Mormon Transhumanist Association Opinions Mormon Transhumanist Association Opinions Respective post owners and feed distributors Wed, 24 Jun 2015 17:11:27 -0600 Feed Informer Physics needs a reality check: Review of ‘Lost in Math’ by Sabine Hossenfelder Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:39b37451-082f-2149-6cb9-90f44de267e2 Thu, 19 Jul 2018 07:41:13 -0600 <figure><img alt="" src="*vVjE7bmHt5jAgieASttSOQ.jpeg" /></figure><p>This review was written for another magazine, but things didn’t work out, so I am publishing it here. “<em>Lost in Math</em>,” by Sabine Hossenfelder, is a good book, highly recommended.</p><p>Many physicists working on fundamental theories believe that “they are on the right crack,” says Sabine Hossenfelder in her already controversial new book “<a href=""><em>Lost in math: how beauty leads physics astray</em></a>.”</p><p>I think this must be a typo, surely the author means “on the right track.” Then another possible interpretation comes to my mind. I email Hossenfelder asking if this means that the physicists who work on supersymmetric theories must be on crack.</p><p>No, Hossenfelder replies, the passage refers to the “promising cracks in the foundations” of physics, which persuaded many researchers and decision makers that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN would soon find new fundamental particles.</p><p>But I remain with the impression that the reference to drugs isn’t entirely unintended. Perhaps physics is intoxicated with beauty? This is Hossenfelder’s main thesis: Many physicists are so much in love with their beautiful mathematical equations that physics is losing contact with the real world. Physics needs a reality check.</p><p>Costly experiments at LHC haven’t found any trace of supersymmetric particles. Hossenfelder explains that elementary particles come in two kinds, fermions that want to do their own thing, and bosons that are happy to group together. Just like, you know, libertarians and liberals. In supersymmetric theories, each fermion or boson has a heavier twin of the other kind.</p><p>Why? Because the equations of supersymmetry are beautiful. Does nature agree? No way. At least, the hypothetical supersymmetric particles haven’t bothered to show up in LHC experiments so far.</p><p>It’s worth noting that the LHC has found the new particle it was built to look for. In 2013, Peter Higgs and François Englert received the Nobel Prize in Physics for their theoretical prediction of the Higgs boson, which was eventually detected by the LHC in 2012.</p><p>But the theoretical work that led to the discovery of the Higgs boson was done in the sixties. “Since 1973 there hasn’t been any successful new prediction,” notes Hossenfelder.</p><p>The book is written in a clean and crisp conversational style. Using the language that we use every day, including the F word a couple of times, Hossenfelder covers a lot of modern physics at a level understandable by non-scientists and gives good conceptual explanations of advanced topics, such as quantum measurement, decoherence, symmetry breaking at low energies, and string theory.</p><p>Hossenfelder’s explanations are often simpler, clearer and at the same time more accurate than those found in other popular science books. For that alone, I wholeheartedly recommend “<em>Lost in Math</em>.” The book includes commented interviews with many other physicists, including Nobel laureates Steven Weinberg and Frank Wilczek.</p><p>Hossenfelder, who since 2006 writes the popular physics blog “<a href=""><em>Backreaction</em></a>” and is on her way to social media stardom with 16,000 <a href="">Twitter</a> followers and counting, is likely to be criticized for what many will perceive as a harsh attack on the physics community. But her critique is mostly constructive, and I don’t find it too harsh. If physicists can’t take that, I think we have a problem.</p><p>Sabine’s main grudge is that contemporary research in physics is far too much driven by esthetics. “The conclusion I have drawn from my readings and the interviews is that our sense of beauty (for what the laws of nature are concerned) changes the more we learn,” she emails me. “Relying on beauty is putting the cart before the horse.”</p><p>Some current theories (unsupported by experiment) are motivated by a desire to explain the “fine tuning” of large numbers that almost exactly cancel each other. This is what happens when, for example, physicists try to match the observed expansion rate of the universe with theoretical predictions.</p><p>If you draw two numbers from an assumedly uniform random distribution between zero and one, and find that the difference between the two numbers is exceedingly small, you find this fine tuning unnatural and are tempted to look for a deep explanation.