Mormon Transhumanist Association Opinions Mormon Transhumanist Association Opinions Respective post owners and feed distributors Wed, 24 Jun 2015 17:11:27 -0600 Feed Informer Cryonics and Transhumanism Are Hope for More, Better, and Real Life Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:d512c1d2-59be-ad28-bd0e-a587d52de18c Fri, 16 Mar 2018 13:29:00 -0600 <img border="0" data-original-height="475" data-original-width="844" src="" /><br /><br />Infamously, cryonics is in the news again. The <a href="">Brain Preservation Foundation announced</a> that a research group has successfully preserved a pig brain at a research-grade level of detail. A startup, <a href="">Nectome, announced</a> that it's aiming to sell brain-destructive connectome preservation. And of course, all-too-predictably, such news is provoking frothy-mouthed bio-conservatives to vilify such endeavors and the Transhumanist ideology as a whole, as a sort of incoherent egotistical deathism.<br /><a name='more'></a><br /><a href="">Georgi Boorman's article for The Federalist</a> is case in point. The subtitle states her position: "Transhumanism is a religion of self, embedded with the doctrine of sola feels, all bundled into one medical procedure that literally ends your life."<br /><br />It would probably be too much to expect of Georgi, or the many others who vilify Transhumanism with such enthusiasm, that she pause for a moment to ask herself whether Transhumanism is in fact essentially selfish, as she insists. Sure. There are plenty of selfish Transhumanists, as there are plenty of selfish bio-conservatives and plenty of selfish persons of just about any other ideology. Aren't almost all of us too selfish? But could Georgi imagine an altruistic Transhumanist? Could she imagine an account of Transhumanism that mandates altruism? Or would it shock her brain into a fatal fit of categorical upheaval? We cannot know. She probably didn't even try.<br /><br />It's sola feels, ironically. Egotism is how Transhumanism feels to her, clearly. And clearly that's sufficient grounds for her vilification. Because, as we'll see, whatever other grounds for vilification she might appear to offer through her wavy-handed finger-pointing amount to no more. And I would venture to guess that, in addition to being a bio-conservative, she's probably also a religious conservative. So she probably knows something about religion. But unfortunately like most religious conservatives, she probably hasn't reflected much on the similarities between how religion functions in her and how it functions in others. It's sectarian sola feels. And only all other religions are villains. There's nothing quite like sectarian religion to provoke a hypocritical frenzy.<br /><br />Of course, even if I'm wrong about Georgi being religious (which I'm surely not), it would still to some extent be emotionally effective to charge Transhumanists with religiosity. How some "secular" Transhumanists (in their misrecognized antireligious religiosity) hate that! And she probably knows it. She feels it, and feels that others feel it. And that's why vilification, as an appeal to emotion, so often works. Sola feels, indeed, all around. So, why not? I'll emote too.<br /><br />Because it literally ends your life! I can almost imagine Georgi working herself up into red-faced self-righteousness as she pronounces this observation. Cryonics ends your life, like, literally! I'm tempted to wonder whether anyone who's heard of cryonics before hadn't already recognized this. Have we all recognized that burial and cremation also end life? They do, at least, if the person being buried or cremated is not already dead. So typically we don't bury or cremate her until she's legally dead. And the same goes for cryonics, typically.<br /><br />Now, of course, Nectome is partly to blame for sensationalizing the matter in this particular case. They probably wanted to be provocative to get press, so they emphasized the obvious: it's "100% fatal." And further, they directly and perhaps unnecessarily associated their particular form of cryonics with physician-assisted suicide. Presumably, the reason for this is to minimize the risk of brain deterioration and maximize chances of a high quality preservation.<br /><br />Established cryonics companies already deal with this issue. And they generally do it without physician-assisted suicide. If a person knows she is going to die, she asks the cryonics company to be ready to act as soon as she's legally dead. If she doesn't know she's going to die then, according to a legal procedure that she had previously established, the cryonics company is notified to act as soon as her death is discovered.<br /><br />Are there some people who have committed or will commit suicide to facilitate cryonics? Yes. And there are many people who have committed and will commit suicide in response to many other emotional concerns. It's generally tragic. And it merits serious ethical deliberation. But vilification is not the solution. Seriously. When has vilification ever stopped someone from committing suicide? Give her a reason a live -- not another source of suffering.<br /><br />Maybe Georgi's aim isn't actually to stop a few Transhumanists from committing suicide. In fact, it appears her concern may actually be that their suicide wouldn't be intended as permanent. How dare they?!? Her moral indignation is palpable.<br /><br />To express her feels, Georgi appeals to the rumination of neuroscientist Michael Hendricks. "Any suggestion that you can come back to life is simply snake oil," he claimed. I wonder if he ever looks at himself in the mirror in the morning and says the same thing? Are you the same person who went to sleep last night? The atoms have changed. Their positions have changed. The molecules and systems composed of them have changed. Your anatomy has changed dramatically throughout your life, and will continue doing so as long as you live. And, for all you know, aliens replaced you during the night, or the Matrix Architect freshly booted up your memories moments ago. So what do you prefer: the snake oil of the persistent atomic self (for that is clearly snake oil), or the hope that the intermittent dynamic self might endure in some meaningful way?<br /><br />Further expressing her feels by proxy, Georgi quotes Michael again. "Burdening future generations with our brain banks is just comically arrogant." Maybe Michael is serious. Maybe he really does think it arrogant to embrace hope of resurrection. And make no mistake. That's what we're talking about. We're talking about resurrection. And Michael is saying the hope is arrogant.<br /><br />Countless generations of humanity have lived with such hope. Most have placed the burden of their hope on supernatural powers because they could not imagine natural means for such capacity. But nonetheless they hoped, and they imagined others burdened with whatever would be required to realize their hope.<br /><br />Has the common human hope in resurrection been arrogant? Comically arrogant, even? It certainly could be, for all the same reasons that our living hope can be comically arrogant. But, likewise, for all the same reasons that our living hope can be sublime, so can our hope in resurrection be sublime. Will to life is not in itself good or evil. Life consists of both. It's how we live and would live that make the difference.<br /><br />But what of the burden? Is it morally acceptable to put our hope in supernatural powers rather than natural powers? Is it morally acceptable to put our hope in alien powers, some wholly non-human God perhaps, but not in familiar powers, such as our imagined human potential? This question, of course, goes deeply into the controversy over theosis, which religious conservatives love to demonize as much or more than they love to demonize Transhumanism. Should humanity accept the divine calling to take on the name and power of God? Those who hold to such faith are not novel heretics. To the contrary, the doctrine of theosis is ancient and enduring. Jesus, what shall we do? Raise the dead, he charged, and yet greater works.<br /><br />Michael hopes future generations are appalled by our hopes. I wonder if he's appalled by the hopes of his ancestors? Maybe he is. In contrast, I find the resurrection hopes of my ancestors inspiring. And I'd be happy to contribute toward their realization. As the Good Book prophesies, the hearts of the children shall turn to the parents and the parents to the children, otherwise the whole world will be wasted. What more obvious turning of hearts could there be than using the education and tools we've inherited from the incremental efforts of our ancestors to, in turn, restore them to life? They gave to us. We might give to them. And, in the process, perhaps we may all become God, in pervasive giving and receiving of grace that reflects the grace we've all received from creation within a context of opportunity. Surely it's a burden. But love is always a burden.<br /><br />Georgi then gets to the heart of her (probably ironic) accusation of Transhumanist religiosity. It's "more than just cheating clients out of their money." How so? What could be worse? Well, she tells us. Cryonics is "purely a religious rite," she says. Religion is worse than cheating people out of money! If Transhumanists weren't acting on our most strenuous hopes and fears, it wouldn't be so bad, evidently. But because we're so serious about it, because we're religious about it, it's worse.<br /><br />Georgi rightly recognizes faith operating among Transhumanists. "Do this deed, and you have a chance at immortality ... your act of faith might earn you another life." It is, as she points out, something of a baptism. And so I wonder, does she offer the same criticism of other baptisms? Does she level the same accusations of arrogance at other rituals and religions? Does she recognize arrogance in her own religiosity? Because surely she's religious, probably in the traditional conservative sense. But, no, she probably hasn't considered the hypocrisy of her criticism. It's probably enough for her, sola feels, that her criticism sounds momentous, even if it's as old and dusty as sectarian squabbles between Zoroastrians and the Cult of Horus.<br /><br />Okay. So if the hypocritical appeal to ridicule of religiosity won't work, how about an appeal to ridicule of self-worth? Georgi goes there. It's the "height of arrogance," she claims, to suppose future generations will value the possibility of interacting with a resurrected cryonicist. She should probably see a therapist about this. I say that seriously. Does she think so little of herself? She's spewing hypocrisy in her article, but I'm sure there are innumerable interesting, valuable, redeemable, and lovable things about her. And even if I don't know what they are, surely her friends and family know. And that's the most important point she's failing to consider.<br /><br />Resurrection is not inherently about one's self exclusively. It may be merely egotistical, for some sad minority. But for most persons who hold to such hope, it's about far more, including the experience of relationships. While some of the more ascetic may imagine a heaven abstracted away from relationships, it seems that the most common conception of heaven is and always has been communal. It's the hope of another day together with a people, a family, or a friend that one has loved. It's surely the hope of more experience, but so often also the hope to share that experience with others.<br /><br />Georgi won't have it. She wants you to know that "you are, as a matter of fact, quite wretched." You are a "miserable consciousness." I wonder if she thinks this about her family and friends? I'm tempted to pity them, as I'm tempted to pity her.<br /><br />"Transhumanism is about cheating death," says Georgi. Yes! May we cheat death, and more: may we defeat death! Something inside tells me that Georgi probably revers the Bible. I wonder if she's read the part where Paul teaches that death is the last enemy that will be vanquished. That, to me, sounds like a Christian mandate to cheat death. Or does she think we should fight death fairly? How would that work? It certainly isn't fighting us fairly. It just kills, in any way that works. So I'm with Paul. I say we vanquish death, even if we have to cheat it.<br /><br />"Self-worship evolves to take on more sophisticated, far-fetched forms," says Georgi. Indeed. There have always been those who would raise themselves above others in sophisticated ways, such as by tearing others down while pretending not to do so. Georgi may not want to work toward giving and receiving resurrection. But will she see how her vilification of Transhumanists is worship of her own values at their expense? Will she see her vilification as a manifestation of sectarian religion, which is just another variation on the theme of the "selfie religion" that she's hypocritically criticizing?<br /><br />Continuing to exaggerate her sola feels, Georgi says Transhumanism promotes killing Down Syndrome babies. As it turns out, I know a Transhumanist who recently fathered a Down Syndrome baby and has every intention of nurturing that child to the best of his abilities. She says Transhumanism allows frozen embryos to be made into jewelry. As it turns out, I know many Transhumanists who would be appalled by this. And Georgi continues on down a disgusting slippery slope train wreck of vilification that I won't repeat further here.<br /><br />Her point? Again, Transhumanism is egotism. Why? Because she feels so. Because she's unable to acknowledge or imagine that Transhumanism is more than the straw man she's constructed. Transhumanists are living or would live at others' expense, she claims.<br /><br />But can't she see? We all, each of us, live at others' expense always! It's inescapable. That's not what constitutes egotism. Egotism is when that reality is ignored or denied. Egotism is when we seek not to share that expense with each other. Egotism is in denying others' hopes needlessly. Egotism is in rebuking others for what one does one's self. Egotism is in vilifying others ignorantly or dishonestly.<br /><br />Georgi only sees cryonics as self-worship. And it may be that in some cases -- maybe even in most cases, as again it seems that most of us are too egotistical most of the time. But it can be and generally is also more than egotism, as hope in resurrection-in-general probably is self-worship to some extent but is also rightly regarded by traditional religions as a hope worth revering.<br /><br />And somehow Georgi sees cryonics as contrary to esteem for the sanctity of life. I suppose she has persuaded herself, as so many traditional religious conservatives have, of an "eternal life" that is merely a euphemism for death. Well, I won't privilege the sophistry. If you genuinely want others to hold life in the highest esteem, don't vilify them for seeking to maintain life as long as possible and to restore life when it has been or must be lost. I read the same Bible that the religious conservative reads, and in it I read Jesus telling us to raise the dead. I take him seriously. Why don't you?<br /><br />Georgi doesn't take him seriously, apparently, because death must be the end in this world. Sola feels, apparently. Whatever her faith may be, it's apparently not compatible with that of those of us who aren't so cozy with the grim reaper. According to her, we're "priests and priestesses, huckster cult leaders" of an alien religion. We're somehow, according to her hypocritical sophistry, encouraging death as a sacrifice to our religion.<br /><br />But the reality is that we, Transhumanists, love life. Sometimes, even far too often, we love life too egotistically. And we're not unique in that. All of us, Transhumanists and bio-conservatives alike, can work on greater altruism. But again, it's altogether wrong, completely false, to portray Transhumanists as advocates of death in any general sense. If anyone is true to life, it is the Transhumanist. And cryonics is one of the many evidences of that faith, our trust, that life is worth more life -- even if we must sleep from time to time.