We’ll be a cell of a greater organism

What some people expect will happen, from a review of another book:

In “Why the West Rules, For Now,” his excellent and amusing survey of the last 70,000 years or so of human history, Ian Morris discusses an event we can look forward to in 2045: the Singularity, “effectively merging carbon-and-silicon based intelligence into a single global consciousness. . . . We will transcend biology, evolving into a new, merged being as far ahead of homo sapiens as a contemporary human is of the individual cells that merge to create his or her body.”

via Sherry Turkle’s meditation on technology, “Alone Together”.

And all of us cells will be united, by, what, Facebook?

This, of course, is basically the premise of Gaia worship, which says that we already are all just cells of the organism Earth.  It also makes a great worldview for totalitarianism.

The union of the human and the machine is a goal transhumanism.  As Timothy Leary was dying of cancer, he dreamed of someday being able to download his consciousness into the internet, giving him everlasting life.  If everybody does that, we could dispense with our bodies altogether and all be one.

Is this the beginning of a new religion?  Does anyone know how seriously people, especially in the tech world, are taking this?  The Singularity.  Coming in 2045.   Put that date on your calendar.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Mark Henderson

    Reminds me a bit of Teilhard de Chardin too – the evolutionary moment when humankind becomes God?!

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Mark Henderson

    Reminds me a bit of Teilhard de Chardin too – the evolutionary moment when humankind becomes God?!

  • Tom Hering

    Jaron Lanier, The First Church of Robotics, New York Times op-ed, August 9, 2010:

    … computer scientists are human, and are as terrified by the human condition as anyone else. We, the technical elite, seek some way of thinking that gives us an answer to death, for instance. This helps explain the allure of a place like the Singularity University. The influential Silicon Valley institution preaches a story that goes like this: one day in the not-so-distant future, the Internet will suddenly coalesce into a super-intelligent A.I., infinitely smarter than any of us individually and all of us combined; it will become alive in the blink of an eye, and take over the world before humans even realize what’s happening.

    Some think the newly sentient Internet would then choose to kill us; others think it would be generous and digitize us the way Google is digitizing old books, so that we can live forever as algorithms inside the global brain. Yes, this sounds like many different science fiction movies. Yes, it sounds nutty when stated so bluntly. But these are ideas with tremendous currency in Silicon Valley; these are guiding principles, not just amusements, for many of the most influential technologists.

    It should go without saying that we can’t count on the appearance of a soul-detecting sensor that will verify that a person’s consciousness has been virtualized and immortalized. There is certainly no such sensor with us today to confirm metaphysical ideas about people, or even to recognize the contents of the human brain. All thoughts about consciousness, souls and the like are bound up equally in faith, which suggests something remarkable: What we are seeing is a new religion, expressed through an engineering culture.

  • Tom Hering

    Jaron Lanier, The First Church of Robotics, New York Times op-ed, August 9, 2010:

    … computer scientists are human, and are as terrified by the human condition as anyone else. We, the technical elite, seek some way of thinking that gives us an answer to death, for instance. This helps explain the allure of a place like the Singularity University. The influential Silicon Valley institution preaches a story that goes like this: one day in the not-so-distant future, the Internet will suddenly coalesce into a super-intelligent A.I., infinitely smarter than any of us individually and all of us combined; it will become alive in the blink of an eye, and take over the world before humans even realize what’s happening.

    Some think the newly sentient Internet would then choose to kill us; others think it would be generous and digitize us the way Google is digitizing old books, so that we can live forever as algorithms inside the global brain. Yes, this sounds like many different science fiction movies. Yes, it sounds nutty when stated so bluntly. But these are ideas with tremendous currency in Silicon Valley; these are guiding principles, not just amusements, for many of the most influential technologists.

    It should go without saying that we can’t count on the appearance of a soul-detecting sensor that will verify that a person’s consciousness has been virtualized and immortalized. There is certainly no such sensor with us today to confirm metaphysical ideas about people, or even to recognize the contents of the human brain. All thoughts about consciousness, souls and the like are bound up equally in faith, which suggests something remarkable: What we are seeing is a new religion, expressed through an engineering culture.

  • WebMonk

    Not this topic again!

  • WebMonk

    Not this topic again!

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    “We are the Borg…”

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    “We are the Borg…”

  • Tom Hering

    Glenn Harlan Reynolds, from the Singularity Summit site:

    I want to focus on a different aspect of Ken MacLeod’s ‘Rapture of the Nerds’ comment, because I actually think it cuts both ways. Yes, it’s possible to draw parallels between the Christian idea of The Rapture — and, even more generally, between religious ideas of transcendence generally — and the notion that, once human technology passes a certain threshold, roughly that described by [Vernor] Vinge and other singularity enthusiasts, human beings will potentially enjoy the kind of powers and pleasures traditionally assigned to gods or beings in heaven: Limitless lifespans, if not immortality, superhuman powers, virtually limitless wealth, fleshly pleasures on demand, etc.