</p><p>But perhaps the random distribution was not uniform to begin with. Perhaps it was sharply peaked around the very numbers that you have found. If so, this is just the way things are and no deep explanation is needed. Hossenfelder explains to me:</p><blockquote>“Naturalness arguments are good arguments if you do have statistics. E.g., it would be very ‘unnatural’ to throw a die and find it lands on a corner. You find that unnatural because you’ve thrown a lot of dice and never saw that happening before. i.e., you have statistics.”</blockquote><blockquote>“You could also go and calculate the probability of that happening based on a sample of initial conditions that you commonly encounter (statistics again) and would also find it’s exceedingly ‘unnatural’ or ‘fine tuned’ to find a die balanced on a corner. The problem is that when it comes to the constants in the laws of nature we have no statistics. We have only this one universe and this universe has these constants and that’s that. Making statistical inferences in such a case is just bad math.”</blockquote><blockquote>“I think what has happened here is that arguments which are perfectly sensible in certain situations have been carried over to situations where they don’t apply — and this has gone unnoticed because physicists are sloppy in stating their assumptions.”</blockquote><p>Some could criticize Hossenfelder for focusing on the research programs that she considers as lost in math, like supersymmetry, instead of the research directions that she considers as most promising. “Personally I think (as I say in the book) that focusing on mathematical consistency and experimental guidance is most promising,” is Sabine’s reply.</p><blockquote>“That makes me think that quantum gravity and dark matter are good research projects. Of course there could always be more to discover. Indeed you could never know that a theory really is the most fundamental one.”</blockquote><blockquote>“[But] if special relativity isn’t respected by the theory of quantum gravity, this has consequences which we should be able to observe on cosmological distances. People have looked for this but so far they haven’t found anything.”</blockquote><p>Hossenfelder is acutely aware that scientific research is driven by human behavior and a complex interplay of cultural, social and political factors. To my question on whether she agrees with the opinion, expressed by cosmologist George Ellis in “<em>Lost in math</em>,” that the militant atheist attitude of some scientists is dangerously damaging the public appreciation of and support for science, Sabine replies with a short “Yes.”</p><p>So far this review has been positive, and I very much like “<em>Lost in math</em>” overall. But Hossenfelder begins to lose me near the end, where she launches a vigorous call for action to reduce human biases in scientific research. Earlier in the book, she suggests that it might be a good idea to outsource parts of the process of selecting promising theories for further work and funding to Artificial Intelligences (AIs) when the time is right.</p><p>But <a href="">it can be proven</a> that the AIs we could build in the foreseeable future can’t match human intuition. Perhaps, I guess, the appreciation of “beauty” (whatever that is) is one of those uncomputable processes that happen in our brain but not in current computing machines.</p><p>I’m also left with a nightmare vision of committees, whistleblowers and angry mobs shaming noncompliant researchers and purging their ideas. “Killing ideas is a necessary part of science,” says Sabine. “Think of it as community service.”</p><p>I tend to think that scientific research is best when it’s constrained least. Sabine’s proposal to improve research practices seems too ordered and geometric to me. Too mathematical. Lost in math.</p><p>Sabine replies:</p><blockquote>“My proposal is the very opposite of constraining researchers. Point is, scientists are <em>presently</em> constrained because they are not free to follow their interests. Essentially I am making a free-market argument for knowledge discovery. Requiring scientists to work on what produces papers and attracts citations is a form of regulation that results in inefficiencies.”</blockquote><blockquote>“That you refer to this as ‘shaming’ reflects the very problem. Criticism is essential for science, but it doesn’t come to us easily. People take it personally all too often. But I think this is cultural and this culture can change.”</blockquote><p><a href=""><em>Picture</em></a><em> by João Trindade/Flickr.</em></p><img src="" width="1" height="1"><hr><p><a href="">Physics needs a reality check: Review of ‘Lost in Math’ by Sabine Hossenfelder</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> Mormon Transhumanism is the real original Mormonism of Joseph Smith Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:0e2e2930-8be2-f860-b2aa-8a09355167d0 Wed, 11 Jul 2018 07:53:41 -0600 <figure><img alt="" src="*olD83vKgD3xPede95qvvJg.jpeg" /></figure><p>Strictly speaking I am not a Mormon, but <a href="">I consider myself as a virtual Mormon and a follower of Joseph Smith</a>, so I feel entitled to participate in an internal Mormon debate.</p><p><em>The Interpreter</em> (A journal of Mormon scripture) published a story by <a href="">Gregory L. Smith</a> titled “<a href="">What is Mormon Transhumanism? And is it Mormon?