<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/> Cryonics for uploaders: Meeting in Second Life, Sunday March 25 Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:1b6869e6-7624-ec2f-ac36-ee2bbddc5680 Fri, 16 Mar 2018 02:00:46 -0600 <figure><img alt="" src="*uS__GOIpOsbtihBCNnVZpQ.jpeg" /><figcaption>Ken Hayworth and Giulio Prisco in Second Life</figcaption></figure><p>A meeting will take place in Second Life on Sunday, March 25, to discuss the recently announced “<a href="">cryonics for uploaders</a>” breakthrough. Among the participants, Alcor CEO <a href="">Max More</a>, BPF President <a href="">Ken Hayworth</a>, and researcher <a href="">Robert McIntyre</a>.</p><p>Other participants include <a href="">Natasha Vita-More</a>, <a href="">Robin Hanson</a>, <a href="">William Sims Bainbridge</a>, and other experts in <a href="">cryonics</a> and <a href="">mind uploading</a>.</p><figure><img alt="" src="*nKDsKCapVopmtC3T5HuVXg.jpeg" /><figcaption>Fred and Linda Chamberlain. Mind uploading — the ultimate out of body experience!</figcaption></figure><p>In the picture, <a href="">Alcor</a> founders <a href="">Fred and Linda Chamberlain</a>. Fred, who in the picture wears a t-shirt that says “<strong>Mind uploading — the ultimate out of body experience!</strong>,” won’t be able to participate in the meeting due to an annoying temporary impediment. Linda will participate with an Alcor crew.</p><p><a href="">Aldehyde-Stabilized Cryopreservation</a> (ASC) can be seen as next-generation <a href="">cryonics</a>, but also as an alternative form of “<a href="">cryonics for uploaders</a>.” In fact, ASC preservation is not meant for future biological revival of the original organic body, but for future non-biological (post-biological) revival as an upload. Ken said:</p><blockquote>“Let that sink in… ASC, if properly applied TODAY, could preserve the information content of a human brain for indefinitely-long storage.”</blockquote><p>This means that OUR brains could be preserved, with technology available today, for decades (or centuries), until mind uploading technology is operational.</p><p>I am especially interested in discussing:</p><p><strong>WHEN THE FUCK will this be available to ME?</strong></p><p>Friends, I am 60. Please hurry the fuck up.</p><p>This meeting will be held in the Stonehenge-themed garden (top picture) on the <a href="">Terasem</a> Island in Second Life. This will not be an introductory talk but a discussion among experts and informed participants. Please see the reading list below if you are not informed. If you want to participate, you are cordially invited.</p><p><strong>The meeting will take place on Sunday, March 25, at 3–5pm New York time. Please check the time if you are in another timezone, and don’t forget that some regions are on daylight time.</strong></p><p>[<a href=";title=Terasem%20Island%20Stonehenge&amp;msg=Welcome%20to%20Stonehenge%21"><strong>Click here to teleport to Stonehenge @Terasem</strong></a>] or teleport directly to Terasem, 180/180/31.</p><p>OK, Second Life is old tech and not as popular as it was 10 years ago, but new sexy, high-performance Virtual Reality platforms like Philip Rosedale’s <a href="">High Fidelity</a> are coming up fast, so consider this as a warm-up exercise and stay tuned for updates. <a href="">I plan to to start</a> a Virtual Turing Church in High Fidelity later this year.</p><h4>Reading list</h4><p>My summary “<a href="">Cryonics for uploaders: The Brain Preservation Prize has been won</a>,” and all material linked therein.</p><p><em>Technology Review</em>: “<a href="">A startup is pitching a mind-uploading service that is ‘100 percent fatal’</a>.”</p><p>Alcor: “<a href="">Alcor Position Statement on Brain Preservation Foundation Prize</a>.”</p><p>UK Cryonics and Cryopreservation Research Network, <em>Evidence-Based Cryonics</em>: “<a href="">Groundbreaking Scientific Results Show that the Proposition of Human Medical Biostasis has Potential and Needs to Be Brought into Mainstream Scientific and Medical Focus</a>.”</p><p>Eric Drexler: “<a href="">A Door to the Future</a>,” Chapter 9 of “<a href=""><em>Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology</em></a>.”</p><p><em>Pictures by Giulio Prisco.</em></p><img src="" width="1" height="1"><hr><p><a href="">Cryonics for uploaders: Meeting in Second Life, Sunday March 25</a> was originally published in <a href="">Turing Church</a> on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.</p> Cryonics for uploaders: The Brain Preservation Prize has been won Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:6bf04241-5d25-c5f0-1d7d-0bf97ff5ded3 Tue, 13 Mar 2018 01:01:34 -0600 <figure><img alt="" src="*g07MhLakwFN4ES2uCMiQMQ.jpeg" /></figure><p>The <a href="">Brain Preservation Foundation</a> (BPF) <a href="">is announcing</a> that the final phase of the Brain Preservation Prize has been won. This could soon enable new “cryonics for uploaders” options.</p><p>The Large Mammal Brain Preservation Prize has been won by the cryobiology research company 21st Century Medicine (21CM) and lead researcher Robert McIntyre. The same researchers <a href="">won the preliminary Small Mammal Brain Preservation Prize </a>two years ago.</p><p>Using a combination of glutaraldehyde fixation and cryogenic storage, the researchers have demonstrated a way to preserve a brain’s connectome — the 150 trillion synaptic connections that are presumed to encode memory and the whole mind — for centuries-long storage.</p><p>The procedure used, known as <a href="">Aldehyde-Stabilized Cryopreservation</a> (ASC), consists of perfusing the brain with glutaraldehyde and cryoprotectant prior to cryogenic storage.</p><figure><img alt="" src="*tg10vAZ4RInurL5auiHqsA.jpeg" /><figcaption>Representative electron micrograph of white matter region in ASC-preserved pig brain</figcaption></figure><p><a href="">Extensive 3D electron microscopy studies</a> have examined the quality of connectome preservation following rewarming from cold storage of a pig brain, comparable to a human brain in size, preserved with ASC.</p><p>The results were evaluated by BPF President <a href="">Ken Hayworth</a> and Princeton neuroscience professor <a href="">Sebastian Seung</a>, author of “<a href=""><em>Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are</em></a>,” with the collaboration of other qualified neuroscientists.</p><p>The quality of brain preservation obtained via the ASC procedure is, according to Ken, simply amazing, and equivalent to that used in state-of-the-art connectome research. An ASC-preserved brain is expected to retain most of its molecular-level information. If so, future technology may permit scanning an ASC-preserved brain for <a href="">mind uploading</a>. The BPF announcement states:</p><blockquote>“A growing number of scientists and technologists believe that future technology may be capable of scanning a preserved brain’s connectome and using it as the basis for constructing a whole brain emulation, thereby uploading that person’s mind into a computer controlling a robotic, virtual, or synthetic body.</blockquote><blockquote>The Brain Preservation Prize challenged the scientific community to develop a ‘bridge’ to that future mind uploading technology.”</blockquote><p>In pre-announcement email to the BPF Advisory Board, on which I am honored to serve, Ken said:</p><blockquote>“Let that sink in… ASC, if properly applied TODAY, could preserve the information content of a human brain for indefinitely-long storage.”</blockquote><p>See Ken’s awesome video presentation titled “<a href="">Aldehyde-Stabilized Cryopreservation is cryonics for uploaders</a>.”</p><iframe src=";;;key=a19fcc184b9711e1b4764040d3dc5c07&amp;type=text%2Fhtml&amp;schema=youtube" width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"><a href=""></a></iframe><p>In <a href="">a 2010 post</a>, republished in part by the Cryonics Institute, I introduced the phrase “cryonics for uploaders,” and I am honored to see it used by Ken and the BPF.</p><p>ASC can be seen as next-generation <a href="">cryonics</a>, but also as an alternative form of cryonics. In fact, ASC preservation is not meant for future biological revival of the original organic body, but for future non-biological (post-biological) revival as an upload.</p><p>“Glutaraldehyde fixation does a provably better job than cryonics at preserving precisely those structures that encode memory and personal identity,” reads one of Ken’s presentation slides. Cryonics for uploaders, indeed.</p><p>See also Ken’s recent essay titled “<a href="">Vitrifying the Connectomic Self: A case for developing Aldehyde Stabilized Cryopreservation into a medical procedure</a>,” which includes a short near-future science fiction story that explains simply and clearly how cryonics for uploaders would work.</p><h4>Next steps</h4><p>The question is, what now?</p><p>In “<a href="">Letter of support for Aldehyde Stabilized Cryopreservation to be developed into a medical procedure,</a>” Ken says:</p><blockquote>“I believe it is the responsibility of the scientific and medical community to develop ASC into a reliable medical procedure as soon as possible.”</blockquote><p>The BPF is likely to play a key role in this process. McIntyre co-founded the startup <a href="">Nectome</a> to continue developing ASC as operational medical technology. Established cryonics organizations like <a href="">Alcor</a> and <a href="">Cryonics Institute</a>, or new cryonics organizations, could take a leading role and offer ASC preservation services as soon as possible.</p><p>Ken is persuaded that the right strategy is not to rush, and take the time and all necessary steps to develop ASC as a quality-controlled clinical procedure (before death) within the mainstream medical system. He sent me this comment:</p><blockquote>“The BPF will NEVER become a service provider. Its mission is to spur scientific and medical research and to make sure that any offering of preservation services is actually meeting high standards, i.e. verified connectome preservation on a case-by-case basis.</blockquote><blockquote>Robert’s company <a href="">Nectome</a> will likely be offering ASC services eventually. According to the time line on their website it looks like they are targeting 2020 or 2021 (if I am interpreting it correctly). I have explicitly warned Robert about offering services prematurely to prevent a backlash from the scientific and medical communities. There are very real scientific questions that still need to be studied regarding ASC. For example, how well does ASC work after death? How well does ASC and -130degC storage work on human brains (can be tested on anatomical donations)? What is the protocol for quality control, both during and after the procedure? What about non-ideal cases, can the fixative perfusion and CPA perfusion steps be extended in time to deal with cases of vascular blockage? What are the proper steps to avoid ethical issues and to maintain transparency?</blockquote><blockquote>All of these questions MUST be addressed in an open medical publication PRIOR to any human service offering.</blockquote><blockquote>I believe that all of these question could be addressed over the next year or two with concerted effort within Robert’s company. We just need to hold his feet to the fire to make sure they are.</blockquote><blockquote>As for the existing cryonics providers, they seem mired in a model that refuses to engage the medical community directly. They avoid such engagement by starting the procedure after clinical death has been declared. It is true this has been forced upon them, but they also hide behind this requirement and blame every single problem that arises on this requirement. This has allowed them to botch many preservations with zero consequences, and in fact we don’t really have any idea if any of their patient’s connectomes are preserved since there is no real quality control deployed that could verify this. Publications? I hope you agree that this is unacceptable.</blockquote><blockquote>The solution, I believe, is to engage the medical community and try to play by its rules. If ASC truly is a potentially lifesaving procedure then it should be performed when it maximizes the chances of success. In most cases this means that ASC should be applied before death as a scheduled procedure for terminal patents. This is not going to happen without some seriously good quality control procedures in place, and this is a good thing. I believe that forcing ASC to be developed within the mainstream medical system will ultimately produce a far better procedure, one that will raise the chances of successful future revival enormously.</blockquote><blockquote>To put a fine point on this. If I were dying this month and Nectome, Alcor, or some other company offered me a FREE preservation I would refuse. I would refuse because I believe that none currently have quality protocols in place, so I would put the chances of it working at an unacceptably low level. More importantly, I would refuse because to accept would be putting other lives at risk. If there is a backlash from the medical and scientific community toward ASC (like the one premature cryonics offering created) then it could set the field of brain preservation back another decade or more. That would result in many lives lost and I wouldn’t want that on my conscience. Imagine waking up in 2230 only to learn that your rushed preservation set back brain preservation for decades, resulting in hundreds of thousands of lives lost. Those are the stakes of a premature offering.”</blockquote><p>In 2010, immediately after the announcement of the Brain Preservation Prize, <a href="">I was persuaded</a> that next-generation brain preservation methods would not require expensive cryogenic storage facilities, which would permit offering low-cost brain preservation.</p><p>But ASC does require cryogenic storage. This should make ASC more appealing to the cryonics community, but also implies that ASC would probably be as expensive as current cryonics. The ASC preparation is, if anything, more complex, and the long term cold storage costs are the same.</p><p>Ken sent me this correction and comment:</p><blockquote>“I also hope the cost will come down and soon. But I have little perspective on what that would take.</blockquote><blockquote>I disagree that ‘The ASC preparation is, if anything, more complex’. Because ASC uses perfusion fixation as its first step it avoids the main complications of cryonics which has always been a delicate race to increase CPA concentration while simultaneously lowering temperature. The ASC procedure is simple by comparison — just do everything at room temperature and take as long as you need to ensure uniform fixation and CPA concentration. If it were performed as a scheduled procedure ASC would be very straightforward indeed.</blockquote><blockquote>That said, the main cost is likely to be the long-term cold storage. This could actually be higher than traditional cryonics storage because, as I understand it, tradition cryonics stores at liquid nitrogen temperature (-196 degrees C) instead of just below the vitrification temperature (approximately -130 degrees C). In my understanding, storage at the lower temperature produces cracks and should be unacceptable for this reason but is done to lower costs. <a href="">An article by Brian Wowk</a> goes through this issue in great detail. So we should assume that ASC brains will always be stored at an intermediate temperature to avoid cracks.</blockquote><blockquote>I think it is possible that a room temperature storage option will eventually be developed that can transition ASC-preserved brains to room temperature storage. For example, if a plastic embedding approach like <a href="">Mikula’s</a> was eventually developed then it should be straightforward to apply that to existing ASC-preserved brains. In this way the amortized costs would go down.</blockquote><blockquote>However, I think the real solution to cost is large numbers.”</blockquote><p>I think it’s very important to try and bring cryonics costs down. I am a life member of the Cryonics Institute, and I used to have a life insurance policy to cover cryonic suspension. But then I lost my insurance policy when I moved from one country to another, and didn’t take a new one because it was too expensive. Many others are in the same situation, and cryonics is still too expensive to attract large numbers, therefore an intermediate cost reduction step is needed.