THE TRANSHUMANIST SCRAPBOOK: UPLOADING NEURAL MAPS OF THE DEADJanuary 28, 2016
As you can probably tell, I've been contemplating the materialist assumptions and the "omitted thoughts" of the transhumanist movement the past few days, and before we get to today's unusual offering shared by Ms. S.H., I want to prepare the ground a bit by reference to one of my favorite recent television series, the sci-fi series Fringe, a kind of X files exploration of the wild and wacky world of modern science run a mok, a theme which it explores through one of its main characters, Dr. Walter Bishop, a scientist who, with his one-time partner Dr. William Bell, explored all sorts of areas of "science" that were on the "fringe"(hence the name of the series), things like "soul magnets", wherein a person supposedly could so strongly imprint their soul or personality into some physical object, that its "activiation" - by technological means of course - could recall them into some sort of existence, or things like "singing corpses" and in several early episodes, the idea that people recently dead could actually be "interrogated" - again via technological means. At the center of all this bizarre activity is Dr. Walter Bishop, a quite literally mad scientist - in the series he spent 17 years in a mental institution - who invents things like windows that allow one to see parallel universes. Bishop is, in other words, the perfect foil for exploring the scientism madness that affects (or, depending on one's lights, infects) our age.W
With that in mind contemplate this video shared by Ms. S.H. While I don't normally comment on videos, particular videos of this sort which appear to come from such a small source, the philosophical issues raised are well in line with what I've been thinking about the past few days, namely, that the transhumanist movement seems to be effectively controlling the discussion to the extent that traditional responses or positions are simply ignored. Here's the video:
This is something very different than the types of uploading and downloading that my co-author Scott D deHart and I discussed in our book Transhumanism: A Grimoire of Alchemical Agendas. There the Frankenstein-like Shelleyeque goal of downloading and uploading entire personalities into computers was couched in terms of the near-death, as a life-extension technology. Here, the Shelleyesque meme is pursed to the logical conclusion: the technological ability to read, map, and download the brain of the dead. It is, so to speak, a grotesque charicature of resurrection, be it Christian, Jewish, or ultimately, Osirian. Such a development was, naturally, to be expected.
But nonetheless, it fits the disturbing pattern that I've been musing about this week, for it exhibits the pattern of "the omitted thought," and the omitted thought here, as elsewhere, seems to be ignoring the "traditional answer" that has been given by the vast majority of humanity. That answer could be boiled down to two assumptions: (1) this life is a preparation for a much longer one that occurs after death, and (2) that longer life fundamentally modifies our perceptions of time, of personhood, and of the body(if one is in view). With the transhumanist "resurrection" technology, all this is not only bypassed completely, but also completely chort-circuited, for if those "traditional views" are for the sake of argument assumed as a given, then what transhumanism is doing is locking one into - so to speak - a form of perpetual cosmic and personal childhood.
But now let's indulge in some really high octane speculation for a moment. I have, throughout various books, assumed that there was a Very High Civilization that existed in the mists of human pre-history, in the mists of High Antiquity, and that one of its possible cultural constructs was a science so high and so sophisticated that the sciences of consciousness, biology, and physics were all so intimately intertwined that it had come to certain conclusions about the implications of that alleged high science, and these were (1) that personal immortality was real, not as a proposition of faith, but, as it were, as a matter of formally explicit demonstration, and (2) that this proposition might have had some sort of empirical validation backing it. In other words, that behind the "traditional views" of later legacy cultures and religions, there might once have been a very sophisticated culture and science.
It is this, too, that worries me about the transhumanism movement, for it appears to be ignoring the spiritual implications of such ideas in its persistent and consistent materialist cosmological assumptions. And in this, it is short-circuiting human memory and personhood itself with its implicit denials that this life is, in some sense, a school for something else. It is, like Dr. Walter Bishop, like insane children playing in the kitchen, making taffy, and singing corpses, and ignoring the potential disaster that such tinkering might entail.
But there's an alternative view to this high octane speculation as well, and that is, that perhaps that ancient High Science itself came about by a similar Fringe-like transhumanist scientific impulse. Even there, however, the lessons are rather harsh ones, for those ancient texts that speak or hint of such possibilities, also warn us that that High Culture blew itself apart in wars and experiments run amok.
It's food for thought.
See you on the flip side...