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The Singularity will give you everlasting life

A new religion is born.  The concept of the “singularity” used to be a dream of technology, the notion that exponentially-growing computing power would reach a point at which machines would become more intelligent than human beings.  But now the hypothetical Singularity is being invested with religious significance:  It will give you eternal life.

The Singularity, promised by futurist Ray Kurzweil, has accelerated interest in an entirely new field known as Transhumanism, giving hope to deep-pocketed Baby Boomers that they will be able to live forever. Watching Kurzweil’s fascinating documentary film – Transcendent Man (now finally available on Netflix) – you can get a glimpse of what is possible due to the accelerating pace of technological change in fields ranging from genetics to nanotechnology. At some point, the line between “man” and “machine” blurs, as intelligence increases exponentially.

The concept of the Singularity is singularly fascinating since it confirms so much of what appears to be happening around us. Next-generation technologies appear on schedule, seemingly every few months, and popular culture is full of examples of Baby Boomers who are healthier and living longer than ever before. The cultural zeitgeist is right, too: The Baby Boomers are the first generation that is receptive to, rather than threatened by, the pace of technological change.

Perhaps not surprisingly, themes from the Singularity are finding their way from the world of science and technology into the cultural mainstream. At the World Science Festival in New York City, for example, one of the major themes at the event was human longevity and the possibility that we can reverse the human aging process. Just two months ago, at the first-ever Transhumanism Meets Design conference, held at the Parsons School in New York City, speakers joined in from fields such as neuroscience and artificial intelligence to discuss the impact of technology on human potential.

How will all this play out? Will the Singularity be as elusive as the Fountain of Youth? Will we ever see the day when FDA-approved ads for bio-engineered pills promise us the ability to live forever?

via The men and women who want to live forever – Ideas@Innovations – The Washington Post.

The religion of transhumanism!  Doesn’t it resonate with our times?  A religion based solely upon technology–which can already do so many signs and wonders–and that will make no moral demands and require no spiritual beliefs.  Its notion that flesh will become obsolete and its trust in the virtual realm tie in nicely to our gnostic tradition.  Prediction:  Watch for attempts to Christianize the Singularity, as well as attempts to transhumanize the church.

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.

  • Dennis Peskey

    Don Meredith sang it best on MNF, “The parties over, turn out the lights.” Baby Boomers are the epitome of the relative who just doesn’t know when to leave your house. Daily, I thank God for his Son and telomeres. If the BB’s had read just a little further into Ecclesiastes beyond chapter three, they would have found this;
    A good name is better than precious ointment,
    and the day of death than the day of birth.”
    Ecclesiastes 7:1
    Our race is ending; we’ve done our laps – the time to go home is upon us. Rejoice in the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Don Meredith sang it best on MNF, “The parties over, turn out the lights.” Baby Boomers are the epitome of the relative who just doesn’t know when to leave your house. Daily, I thank God for his Son and telomeres. If the BB’s had read just a little further into Ecclesiastes beyond chapter three, they would have found this;
    A good name is better than precious ointment,
    and the day of death than the day of birth.”
    Ecclesiastes 7:1
    Our race is ending; we’ve done our laps – the time to go home is upon us. Rejoice in the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Random Lutheran

    Not even all those who write about the Singularity believe in it; for example, this blog post by novelist Charles Stross (posted yesterday; there must be something in the water) is a set of arguments against such an event, written from a strong materialist perspective.

  • Random Lutheran

    Not even all those who write about the Singularity believe in it; for example, this blog post by novelist Charles Stross (posted yesterday; there must be something in the water) is a set of arguments against such an event, written from a strong materialist perspective.

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

    Evolve, or go extinct!

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

    Evolve, or go extinct!

  • Tom Hering

    “The Baby Boomers are the first generation that is receptive to, rather than threatened by, the pace of technological change.”