</a>”</p><p>From the abstract:</p><blockquote>“Some sources have described Mormonism as the faith most friendly to the intellectual movement known as Transhumanism. This paper reviews an introductory paper by the past President of the Mormon Transhumanist Association. A syllogism that purports to show that Mormonism is compatible with — or even requires — Transhumanism is analyzed.”</blockquote><p>The paper that Smith criticizes is “<a href="">What is Mormon Transhumanism?</a>,” by my good friend Lincoln Cannon, published in <em>Theology and Science</em>. The conclusion of Smith’s critique is:</p><blockquote>“Cannon’s presentation of even some of the basics of LDS doctrine seems shaky at best. The slightest parallel between Transhumanism and LDS thought is emphasized, but none of the profound and weighty differences are acknowledged or addressed.”</blockquote><p>I’ve told the story of my involvement with Mormonism, or more precisely with Mormon Transhumanism, elsewhere. See <a href="">this story</a> and those referenced therein.</p><p>Here I’ll just say that I’ve been a transhumanist for a very long time but until 12 years ago I didn’t know, or care, what Mormonism was. Then chance (or Grace?) put me in touch with the <a href="">Mormon Transhumanist Association</a> (MTA). In the MTA I found something that deeply resonated with me, so I became a member and I’ve been a member ever since.</p><p>Man can become like God? God was once like man? Spirit is matter? Nothing is beyond science? Future technology will resurrect the dead? Wow. WOW!</p><p>However, I found it difficult to believe that the average Joe and Jane Mormon in the street really believe these things. I asked my friends in the MTA and they told me that:</p><ol><li>These things are in the Mormon scriptures, and</li><li>Many and perhaps most Mormons really believe these things.</li></ol><p>I didn’t know the Mormon scriptures, so I resolved to study them to find out if 1. is the case.</p><p>The story published in <em>The Interpreter</em> and other similar critiques seem to indicate that, as I suspected, perhaps 2. is not the case, or not entirely.</p><p>But now I have done some reading of and about the Mormon scriptures, and based on what I have read I can affirm without doubt that:</p><ol><li><strong>YES. These things ARE in the Mormon scriptures.</strong></li></ol><p>These things have been said and written, black over white, by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Parley Pratt, and other founding fathers, and emphasized by contemporary scholars like Richard Bushman and Terryl Givens. I listed some quotes <a href="">here</a>, but there are hundreds more.</p><p>Mormon cosmology (<a href="">I don’t care about geography and zoning norms</a>) deeply resonates with my own intuitions, and Mormon Transhumanism is the name that comes closest to describing my own belief.</p><p>I have the impression that today’s average Mormonism is a very watered down version of the revolutionary beliefs of the Mormon founding fathers. At a MTA conference a few years ago I said that, were he alive today, Joseph Smith would likely be excommunicated by the Mormon church.</p><p>I am a Mormon Transhumanist without having been a Mormon first. Like those who converted to Christianity without becoming Jewish first. This discussion is easier for me than for other Mormon Transhumanists, because I don’t have a prior social and emotional investment in Mormonism.</p><p>But for the same reason I can offer a more detached and perhaps more objective view.</p><p>And my view is this: I am persuaded that the original Mormonism of Joseph Smith was a NEW religion: A strong, solar, optimistic, uniquely American frontier religion that, while sharing many elements with other forms of Christianity, introduced enough disruptive novelty to warrant being considered as a distinct religion.</p><p>But the revolutionary ideas of Joseph Smith and the Mormon founding fathers have been re-absorbed in mainstream American society and religion, sort of. For example, it’s my understanding that the Mormons abandoned the practice of polygamy to appease the rest of the US and avoid conflict and perhaps war.</p><p>And why <a href="">the King Follett sermon</a>, a loud and clear outline of the disruptive novelty of Mormonism, by Joseph Smith himself, is not part of the LDS Church’s canonized scriptures? Again, I think, to appease mainstream Christians and avoid conflict.</p><p>It seems evident to me that Mormon Transhumanism reaffirms the new, revolutionary religion of Joseph Smith and the Mormon founding fathers. To my MTA friends, I would recommend not to worry too much of the judgment of the rest of the Mormon community. But again, this is easy for me to say.</p><p><em>Picture by Giulio Prisco.