unlike humans parenting humans, the AI will be able to check our “facts” instantly, and so will know exactly when someone is trying to bullshit them. If they also have access to the collective memories and experiences of the copied human minds, then they’ll probably not be as prone to being talked into an illogical corner, - a la Captain Kirk’s strategy with computers from Star Trek.
How the AI develops its consciousness, whether it has empathy for humans? or if we try to control its development with programing? All of these things will inform how this event will develop and what life will be like afterwards.