    Really? So I guess that whole simple living, anti-nuclear, back-to-the-land, anti-genetically-modified-foods, “just because we CAN do something doesn’t mean we SHOULD do it” thing never happened. Good to know.

  • Tom Hering

    “The Baby Boomers are the first generation that is receptive to, rather than threatened by, the pace of technological change.”

    Really? So I guess that whole simple living, anti-nuclear, back-to-the-land, anti-genetically-modified-foods, “just because we CAN do something doesn’t mean we SHOULD do it” thing never happened. Good to know.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    What the …? Is this a press release?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    What the …? Is this a press release?

  • http://www.wordoflifelbc.org Pastor Ed

    According to Gen 3:22-23, Adam & Eve got kicked out of the garden to prevent them from eating from the tree of life and living forever in a state of rebellion. Without death there would not have been the possibility of redemption. Eternal life lived in rebellion would truly become hell on earth.

    The pursuit of eternal life has always possessed people. Never get old. Never get sick. Never break down. It sounds attractive. But if we ever achieved it (we won’t), we would eliminate the hope of the life that Jesus promised would be “full”. I think the desire for life is good and can be used to point sinful people (like me) to the One mediator who promises life everlasting.

  • http://www.wordoflifelbc.org Pastor Ed

    According to Gen 3:22-23, Adam & Eve got kicked out of the garden to prevent them from eating from the tree of life and living forever in a state of rebellion. Without death there would not have been the possibility of redemption. Eternal life lived in rebellion would truly become hell on earth.

    The pursuit of eternal life has always possessed people. Never get old. Never get sick. Never break down. It sounds attractive. But if we ever achieved it (we won’t), we would eliminate the hope of the life that Jesus promised would be “full”. I think the desire for life is good and can be used to point sinful people (like me) to the One mediator who promises life everlasting.

  • Tom Hering

    Todd, I know you worry about my interest in this sort of thing, but check out this particular fulfillment of Dr. Veith’s prediction:

    http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/hughes20101001a

    Which links you to this:

    http://vimeo.com/transfigurism/videos

  • Tom Hering

    Todd, I know you worry about my interest in this sort of thing, but check out this particular fulfillment of Dr. Veith’s prediction:

    http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/hughes20101001a

    Which links you to this:

    http://vimeo.com/transfigurism/videos

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m serious, this is some of the worst writing I’ve read in a long time. I realize the Washington Post merely posted this in their blog section, but still. It seems written without any notion of objectivity. I mean, gah!

    Just as the Baby Boomers have transformed popular culture at every stage of their lives, they are now on the cusp of transforming the way we think about medicine and human potential.

    Oh, yes, how very transformative to imagine technology as the path to immortality! Also, this sentence could just as easily read: “Just as the Baby Boomers have deformed popular culture in their own image at every stage of their lives, so they now turn their infinite capacity for navel-gazing to the fields of technology and medicine, in a desperate bid to ensure that never a day goes by when someone can’t talk about how transformative Woodstock was.”

    At some point, the line between “man” and “machine” blurs, as intelligence increases exponentially.

    I’m pretty sure the author isn’t using the word “intelligence” correctly there, causing me to question his.

    The concept of the Singularity is singularly fascinating since it confirms so much of what appears to be happening around us.

    It “confirms” it? It’s a product of it! It “confirms” nothing, as it is pure speculation!

    Popular culture is full of examples of Baby Boomers who are healthier and living longer than ever before.

    Um, popular culture is full of people with lots of money and, therefore, access to plastic surgeons. The long-term impact of this is that, ultimately, we will be burying more silicone in the earth than we used to.

    The cultural zeitgeist is right, too: The Baby Boomers are the first generation that is receptive to, rather than threatened by, the pace of technological change.

    The Baby Boomers are the first generation to think that they are the first generation to do anything! Ha! “Remember how you all were totally freaked out, man, by the cotton gin? Not us! We really dig on Wonder Bread and Velveeta, ’cause it’s our bag!”