</p><h4>Beam me to the stars</h4><p>Having said that, I would certainly sign up for ASC brain preservation if I had the money. Becoming an immortal upload and <a href="">going to the stars</a>, what could be more wonderful than that? But the thing is, I don’t have the money.</p><p>Also, I am 60, and I am not sure quality-controlled ASC will be deployed within the mainstream medical system in time — especially because I am persuaded that “to engage the medical community and try to play by its rules” would take decades. I’m afraid I have little esteem for the mainstream scientific and medical establishment, which is dominated by ideologically biased bureaucracies and vulnerable to political influences.</p><p>My way to cope with the certainty (or, after this announcement, let’s say very high probability) of death is hoping in some sort of naturally occurring afterlife, or technological resurrection in the far future, or some combination thereof. Please read the <a href=""><em>Turing Church</em></a> website if you are interested in these things, and watch <a href="">my most recent talk</a>.</p><p>But it would be great to come back to life as a revived cryonic patient, and experience first-hand the wonders of the next few centuries. Now, all those who are young enough and wealthy enough have a chance.</p><p>I am persuaded that, IF the connectome (as it is currently defined) encodes memory and the whole conscious mind, which is the current consensus in the neuroscience community, then ASC brain preservation followed by mind uploading should work.</p><p>The only scientific argument that I can see against ASC’s ability to preserve the information content of the brain is the possibility that unknown physics could play a strong fundamental role in how the brain’s wetware generates (or interacts with) the conscious mind. If so, then we’ll have to go back to the drawing board, but most neuroscientists consider these ideas as fringe “<a href="">quantum mysticism</a>.”</p><h4>Upcoming discussion in Second Life</h4><p>Two years ago, after the announcement that <a href="">the preliminary Small Mammal Brain Preservation Prize had been won</a>, I organized <a href="">a Turing Church meeting in Second Life</a> with Ken, Alcor CEO <a href="">Max More</a>, Alcor co-founder <a href="">Linda Chamberlain</a>, Natasha Vita-More, and many others. Ken and Max led a honest and intense discussion.</p><p>I am now trying to organize a follow-up meeting including the same participants, with high quality video recording this time. Everyone will be invited, stay tuned.</p><p><a href=""><em>Top image</em></a><em> from Wikimedia Commons, brain scan image from the BPF.</em></p><img src="" width="1" height="1"><hr><p><a href="">Cryonics for uploaders: The Brain Preservation Prize has been won</a> was originally published in <a href="">Turing Church</a> on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.</p> All Are Children of God - A Transhumanist Adaptation of 'I Am a Child of God' The Transfigurist urn:uuid:142aa80f-b108-924c-323e-a5ef2b6212a0 Sun, 11 Mar 2018 12:28:00 -0600 <div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" data-original-height="349" data-original-width="620" src="" /></a></div><br /><br />I love the hymn "I am A Child of God". It speaks to a personal relation to God that reaches deeply into an individual's soul. I will continue to sing it and ponder on its meaning.<br /><br />In thinking about this hymn, I thought about how it might be adapted to illuminate a transhumanist theme. In addition to that, I pondered how it might be adapted to orient towards a communal perspective -- changing me's to we's or my's to our's. A transhumanist perspective is subtle but is woven in towards the end a theme of theosis.<br /><br />Here is my attempt at the above:<br /><br />All are children of God,<br />And God has lead us here,<br />Has given us an earthly home<br />With others kind and dear.<br /><br />(chorus)<br />Lead us, guide us, walk beside us,<br />Help us find a way.<br />Teach us all that we can do<br />To live with God this day.<br /><br />All are children of God,<br />Our call is to create,<br />Help us to understand God's words<br />And overcome all hate.<br /><br class="Apple-interchange-newline" />(chorus)<br />Lead us, guide us, walk beside us,<br />Help us find a way.<br />Teach us all that we can do<br />To live with God this day.<br /><br />All are children of God,<br />Bright blessings can outpour.<br />If we can learn to do God's will,<br />We’ll live as Gods therefore;<br /><br class="Apple-interchange-newline" />(chorus)<br />Lead us, guide us, walk beside us,<br />Help us find a way.<br />Teach us all that we can do<br />To live with God this day.<br /><br />All are children of God,<br />God's promises are sure;<br />Celestial glory shall be shared<br />As we act as Saviors.<br /><br class="Apple-interchange-newline" />(chorus - with changed language)<br />Lead them, guide them, walk beside them,<br />Help them find a way.<br />Teach them all that can be done<br />To live together this day.<br /><br /><img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/> Mary, Mother of God, Catholic Transhumanist Wonder Woman Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:9482bc51-b1ec-99ae-e549-e989c23f0f3e Thu, 08 Mar 2018 11:00:00 -0700 The more I am exposed to the Catholic aesthetic, the more I understand that for the ancient church, Mary was sort of like Wonder Woman, working against the power of Kings and Empires to smuggle the divine into the world. She strides across the an... <p><img src=",w_600/v1520550780/mary_takeoff.jpg" alt="Mary, Mother of God, Catholic Transhumanist Wonder Woman" /></p> <p>The more I am exposed to the Catholic aesthetic, the more I understand that for the ancient church, Mary was sort of like Wonder Woman, working against the power of Kings and Empires to smuggle the divine into the world.</p> <p>She strides across the ancient map of the world, thwarting everyone’s control, singing a bawdy song about how the powerful will fall, and the poor will rise.</p> <p>She creates life without the help of man, she reverses the creational order of Adam &amp; Eve, she alone bears witness to the full life of Christ.</p> <p>She provokes her son into working miracles.</p> <p>It is no wonder they decided she ascended bodily into heaven. Earth could not contain a power like that<a href="" target="_blank">.</a></p> <hr /> <p><em>A short thought for <a href=";src=typd" target="_blank">#InternationalWomansDay</a>. Follow <a href="" target="_blank">@xianityplus</a> on Twitter, for more explorations of Christian Transhumanism.</em></p> Queer Polygamy Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:ded3c253-982a-c367-eaf4-bcab72010013 Thu, 08 Mar 2018 05:38:00 -0700 <p>A <a target="_blank" href="">podcast</a> in which Lindsay Hansen Park and I discuss a controversial perspective of polygamy.&nbsp;I call it “queer polygamy.”</p><p>While listening to this you may find yourself being stretched outside your comfort zone, but hopefully in the process we will be able to find empathy and compassion for one another as we explore different desires for varied family structures. I’ll also note that “queer” is a very politically charged word. I use the word “queer” both as a reference to the LGBTQ+ community and as a descriptor of “queer” social behaviors that deviate from societal norms, like polygamy. I want to be particularly sensitive to those who use the word "queer" differently than I do by clarifying I mean no disrespect to the LGBTQ+&nbsp;community or the polygamous community.</p><p>I’m happy to clarify any concerns you may have or if you feel your views aren’t being represented accurately. I’d like to think there is room for everyone in Mormon theology and that largely depends on how we choose to frame and interact with our narratives.<br /><br /><a target="_blank" href="">*Published at Year of Polygamy Podcast on Wednesday, March 7, 2018</a></p> Honest Lies: a transhumanist love poem Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:e76a4901-2a84-c16d-5ffe-23548d4f9f77 Wed, 07 Mar 2018 08:37:13 -0700 <p>Tell me sweet lies, if you please,<br />the ones that bring me to my knees.<br />I’ll trade a brutal truth for honest lies.<br />Make them so real, I can’t deny.</p><p>Tell me the lies I need to hear,<br />the ones that overpower death and fear.<br />I need the stories that you tell,<br />the ones that bind monsters from hell.</p><p>Tell me honest lies so divine,<br />and I’ll worship the holy shrine.<br />Promise me time, promise me eternity,<br />then deliver that promise with me.</p><p>Lord, take me!<br />I'm going crazy.<br />Don’t make me wait,<br />I don’t trust fate.<br />Give me life.<br />Do it right.<br />Their reality—<br />it’s insanity!<br />Let’s turn the tide.<br />We have to try.</p><p>Come, tell me your sweetest lies.<br />Let me have them from every side.<br />I want to hear honest lies from you,<br />and together, let’s make them true.</p> I Know the Church is True Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:2abde66b-2cd6-5d67-9348-b2788a6ea625 Tue, 27 Feb 2018 22:24:22 -0700 <p>Yesterday, I posted this to my Facebook wall:</p><blockquote>Every time I hear someone say “I know the Church is true” my internal alarm goes off saying:</blockquote><blockquote> </blockquote><blockquote>What do those words even mean? What is it you know? How do you know it? Why do you think you know it? Why is it people “know” the opposite of your truth is their truth? Can you “know” something falsely? What is the Church? How do you define it? Who gets to define the Church? What is true? What is “truth” for that matter? How do you know truth? Why does your “true knowledge” contradict another’s “true knowledge”? Is this claim coming from a place of epistemic arrogance that actually thwarts the pursuit of truth?</blockquote><blockquote> </blockquote><blockquote>They say, “I know the Church is true,” but what does that even mean?</blockquote><p> </p><p>The following day, my friend Tarik, who I respect as a fellow philosopher, <a target="_blank" href="">wrote a thoughtful response</a>. I’d like to take a brief moment to respond to his post.</p><p> </p><h3 class="text-align-center"><strong>“What is it you know?”</strong></h3><p>Tarik suggests that when a person says, “I know the Church is true” they mean to convey “I believe the church is true.” In his words, “. . .the word knowledge and belief are interchangeable in Mormondom, though the term knowledge is usually used rather than belief.” While I agree with Tarik to a certain extent, I still take issue with this cultural, perhaps even dogmatic, use of the word <em>knowledge</em> when used interchangeably with <em>belief</em>. If the two words were meant to convey the same meaning as synonyms then we wouldn’t have an issue with semantics, but semantics matter. If you mean <em>belief</em> then say <em>belief</em>. If you mean <em>knowledge</em> then say <em>knowledge</em>. Using these words interchangeably feels dishonest.</p><p>For example, if I told my husband I was going out with my friend, but to his surprise my <em>friend</em> is actually my <em>lover</em>. I could explain to my husband, “Oh, but when I said <em>friend</em> I really meant <em>lover</em>.” I doubt he would be inclined to see my words as honest when <em>friend</em> and <em>lover </em>are not synonyms. Now you might be thinking, but what Blaire said was honest because her friend is also her lover, because <em>lover</em> is just a more specific type of <em>friend</em>. If that is the case, it seems honest and courteous to clarify that the type of <em>friend </em>I will be spending time with that evening is a <em>friend </em>who is also a <em>lover</em>, rather than just a <em>friend</em>.</p><p>The same holds for <em>knowledge</em> and <em>belief</em>. Perhaps it is the case that <em>belief</em> is a specific type of <em>knowledge</em>, but to avoid confusion it’s probably best to clarify what you mean.</p><p> </p><h3 class="text-align-center"><strong>“Why is it people ‘know’ the opposite of your truth is their truth?”</strong></h3><p>I appreciate Tarik’s epistemic humility in regard to whether or not “true knowledge” is possible. This is one area where we likely agree. To “know” something is certainly a complex question. This is also the case within religious <em>knowledge</em>.</p><p>For example, let’s say there are two tribes who live on opposite sides of a river. Tribe A sees the color blue and calls it <em>red</em>. Everyone agrees that they are seeing the same color and congratulate themselves of having “true knowledge” of the color red. Tribe B sees the color yellow and calls it <em>red</em>. Everyone agrees that they are seeing the same color and congratulate themselves of having “true knowledge” of the color red. Who has “true knowledge” of the color <em>red</em>? It might be easy to say neither, they are both wrong and I am right because I have true knowledge of the color <em>red</em>, but therein lies the problem. No one has “true knowledge” of <em>red</em>. We only tell each other stories with words we invent to identify the experience of seeing <em>red</em>.</p><p>Religion is similar. We tell each other stories with words we invent to explain our experiences with the Divine. These stories can be helpful, provoking, and inspiring, but that does not make them true. We like our tribes, because they often agree with us and give us confidence that we indeed have “true knowledge,” because everyone in my tribe agrees with me and God loves my tribe most. Another tribe could also claim “true knowledge” of the Divine that contradicts another tribe, but does that mean both are right, wrong, neither, or both? We can’t know with any certainty, but should, in my estimation, seek to know.</p><p>In short, I <em>know </em>my subjective experience, but epistemic arrogance would be to conflate my experience with <em>universal truth</em> or <em>true knowledge</em>. (<a target="_blank" href="">See more here</a>)</p><p> </p><h3 class="text-align-center"><strong>“Why do you think you know it?”</strong></h3><p>Tarik also suggests that when someone uses the words “I believe the church is true” they mean to convey “I think there is good reason to believe that the LDS Church, as compared to the other world religions, is the correct one.”</p><p>But the question remains, whether this is <em>knowledge</em> or <em>belief</em>, why do you believe this? Why is this the correct one, especially if you don’t know the other options? It reminds me of a testimony once sharing in sacrament meeting to which a woman claimed she knew the Book of Mormon was true and didn’t even need to read it, because she felt its truth. I wonder if she considered that something can feel good, but also not be true. For example, my son loves Harry Potter and has good feelings when he reads the books and discusses them with his friends, but that doesn’t mean Hogwarts exists outside the world of fiction and imagination.</p><p>However, my philosophically creative friends might contend, “Well actually, Blaire, Hogwarts does exist, and you can even ride the attractions at Universal Studios. Not only that, all we have to do is create a Hogwarts school and enroll children. We can make Hogwarts true!” If that is the intended meaning of “I know the Church is true” then I agree and will work toward that endeavor with you, assuming we don’t engage in harmful or oppressive behaviors. However, “I know the Church is true” does not convey that meaning when it assumes we have already made the fictional become true. It’s one thing to hope it’s true and work towards that truth, but it is quite another to say it <em>is</em> true. (<a target="_blank" href="">See more here</a>)</p><p> </p><h3 class="text-align-center"><strong>“Can you know something falsely?”</strong></h3><p>I like Tarik’s analogy of Aristotle’s astronomy and agree with his justification. For practical purposes, I think it is important to acknowledge what we <em>know</em> can be proven false in the future. This is not to say we shouldn’t seek to <em>know</em> things, but to recognize that understanding truth is a dynamic endeavor which requires humility in admitting when we are wrong or incomplete.