    These do sound like the sorts of things that religions have promised their followers throughout human history. That leads some who invoke MacLeod’s comment to contend that because singularity enthusiasts hope for the same kinds of things that religious believers have hoped for, singularity enthusiasts are merely adherents to a new sort of religion, the religion of science.

    But as Isaac Asimov has noted, the religion of science is distinguished by one chief characteristic: ‘that it works.’ I express no opinion on whether science will actually deliver on these hopes. But I note that people once looked to supernatural sources for such now-mundane things as cures for baldness or impotence, only to find those desires satisfied, instead, by modern pharmacology. Yet that hardly makes those who place their faith in pharmacology members of a religion — or, if it does, it makes them members of a religion that is distinguishable from those dependent on the supernatural.

    (Click on the individual photos at the link for more interesting comments on the Singularity.)

  • Tom Hering

    Glenn Harlan Reynolds, from the Singularity Summit site:

    I want to focus on a different aspect of Ken MacLeod’s ‘Rapture of the Nerds’ comment, because I actually think it cuts both ways. Yes, it’s possible to draw parallels between the Christian idea of The Rapture — and, even more generally, between religious ideas of transcendence generally — and the notion that, once human technology passes a certain threshold, roughly that described by [Vernor] Vinge and other singularity enthusiasts, human beings will potentially enjoy the kind of powers and pleasures traditionally assigned to gods or beings in heaven: Limitless lifespans, if not immortality, superhuman powers, virtually limitless wealth, fleshly pleasures on demand, etc.

    These do sound like the sorts of things that religions have promised their followers throughout human history. That leads some who invoke MacLeod’s comment to contend that because singularity enthusiasts hope for the same kinds of things that religious believers have hoped for, singularity enthusiasts are merely adherents to a new sort of religion, the religion of science.

    But as Isaac Asimov has noted, the religion of science is distinguished by one chief characteristic: ‘that it works.’ I express no opinion on whether science will actually deliver on these hopes. But I note that people once looked to supernatural sources for such now-mundane things as cures for baldness or impotence, only to find those desires satisfied, instead, by modern pharmacology. Yet that hardly makes those who place their faith in pharmacology members of a religion — or, if it does, it makes them members of a religion that is distinguishable from those dependent on the supernatural.

    (Click on the individual photos at the link for more interesting comments on the Singularity.)

  • SKPeterson

    I’m struck immediately by the poor biology evidenced by Morris. My cells did not merge together to form “me.” My cells came from the union of a sperm and an egg, which together had the energy and blueprints to make more cells, differentiate those cells, and then grow to form the organism that is me. I was not the result of some random cells “merged” together. How did these cells supposedly “merge”? Some sort of cosmic biological leveraged buy out?

  • SKPeterson

    I’m struck immediately by the poor biology evidenced by Morris. My cells did not merge together to form “me.” My cells came from the union of a sperm and an egg, which together had the energy and blueprints to make more cells, differentiate those cells, and then grow to form the organism that is me. I was not the result of some random cells “merged” together. How did these cells supposedly “merge”? Some sort of cosmic biological leveraged buy out?

  • Dennis Peskey

    Bummer – I had my bags packed for the rapture on March 12, 2012. Guess I’ll have to forgo the merger but I’m not about to give up my burial plot. I hear the golf courses in heaven are simply, well – heavenly and I plan on being the only cell grouping holding a grip on my putter.
    Peace,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Bummer – I had my bags packed for the rapture on March 12, 2012. Guess I’ll have to forgo the merger but I’m not about to give up my burial plot. I hear the golf courses in heaven are simply, well – heavenly and I plan on being the only cell grouping holding a grip on my putter.
    Peace,
    Dennis

  • kerner

    Tom:

    Personally, I wonder if these authors have spent too much time smoking weed and watching videos of the Matrix trilogy.

  • kerner

    Tom:

    Personally, I wonder if these authors have spent too much time smoking weed and watching videos of the Matrix trilogy.

  • Porcell

    Sherry Turkle is essentially saying from a secular perspective that there is a danger of fallen men and women in breathlessly making an idol of this new electronic world.

    Men have been falling for idols for millennia and will continue to do so. The idea that we will evolve into a new, merged being, far ahead of contemporary homo sapiens is hogwash.