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m serious, this is some of the worst writing I’ve read in a long time. I realize the Washington Post merely posted this in their blog section, but still. It seems written without any notion of objectivity. I mean, gah!

    Just as the Baby Boomers have transformed popular culture at every stage of their lives, they are now on the cusp of transforming the way we think about medicine and human potential.

    Oh, yes, how very transformative to imagine technology as the path to immortality! Also, this sentence could just as easily read: “Just as the Baby Boomers have deformed popular culture in their own image at every stage of their lives, so they now turn their infinite capacity for navel-gazing to the fields of technology and medicine, in a desperate bid to ensure that never a day goes by when someone can’t talk about how transformative Woodstock was.”

    At some point, the line between “man” and “machine” blurs, as intelligence increases exponentially.

    I’m pretty sure the author isn’t using the word “intelligence” correctly there, causing me to question his.

    The concept of the Singularity is singularly fascinating since it confirms so much of what appears to be happening around us.

    It “confirms” it? It’s a product of it! It “confirms” nothing, as it is pure speculation!

    Popular culture is full of examples of Baby Boomers who are healthier and living longer than ever before.

    Um, popular culture is full of people with lots of money and, therefore, access to plastic surgeons. The long-term impact of this is that, ultimately, we will be burying more silicone in the earth than we used to.

    The cultural zeitgeist is right, too: The Baby Boomers are the first generation that is receptive to, rather than threatened by, the pace of technological change.

    The Baby Boomers are the first generation to think that they are the first generation to do anything! Ha! “Remember how you all were totally freaked out, man, by the cotton gin? Not us! We really dig on Wonder Bread and Velveeta, ’cause it’s our bag!”

  • http://www.tschopp.net Ted

    The best take on all this was from the documentry on Kurzweil ca;;e Transcendent Man.

    http://transcendentman.com/

    In there they interview Kevin Kelly about all this and his thoughts on this are informative and illuminating.

    His thoughts are basically that the people who are believing in this are expressing desires and hopes about loved ones who have died or expressing fears about their own mortality.

    Internesting to watch it on netflix.

  • http://www.tschopp.net Ted

    The best take on all this was from the documentry on Kurzweil ca;;e Transcendent Man.

    http://transcendentman.com/

    In there they interview Kevin Kelly about all this and his thoughts on this are informative and illuminating.

    His thoughts are basically that the people who are believing in this are expressing desires and hopes about loved ones who have died or expressing fears about their own mortality.

    Internesting to watch it on netflix.

  • Tom Hering

    Todd, I only wish I could be there, thirty or forty years from now, to hear your generation boast about how it transformed the world with social media and other new technologies. The failings and arrogance of the Boomer generation are hardly unique to it. But you know that.

  • Tom Hering

    Todd, I only wish I could be there, thirty or forty years from now, to hear your generation boast about how it transformed the world with social media and other new technologies. The failings and arrogance of the Boomer generation are hardly unique to it. But you know that.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@10), but you will be there thirty or forty years from now — the Singularity Confirms It™! ;)

    Does every generation have its failings? Of course. Does every generation have the same failings? No. Believing that they have changed the world (and, technology willing, will continue to do so) — for the better, of course — is something far more Boomers are susceptible to than my own generation, in my experience.

    I can think of no parallels in my generation to the many singular (see what I did there) achievements so often held up by the Boomers. I’ve been to concerts I could talk about for a while, and I’ve heard of even more exceptional ones, but is there a single concert that “changed the world” for us like Woodstock (’69)? No. Nor do we claim a single season (e.g. the Summer of Love) as our defining moment. Or any of that lot.