</p><p> </p><h3 class="text-align-center"><strong>“Who gets to define the Church?”</strong></h3><p>Tarik says, “. . .who gets to define the Church is a good question, but it has an obvious answer: The Church.” While I appreciate the simplicity and humor of this response, it’s an autological, circular definition. This still doesn’t get us any closer to parsing out what is <em>the Church </em>and what is not <em>the Church</em>. Thus, the “who is Church” is still not answered. I contend we can define “the Church” similarly to how other things are defined: by people.</p><p>Tarik asks, “Who gets to define Mormonism?” I like this question because it suggests he acknowledges there is a difference between <em>the Church</em> and Mormonism. While Tarik offers the response that nobody is defining the Church or Mormonism, I wouldn’t say “nobody” but rather “anybody” is defining the Church and Mormonism. We are defining Mormonism in a network of connections, power relations, propositions, policies, speculative theologies, and critiques. We are molding and shaping its ever-changing landscape of <em>the Church</em> and Mormonism as we embody continuing revelation. Some individuals may have more institutional power and authority, but neither Mormonism nor <em>the Church</em> exist in a vacuum. I agree with Tarik that “Mormonism is something lived” and thus, dynamic.</p><p> </p><h3 class="text-align-center"><strong>“What do those words even mean?”</strong></h3><p>This last point is the one that perplexes me the most. Tarik suggests that,&nbsp;“I know the Church is true” is similar to the statement “I love you,” based off the work of Adam Millar. I’m not entirely familiar with the work of Adam Miller, so I proceed understanding that I could be interpreting this inaccurately.</p><p>The way I see it, if you say “I know the Church is true” across the pulpit, but you mean to convey “I love this Church, and I’m committed,” your message could be lost in translation when others are hearing “If you don’t know the Church is true too you don’t belong here.”</p><p>“I know the Church is true” maybe a be a simple catch phase repeated in varies meeting houses across the globe, and I can accept that those are free to keep saying them, but I offer a caution if they are used in arrogance or function as a gatekeeper for who is a part of the community and who is not. If you mean “I love this church and I am deeply committed,” those words are far more powerful than “I know the Church is true.” In fact, if you say “I love this church and I am deeply committed,” I might even say them with you.</p><p> </p><p>Thank you for your post, Tarik. It’s a pleasure to engage in dialectics with you.</p> VIDEO: My talk on Physics and the Indian Spiritual Tradition, Kolkata, February 10, 2018 Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:e4de181b-fcec-a2a2-6290-6439dec604b3 Tue, 27 Feb 2018 03:17:34 -0700 <figure><img alt="" src="*7_S-AGqUtkqogUD2yHAYBQ.jpeg" /></figure><p>On February 10, 2018, <a href="">I gave a talk</a> titled “<a href="">Physics and the Indian Spiritual Tradition</a>” at the <a href="">Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture</a> (RMIC), Kolkata, India. Here’s <a href="">the full video of the talk and Q/A</a>.</p><p>I wish to thank Nupur Munshi, the RMIC for hosting this talk and recording this video, and the sponsors who made the trip to Kolkata possible. In particular, I wish to thank the <a href="">Mormon Transhumanist Association</a> (MTA) for its generous support. Please see related videos on <a href="">the MTA YouTube channel</a>.</p><iframe src=";;;key=a19fcc184b9711e1b4764040d3dc5c07&amp;type=text%2Fhtml&amp;schema=youtube" width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"><a href=""></a></iframe><p><a href="">The PPT presentation</a> I used:</p><iframe src=";;;key=a19fcc184b9711e1b4764040d3dc5c07&amp;type=text%2Fhtml&amp;schema=slideshare" width="600" height="500" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"><a href=""></a></iframe><p>See also “<a href="">Under the spell of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda</a>,” with more pictures, impressions and thoughts. Here’s a summary of my talk:</p><h4>Physics and the Indian Spiritual Tradition</h4><p>In this talk, I will develop two strands of thought, initially separate but eventually converging.</p><p>In the first strand, inspired by scientific and spiritual insights, I will outline some speculative theories of physical reality, proposed by leading philosophers and scientists, and argue that fundamental science is getting closer to traditional spiritual teachings.</p><p>In particular, Indian spiritual traditions, as formulated in the explanations and translations available to me, seem especially able to illuminate and guide research in fundamental physics, cosmology, biology, and the sciences of brain and mind.</p><p>A cosmic, divine Mind, embedded in the fabric of fundamental reality itself, and of which individual minds are but pale reflections, could shape the becoming of space, time, particles, fields, matter, energy, and life forms. The Mind could remember the memories of the universe, including individual lives.</p><p>The interconnection of all things, the action of mind over matter, and different forms of afterlife, could be actual physical phenomena waiting for scientific explanations.</p><p>In the second strand, inspired by futurist thinking, I will argue that science and engineering will bring us closer to the cosmic Mind. <a href="">In the words of</a> a contemporary Mormon scholar, “the end point of engineering knowledge may be divine knowledge.”</p><p>Empowered by divine knowledge, and guided by both spirituality and “can do” engineering, we will eventually meet the Mind, <a href="">become cosmic engineers</a> in the divine control room, and contribute to realizing the promises of spiritual traditions, including afterlife.</p><p>This is, I believe, an ideal fusion of Eastern and Western thinking.</p><p>This talk was be the 2018 event of the India Awakens conference program. Please see the <a href="">video proceedings</a> of the 2017 online event and stay tuned for the announcement of next events.</p><p><em>Cover picture provided by Nupur Munshi.</em></p><img src="" width="1" height="1"><hr><p><a href="">VIDEO: My talk on Physics and the Indian Spiritual Tradition, Kolkata, February 10, 2018</a> was originally published in <a href="">Turing Church</a> on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.</p> Intersubjective Reality Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:76f3a7f6-f5cf-b34b-47d9-b092bdb22e3c Sun, 25 Feb 2018 21:48:16 -0700 <p>Past models of scientific inquiry and objective reality relied on the individual as a sufficient independent agent of episteme. In this model, objectivity is an absolute, omnipotent third party that a single individual could come to “know” with correct implementations of scientific inquiry. Under this view, no matter how biased or subjective an individual is, that individual can objectively “know” things. As the story goes, to be totally objective a person cannot be influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.</p><p>There’s a slight problem though. If all humans experience an individual subjective reality, how could a subjective individual epistemologically “know” objectivity? In what capacity can a person be objective, if at all? Can a person completely remove their feelings, biases, values, or desires?</p><p>The collecting of data and observation requires certain biases and assumptions are already made. Either wittingly or unwittingly, human bias is still in the data and research.&nbsp; However, due to epistemic arrogance, value-laden assumptions have been mingled and sometimes conflated with empirical fact, knowledge, and reality.</p><p>For example, when I see a color and call it “red,” and other people point to it and call it “red” too, I can reasonable conclude I am experiencing the sensation of seeing red, as are others. However, I can’t objectively know that what I am experiencing as red is the same experience as the person standing next to me. This is the difference between practical knowledge and empirical knowledge. For practical reasons, we may use the same language to describe different experiences, such as experiencing red, but that does not mean we are having the same experience or sharing the same objective observation. Epistemic arrogance would be to conflate my subjective experience with universal objective reality.</p><p>Finding consistency in pursuit of objective understanding depends on larger diverse samplings, because each subjective individual is a part of objectivity. Unfortunately, this has largely depended on one social group dominating scientific inquiry, intentionally and unintentionally, stifling diverse views and experiences. Historically, the dominate social group in scientific inquiry has generally been wealthy, white, able-bodied males. When inquiry lacks diverse communal experience and biases, “reality” is whatever is happening to the dominate group and then inaccurately assumed to be objective fact.</p><p>American philosopher of science, Helen Longino, challenges previous views of objectivity with a communal view of intersubjective reality. Longino’s feminist critique of scientific episteme includes a social approach to scientific inquiry by recognizing that individuals don’t exist in a vacuum without bias or personal values. The fact vs. value distinction is hazier than some would like to admit. The individual approach to objectivity has historically been implemented through an androcentric lens and dismissive of not only the subjective views of women, but also fails to recognize that men are also the product of subjective experience. All science is social.</p><p>Gender is not the only factor to consider in a person’s subjective experience. Moving beyond gender, other factors that might include: race, ability, class, wealth, orientation, ect. There are many factors that contribute to bias. In fact, bias cannot be limited to sociopolitical identities or labels, but rather a single individual’s experience. Every person, regardless of contemporary identity labels, will have a uniquely biased subjective experience. The existence of bias doesn't necessary imply bias to be immoral, but simply a product of the human experience. Understanding diverse bias is one way to understanding our own subjective experience and others in this strange place we call “reality.”&nbsp;</p><p>This is not an argument for the rejection of science as a tool of discovery, but rather some views of science need to adapt for a more communal epistemology. I content that science, thus far, is the best tool we have in parsing out the world as we see it and the world as it is. It is a symbiotic relationship where we are creating and experiencing reality simultaneously.</p><p>Life is the embodied experience of objective reality, and to empirically know objective reality would require a complete comprehension of every intersubjective experience ever had. Consider objective reality a hive-mind of intersubjective experiences that can only be known through observation, interaction, and sociality. In turn, each of us because a lens, an essential part, in the discovery of objectivity through the use of practical knowledge in an intersubjective reality.</p> God Runs This Church Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:571289da-8cd9-e7c8-5bdc-8c53b32fef81 Tue, 20 Feb 2018 07:21:59 -0700 <p>“God runs this church!”</p><p>It’s as if these words are the final say in any disagreement about church policy or leadership. No matter the issue, if you have a problem, well tough, “God runs this church!” All thinking, deliberation, and dialogue must cease in subjection to the authoritarian speaking on behalf of God.</p><p>There’s a slight problem though, agency.</p><p>According to the standard works, God gave humans agency. In 2 Nephi 2:26, agency is described as “to act for themselves." According to Joseph Smith, no one is forced to act virtuously or to sin. "The devil could not compel mankind to do evil; all was voluntary . . . God would not exert any compulsory means, and the devil could not" (<em>Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith</em>, p. 187). In Mormonism, agency is essential to our mortal and even premortal existence. As the narrative goes, we had agency prior to our earthly existence and chose to come here while a portion of hosts in heaven turned away because of their agency. (Doctrine and Covenants 29:36) In fact, our very existence is dependent upon the concept of agency. “All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:30)</p><p>On the other hand, Satan sought to take away agency, and to attempt to take away human agency is a serious offense. In fact, this offense made Satan the devil, because it inhibited the purpose of the Plan of Salvation:</p><blockquote>"Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice."&nbsp;(Moses 4:3)</blockquote><p>What was at stake in the war in heaven is that all would be meaningless without human agency. There must be opposition in all things, which includes the freedom to choose good or bad. If there is no choice or opposition, it follows there is no meaning or purpose to our existence according to Mormon theology.</p><p>As a free agent, no one can avoid being free of accountability. God has also promised not to intervene—even to the extent that we are free to choose “liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator” or “captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil.” (2 Nephi 2:27-29) Likewise, “remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:23) According to these scriptures, not only are we free to choose, we will create an existence of our own choosing.</p><p>The argument at hand is, if God gave all humans agency, and God has promised not to override human agency, how is it possible for God to run this church if the church is run by free human agents? Does God infringe on human agency to preserve the Church? As I recall, that was Satan’s plan—to be compelled into righteousness. To claim that God is running this church with exclusive and immutable authority is almost tantamount to saying God doesn’t respect human agency. If God runs this church as an unquestionable tyrant, are we even talking about God anymore, or are we talking about Satan?</p><p>“God runs this church” rings false when cross-examined by the standard works. If God is running this church it is within the constraints God has set, which is to not impinge on human agency. If that is the case, what does “God runs this church” even mean when this church is composed of free agents? What does this mean when the First Presidency and apostles are free agents?</p><p>Perhaps persons who use this phrase mean to convey “The First Presidency and apostles will not lead us astray.” This is a common catch phrase for those seeking to relinquish responsibility for their agency, by giving it to an external authority figure. This functions as blind self-security in that the participants no longer have to think or contemplate, only comply in obedience regardless of who they injure in the process. But as the scriptures say, it is impossible to be saved in ignorance. (D&amp;C 131:6)</p><p>The problem is, the First Presidency and apostleship <em>are</em> capable of leading us astray, even to the power of the devil and our own destruction as previously stated in scripture. The patriarchal gerontocracy are free agents too, and indeed fallible. The apostles themselves have commented on their own fallibility even when in positions of authority.</p><p>Consider these examples:</p><blockquote>“What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way.” (Brigham Young: Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, p. 150, 12 January 1862)</blockquote><blockquote> </blockquote><blockquote>“Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone . . .” (George Q. Cannon, Millennial Star, v 53, p 658-659)</blockquote><blockquote> </blockquote><blockquote>“Prophets are men and they make mistakes. Sometimes they err in doctrine… Sometimes a prophet gives personal views which are not endorsed and approved by the Lord…” (Bruce R. McConkie, In a letter to Eugene England, 19 February 1981)</blockquote><blockquote> </blockquote><blockquote>“To be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles or doctrine…I suppose the Church would only be perfect if it were run by perfect beings.