  • Porcell

    Sherry Turkle is essentially saying from a secular perspective that there is a danger of fallen men and women in breathlessly making an idol of this new electronic world.

    Men have been falling for idols for millennia and will continue to do so. The idea that we will evolve into a new, merged being, far ahead of contemporary homo sapiens is hogwash.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Kerner,
    Oh, so that’s how to watch those Matrix movies. Thanks for the tip!
    Now I can dream of ones and zeros falling and finally get it? Somehow I doubt this new faith.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Kerner,
    Oh, so that’s how to watch those Matrix movies. Thanks for the tip!
    Now I can dream of ones and zeros falling and finally get it? Somehow I doubt this new faith.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Tower of Babel, part 2,044,968.

    Nothing new under the sun.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Tower of Babel, part 2,044,968.

    Nothing new under the sun.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    Resistance if futile. Submit to the allure of creating your own redemption. Bah! It’s just more mumbo jumbo of the Nietzsche kind, seeking to become God in our own right and evolve to the next level. Personally, I favor ascension SG-1 style, you get to come back and be all condescending to all the mere mortals with pretensions, not to mention all the cool Arthurian legends.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    Resistance if futile. Submit to the allure of creating your own redemption. Bah! It’s just more mumbo jumbo of the Nietzsche kind, seeking to become God in our own right and evolve to the next level. Personally, I favor ascension SG-1 style, you get to come back and be all condescending to all the mere mortals with pretensions, not to mention all the cool Arthurian legends.

  • WebMonk

    “Does anyone know how seriously people, especially in the tech world, are taking this?”

    NOT AT ALL.

    These articles get cranked out every time they need filler.

  • WebMonk

    “Does anyone know how seriously people, especially in the tech world, are taking this?”

    NOT AT ALL.

    These articles get cranked out every time they need filler.

  • Tom Hering

    kerner @ 8: I’m afraid these are serious people with some serious support. Singularity University is based at the NASA Ames campus in Silicon Valley – check out its partners.

  • Tom Hering

    kerner @ 8: I’m afraid these are serious people with some serious support. Singularity University is based at the NASA Ames campus in Silicon Valley – check out its partners.

  • http:theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    When reading this type of tripe, it helps to remember the technological predictions made by people (ie, journalists who need fillers, thanks Webmonk!) years ago, and how singularly bad (and off) they were.

    Then turn to the back of the paper and read the Comics. Especially the Johnny Hart ones….

  • http:theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    When reading this type of tripe, it helps to remember the technological predictions made by people (ie, journalists who need fillers, thanks Webmonk!) years ago, and how singularly bad (and off) they were.

    Then turn to the back of the paper and read the Comics. Especially the Johnny Hart ones….

  • WebMonk

    Sure they’re serious Tom. There are also serious geocentrists and serious aether physicists and serious infinite-energy-from-magnets and serious Scientologist people too.

    These guys have a bit more wealth than the others (except maybe Scientology), they have much slicker presentation skills, and their predictions are always off in the future so they aren’t quite as obvious as other kooks, but they’re still kooks along the lines of Scientology.

    BUT! They’re kooks who make lots of entertaining sci-fi articles that make great filler for tech magazines, so they get their stories out in public fairly often, at least compared to the others.

    No one outside their circles actually takes them seriously, though.

  • WebMonk

    Sure they’re serious Tom. There are also serious geocentrists and serious aether physicists and serious infinite-energy-from-magnets and serious Scientologist people too.

    These guys have a bit more wealth than the others (except maybe Scientology), they have much slicker presentation skills, and their predictions are always off in the future so they aren’t quite as obvious as other kooks, but they’re still kooks along the lines of Scientology.

    BUT! They’re kooks who make lots of entertaining sci-fi articles that make great filler for tech magazines, so they get their stories out in public fairly often, at least compared to the others.

    No one outside their circles actually takes them seriously, though.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    This is no new religion. It’s just age-old pantheism packaged in technology idolatry. A derivation of the Serpent’s lie.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    This is no new religion. It’s just age-old pantheism packaged in technology idolatry. A derivation of the Serpent’s lie.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    Sounds about right. 2045. The same year we’re told we’ll be independent of foreign energy. I think they’ll happen at about the same time.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    Sounds about right. 2045. The same year we’re told we’ll be independent of foreign energy. I think they’ll happen at about the same time.

  • Pingback: For We Are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made | EVEN AS MY SOUL PROSPERS

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  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Personally, I would be the first to buy a battery powered brain aid. :-)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Personally, I would be the first to buy a battery powered brain aid. :-)

  • Porcell

    sg, from what I can tell, your mind is in need of little aid.