</em></p><img src="" width="1" height="1"><hr><p><a href="">Mormon Transhumanism is the real original Mormonism of Joseph Smith</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> Time travel through extra dimensions in the bulk Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:99d1d0b2-d866-1ce5-d0a6-99b2b17fb0e5 Fri, 06 Jul 2018 10:07:40 -0600 <figure><img alt="" src="*aZoNzU-AU8vGAjTA_n3ePg.jpeg" /></figure><p>String theorists suggest that our universe might be a brane embedded in a higher-dimensional bulk. If so, time travel might be possible.</p><p>In the current formulation of string theory, space has ten dimensions (nine space dimensions and one time dimension). Five of the six additional space dimensions are small, rolled up upon themselves in five-dimensional “Calabi-Yau spaces” (see “<a href=""><em>The Shape of Inner Space</em></a>,” by <a href="">Shing-Tung Yau</a> and Steve Nadis), but one additional space dimension is big like the three space dimensions we know. Theories with two additional big space dimensions have also been proposed.</p><p>The full 9-dimensional space, or the full 4-dimensional (or 5-dimensional) space when the small Calabi-Yau dimensions are ignored, is called the “bulk.” It turns out that sub-spaces in the bulk, called “branes,” are dynamical objects that can trap particles and fields, and host complex sub-physics.</p><p>To visualize a brane (the name comes from “membrane”), ignore one of our three space dimensions and think of a 2-dimensional surface in a 3-dimensional bulk. For example, think of the 2-dimensional bubbles in the picture above. Now that you have a mental image, think of our universe as a 3-dimensional brane-world in the 4- (or 5-) dimensional bulk.</p><p>The particles and fields of the standard model are confined to our brane and can’t get out into the bulk. But gravity, carried by gravitons, can get out. See “<a href=""><em>Warped Passages</em></a>,” by Lisa Randall, and “<a href=""><em>The Science of Interstellar</em></a>,” by Nobel laureate <a href="">Kip Thorne</a>. Other (hypothetical) particles and fields can also get out.</p><p>If the universe is a brane in a higher-dimensional bulk, “then there is the possibility of short cuts through higher-dimensional space,” said physicist <a href="">Heinrich Päs</a> in 2006, <a href="">as reported</a> by science writer Marcus Chown. “It’s such short cuts that make time travel possible.”</p><p>Chown’s article is paywalled, but <a href="!msg/alt.lzr/1gZLPZZ6laI/QAG38gWZYx4J">the full text has been shared online</a>.</p><p><a href="">As summarized and explained by physicist John Cramer</a>, Päs and his colleagues describe a plausible “asymmetrically warped brane universe.”</p><blockquote>“In particular, within the bulk volume of the extra dimensions the limiting speed (i.e., the speed of light) may be different from its value on the brane.”</blockquote><p>The scientists construct a special path that starts on the brane, goes around the bulk, and re-enters the brane.</p><blockquote>“They show that if the extra-dimensional speeds have the right relationship, one can construct a situation in which a signal following this path arrives <em>before</em> it is sent.”</blockquote><p>Cramer explains that, in the version of string theory used by Päs and his colleagues, there are two particles that are not constrained to stay within the brane of our universe, gravitons and <a href="">sterile neutrinos</a>.</p><p>Therefore, these particles can be used as signal carriers through the bulk. Päs and his colleagues propose an experiment to test their theory with sterile neutrinos.</p><blockquote>“Sterile neutrinos do not participate in the weak interaction, and are allowed to leave our brane in the same way as gravitons and to have trajectories involving the extra dimensions. Therefore, if sterile neutrinos exist, there is a possible experimental test…”</blockquote><p>The theory is explained in a 2006 (revised in 2009) research paper titled “<a href="">Closed timelike curves in asymmetrically warped brane universes</a>.” The paper is freely available from <em>arXiv</em>.</p><p>Päs and his colleagues explain that their theory works in a bulk with two additional big space dimensions (that is, five big space dimensions in total), and note that the theory could be tested “by manipulating on our brane initial conditions of gravitons or hypothetical gauge-singlet fermions (‘sterile neutrinos’) which then propagate in the extra dimensions.”</p><p>Last month (June 2018), Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) <a href="">announced</a> that new experimental tests “have potentially identified a fourth type of neutrino, a ‘sterile neutrino’ particle… We cannot say definitively that it’s sterile neutrinos, but we can conclusively say something fundamental is going on.”</p><p>Päs has written a book, titled “<a href=""><em>The Perfect Wave: With Neutrinos at the Boundary of Space and Time</em></a>” (2014), which explains all these things conceptually for a lay audience. The book is a very readable condensed summary of large swaths of modern physics including quantum mechanics, general relativity, string theory, and neutrino physics. Päs says:</p><blockquote>“If a time machine is ever to be realized — regardless of what kind — the<br>first passengers for sure will be elementary particles… neutrino beams could really be used as a tool to search for time loops... A first step toward such a development would definitely be to verify some of the speculative prerequisites, such as extra dimensions, asymmetric warping, or sterile neutrinos.”