Neurodiversions: Facing Death
There’s one thing we know for sure about our future, and that is that we are all going to die. Ray Kurtzweil and the Transhumanist crew may disagree, but for those of us still hooked into a biological perspective, the future ends with old age, sickness, and death.
This isn’t true only of you and me—individual organisms. It’s also true of our current culture, social arrangements, and species. The Earth will die, and a little while after that the Sun will die too. We can migrate to other star systems, maybe, but those too will pass. Everything that exists is on its way to nonexistence.
The funny thing about statements like these is that they tend to come out sounding philosophical, even spiritual, when they are only statements of fact. I suspect this is evidence of how little we talk about them.
It’s no mystery why we don’t. I already feel like I am in danger of offending my hosts.
Science means knowledge, so science fiction means fictional knowledge, also known as fantasy, delusion, or denial. Things we pretend to know. In this sense, all science is fiction to one degree or another, because everything we think we know depends on denial of other stuff we don’t.
We all imagine fantasy scenarios for our future. We even make real plans based on such fantasies, such as space colonization, or Transhumanism. All of these grand visions are scientistic versions of “the Afterlife.” They act as buffers for the potentially crippling awareness of our impending doom. Imagining future utopias and dystopias, for example, helps us feel better about the present—either by reassuring us that we are on our way to something better, or by helping us to enjoy what we have, because it’s going to get a lot worse.
The future is like the Second Coming: it never arrives because its very nature is to be ahead, there to be imagined, to make the present more bearable.
Transhumanism is the religion of the future, i.e., the future fantasy of the present. It’s the most persuasive escapist fantasy available to technologically spoiled, religion-sated humanity. While it hasn’t “taken off” yet, it has already taken hold of us through the technology of fantasy, and the fantasy of technology. We are all aspiring transhumanists whether we know it or not.
Sheldon Solomon and the Ernest Becker Foundation have provided plenty of compelling evidence for the idea that culture is a means by which humans deny death. Humans create culture as a way to distance themselves from the potentially paralyzing awareness that death can, does, and will happen at any time. Culture itself creates a powerful illusion of immortality, via the manufacturing of extensions of the self and the body—extensions which last significantly longer than we do. Human values are probably the most resilient or enduring extensions of self, and the artifacts we create—be they books, IPods, or spaceships—are carriers of those cultural values.
Most of the stuff we own will outlive us if given the chance, potentially by hundreds of years. Ironically, a lot of it is also disposable, and will be discarded only to be replaced by the latest model. That says something about the values such stuff “carries.”
Science fiction projections about the future tend to concern themselves with technological advances: stuff that will improve our lives, enslave us, or both. It’s probably not coincidental that this technology will also outlive us, as organic beings at least, even as it turns into useless junk cluttering up the (organic) environment.
This is another example of how the futures we fantasize about escaping into become the present realities we are trapped inside, leading to an ever-increasing feedback loop between utopian fantasies and dystopian reality.
A visiting alien observing the path of human progress could be forgiven for concluding that the more sophisticated the solutions humans come up with for their problems, the bigger and more terrifying the problems they end up facing. The desire of utopia is what creates dystopia: the road to hell is paved with good intentions, etc.
There’s no reason to think this progression won’t continue and even accelerate, especially since there’s good reason for it. In my opinion, the reason utopian dreams tend to develop into dystopian realities is simple: unconsciousness. Because we are unconscious of whatever it is within us that caused the problems to begin with, and equally unconscious of what’s driving us to solve those problems, we are making things worse the more we try and improve them.
Science fiction is both the problem and, in a small sense at least, the solution. Being sourced in fantasy, it allows us to see where we are headed without going there; at the same time, it spreads the seeds of fantasy further afield, and eventually some of those seeds take root. Would we have the kind of cell phones we do if it weren’t for Star Trek? Would we care half as much about space colonization?
It’s been said that there’s no way to talk about our current times without citing Goethe’s Faust as blueprint or metaphor. But Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein may be a more suitable example, being a work of early science fiction which very clearly describes how death anxiety fuels the scientific drive to innovate and “play God.” Dr. Frankenstein literally builds a human out of the discarded body parts of dead ones.
Which brings us to Transhumanism.
Transhumanism is a scientistic movement based on the belief that who (and what) we are can be divorced from biology. In its more extreme camps, Transhumanism divorces human existence from the psyche by suggesting that:
• At least some of the elements of consciousness can be converted to digital information.
• This data will be self-aware.
• It will be a continuation of the biologically-based awareness which it copied.
Umm, hello? Ground control to Major Ray?
Although it may be possible some day to create a replicant of Ray Kurtzweil’s father that believes it is Ray Kurtzweil’s father—Ray may even believe it too, bless him—it’s a quantum leap into another Universe to state that such a replicant actually is Ray Kurtzweil’s father.
It’s only possible to entertain (or pursue) such a strange belief via a complete ignorance, or simply denial, of the unconscious. “Who we are” is not a mind-body system but a psyche-body system. We aren’t meat vessels with an internal stream of mental data running through them and animating them. The vast majority of our total “psychosoma” system functions at an unconscious level.
Read the full article at: omnireboot.jerrickventures.com
READ: Google vs. Death
Tune into Red Ice Radio:
Joseph P. Farrell & Scott D. de Hart - Hour 1 - Alchemical Transhumanism: Grimoire Technology & The New Man
John Lash - The Archons, The Transhuman Con & Divine Transactions
Aaron Franz - The Philosophical Roots of Transhumanism & Technological Revolution
Aaron Franz - TransAlchemy, Save the Humans! & Transhuman Fundamentalism
William Henry - Stargate Technology & Transhumanism
Kevin Warwick - I, Cyborg, Implants, Cybernetics, AI & The Rise of the Machines in 2020
Jim Gardner - The Intelligent Universe, Bio-Cosm, ET, AI and Evolution
Tom Campbell - The Big TOE (Theory of Everything), Consciousness & Reality
Anthony Peake & Tom Campbell - Consciousness Creates Reality
Anthony Peake - Mystery of the Brain, Precognition, Time Dilation & Déjà vu
Peter Russell - The Primacy of Consciousness