Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Couple of Notes on Global Futures 2045

The link in this morning's links posts to Dmitry Itskov led me to a big conference in Manhattan that he is putting on June 15/16th.  The speaker's list involves a bunch of eminent singularity/AI thinkers, as well as various spiritual thinkers.

I am increasingly struck by the overtly spiritual language being used by techno-optimist singularity thinkers.  From the conference's "About" page:
The main goals of the 2045 Initiative: the creation and realization of a new strategy for the development of humanity which meets global civilization challenges; the creation of optimale conditions promoting the spiritual enlightenment of humanity; and the realization of a new futuristic reality based on 5 principles: high spirituality, high culture, high ethics, high science and high technologies.

The main science mega-project of the 2045 Initiative aims to create technologies enabling the transfer of a individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality. We devote particular attention to enabling the fullest possible dialogue between the world’s major spiritual traditions, science and society.

A large-scale transformation of humanity, comparable to some of the major spiritual and sci-tech revolutions in history, will require a new strategy. We believe this to be necessary to overcome existing crises, which threaten our planetary habitat and the continued existence of humanity as a species. With the 2045 Initiative, we hope to realize a new strategy for humanity's development, and in so doing, create a more productive, fulfilling, and satisfying future.

I rarely allude to spiritual matters on this blog, despite the fact that I have actually spent a great deal of time thinking about them.  Roughly speaking the reasons are that my spiritual views are complex and still in flux, and so I don't feel confident to defend them publicly.  Nor do I feel spiritually developed enough to make myself any kind of authority on the subject.

Still, with the kind of thinking outlined above, I question whether anyone else on the planet is much better qualified either.  And so I will say this.  The little I feel fairly certain of is that spiritual development is accomplished by going into our shadow and reclaiming it.  Here I mean shadow in the Jungian sense: It means looking at our pain and weakness and what we are least willing to admit about ourselves, even to ourselves, and forgiving ourselves for it.  At a macro-level, it means developing compassion for the poor and outcast in society - this is why all the world's religions are so big on love/charity/caring for the poor.  Spiritual progress is hard work requiring bravery - diving into one's own pain, dealing with difficult people, facing up to painful things one doesn't want to see.  Most of us only make a very limited amount of progress; it's slow and messy work.  At the macro level, moral progress like ending slavery or emancipating women is the work of centuries.

And yet the project outlined about sounds like an attempt to turn ourselves into gods, via technological means, in our own lifetimes.  Somehow, we are going to make a few decade's more technical innovations that are going to be a short-cut that allows all or most of us to reach enlightenment in a blink of the eye in terms of human history.

As a collective project, does that strike anyone else as hubristic?  We don't want to deal with all our messy shadow issues, especially the greed around which we organize our society, and all the consequences of our past choices that are wrecking the natural world, so we are just going to fantasize them all away via technology.  The worldview above strikes me as having a shadow thousands of miles wide that towers over all of us.

A bleg: I think I'd better go down to attend this conference.  If anyone in NYC is close enough to Lincoln Center and has a spare bed or space for a thermarest that they could loan to me for a couple of nights, I'd be glad to save the hotel room cost.


Aaron said...

I agree - I'm a denizen of the first-world blessed with a more security than most third-world citizens could ever imagine. But I'm no less fearful/greedy and continue to amass ever more trappings of security. Nor has my purview of concern greatly increased beyond the tribal level - I care for the welfare of family, friends and people I associate with and more distantly those I most readily identify with. A billionaire CEO isn't freed from the every day greed and fear of being human simply by having more wealth and security than can be possibly useful. Dimitry Itskov may be the exception which simply proves the rule. I don't think being freed of the death or the concerns of the "mortal coil" will cause our mental and spiritual patterns to shift notably - they will simply map onto new topologies.

I have some friends in the city - if you don't find a couch to surf, let me know and I'll do my best to locate one.

Sam said...

I agree, very religious and fanatical overtones. They are beginning to sound Harold Camping-esk to me with dates and all.

Unknown said...

Our main problem right now is to rely more on machinery than we can afford at this point. Making us even more reliant on machinery is not going to help that.

Stephen B. said...

I know enough about this life to know that those people don't know what they are talking about.

If I had the choice to continue living this biological existence to it's normal end or make the jump into some kind of android container and live forever, I think I'd remain in the former, at least until I was on my death bed. There after, I'd live in the android container, envious of the still biological humans I should think.

Take away the joys of eating good food, some perhaps grown in your own back yard, watching and listening to the birds fly around the pond, occasionally landing in the fruit trees I planted, or smelling the freshly turned compost pile, knowing that I am part of this huge biological existence and sharing it with kids and others, gives me meaning and joy. I try to imagine being contained in some kind of non-biological body and sitting out in the backyard sun on a similar day, or paddling a kayak on Moosehead Lake or Lake Winnipesaukee...but once I am apart from all that in body, what is the worth of sitting there as some kind of android?

Live forever, disconnected from the Nature that is earth - are they mad? The human mind and consciousness hasn't begun to evolve enough to survive away from all that. What would my consciousness entertain itself with as a substitute? Should I sit in some techno-vault pondering some higher order mathematics problem or plugging into XBox 10 - for how long? Maybe some human minds can be happy with that artificial existence, but not this one. Putting the overly technical, artificial life I used to live behind me has been key to restoring happiness to this existence.

And then, what of love, intimacy, and, umm, sex?

They assume that there is something better, more fulfilling, more purposeful, and more moral to be discovered and enjoyed. Maybe they're wrong!

Hubristic? I should say so!

Stephen B. said...

I'd also add that it isn't surprising in the least that this endeavor is the product of a man without a significant other and/or children in his life.

If he had either, but especially children, I think he'd find a lot more purpose in life, realize that machines are not the end all answer to his problems, and not fear being "gone" so much after he was dead.

He's a bit of a Peter Pan actually.

sunbeam said...

Every story has to end sometimes.

I used to have what I considered to be weird thoughts. Not about sex or anything, but the nature of time.

I'm not particularly interested in a lecture on physics, but I consider the past to be... real for want of another word. You might not can ever travel there, but it is still there somewhere. After all, what makes this moment any more special than that one?

It's just enough that something was.

To my surprise I found there is actually a name for this. I can't remember what it was, but apparently just about anything has been thought of already.

That is a long winded way to say I find all this fear of death irrational in a way.

Living forever isn't much of a story.

yvesT said...

"I am increasingly struck by the overtly spiritual language being used by techno-optimist singularity thinkers."

I already told you AI/singularity is nothing but the vulgar ultra utilitarianist version of the messianic myth, no wonder they get more desperate as the days goes by.

seateta said...

Further separation from the 4.5 billion years that got us here. I wish to connect those dots much more than I would ever wish to increase my connections and identity with the machine. Such spore mongering into the cyber mind strengthens and reinforces my faith in the wild seeds of our origins.