    Have “social media and other new technologies” “transformed the world”? Surely. But do you hear a bunch of Gen Xer’s (or whatever) taking credit for that, much less claiming it exclusively as their domain? My generation, inasmuch as such sweeping generalizations are useful, seems much more inclined to see the world happening to them. Perhaps because (or even in reply to) the fact that the Boomers have never really wanted to give up the idea that they’re the ones causing all the changes.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@10), but you will be there thirty or forty years from now — the Singularity Confirms It™! ;)

    Does every generation have its failings? Of course. Does every generation have the same failings? No. Believing that they have changed the world (and, technology willing, will continue to do so) — for the better, of course — is something far more Boomers are susceptible to than my own generation, in my experience.

    I can think of no parallels in my generation to the many singular (see what I did there) achievements so often held up by the Boomers. I’ve been to concerts I could talk about for a while, and I’ve heard of even more exceptional ones, but is there a single concert that “changed the world” for us like Woodstock (’69)? No. Nor do we claim a single season (e.g. the Summer of Love) as our defining moment. Or any of that lot.

    Have “social media and other new technologies” “transformed the world”? Surely. But do you hear a bunch of Gen Xer’s (or whatever) taking credit for that, much less claiming it exclusively as their domain? My generation, inasmuch as such sweeping generalizations are useful, seems much more inclined to see the world happening to them. Perhaps because (or even in reply to) the fact that the Boomers have never really wanted to give up the idea that they’re the ones causing all the changes.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Well, tODD, there was that one Weird Al concert in ’88. You must’ve forgotten. Whatever… Wait, Al’s probably a boomer too. Ooops.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Well, tODD, there was that one Weird Al concert in ’88. You must’ve forgotten. Whatever… Wait, Al’s probably a boomer too. Ooops.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bryan (@12), humorously, the first concert I went to (in 1986, it was with my parents) had Weird Al opening … for the Monkees (their first of many reunion tours). So you see how even my earliest musical experiences were shaped by the Boomers.

    I take the blame, however, as it was me, and not my parents, who found the Monkees so charming at the time. I was in sixth grade.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bryan (@12), humorously, the first concert I went to (in 1986, it was with my parents) had Weird Al opening … for the Monkees (their first of many reunion tours). So you see how even my earliest musical experiences were shaped by the Boomers.

    I take the blame, however, as it was me, and not my parents, who found the Monkees so charming at the time. I was in sixth grade.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Tom Hering @ 7 shows how my prediction has already come true. There is even a Mormon transhumanists association! (I suspect there are reasons within Mormonism why this is possible. Perhaps someone could elaborate.)

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Tom Hering @ 7 shows how my prediction has already come true. There is even a Mormon transhumanists association! (I suspect there are reasons within Mormonism why this is possible. Perhaps someone could elaborate.)

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    And Todd, I have to salute your take down of the writing in that Washington Post piece. The paper in its budget cuts seems to have laid off all of its copyeditors.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    And Todd, I have to salute your take down of the writing in that Washington Post piece. The paper in its budget cuts seems to have laid off all of its copyeditors.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I know it was a sort of discussion in its site’s blog feature, but still. . . .

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I know it was a sort of discussion in its site’s blog feature, but still. . . .

  • Tom Hering

    Todd, your defense of your generation sounds very much like the defense my generation used to make when talking about the generation before us: “We’re not as messed up as they are!” Turned out we were wrong. And I’ll take bets on the what the generation after yours has to say about you.

  • Tom Hering

    Todd, your defense of your generation sounds very much like the defense my generation used to make when talking about the generation before us: “We’re not as messed up as they are!” Turned out we were wrong. And I’ll take bets on the what the generation after yours has to say about you.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    the good Doctor #14,
    This would put the Mormon’s doctrine of eternal marriage and the family in a whole ‘nuther dimension. Cyber-spirit-babies, anyone? Actually might seem a bit of a relief by all the temple-worthy Mormon ladies facing eternal spiritual pregnancies. But I don’t know, perhaps eternal cyber-children might be more painful. I know there’s a awe-full strange story in here somewhere for Orson Scott Card to write.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    the good Doctor #14,
    This would put the Mormon’s doctrine of eternal marriage and the family in a whole ‘nuther dimension. Cyber-spirit-babies, anyone? Actually might seem a bit of a relief by all the temple-worthy Mormon ladies facing eternal spiritual pregnancies. But I don’t know, perhaps eternal cyber-children might be more painful. I know there’s a awe-full strange story in here somewhere for Orson Scott Card to write.