</blockquote><p>I remain agnostic on this specific proposal for time travel. Time will tell. My point is this: Gödel demonstrated that general relativity doesn’t rule out time travel, and now physicists are suggesting that string theory doesn’t rule out time travel.</p><p>General relativity is a cornerstone of modern physics, and string theory is widely considered as the most promising framework for new physics. If both general relativity and string theory seem to allow time travel, perhaps we should allow ourselves to consider the possibility that nature allows time travel.</p><p><a href="">Stephen Hawking said</a> that rapid space-travel, or travel back in time, can’t be ruled out, according to our present understanding.</p><p><a href=""><em>Image</em></a><em> from Pxhere.</em></p><img src="" width="1" height="1"><hr><p><a href="">Time travel through extra dimensions in the bulk</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> Journey to Eternity Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:0ffb4659-280a-88c0-3820-30ff0e7576cb Wed, 04 Jul 2018 10:49:38 -0600 <figure><img alt="" src="*Tp_QP9Y1H5ZVt4TYs8Aq2g.jpeg" /></figure><p>We were preparing for this day for quite some time now.</p><p>Thanks to the <a href="">Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture</a> ,(RMIC), Kolkata, India and the <a href="">The Mormon Transhumanist Association</a> (MTA), Utah, USA we made it happen. It is said that anything done out of love is bound to happen.</p><blockquote>He who sees the Supreme Lord dwelling alike in all beings, the <strong>Imperishable</strong> in things that perish, he sees indeed. [<em>Vivekananda,S. Complete Works Of Swami Vivekananda Vol 3</em>]</blockquote><p>We wanted to experience eternity, we wanted our sister Rumjhum to be remembered, or rather believe that she is with us. We wanted to confirm that “<em>no one cease to exist</em>.” As if we felt Rumjhum and also our little Nina in the garden paradise of RMIC amongst the flowers and chirping birds and bushes and insects with The Statue of <a href="">Swami Vivekananda</a> blessing us from the front.</p><blockquote>At the <strong>immortal touch of thy hands</strong> my little heart loses its limits in <br> joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable. [<em>Tagore, R. The Little Flute, 1867</em>]</blockquote><p>In this context I would be happy to mention that my first connection with RMIC had been for my sister Rumjhum when she participated in a sit and draw competion organised by UNICEF under Swami Lokeswarananda Maharaj, the then Revered Secretary of the Institute, and I remember as a child coming along with my parents to see my sister draw. Ramakrishna MIssion Institute of Culture, Gol Park Kolkata, is solely dedicated to, in the words of <a href="">The Holy Thakur Ramakrishna</a>, “realise the potential divinity of man”.</p><p>Rumjhum in her professional life later (as a <a href="">Professor </a>of Communicative English in a renowned college in Kolkata) some months before she passed away was working (quite coincidentally) on the oratorial talent of Swami Vivekananda, referring to Swamiji ‘s <a href="">Chicago Speech on 15 th September,1893</a>.</p><p>However, the bonding seems to become deeper and deeper since the past three years and will surely continue, perhaps that was written in my destiny, and to quote a respected senior employee at RMIC, “Ma likes you and will never ever let you go from us.”</p><p>Here Ma referred to Ma Sarada the <a href="">Holy Mother</a>, who perhaps must have blessed me through the assurance of the present Secretary Revered Swami Suparnanandaji Maharaj’s simple words of blessing to me, as great as a person Maharaj is, once at a brief and casual meeting in a RMIC corridoor.</p><p>The renowned <a href="">Ramakrishna Mission</a> have taken up the project that was initially launched on 2017 as the <a href="">1st</a> phase of the <a href="">India Awakens Conference</a>, almost a global event co-organised by the <a href="">MTA</a> and to my great relief (as the project lead) and entirely my honor that Revered Swami Suparnanandaji Maharaj presently serving as Secretary at the RMIC bestowed upon us the blessing to continue our journey under the <a href="">Mission’s</a> guidance and we set upon a talk on Physics and the Indian Spiritual Tradition as the <a href="">2nd</a> phase.</p><p>One could wonder whether this is spirituality or spiritualism or science. But I think what Revered Swami Suparnananda ji Maharaj <a href="">once said to me</a> ends all debate.