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Come, Join with Us”, October 2013 General Conference)</blockquote><p>When considering the scriptures and the words of past and modern prophets, it appears that the claim “The First Presidency and Apostles will not lead us astray!” is problematic. Church leadership, as free agents, can lead us astray, because God has promised not to override their agency. To suggest otherwise is unfair to them and us.</p><p>However, this is not to say we shouldn’t listen to those in governmental positions of the Church, but what it is to say is that it is only through agency, discernment, and personal revelation that we can decide individually and collectively what is and is not God’s will. God cannot meaningfully reveal what we would not meaningfully accept. This sentiment is also extended to the President of the Church. If the First Presidency would not meaningfully accept new revelation, then God will not override their agency to force them into accepting new revelation. If the lay membership of the church is not willing to accept new revelation, God will not compel us into accepting new revelation.</p><p>“God runs this church!” or “The First Presidency and apostles will not lead us astray!” cannot be taken seriously when it echoes the sentiment of Satan’s plan of mandated salvation of unfree agents. More often than not, “God runs this Church!” is used as a shortsighted tactic to shut down inquiry into further understanding, light, and knowledge. Subconsciously, this might also serve as a way for people to absolve themselves and church leaders from the accountability that comes with agency in a repetitive pattern of circular reasoning.</p><p>God is not running this church independent of human agency. Men in power can lead us astray. God is not a dictator, tyrant, or fascist who disrespects agency. But more importantly, neglecting our responsibilities as free agents will not save us.</p> Under the spell of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:3e883da4-7022-09c9-cb42-b280bb95018f Mon, 19 Feb 2018 09:24:17 -0700 <figure><img alt="" src="*Wyxy60e7LA3yHZeMQ6bvpg.jpeg" /></figure><p>On February 10, 2018, <a href="">I gave a talk</a> titled “<a href="">Physics and the Indian Spiritual Tradition</a>” at the <a href="">Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture</a> (RMIC), Kolkata, India. The full video of the talk and Q/A is coming soon.</p><p>The video below, taken just before the talk, shows a quiet afternoon in the Institute’s garden: colors, flowers, little birds, soft music — an environment uniquely conducive to peaceful meditation on the Big Things.</p><iframe src=";;;key=a19fcc184b9711e1b4764040d3dc5c07&amp;type=text%2Fhtml&amp;schema=youtube" width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"><a href=""></a></iframe><p>The RMIC campus is an oasis of peace and quiet right in the middle of the noisy urban chaos of Kolkata, which some could find threatening but to me, a Neapolitan, feels just like home. Both Kolkata and Napoli are complex, beautiful, and alive with unforgettable sights and sounds. Here are some pictures of street scenes taken near the campus.</p><figure><img alt="" src="*KMhz23X2gcxpCzNzdKP2qg.jpeg" /></figure><figure><img alt="" src="*qIsy9NnTfQFuffEzgIY_ig.jpeg" /></figure><figure><img alt="" src="*uF70pTCT-6Vx5sWGh4DmRg.jpeg" /></figure><figure><img alt="" src="*ftyH9tQvIl17xMmQ7bl2Qw.jpeg" /></figure><p>I wish to express my most heartfelt thanks to the RMIC, and to my beloved friend <a href="">Nupur Munshi</a>, who worked hard for months to make the talk happen.</p><p>In the cover picture, a statue of <a href="">Swami Vivekananda</a>, the founder of the <a href="">Ramakrishna Mission</a>. Please read <a href="">Nupur’s tribute</a> and introduction to Vivekananda.</p><p>While my knowledge and understanding of the teachings of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda is still rudimentary, I believe the core of their message is the essential unity of religions (<a href="">different “geographies and zoning norms” but compatible “cosmologies,” which is what really matters</a>) and the essential unity of consciousness.</p><p>In “<a href="">What is Life?</a>,” one of the most influential science books of the 20th century, <a href="">Erwin Schrödinger</a> summarized the Vedanta concept of essential unity of consciousness as:</p><blockquote>“From the early great Upanishads the recognition ATHMAN = BRAHMAN (the personal self equals the omnipresent, all-comprehending eternal self) was in Indian thought considered, far from being blasphemous, to represent the quintessence of deepest insight into the happenings of the world. The striving of all the scholars of Vedanta was, after having learnt to pronounce with their lips, really to assimilate in their minds this grandest of all thoughts.”</blockquote><p>In my talk, I argued that the compatibility between fundamental physics and the Indian spiritual tradition is becoming more and more evident.</p><p>Most Westerners don’t like the idea of losing one’s individuality and being absorbed into the eternal unity of consciousness after death. But here’s what Vivekananda had to say on the fate of the self after death (source: “<em>Vivekananda: A biography</em>,” by <a href="">Swami Nikhilananda</a>):</p><blockquote>“One day a drop of water fell into the vast ocean. Finding itself there, it began to weep and complain, just as you are doing. The giant ocean laughed at the drop of water. ‘Why do you weep?’ it asked. ‘I do not understand. When you join me, you join all your brothers and sisters, the other drops of water of which I am made. You become the ocean itself. If you wish to leave me you have only to rise up on a sunbeam into the clouds. From there you can descend again, little drop of water, a blessing and a benediction to the thirsty earth.’”</blockquote><p>I offered the idea that future “<a href="">Akashic Engineering</a>,” envisioned among others <a href="">by Nikola Tesla</a>, who may have been inspired by Swami Vivekananda, will allow future humans to understand the divine ocean:</p><blockquote>“The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”</blockquote><p><a href="">In the words of</a> a contemporary Mormon scholar, “the end point of engineering knowledge may be divine knowledge.” I am persuaded that we will <a href="">become cosmic engineers</a> in the divine control room, and contribute to realizing the promises of spiritual traditions, including afterlife.</p><p>In <a href="">a recent conversation</a>, Indian physicist Sisir Roy noted that India, which is becoming a hotbed of futuristic science and technology, could provide a more open and culturally supportive environment than the conservative US and Europe for the development of radically new science.</p><p>Could Akashic Engineering be developed in India, with the participation of mavericks and citizen scientists worldwide? This would be, I believe, an ideal fusion of Eastern and Western thinking.</p><p><em>Pictures and video by Giulio Prisco.</em></p><img src="" width="1" height="1"><hr><p><a href="">Under the spell of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda</a> was originally published in <a href="">Turing Church</a> on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.</p> Black Panther is the Transhumanist Future We Need Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:9ee2fea6-14ba-dcca-c542-787f9e723ab1 Mon, 19 Feb 2018 07:12:09 -0700 I’ve just returned from seeing Black Panther, and not only is it a great superhero movie, it is one of the most tech-positive movies I’ve seen in a long time. Its story-telling offers to reorient the entire superhero genre around deep questions of... <p><img src=",w_600/v1519049526/s4l0dvsdnezdzhhf3ggu.jpg" alt="Black Panther is the Transhumanist Future We Need" /></p> <p>I’ve just returned from seeing <a href="" target="_blank">Black Panther</a>, and not only is it a great superhero movie, it is one of the most tech-positive movies I’ve seen in a long time. Its story-telling offers to reorient the entire superhero genre around deep questions of technology and human progress. And its heroes are not simply fighting bad guys in defense of an established order—they are actively involved in advancing the future of the human race.</p> <p><em>&gt; Spoilers ahead &lt;</em></p> <p>In the movie, Black Panther is the king of a small African nation named <em>Wakanda</em>, which long ago isolated itself from the rest of the world. Early in its history, a meteorite struck their country, leaving behind a mountain of a rare metals with extraordinary properties. Realizing what they had to lose if outsiders heard of this, they performed a vanishing act, disappeared from the face of the earth, and began an incredible process of technological development.</p> <p>This is the basis of everything that happens. The heroes aren’t mutants, or born with supernatural powers. Instead, as they tell a newcomer, “There’s no magic here—just technology”.</p> <p>For the Wakandans, that technology includes highly advanced medical knowledge, the tools to make people stronger and less susceptible to injury, and the ability to stabilize and revive people normally thought of as dead. It allows them to create bulletproof clothing, 3-dimensional “holograms” made out of material particles, and even—as one bystander puts it—“a Bugatti spaceship”. It has made their society a veritable garden city, with vast, highly-developed urban areas bursting with organic life.</p> <p>All of this progress is fueled by deeply-held values, and a culture of strong internal critique.</p> <p>Wakanda is offered as a profound vision of hope. Every time it impinges on the outside world, it leaves tantalizing hints to a greater reality, the possibility of dramatic transformative change.</p> <p>In the movie, it has the most dramatic impact on children, many of whom may have been led to believe that certain possibilities were unreachable or off-limits. It holds up both an ideal to strive for, and an insistence that these efforts are not futile.</p> <p>This is what a good superhero story does. Think of Superman being called “The Man of Tomorrow”—he was explicitly a harbinger from humanity’s future, sent to Earth to inspire and exemplify what we may become.</p> <p>What’s remarkable about <em>Black Panther</em> is that this doesn’t stop with the hero. In fact, he is surrounded by heroes of all kinds, from computer scientists to charity workers. This movie isn’t a “super-team” movie, where the main character joins forces with characters from other storylines—this is a movie that shows the hero as part of a working, breathing, family of heroism.</p> <p>And this extends all the way to Wakanda itself. Where Superman can evoke nostalgia for the lost civilization of Krypton, <em>Black Panther</em> invites us to imagine a technologically advanced society, actively engaged in the unfolding business of advancing the world.</p> <p>This is what a good utopian vision does. It does not insist, in a Pollyanna-like fashion, that everything is fine the way it is. Nor does it suggest that a perfect society can be found by trying to emulate the society of an earlier time. Nor does it offer a static blueprint around which a society can be constructed.</p> <p>Instead, it offers a snapshot of a society built around dramatic new possibilities—and by painting that image in high resolution, it convinces us that those possibilities are actually not that far away.</p> <p>Because it does this, Wakanda is the kind of utopian vision that has the power to inspire real-world progress.</p> <p>Wakanda is <em>The New Atlantis</em>.</p> <p>As <a href="" target="_blank">I’ve touched on recently</a>, Francis Bacon’s utopian vision of <a href=";me=&amp;linkCode=ll1&amp;tag=micahredding-20&amp;_encoding=UTF8" target="_blank">The New Atlantis</a>, published in 1627, helped inspire Britain to launch a period of unprecedented technological development.</p> <p>In every respect, Wakanda is the kind of society Francis Bacon was dreaming of when he penned that vision. It is founded on strong values, a culture of humility and internal critique, and a recognition of the power of knowledge. And in the story, this generates vast technological progress, leading to great power.</p> <p>And with great power comes great questions.</p> <p>Both Wakanda and Bacon’s New Atlantis are isolated societies, which have largely avoided any interaction with the outside world. As the stories dawn, these societies are wrestling with deep questions about how this situation will continue.</p> <p>Will they continue to be isolationists, allowing the world around them to go on suffering? Will they use their power to take over everything else, and run the world their own way? Or will they share their knowledge, lifting up others along with them?</p> <p>These are, of course, the choices we always face when wielding great power.</p> <p>Bacon’s account of the New Atlantis was never completed, and so left this question hanging. But it was a bold enough vision to inspire Britain to aim at becoming a New Atlantis themselves—embarking on several centuries of incredible technological progress. This gave them incredible power, and brought them face-to-face with this precise dilemma.</p> <p>How would they use their power?</p> <p>How would they complete the story of the New Atlantis?</p> <p>As it happened, Britain used its power to take control, creating an empire on which the sun never set. Britain took the power they had gained through self-governance, and used it to destroy the self-governance of large parts of the world.</p> <p>This had vast consequences, which still reverberate through our world today.</p> <p>In <em>Black Panther</em>, the Wakandans are grappling with and reflecting on those consequences. All around them, countries had been colonized and pillaged by foreign powers with greater technology. Millions had been killed, enslaved, and oppressed.</p> <p>Was it time for Wakanda to turn the tables, and use their greater technology to reenact what others had done?</p> <p>Should Wakanda become the new British Empire?</p> <p>Or should they write a new ending?</p> <p>Should they share their knowledge, and lift up the world along with them?</p> <p>This is the question at the heart of <em>Black Panther</em>. Wakanda is a <em>new</em> New Atlantis, wrestling with the failures of the old one. Wakanda knows that no utopia is complete until it has found a vision for how it will use its power.</p> <p>For much of the last century, our society has grappled with the legacy of its scientific and technological revolutions. The mixed results of our uses of power have led many to question whether there might be something wrong with technology itself.</p> <p>Is every technological society doomed to repeat the violent choices of the past? Will every bold and inspiring vision ultimately spawn fresh new versions of hell?</p> <p><em>Black Panther</em> boldly takes on these questions, grappling with all the complexity they entail. It gives us a fresh new vision of technological utopia. And it holds out hope that a world inspired by a Wakandan New Atlantis might not simply repeat the mistakes of the past, but might seize the possibilities of a much, <em>much</em> greater future.</p> A God Who Changes Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:8a682355-6505-dd8f-101c-883802aa0327 Fri, 16 Feb 2018 13:59:07 -0700 <p>A <a target="_blank" href="">podcast</a> in which the lovely Gina Colvin and I discuss process philosophy in relation to Mormon theology, including post-feminist theory and transhumanism.</p><p><a target="_blank" href="">*Published at A Thoughtful Faith on Friday, February 16, 2018</a></p> Francis Bacon, Christian Transhumanist Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:3ab4ed42-2232-89c1-1a49-b4fb38d50754 Thu, 15 Feb 2018 21:08:48 -0700 In the 1600s, Francis Bacon, creator of the Scientific Method, was advocating Christian Transhumanism. It’s common for people wrestling with the tension between science and religion to point out that many great scientific pioneers, such as Bacon,... <p><img src=",w_600/v1518757669/mopvy2bvd5i7jqn29gzu.jpg" alt="Francis Bacon, Christian Transhumanist"> </p> <p>In the 1600s, Francis Bacon, creator of the Scientific Method, was advocating Christian Transhumanism.