  • Tom Hering

    ELCA theologian advocates Transhumanism: http://www.logosapologia.org/?p=1213

  • Tom Hering

    ELCA theologian advocates Transhumanism: http://www.logosapologia.org/?p=1213

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@17), I get the impression you’re taking this personally. And in the process, missing my point. Compare what you said (@17):

    Your defense of your generation sounds very much like the defense my generation used to make when talking about the generation before us: “We’re not as messed up as they are!”

    With what I said (@11):

    Does every generation have its failings? Of course. Does every generation have the same failings? No. Believing that they have changed the world (and, technology willing, will continue to do so) — for the better, of course — is something far more Boomers are susceptible to than my own generation, in my experience.

    If it’ll make you feel better, feel free to point out the failings of my generation (which marketers and demographers tell me is called “Gen X”). I know we have plenty, though I’m probably less attuned to them, being a member myself. Of course, I also think we’ve had less time to amass notoriety (and power, etc.) than have the Boomers, so our faults may not be quite in the limelight yet.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@17), I get the impression you’re taking this personally. And in the process, missing my point. Compare what you said (@17):

    Your defense of your generation sounds very much like the defense my generation used to make when talking about the generation before us: “We’re not as messed up as they are!”

    With what I said (@11):

    Does every generation have its failings? Of course. Does every generation have the same failings? No. Believing that they have changed the world (and, technology willing, will continue to do so) — for the better, of course — is something far more Boomers are susceptible to than my own generation, in my experience.

    If it’ll make you feel better, feel free to point out the failings of my generation (which marketers and demographers tell me is called “Gen X”). I know we have plenty, though I’m probably less attuned to them, being a member myself. Of course, I also think we’ve had less time to amass notoriety (and power, etc.) than have the Boomers, so our faults may not be quite in the limelight yet.

  • Tom Hering

    Todd @ 20, it wouldn’t make me feel better. I don’t like it when the younger generation bashes mine, or mine bashes the younger generation (I’ve defended them more than once in personal conversations), and I long ago repented of having bashed my parents’ generation.

    Now, what are your thoughts about Transhumanism? It strikes me as a marriage of New Age spirituality and techno-idolatry. It’s roots seem to be in the Enlightenment and Eastern Mysticism. If so, Transhumanism really is a new hybrid (the New Age rejected the Enlightenment).

  • Tom Hering

    Todd @ 20, it wouldn’t make me feel better. I don’t like it when the younger generation bashes mine, or mine bashes the younger generation (I’ve defended them more than once in personal conversations), and I long ago repented of having bashed my parents’ generation.

    Now, what are your thoughts about Transhumanism? It strikes me as a marriage of New Age spirituality and techno-idolatry. It’s roots seem to be in the Enlightenment and Eastern Mysticism. If so, Transhumanism really is a new hybrid (the New Age rejected the Enlightenment).

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

    OK… this YouTube video is quickly becoming obligatory for this thread.

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

    OK… this YouTube video is quickly becoming obligatory for this thread.

  • http://mikeerich.blogspot.com Mike Erich The Mad Theologian

    I would agree with Pastor Ed. I think simple lengthening of life in a modern secular context without hope or purpose would be a bad thing. It would lead to incurable corruption and ultimately despair.

  • http://mikeerich.blogspot.com Mike Erich The Mad Theologian

    I would agree with Pastor Ed. I think simple lengthening of life in a modern secular context without hope or purpose would be a bad thing. It would lead to incurable corruption and ultimately despair.

  • http://farnham.tumblr.com Will

    “Prediction: Watch for attempts to Christianize the Singularity, as well as attempts to transhumanize the church.”