  • Porcell

    sg, from what I can tell, your mind is in need of little aid.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    As my wife can attest, I sometimes attempt to hasten the Singularity by spending long times with my laptop, in the as-yet-vain hope that I and it will become one. Hasn’t happened yet. Sometimes, though, in the summer, the laptop gets too warm and I get sweaty. Other times, I’ve been known to fall asleep with the laptop on me. That’s kind of like merging, I guess.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    As my wife can attest, I sometimes attempt to hasten the Singularity by spending long times with my laptop, in the as-yet-vain hope that I and it will become one. Hasn’t happened yet. Sometimes, though, in the summer, the laptop gets too warm and I get sweaty. Other times, I’ve been known to fall asleep with the laptop on me. That’s kind of like merging, I guess.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Anyhow, doesn’t this whole idea smack of modernism? But aren’t we in the postmodern age?

    So, what is this, then? Neomodernism?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Anyhow, doesn’t this whole idea smack of modernism? But aren’t we in the postmodern age?

    So, what is this, then? Neomodernism?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “So, what is this, then? Neomodernism?”

    Hey, maybe they are reactionaries who long for modernity.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “So, what is this, then? Neomodernism?”

    Hey, maybe they are reactionaries who long for modernity.

  • Tom Hering

    WebMonk @ 16: Is it comforting that these people aren’t taken seriously outside their circle, if their work and thinking actually affects the real world, in ways that affect us all? So the question is: are they, in their real-world positions, any danger to – or problem for – the rest of us? I don’t know, but their critics seem to think so. And it’s always unwise to simply dismiss fringe groups (especially those with connections to major institutions).

    Todd @ 22: Modernism is all about progress, or evolution-as-progress, and more than one serious thinker has felt all along that Post-Modernism’s announcement of Modernism’s death has been premature. The notion of progress is still progressing. Often to the detriment of what makes us human. As it always has. (This was the central complaint of the Luddite Movement. A history of the Luddites I’d humbly recommend is Kirkpatrick Sale’s Rebels Against the Future, 1995.)

  • Tom Hering

    WebMonk @ 16: Is it comforting that these people aren’t taken seriously outside their circle, if their work and thinking actually affects the real world, in ways that affect us all? So the question is: are they, in their real-world positions, any danger to – or problem for – the rest of us? I don’t know, but their critics seem to think so. And it’s always unwise to simply dismiss fringe groups (especially those with connections to major institutions).

    Todd @ 22: Modernism is all about progress, or evolution-as-progress, and more than one serious thinker has felt all along that Post-Modernism’s announcement of Modernism’s death has been premature. The notion of progress is still progressing. Often to the detriment of what makes us human. As it always has. (This was the central complaint of the Luddite Movement. A history of the Luddites I’d humbly recommend is Kirkpatrick Sale’s Rebels Against the Future, 1995.)

  • WebMonk

    ” if their work and thinking actually affects the real world, in ways that affect us all” – that is the part that would need to happen before anyone would need to become worried. Be more worried that Scientology may become the dominant cultural force for the entire world. :-D

  • WebMonk

    ” if their work and thinking actually affects the real world, in ways that affect us all” – that is the part that would need to happen before anyone would need to become worried. Be more worried that Scientology may become the dominant cultural force for the entire world. :-D

  • http://lastdanceofthejackalope.blogspot.com JD Loofbourrow

    I think its just pantheism 2045. I have heard that pantheisms happy marriage with the ‘sciences’ (that is secular humanism’s sciences) has given it more strength, credibility and so procured a significant following in American culture. So I don’t think it’s really new. Still it makes me thing of this great short story I once read that was written in 1909 called “The Machine Stops.” written by E.M. Foster, who, though he himself was a humanist, was communicating his fear of just such a future. Can’t say that I agree with everything in the story, but its certainly a fun read and insightful. Check it out here.

    http://archive.ncsa.illinois.edu/prajlich/forster.html

  • http://lastdanceofthejackalope.blogspot.com JD Loofbourrow

    I think its just pantheism 2045. I have heard that pantheisms happy marriage with the ‘sciences’ (that is secular humanism’s sciences) has given it more strength, credibility and so procured a significant following in American culture. So I don’t think it’s really new. Still it makes me thing of this great short story I once read that was written in 1909 called “The Machine Stops.” written by E.M. Foster, who, though he himself was a humanist, was communicating his fear of just such a future. Can’t say that I agree with everything in the story, but its certainly a fun read and insightful. Check it out here.

    http://archive.ncsa.illinois.edu/prajlich/forster.html


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