</p> <p>It’s common for people wrestling with the tension between science and religion to point out that many great scientific pioneers, such as Bacon, Newton, and Faraday, were Christians. Unfortunately, it’s less common for people to ask why these Christians were scientific pioneers, and how they understood the relationship between these two domains.</p> <p>For Francis Bacon, <em>science was no less than humanity’s religious mission</em>. He believed you could read this right out of Genesis 1, where God laid out his own creative process, and then invited humanity to imitate it. </p> <p>As Bacon saw it, God had ordained for <a href="" title="" target="_blank">humanity to rule over the world</a>, and although humanity had corrupted its reign through wickedness, humanity’s reign could be restored through the ambitious, but disciplined, application of humility and love.</p> <p>It’s important to understand how he saw this fitting together.</p> <p>Humanity’s power, Bacon said, was knowledge. To know the world was to have power over it. So in order to exercise all the power that God had intended for us to have, we first had to understand everything we could about the world that God had made. </p> <p>But humanity did <em>not</em> know much about the world God had made.</p> <p>History had been the slow churning of human ideas and inventions, with accidental discoveries, small leaps forward, and plenty of time spent sliding back into darkness. After eons of learned discussion, most of the best ideas were the same ones people had been discussing thousands of years before.</p> <p>The problem was that humanity was addicted to its own fantasies, and hadn’t bothered to systematically interrogate nature to see what it actually revealed. Instead of looking to see whether our ideas held up, we deferred to the ideas of people who seemed authoritative or impressive by our own superficial standards.</p> <p>We had God’s truth written all around us, and had been too distracted by vanity to actually read it.</p> <p><strong><a href="" title="" target="_blank">To change this would mean humbling ourselves</a></strong>, both individually and collectively. It would require laying down our most cherished ideas, in order to be open to God’s own revelation.</p> <p>This meant intently observing nature, and then systematically devising experiments to unlock the true causes of things. It meant rigorously holding up our most cherished ideas to the bright light of critique—from both the natural world, and each other. </p> <p>We could no longer assume that we, or the ancients, had gotten it right; we would have to have the humility to open our ideas to criticism from any direction, and any source. </p> <p>Only then could we be certain that we were moving towards the truth.</p> <p>This core idea—of systematically seeking to understand nature, and then subjecting our ideas to open, public, egalitarian critique—is the beating heart of what makes science what it is today.</p> <p>But Bacon also believed that <strong><a href="" title="" target="_blank">the scientific project had to be driven by love</a></strong>. </p> <p>After all, the lust for power had been a source of deep corruption, and Bacon didn’t believe that any pursuit founded on that would last. According to Bacon, the pursuit of power alone, or even knowledge alone, led to natural limits. </p> <p>So if humanity was to achieve unlimited power, it would have to have an unlimited goal.</p> <p>Bacon thought that the only sure motivation—the only motivation that had <a href="" title="" target="_blank">infinite scale, and unlimited reach</a>—was the ambition to do good on behalf of all life. </p> <p>Thus, science could not be merely an academic or knowledge-oriented enterprise. It had to pursue knowledge for the sake of application, leading to the creation of new technologies, for the sake of cultivating a better world.</p> <p>But if it did this, if humanity could adopt this altruistic motivation, and this stance of humility—then nature would reveal itself to us, and all the power of the universe would be ours.</p> <p>-</p> <p>In his fictional work, <a href="" title="" target="_blank">The New Atlantis</a>, Bacon laid out his vision of what that might look like. </p> <p>The story is about the discovery of an island nation that had been forgotten by the rest of the world. By various means, the nation had acquired knowledge of the scriptures, and upon contemplating the religious calling of Genesis 1, had set out to construct a scientific enterprise founded on that mission.</p> <p>They had constructed observatories, workshops, and manufacturing facilities on high towers, and in deep caves of the earth. They had built instruments of all kinds, and collected detailed measurements of the heavens, the earth, the waves and the wind. </p> <p>And they had developed all kinds of abilities.</p> <p>They could create artificial metals, and new tastes and smells. They had new kinds of music, and sounds unknown to other humans. They could project light to form vast scenes and experiences that were indistinguishable from reality.</p> <p>They could produce food that was bigger, sweeter, tastier; food that had medicinal qualities, or could change people in various ways; food that could make people stronger, or able to go without eating for long periods of time.</p> <p>They could genetically engineer new species, mix characteristics of different species together into new forms, and provoke the evolution of primitive creatures into more complex ones. </p> <p>They were able to heal all kinds of diseases, and had techniques for <a href="" title="" target="_blank">life extension and radical longevity</a>. They had flying machines and submarines. </p> <p>They could even control the wind and weather.</p> <p>Francis Bacon was cut off before he could finish telling us where this might go. But this was his vision of science—a vision centered on deep humility, rooted in the audacious belief that <a href="" title="" target="_blank">humanity was given power over all things</a>, and driven by the Christian mission to create on behalf of all life. </p> <p>It was also a supremely technological vision, which explicitly rejected the idea of knowledge without application. The purpose of science, as Francis Bacon saw it, was to create new technologies to transform the world, as God had always intended humanity to do.</p> <p>In every respect, this was a vision of Christian Transhumanism. Bacon didn’t use the term “transhuman”—this was left for <a href="" title="" target="_blank">Dante, Teilhard, and others</a>—but his vision of humanity as a fundamentally transformational species, rooted in possibilities beyond the world we know, was transhuman to its core.</p> <p>And in the early 1600s, this was the vision that drove him to articulate the scientific method, and entreat King James (yes, of the Bible) to establish a scientific enterprise at the center of society.</p> <p>What’s unfortunate is that Christians have been quick to cite Bacon as an example of someone pairing faith with science—without ever stopping to consider <em>why</em> he paired them, or just how deeply that pairing might go. </p> <p>Bacon believed that in his contemplation of scripture, he had discovered something monumental, and that if he could express this to the world, it would be the dawning of a new era in human history. </p> <p>Given the impact he had, it’s intriguing to wonder what would happen if Christians had taken his vision more seriously.</p> <p>-</p> <p><em>Learn more about <a href="" title="" target="_blank">Christian Transhumanism</a>.</em></p> Concerning Love Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:cc751ce9-6714-20bc-3dd0-b18f5afc2179 Wed, 14 Feb 2018 07:07:21 -0700 <p>Philosophers, by definition, are lovers. The prefix <em>philo</em> means loving, while <em>sophia</em> means knowledge or wisdom. Combined, philosophy is the love of knowledge. To be a philosopher is to love the pursuit of wisdom. As a theist, God is the prime example of love, knowledge, and wisdom. In Mormonism, our goal is not simply to be like God, but to become God—a transcendent lover of knowledge and wisdom. I’d like to examine the concept of love through the lens of a Mormon philosopher.</p><p>The scriptures say, if we dwelleth in love, we dwelleth in God (John 4:16), and if we do not know love, we do not know God. (John 4:7-8) I suspect it is only through radically loving one another that we will ever come to know God. I’m confident that if God is love, then to the extent that we oppress love, we oppress our Godly potential. To become God is to dwell in love.</p><p>I have often wondered how seriously people take these scriptures, even the most orthodox. Are we <em>really</em> willing of joining one another into the fold of God and bear one another’s burdens? (Mosiah 18:8) Are we <em>really</em>&nbsp;willing to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort? (Mosiah 18:9) Are we <em>really</em> willing to rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep? (Romans 12:15) How can anyone love in such a godly paradox? If this sentiment is to be taken seriously, at any given moment we would be in a constant state of rejoicing and weeping with the whole of humanity. This would require that we push the edge of consciousness beyond the self and into the collective.</p><p>Are we willing to be of the same mind, one toward another? (Romans 12:16) Zion was called Zion because the people were of one heart and one mind. (Moses 7:18) I don’t know if I can think of anything more intimate than being of the same mind with one another soul in an interconnected network of intelligence. I know intimacy can be a problematic word when common vernacular often relegates intimacy to the bedroom. But that’s not my experience. Sexual expressions are only one modality of intimacy. To be sure, sharing my body with a lover is an intimate act, but I have also shared my body with my three children and sexual arousal was not a motive or result. They lived inside me. I gave them life. I fed them at my breast. Even bodily intimacy cannot be limited to sexual desire. Intimacy comes from the shared interpersonal moments that engender closeness—to be of one heart and one mind.</p><p>For me, I think one of the most intimate things we can do with one another is to allow others to see us honestly—including in our worst, weakest, lowest, or truest moments. Intimacy happens when our vulnerabilities are exposed, and instead of turning our backs on one another, we pull each other closer while whispering, “I still love you.” Often, this is a question of whether we choose to fear or love.</p><p>As Christians and members of the body of Christ, love is a common purpose and goal. But what do people think being one body in Christ means? (Romans 12:5) (1 Corinthians 12: 12-27) Did they think finding unity in diversity was going to be easy? Did they think it wouldn’t happen without significant emotional labor, vulnerability, sacrifice, or bravery? The scriptures say to love your enemies and do good to them that hate you. (Luke 6:27) The scriptures say to love and pray for those that persecute you. (Matthew 5:44) Atoning isn’t easy. Reconciling isn’t simple. Forgiveness isn’t painless. Love isn’t effortless. I do not expect this sentiment to be received easily, but as members of the body of Christ it is imperative that we learn to love unexclusively and unconditionally. We must be brave in confronting our insecurities and find the humanity in one other, not only when we find it easy to love, but also when we find it difficult to love.</p><p>As Mormons, we are commanded to establish Zion. (D&amp;C 6:6) I imagine Zion is a community held together with love, not fear. There is no fear in love. (John 4:18) I’ll admit, there are times I still fear. I fear convention. I fear apathy. I fear the unfulfilled potential of humanity. I fear my community is only willing to aspire to Zion when it’s convenient. Is Zion willing to include the queer and peculiar? Or are the social outliers only worth loving when performing according to the desires of the majority? Must the fringe members of society contort their bodies into caricatures that cage the undisclosed desires of Godly potential simply because we are unconventional? I honestly don’t know. The acceptance of the unconventional through unconditional love isn’t entirely up to me. I need grace, just like you. (Romans 12:3)</p><p>People speak of love as if loving a person somehow takes away from the love you have for another, as if love is a zero-sum game. In the context of a capitalistic economy, love becomes a resource where its value lies in its scarcity, not in unconditional abundance. If that is the case, love is prized in its exclusivity. Your loss is my gain. Your gain is my loss. It would be like saying God’s love is meaningless because They give to all Their children unconditionally instead of the prime few who “deserve it” or “earned it.” Similarly, it’s like saying the Atonement is less valuable when it is universal. Is that really the myth we want to tell? I don’t think I could call myself a theist if I believed that love is a finite resource to be squabbled over. I wouldn’t want to live constantly looking over my shoulder to examine the distribution of love in this capitalistic model.</p><p>What if we regarded love as an infinite resource? What if your gain, became my gain? What if your happiness was also my happiness—and mine yours? This is not to say that all things should be held in common at the expense of the individual, but what if we learned to love in a system of cooperation, instead of competition? I concede, we aren’t Gods yet. Our bodies and minds have limitations. However, I still believe in breaching nonessential limitations as we learn to love one another more wholly—more godly.</p><p>Perhaps we’re hypocritically only willing to aspire toward such trajectories when it’s comfortable, conventional, or convenient. In my experience, love—godly love—is rarely convenient. I imagine godly love is forged during the most uncomfortable, inconvenient, and difficult moments when real risks are present, when it feels as though life hangs in the balance. Is that not how Gods are made? Is the reward great if the pursuit is easy? Is love strong if it’s never been exercised? I doubt it. Gods are Gods because they learned to love when loving became difficult.</p><p>Jesus said the greatest commandment of them all is thou shalt love. (Matthew 22: 36-40) I imagine it’s for a good reason too, even if no one really knows exactly how to love. The scriptures also say let love be without dissimulation (Romans 12:9)—meaning let love be without concealment of one's thoughts, feelings, or character. I call this honesty. Let love be honest, genuine, sincere, and unfeigned. But what happens when honest love challenges the bonds which hold relationships and communities together? What is right when dissimulated love is unwanted? Dissimulated love must account for the complexities of conflicting desires and diverse values. I’m not perfect at this. I can recall many times I’ve fallen. I do not claim to know exactly <em>how</em> to love—only that we should try. Love is a process of discovery, thus the commandment to love one another is not one that can be lived perfectly, but lived genuinely in the pursuit of Godly progression. Perhaps dissimulated love will prove to be the way to making the impossible come true.</p><p>The love we share with one another is likely no more than a naive flirtation when compared to the love Gods are capable of, but even so, the love we share is the beginning of our untapped potential. It’s the breath before the jump. I call it faith. Is Godly love a delusion? A fantasy? A mere myth? Perhaps. But for good measure, let’s test the theory and find out. We already know the answer if we don’t. Without love, there is no God. Yet, I know love, so I choose faith.