    I imagine this isn’t what you mean, but for years I have been relatively certain that the Singularity will occurr (though I will be darn surprised if its within my lifetime). I’m equally convinced that, in essence, the Singularity is The Beast of Revelations (which is part of the reason I doubt it’ll happen in my lifetime; my other reasons for thinking so are technical rather than eschatological).

  • http://farnham.tumblr.com Will

    “Prediction: Watch for attempts to Christianize the Singularity, as well as attempts to transhumanize the church.”

    I imagine this isn’t what you mean, but for years I have been relatively certain that the Singularity will occurr (though I will be darn surprised if its within my lifetime). I’m equally convinced that, in essence, the Singularity is The Beast of Revelations (which is part of the reason I doubt it’ll happen in my lifetime; my other reasons for thinking so are technical rather than eschatological).

  • Gabriel

    I think the fear or reason so many choose to take the side of rebuttal against the singularity is that it completely debases and devalues the currency of their religion, your “god” is not the only one who can offer immortality peace on earth and reunification with dead loved ones.

    As scary and as preposterous as the singularity may sound; everything that is hypothesized therein is not against any laws of physics, nor quantum mechanics. In fact, research the matter and there is nothing in physics stating we cannot revisit the past and essentially pull the past into the present. (this is just one example)

    Believe it or not, I am a Christians who believes in the blood of Jesus Christ paid for my sins – though whatever my brain cannot comprehend or draw to a conclusion: i know that i should not rule out the possibility that a rapture either religious or technological may be connected.

    Choose faith in the goodness of man, not just believing in his punctuality for evil.

  • Gabriel

    I think the fear or reason so many choose to take the side of rebuttal against the singularity is that it completely debases and devalues the currency of their religion, your “god” is not the only one who can offer immortality peace on earth and reunification with dead loved ones.

    As scary and as preposterous as the singularity may sound; everything that is hypothesized therein is not against any laws of physics, nor quantum mechanics. In fact, research the matter and there is nothing in physics stating we cannot revisit the past and essentially pull the past into the present. (this is just one example)

    Believe it or not, I am a Christians who believes in the blood of Jesus Christ paid for my sins – though whatever my brain cannot comprehend or draw to a conclusion: i know that i should not rule out the possibility that a rapture either religious or technological may be connected.

    Choose faith in the goodness of man, not just believing in his punctuality for evil.

  • JLM

    Singularity and Mormonism do not mix well! Temple work is done for the dead and if nobody is passing away then there is no point in the Temple rites. Who ever buys into this garbage is saying the Mormon Church is not true. Brigham Young and Joseph Smith both made clear that the keys and tokens of eternal progression were given after mortal death only!
    Also, wile Mormons say they are Christian they teach we are Gods in embryo. Singularity would slow or even stop this development. The Church would kick the people who did this out, if it ever were possible . It’s hard to make money off of someone if they do not think they will ever die. Why get endowments if you can just download some new upgrade?
    I grew up LDS and I saw people get shown the door for being gay and for being a feminist . Do you think a robot download of a human being could be a member of a Church that till the late 1970′s would not give a black man high priesthood? Fat chance IMHO.

  • JLM

    Singularity and Mormonism do not mix well! Temple work is done for the dead and if nobody is passing away then there is no point in the Temple rites. Who ever buys into this garbage is saying the Mormon Church is not true. Brigham Young and Joseph Smith both made clear that the keys and tokens of eternal progression were given after mortal death only!
    Also, wile Mormons say they are Christian they teach we are Gods in embryo. Singularity would slow or even stop this development. The Church would kick the people who did this out, if it ever were possible . It’s hard to make money off of someone if they do not think they will ever die. Why get endowments if you can just download some new upgrade?
    I grew up LDS and I saw people get shown the door for being gay and for being a feminist . Do you think a robot download of a human being could be a member of a Church that till the late 1970′s would not give a black man high priesthood? Fat chance IMHO.


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