</p><blockquote>The universe around is manifestation of God so you serve this universe very lovingly by selfless service outwardly through science and inwardly through meditation and the need of convergence of science and spirituality is a need for attainment of fulfillment in a way of blending the external and the internal [<em>Suparnananda.S, In Conversation With Swami Suparnananda ,Turing 2017</em>]</blockquote><p>In this context I wish to quote from Curt Lindquist ‘s <a href="">Ramakrishna Mission: Notes and Observations</a> an interview of Revered Swami Prajnatmanandaji Maharaj, Head, Indological Studies and Research, RMIC under whose guidance the talk was successfully conducted.</p><blockquote>A documentary “Women of India” by Ramakrishna Mission based on the teachings of Swami Vivekananda is created. The Ramakrishna Mission singles out women’s empowerment as a key focus for improving Indian life. <em>[Prajnatmananda.S. Ramakrishna Mission Notes and Observations,Sabbatical, 2017</em></blockquote><blockquote>On Durga puja day we dress up a young girl in the finest clothes. Her parents and other family members, friends and strangers, and even we Swamis will fall at her feet… We believe that young girl embodies the Divine Mother <em>[Prajnatmananda.S. Ramakrishna Mission Notes and Observations, Sabbatical/2017]</em></blockquote><p>On 10th February, 2018, at the very prestigious Shivananda Hall of RMIC, we gathered to witness an epoch making episode of understanding the relationship between science and spirituality and find whether our Indian spiritual tradition can be made compatible and mutually reinforcing with that of modern physics .</p><p>Eastern thinking emphasizes a whole range of spiritual concepts, from Yoga to reincarnation, telepathy to prerecognition through the power of special enlightened non-ordinary states of consciousness over matter, which seem difficult to reconcile with the scientific framework. The science of future generations — or artificial superintelligences — will uncover more and more of the mysteries of the universe.</p><p>It was our honor that the program was graced by both Revered Swami Suparnanadaji Maharaj and Swami Prajnatmanandaji Maharaj but in the most Divine manner in a way of unassumingly sitting, at the rear rows at the venue hall (something that is very unusual of someone as great as they are). Their intention was (I really feel from what I understood after I managed to talk to both revered Maharaj) to bless the event in silence. The same unconditionality that my parents have shown and perhaps that’s how Gods functions.</p><p>And hence accordingly the programme commenced JOY MA, that’s how we call <a href="">Ma</a> before everything we do.</p><p>The key note was delivered by Dr. Giulio Prisco, Founder, Turing Church, who argued that “the compatibility between fundamental physics and the Indian spiritual tradition is becoming more and more evident… As envisioned among others by <a href="">Nikola Tesla</a>, who may have been <a href="">inspired</a> by Swami Vivekananda , science will allow future humans to understand the divine ocean.”</p><p>Here is <a href="">the full video</a> of the talk on 10 February ,2018 with an interactive q/a at the end.</p><iframe src=";;;key=a19fcc184b9711e1b4764040d3dc5c07&amp;type=text%2Fhtml&amp;schema=youtube" width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"><a href=""></a></iframe><blockquote>“The objective is to build a “toy model” of fundamental reality with “Akashic Records” — a memory field. Mind and physics emerge from the QX graph, and come up entangled because both are linked in the one underlying QX. The graph QX “contains all times” and fluctuates in an internal time-like dimension, not to be confused with ordinary time. Ordinary space and time emerge from QX. Could we conceivably one day learn how to read QX and tweak the condensation and perhaps even find for us the lost ones in some sense ”.</blockquote><p>I am also happy to state that my dear old mentor finds his experience in his three days stay at RMIC and Kolkata <a href="">unforgettable</a> and truly rewarding.</p><blockquote>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 and the essential unity of consciousness” <em>[Prisco.G . Under the Spell of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, Turing Church .net ,2018]</em></blockquote><p>I am Honored that Maharaj inspired me and gave me the opportunity to introduce the <a href="">theme</a>. Mr Ashish Bhattacharrya and Dr.Shyamal Lahiri of the Indological Research and Studies at RMIC coordinate the whole event. I also wish to express thanks to Mrs. Moon Moon Bhattacharya and Mrs. Shikha Mazumdar for additional organisational support.</p><p>The idea is to reconstruct the past from the traces of reality, past events, living beings, monuments, from great ancient civilizations to personalities, thoughts, memories and feelings and find our lost loved ones in quantum reality.</p><p>This idea, known as Quantum Archaeology, and our community, <a href="">the India Awakens team</a>, are considered to be part of “<em>world’s most humanitarian aim</em>” as <a href="">quoted</a> from a leading US magazine [Zoltan Istvan, Newsweek, 3/9/2018].