</p> Feedback Loops Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:cb106756-f32b-2a0e-4eec-0c47e7193aa9 Tue, 13 Feb 2018 15:13:36 -0700 Recently, I’ve realized that feedback loops have been one of the most important things in my life—and are perhaps one of the most important things in the world. Most of us are aware of negative feedback loops. Feedback from a set of speakers and ... <p><img src=",w_600/v1518568771/f6ldx4n0mgwmo5jbvzqn.jpg" alt="Feedback Loops"> </p> <p>Recently, I’ve realized that <em>feedback loops</em> have been one of the most important things in my life—and are perhaps one of the most important things in the world.</p> <p>Most of us are aware of negative feedback loops. Feedback from a set of speakers and a mic is the usual example—the earsplitting phenomenon that whole industries are dedicated to avoiding. </p> <p>These negative feedback loops don’t just happen in audio, however. They’re also a big deal in human behavior. </p> <p>Addictions, obsessions, OCD, negative self-talk, and a whole lot more—are all manifestations of some kind of negative feedback loop. Some people would say that all mental illness is a manifestation of this one thing.</p> <p>If so, then insanity is just the default state that people find themselves drifting towards, when certain protection mechanisms go away. </p> <p>The mic starts drifting toward the speakers…the person starts becoming more and more closed into their own mental world…</p> <p>This is the danger of prosperity, of freedom, of time spent alone. “Your great learning has driven you mad!” was not an idle possibility—but a well-known danger posed by living in a world mostly defined by your own thoughts. Being a hermit was another way to expose yourself to this danger.</p> <p>That doesn’t mean that wealth, or freedom, or scholarship, or being alone are bad things. They’re all good in the right forms. They’re just occasions of significantly heightened danger, because they circumvent our natural built-in protection mechanisms. </p> <p>Those mechanisms avoid feedback loops by forcing our choices to go through greater levels of engagement with the outside world. To eat, we have to work. To learn things, we have to engage with our teachers. To consume intoxicants, we have to go through a local distributor. To be safe, we have to be part of a community.</p> <p>When we become rich enough to skip these constraints, or have enough free time to get around them, or are well-studied enough to leave our teachers behind—then we no longer have these natural constraints, and we are forced to either provide them for ourselves, or fly ever closer to the flames.</p> <p>The obvious way to provide these constraints for ourselves is through self-discipline. And most truly successful people are incredibly disciplined.</p> <p>But there’s something that is probably even more important than self-discipline: deep engagement with the outside world. This doesn’t just mean being around other people, or out in nature. It means letting the outside world <em>disrupt you</em>, challenge you in significant ways. It means exposing your ideas to others, and allowing them to disagree and <em>prove you wrong</em>. It means putting yourself in situations where people might disapprove of your behavior, or think you are kind of lame. </p> <p>This is the beauty of travel—it can disrupt your view of the world and yourself in significant ways. This is the beauty of leaving your peer group behind for a while—it can disrupt your sense of what’s important, and who you really are.</p> <p>This is precisely what people like Michael Jackson lost. Once he found himself surrounded by people who would say anything he wanted to hear, the only way that story could end was in tragedy. Conversely, what we admire in celebrities who seem “like normal people” is that they are still actively engaged in a world that can change them.</p> <p>Self-discipline can keep some of our destructive tendencies at bay, but ultimately self-discipline is only as good as the perspective we have—and the perspective we have is only as good as the size and depth and complexity of the world we engage.</p> <p>So far, I’ve only been talking about negative feedback loops. But positive feedback loops also exist, and they’re not simply as powerful as the negative ones—they may be the most powerful thing in the universe.</p> <p>But positive feedback loops are harder to create. The conditions have to be just right, and they have to persist over a long period of time, and they have to be in the unique class of things that are simultaneously <em>playing with fire</em>, and yet are incredibly positive.</p> <p>Perhaps the most significant positive feedback loop in history started with the Scientific Revolution—which unleashed a process of scientific exploration and study and critique that reworked the surface of this planet, lit up the dark side of the Earth, put footprints on the Moon, and shot human artifacts right out of the Solar System.</p> <p>Music or artistic scenes are also feedback loops. When one takes off, as in the grunge scene of early 90s Seattle, people go from playing in basements to playing on world stages in months. </p> <p>This isn’t just a matter of a surge in popularity. Often, it’s a surge in ability—a sudden burst of creative output that is rarely matched in quality or quantity ever again.</p> <p>Similarly in sports. In “<a href="" title="" target="_blank">The Rise of Superman</a>”, Stephen Kotler chronicles the exponential explosion of accomplishments achieved in extreme sports over just decades, or—in some cases—years. </p> <p>What conditions are necessary for launching positive feedback loops?</p> <p><strong>First and most essential, is engaging with a big, noisy, complex world.</strong> This is the exact same thing that helps you break out of negative feedback loops. But where having something <em>outside yourself</em> gets in the way of a negative, internally-focused feedback loop, having something outside yourself is precisely the fuel that a positive feedback loop needs.</p> <p>In the Scientific Revolution, that outside world was literally the outside world. In an artistic or music scene, that outside world is the audience that keeps showing up to local shows, and the other artists or musicians providing each other with competition and inspiration. In the Beatles, that outside world was originally the music fans, but then increasingly became other bands such as the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys, and eventually was just the ongoing creative rivalry between John Lennon and Paul McCartney.</p> <p><strong>Second is the ability to produce something, and get detailed, nuanced feedback.</strong> This is why the “world” you’re engaging with needs to be big and complex—without that, the feedback becomes a simple yes/no, or just a never-ending <em>meh</em>.</p> <p>The Scientific Revolution had the biggest world possible, and all of its feedback was full of information that could be parsed in all kinds of ways. In fact, simplifying that feedback to something that could be acted on was one of the key breakthroughs that science achieved. </p> <p>In a music scene, feedback can be the reaction of the audience, the energy levels for the band members, how impressed or jealous other bands are, etc. This feedback is full of all kinds of information, with people responding in all kinds of different ways and to different degrees.</p> <p>In a scene, an important aspect of the world you’re getting feedback from is that that world is itself changing in reaction to your actions. You play a new song that gets the crowd excited, and now the jealous other bands go back and write something to one-up you, and the process repeats. </p> <p><strong>Third, and finally, you need to be able to take that feedback and use it to create something new.</strong></p> <p>In science, you do experiments, and then create radical new theories to address all the weird data you’re getting. </p> <p>In a music scene, you play a song, feel good about it, and then instantly write a song ten times more <em>like that</em>. Or you play a song, feel bad about it, and write a song totally different than that. Or you play a song, feel good about parts of it, and write a new version that takes it in a totally different direction.</p> <p>In extreme sports, you try a trick, like the way it works, and then try something 10x harder or 10x weirder.</p> <p>These are the basic requirements, but in order to work, <em>it actually has to loop</em>. The creation of something new has to result in producing it and getting feedback, almost immediately. When the time between creation and feedback gets too long, the feedback expires, or loses meaning and depth. It becomes too much like a simple yes/no, and all ability to get traction is lost. </p> <p>Positive feedback loops are notoriously hard to maintain. As soon as the scene blows up, the production of new material slows down. As soon as the Beatles became famous, their ability to try out new material started to become impaired. So far, the Scientific Revolution has done pretty well, but it’s always an open question of whether it will continue. </p> <p>The key to keeping these things going is that the process itself must evolve, must become part of a feedback loop. Science has succeeded largely by continuing to evolve and develop the scientific method—chucking the scientific method itself into a feedback loop of experiment and invention. The Beatles achieved as much as they did by shifting from receiving feedback primarily from their audience, to receiving feedback primarily from other bands, to receiving feedback primarily from each other. When they could no longer evolve their own process, the whole thing broke down.</p> <p>In my life, stumbling into positive feedback loops has been responsible for the creation of almost everything I’m most proud of. They’ve pushed me into some of the most profound changes I have ever experienced. They’ve made me the person I am today. And they’ve given me my greatest moments of joy.</p> Mom, I'm Agnostic Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:56a053ab-72cc-c9b3-fdcb-506f28737bb6 Sun, 11 Feb 2018 14:57:12 -0700 <p>It was an average Sunday morning when I casually asked, “Does anyone want to go to church with me?”</p><p>Our attendance had been on a slow decline the last year, and I didn’t expect anyone leaping at the opportunity. Preston was the only one to respond, “Not really. I don’t like singing time, and class time is, well, I don’t think I believe the same things as the other kids.”</p><p>I inquired, “What do you mean?”</p><p>He responded, “I’m not sure you and I even believe the same things, Mom.”</p><p>I assured him, “Preston, I am your mother. I am going to love you and support you no matter what you believe. Dad and I don’t believe the same things, but that doesn’t stop us from loving and supporting each other. Being in love doesn’t mean you have to agree all the time.” I paused and winked at him to lighten the tension as I continued, “Whatever it is you’re worried about, I can offer you full immunity during this conversation. I promise you won’t get into trouble and I won’t be mad.”</p><p>He hesitated. I could see he was struggling to find honest words. His mood shifted from casual to anxious. He started slowly, “Well, you see, I don’t think what they say about Jesus is real. Not all of it. Like Jesus being resurrected. I don’t believe he was resurrected. And then he’s supposed to go to America while he’s dead and then come back. I just don’t believe any of that really happened. It’s like a story, like Harry Potter. I mean a person named Jesus probable existed, but some of the other stuff sounds like a bunch of hokey-pokey.”</p><p>I smiled at his sincerity and replied, “Thank you for sharing that with me, Preston. We might have more in common than you think. Have you thought about saying some of these things in your Primary class?”</p><p>He raised his eye brows as he said, “No. I think I would get kicked out of class and I would have to wait in the hall for you and Dad to come get me.”</p><p>“Hmmm. I don’t think you would actually get kicked out of class. Do you really think that would be the case?”</p><p>He clarified, “Well, maybe not. But that’s just the feeling I get. It’s like it’s not okay to disagree, and if you do they think you’re weird or something. It’s just a feeling, Mom. It’s like . . . it’s like . . . it’s like they only want you there if you agree with them.”</p><p>My heart sank. Even at age ten he could see the social challenges within his church. The message he was receiving was <em>conform or get out</em>. It would be easy to displace blame on a teacher or primary leader, but the issue is far bigger than any single individual. Our culture has a systemic problem of not engaging in honest, compassionate dialogue when it comes to disagreement, intellectual rigor, unconventional ideas, and sincere inquiry. In our <em>all-is-well-in-Zion</em> culture, the challenges facing our children are often patronizingly brushed off as unworthy of consideration, or worse, the result of <em>not having enough faith</em>. Faith shouldn’t require that the tangible evidence of the natural world be disregarded, and when faith is used in such a way it undermines itself.</p><p>This isn’t a challenge that I could solve for him, nor was it a challenge that would end if we left the pews. Knowing him, non-conformity would be a lifelong challenge that would affect his relationships no matter what community he was a part of.</p><p>I responded, “I see. I know the feeling. It’s hard for adults too. There are a lot of things people don’t want to hear from me either. Sometimes the teacher doesn’t want to call on me when I raise my hand. Sometimes he passes over me intentionally. It doesn’t feel good. But you know what I think? I think most people just want to feel safe, including our teachers and fellow church members. Their beliefs make them feel safe, and if a question threatens their feeling of safety they may get defensive or dismissive. You make people question things they don’t want to question, so do I. I sometimes try to focus on the things we have in common, though at times that can be difficult.”</p><p>He seemed unsatisfied with my response, as if he had more to say. There was a long pause. His body was restless as he choked out the words, “Well, that’s the other thing. I don’t think we have that much in common. I don’t really believe in God. Mom, I’m agnostic.”</p><p>I waited a moment to respond. I could tell that revealing that bit of information was a serious challenge for him. He asked, “Are you mad?”</p><p>I smiled reassuringly and put my arm around his shoulder, “No. I’m not mad at all, Preston. In fact, I’m very thankful you told me that. That seemed like it was very hard for you to share.”</p><p>He exhaled with slight relief and said, “It was, because I know you believe in God.”</p><p>I responded, “It’s true. I do. I didn’t always believe in God though. I still remember how hard it was for me to tell Dad when <a target="_blank" href="">I stopped believing in Heavenly Father</a>. I thought I was going to pass out I had so much anxiety. But you know what? Dad was brave. The things I said were probably very scary for him to hear, but he chose love instead of fear. My views of God have changed a lot over the years. You may believe something different in the future too, or maybe not. In either case, I will always love you. And if God doesn’t value loving each other, that’s not a God worth believing in anyway. If that’s the case, <a target="_blank" href="">we need a better myth</a>. People believe what they want to believe about God and so they fashion God in their image, <a target="_blank" href="">myself included</a>. None of us are immune. God, at the very least, has always been a story people tell themselves and each other to ease the discomfort of knowing they will someday die and perhaps lose everything and everyone they love. But just because God is a story doesn’t mean it’s not powerful, important, or producing real results. Sometimes people are just too confident in what they think they know as opposed to what they believe.”</p><p>His shoulders relaxed as he said, “Sometimes it feels like only you and Dad understand me. I like talking about religion at home, but it’s like we’re not allowed to say what we really think at church. Why can’t we just have church here? Plus, church is so boring. We talk about the same things over and over.”