</p><p>Physicist Prof. Sisir Roy, Visiting Chair, National Institute Of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, formerly Head Mathematics Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata believes that:</p><blockquote>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.</blockquote><p>Mathematician Prof. Ralph Abraham, University of California Santa Cruz, says:</p><blockquote>Since my first visit to India in 1972 , I had been thinking of mathematical models for consciousness.Thanks to the West Bengal University of Technology and the Fullbright Program of the US Department of State I was able to visit India thrice and was lodged in the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture which was a spiritual and intellectual haven. Here I realised among scientist an openness to consciousness studies which is as common in India as rare in the US or Europe.</blockquote><p>Lincoln Cannon, Founder, MTA, says:</p><blockquote>I enjoy the rich diversity of Gods in Hindu mythology, the theological compatibility with theosis, and the tradition of temple rituals, among other things. It has parallels with aspects of Mormonism, but not necessarily more than other religions. It’s more the ancient beauty of the religion that attracts me.</blockquote><p>Kathy Wilson, one of the leading members of the India Awakens team<em> </em>who attended “part of the Parliament of Religions Conference in October, 2016 in Salt Lake, Utah, in which Swami Vivekananda was the first Swami to attend in the US (Chicago) in the late 1800s,” says:</p><blockquote>Thank you India for your generosity for welcoming millions of people to your country and the good it has done to the world .</blockquote><p>Robert M.Geraci, winner of the Fullbright Neheru Fellowship 2018 and Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College, USA, believes that:</p><blockquote>As Apocalyptic AI catches the imagination of the Indian public, that public must decide whether to sacrifice from their inherited traditions or from those they import. In the latter case the technological apocalypse will align with but differ from its envisioning in Europe or the United States.</blockquote><p>We derived pure happiness and fulfillment in organizing and finally materializing the whole event under RMIC and Turing Church. I would also particularly like to highlight the fact that the role of women in organizational aspect of the project has been exceptionally noteworthy.</p><p>We are now planning for the third phase of the conference in February 2019.</p><p>I dedicate the event to my childhood memory with my sisters Rumjhum and Moon Moon and our parents Sakti Sadhan Munshi and Bandana Munshi, and hope to meet Rumjhum one day… always.</p><blockquote>Our Sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought <em>[Shelley,P.B. Ode to a Skylark]</em></blockquote><p>Nupur Munshi</p><p>Writer, Project Lead, Coordinator for India</p><p><a href=""><em>Picture</em></a><em> from</em></p><img src="" width="1" height="1"><hr><p><a href="">Journey to Eternity</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> Things I have (sort of) changed my mind on (2): Life and consciousness Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:703a11bf-4593-4ad3-a16e-d21b01a3c857 Tue, 26 Jun 2018 08:58:31 -0600 <figure><img alt="" src="*9QkDntc2TLgYrv2Qm_clXw.jpeg" /></figure><p>Here’s another thing I have changed my mind on. Well, sort of. I used to <a href="">make fun</a> of “vitalism” and <a href="">trade insults</a> with my favorite archenemy <a href="">Dale Carrico</a>. Now I must repent or at least add important qualifications.</p><p>Vitalism is currently <a href="">defined by Wikipedia</a> as “the belief that living organisms are fundamentally different from non-living entities because they contain some non-physical element or are governed by different principles than are inanimate things.”</p><p>If we eliminate a few words from this definition we are left with a statement that I don’t disagree with:</p><blockquote>“Living organisms are fundamentally different from non-living entities because they are governed by different principles than are inanimate things.”</blockquote><p>I have just eliminated the reference to “non-physical elements.” A previous Wikipedia definition, which I quoted <a href="">here</a>, doesn’t need changes:</p><blockquote>“[The] processes of life are not explicable by the laws of physics and chemistry alone and [life] is in some part self-determining.”</blockquote><p>Well well.</p><p>I am persuaded that living and thinking creatures are parts of the physical universe like everything else, and follow the same physical laws that nonliving matter has to follow, in the sense that nothing violates the laws of physics.</p><p>In passing: that nothing violates the laws of physics doesn’t necessarily mean that the laws of physics uniquely determine everything. Perhaps there are gaps and physics is causally open. Think of quantum collapse, or see <a href="">this post</a>.