</p><p>I offered, “Maybe you should come to class with me, and we should start saying what we really believe about our religion. You’re still Mormon and a baptized member of the Church, so there’s no reason why your voice isn’t as important as anyone else’s.”</p><p>He thought about it for a moment and said, “I think I might be able to do that. It could be tricky though.”</p><p>I sympathized, “I understand. It’s still hard for me to raise my hand and be honest sometimes too.”</p><p>“Can we go next week? I feel like I need time to prepare myself.”</p><p>“Sure, let’s go next week.”</p><p>He questioned, “Are you still going to go to church today?”</p><p>I assured him, “Nope. I love my family more than church. My mother taught me there is nothing more important than loving your family.”</p> Minimum Viable Theology: Superorganisms Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:91118f92-a931-38ac-2df9-aebce573d823 Thu, 08 Feb 2018 14:16:00 -0700 This is part of a series on a Minimum Viable Theology. The idea is to see if we can construct a minimal theological starter kit, using only reasonable assumptions. The first entry is about why good wins. You should start there. One of the most co... <p><img src=",w_600/v1518129389/ocsmpgfuiyogwpwowghu.jpg" alt="Minimum Viable Theology: Superorganisms"> </p> <p><em>This is part of a series on a <a href="" title="" target="_blank">Minimum Viable Theology</a>. The idea is to see if we can construct a minimal theological starter kit, using only reasonable assumptions. The first entry is about <a href="" title="" target="_blank">why good wins</a>. You should start there.</em></p> <p>One of the most controversial features of traditional religion is the belief in creatures outside the bounds of normal organic life. </p> <p>I’ve already written about why we should probably assume that <a href="" title="" target="_blank">we are not alone</a>, that there are superhuman beings out there. But religion usually assumes more than just beings <em>out there</em>—it also assumes that there are significant beings right <em>here</em>, engaged in our world and in human life.</p> <p>Where we normally categorize the organic world into humans, animals, plants, and so on, religions often regale us with menageries of angels, demons, gods, goddesses, ghosts, spirits, souls, and more.</p> <p>This is one of the factors that makes many people consider religion a form of superstition. </p> <p>It may surprise you to know that the first person who showed me this religious perspective was <em>true</em> is Richard Dawkins.</p> <h3>What is a Meme?</h3> <p>In his seminal 1976 book <a href="" title="" target="_blank">The Selfish Gene</a>, Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme”. Although “meme” is now used as a term for photos with funny captions, the original concept was far broader, referring to any idea, term, or sound that can be spread from person to person. Dawkins was making the point that genes weren’t the only things which could spread virally and organically and <em>selfishly</em>—anything capable of being replicated, and influencing its own replication, would behave in the same way.</p> <p>Dawkins’ idea was both insightful and prophetic. The term “meme” itself spread from person to person, evolving and adapting as it did so, until it came to be a label for the whole genre of photos mentioned above. In a sense, Dawkins’ term had taken on a life of its own, leaping the fence of academic literature, and finding its way into the much more lucrative ecological niche of social media. </p> <p>As someone once said, “<a href="" title="" target="_blank">Life finds a way</a>”.</p> <p>These days, the concept of an idea or an image going “viral”, or a tune becoming an “earworm” , is commonplace. We increasingly use organic language to talk about the contents of human communication. But when Dawkins first proposed the idea, it probably seemed pretty counter-intuitive. </p> <p>Dawkins’ key insight was that ideas are shaped by the same evolutionary forces that shape infectious viruses. Just as the viruses that spread best are the ones which manipulate their hosts into coughing or sneezing (so as to infect other people in the vicinity), the ideas that spread best are the ones which convince their hosts to spread them to others.</p> <p>Old-fashioned chain letters are a great example of this. They use fear, coercion and a promised reward to convince you to make a copy and send them on. The chain letters which do the best job manipulating their recipients get passed on more often. </p> <p>The examples needn’t be negative. “Science” and “rationality” are also memes, which spread from person to person. They spread because they seem compelling and truthful to us, and because they also work to spread lots of evidence about how effective they are.</p> <p>The key thing is that ideas don’t spread purely because they are better ideas. Their effectiveness and truthfulness may help them spread—but ultimately those factors are part of a bigger picture. The ideas that spread best, are the ones that do the best job convincing their hosts to spread them.</p> <h3>The Hidden Ecosystem</h3> <p>Dawkins hadn’t simply coined a clever term. In showing us the organic behavior of ideas, he had thrown open the door to a whole new ecosystem. Just as our bodies play host to billions of tiny creatures living in symbiotic (and sometimes parasitic) union with us, our minds play host to billions of tiny creatures as well. And those creatures are the base layer of an entire ecosystem which stretches far beyond the individual human mind.</p> <p>One of the first things people realized in grappling with this new science of “memetics” was that memes can work together symbiotically, creating larger entities called “memeplexes”. </p> <p>As an example, the concept of “rationality” is made more convincing and easier to transmit by the partner concept of “superstition”. Contemplating the negative connotations of “superstition” makes you want to look for a positive alternative, and identifying the positives of “rationality” makes you want to warn people of the negatives of “superstition”. These two terms can do better together, working to reinforce each other—and in fact, a whole host of related terms often travel along with them, as you’ve seen in this post already: science, truth, evidence, effectiveness, etc.</p> <p>Memeplexes don’t stop there. Perhaps the most controversial topic in memetics is the study of religion. Religions are memeplexes <em>par excellence</em>, vast ecosystems of cooperating and symbiotic memes, containing ideas, stories, philosophies, songs, art, and literature—all working together to perpetuate themselves and each other, as these memeplexes keeps growing and evolving over time.</p> <p>Some religious people may find it troubling to look at things this way. But memetics tells us nothing about truth or falsehood—it shows us how things grow. Just as it is useful to consider how science and rationality spread from person to person, it is illuminating to consider how religions are passed on.</p> <p>Memeplexes don’t simply spread themselves as ideas. They also tend to generate effects in the physical world. Religious memeplexes build temples, scientific memeplexes create technologies, technological and aesthetic memeplexes build cars, clothes, iPhones, and factories. </p> <p>Kevin Kelly calls this <a href="" title="" target="_blank">the technium</a>, the entire ecosystem of art and technology and cultural products. Kevin sees this as a seventh kingdom of life, whose genes consists of our ideas, and whose bodies consists of our tools. Just as the biological creatures we’re familiar with start as genes that produce bodies, and those bodies help spread their genes—creatures of the technium start as ideas that produce artifacts, and those artifacts help spread the ideas.</p> <p>But there is more to the technium than just products and artwork and artifacts. There are other systems that grow up from the seeds of memeplexes, and become vast organisms that live in and among human societies.</p> <p>Corporations, for instance. They are born, they grow, they die. They breath in and out, they consume and excrete. They’ve even convinced us to legally classify them as persons, possessing rights normally only associated with human beings. Charlie Stross has recently called them <a href="" title="" target="_blank">the first AI</a>.</p> <p>Where did they come from? The seed of an idea—a meme—that mutated and spread until it attracted other memes, and became a memeplex. That memeplex allowed the creation of systems of human order and operation, organizing us around the processing of money and materials. </p> <p>These organisms have their own impulses and needs. Even in a legal sense, the operators of a corporation are not free to make their own decisions—they are legally bound to make money, to feed and grow the corporation to the best of their ability. </p> <p>Corporations are only one example. In reality, all organizations are some species of this kind. Next time you curse at a bureaucracy, remember that you’re really cursing at a non-human species that is using human faces to communicate.</p> <p>Of course, corporations and institutions and organizations can only exist because there are legal and political systems in which they live and move and have their being. These legal and political systems are themselves creatures, born of memeplexes, grown into widespread systems of human behavior, occupying vast space in human minds and homes, consuming huge quantities of energy and upkeep, exclusively operating and possessing large amounts of the real estate on this planet. </p> <p>We’re still only scratching the surface of the organisms that live among us and in us. Riots are a kind of viral contagion that break out, then quickly dissipate, leaving many people feeling like their minds have been possessed. They act as mental infections spread from person to person, leading to emergent behaviors in concert with other infected individuals.</p> <p>Sometimes the contagion is intentional. This is the concept of the “<a href="" title="" target="_blank">Egregore</a>”—an autonomous entity made up of, and influencing, the thoughts of a group of people. Thus, a group of people may consciously or unconsciously come together to incarnate a god or a demon. If that is what some people play at in party games and seances, it may be what others accomplish in a more substantial way, given more concerted efforts.</p> <p>All of these things—mobs, markets, political systems, cities, bureaucracies, institutions—are creatures which spread themselves across multiple human hosts, and which sustain themselves by drawing on and controlling human attention and effort. Walter Wink called them <em><a href="" title="" target="_blank">the powers</a></em>.</p> <p>I call them <em><a href="" title="" target="_blank">Superorganisms</a></em>.</p> <p>These superorganisms are mostly invisible, and yet exert incredible power and influence in human life. They can possess people, changing them dramatically—sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently. They can war with each other, they can be killed, they can be cast out. They can be healthy or diseased, benevolent or destructive.</p> <p>Struggling with these superorganisms is not like fighting other human beings. Just as trying to contain a meme usually makes it spread faster, trying to destroy diseased and destructive superorganisms through conventional means almost always backfires. To fight these entities, we need new and different approaches. One of these approaches might be to sustain and grow benevolent superorganisms, which can fight destructive superorganisms on their own turf.</p> <p>At least one religion has the explicit aim of forming such a superorganism, grown from the voluntary efforts and sacrifices of large numbers of humans, across numerous generations. We Christians call this <em>The Body of Christ</em>.</p> <h3>Superorganisms Among Us</h3> <p>That we live in a world of superorganisms is not a new realization. It is perhaps one of the oldest ones—a realization that must have dawned as early humanity grappled with the forces unleashed through emerging self-awareness.</p> <p>Like the birth of the internet, it suddenly seemed as if viruses were everywhere. </p> <p>The idea that a human could be possessed by some rogue entity was not hypothetical, it was obvious. The idea that tribes and kingdoms were driven by a non-material dimension of life, was the height of practicality.</p> <p>The concept that healthy human life required some kind of “anti-virus”, and meant engaging in some kind of non-material warfare, erecting non-material defenses, using non-material weapons, made all the sense in the world. </p> <p>If early human societies had clumsy ideas about how to go about this, that does not invalidate their realizations. The fact that we’re still struggling with these problems in the age of social media, demonstrates just how difficult they are to solve.</p> <p>These issues aren’t going away. If anything, they’re likely to become more pressing, and more dramatic over time. To deal with them, we’re going to have to embrace the fact that we live in a world haunted by non-human forces, an ecosystem of invisible beings that shape every aspect of our lives. </p> <p>We’re going to have to accept that there are superorganisms among us.</p> The Problem is Patriarchy, Not Polygamy Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:38561fd0-97e6-159d-aa77-209f8a6e88e9 Mon, 05 Feb 2018 06:34:19 -0700 <p>If you think patriarchy is a problem, I’m with you. Let’s dismantle patriarchy. But keep in mind that polygamy is just a modality of patriarchy, not patriarchy itself.</p><p>If you don’t like inequitable sealing practices, I’m with you. Let’s allow multiple sealings to multiple persons of any gender, if they so choose.</p><p>If you don’t like the requirements for a sealing cancelation, I’m with you. Persons who no longer desire to be sealed together should not encounter unnecessary difficulties in getting a sealing cancelation.</p><p>If you think coercion, manipulation, religious fundamentalism and fanaticism are problems, I agree. We should fix these problems regardless.&nbsp;</p><p>If you think underage participants are a problem, I agree. They should not enter into polygamous or monogamous marriages.</p><p>If you think you think polygamy is “one big mistake,” then you’re going to have difficulty convincing me that my nine generations of polygamous Mormon family members and descendants are a “mistake.” And no, I don’t believe God would have sent me to a “better” monogamous family if polygamy didn’t exist. I am in this family, and my family and existence are not mistakes.</p><p>If you think monogamy is going to dissolve patriarchy, perhaps you should reevaluate the patriarchal forces in monogamous marriages. Monogamy isn’t suddenly going to make patriarchy disappear, nor your insecurities about your partner’s potential desires for others.</p><p>If you think all polygamous women are brainwashed victims without volition or autonomy, you’re not much different that the patriarchal forces you claim to be liberating women from. Women’s autonomy will never be respected until women respect women.</p><p>If your feminism doesn’t include non-monogamous women, you might reconsider your views on women’s liberation. &nbsp;Your cis-mono-hetero feminism has overstepped its bounds.</p><p>If you think monogamy is the highest form of marriage and should be universally applied, then you’re not much different from those who think polygamy is the highest form of marriage and should be universally applied. You’re still imposing your preferred form of marriage onto others and replacing the oppressor with your own oppressive mandates.</p><p>If you think celestial glory mandates polygamy, monogamy, heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, asexuality, celibacy, or any other orientation among consenting adults, you need a better myth. Your heaven sounds like hell. I cannot believe in a God who would universally mandate any of these practices.</p><p>If you think patriarchy is a problem, I agree. The problem is patriarchy, not polygamy.</p>