</p><p>Back to life and consciousness, you and I are living proof that conscious life is part of the physical universe. Since you and I are physical systems, a physical system can be alive and conscious.</p><p>But A physical system doesn’t mean ANY physical system. Iron conducts electricity, and therefore physical matter can conduct electricity. Wood is also physical matter, but it doesn’t conduct electricity. The physics of electrical conduction works in iron but not in wood.</p><p>Similarly, there are indications and suggestions that life and consciousness could depend on exotic physics, perhaps analogous to the physics of long-range coherence in quantum matter like superfluids, and perhaps related to the gaps mentioned above.</p><p>If life and consciousness depend critically on exotic physics that is not manifest in today’s silicon electronics, then it’s not guaranteed that foreseeable computers could <a href="">process consciousness</a>, and it’s not guaranteed that foreseeable technology could allow <a href="">mind uploading</a>.</p><p>We might have to wait for better physics and technology able to process <a href="">conscious states of matter</a> by leveraging unknown physics that could be at work in your brain and mine.</p><p>So yes, perhaps life is special and perhaps we are still far from understanding life, let alone building it.</p><p>The physics of biology could be much more complex than particle physics or cosmology, and a flower much more complex than a black hole.</p><p><em>Picture by the author.</em></p><img src="" width="1" height="1"><hr><p><a href="">Things I have (sort of) changed my mind on (2): Life and consciousness</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> Priesthood Ordination and Autonomy Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:4fe4cdac-4005-7b41-136c-52c40a4ee404 Tue, 26 Jun 2018 07:28:56 -0600 <p>Dear President Nelson,</p><p>My son, William, recently turned eight. His baptism was scheduled for this week, but his baptism has been postponed indefinitely. Once again, it has become a matter of priesthood logistics that has put a strain on our family.</p><p>To fill you in, my husband has experienced a faith transition, and has lost his desire to participate in the LDS community at this time. Those details are not mine to share, yet the results of his shift affect me as a non-ordained wife. I sympathize with him. There was once <a href="">a time I lost faith in God</a>, specifically Heavenly Father. Yet, during that time my husband still had the autonomy to participate in the LDS community, independent of my faith status. However, now that the pendulum has swung I have not been afforded the same autonomy to participate in the LDS community, independent of my husband’s faith status. Much of that has to do with priesthood ordination. Once again, I have been asked to wade in the waters of patriarchy without a patriarch.</p><p>My job as a mother would be significantly easier if I were ordained to the priesthood. I have work to do, yet I am denied the tools to do it. Why must I disproportionately depend on another gender for political priesthood access? Why is my desire for ordination something to be treated with skepticism, but a man’s desire for ordination is to be celebrated?</p><p>I don’t understand how my desire to be ordained to the priesthood can be manipulated into a twisted urge for unrighteous dominion—as if I’m vying for an authority to hover over other fellow Saints. I don’t have a desire to be president of the Church, an area seventy, a stake president, or even a bishop. Political priesthood management is not my desire, nor skillset. I seek not to rule, nor be ruled. My primary motive for ordination is to have the same autonomy within my religious community that my husband has been afforded—to baptize and bless my children.</p><p>To be honest, I’m not even sure I want that anymore.</p><p>I have given, and given, and given. Is it even ethical for me to give authority to the institution that doesn’t want me, fails to empower me, and thwarts my divine potential? It feels like falling in love with someone who doesn’t love you back. Sometimes I’m angry with myself for how much I love my church. If I didn’t love it so much, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so badly when I’m othered by my own people for being queer and a woman.</p><p>What hurts most is that <a href="">I still believe in Mormonism</a>, the stories I was told as a child, my people, and Zion. Since I can remember, my testimony has been built upon love, not some literal belief in an exclusive path toward celestial glory which leaves some of the people I care about behind. Even as a child, I can’t remember believing in a literal Noah’s Ark, Adam and Eve, golden plates, or magical stones. I stayed with my church out of love, not out of loyalty to literalism. Loyalty without love is dangerous. I stayed because I believed—<a href="">I believed in priesthood power</a>, which cannot be equivocated to political priesthood ordination. I was taught that priesthood power was the power and authority to act on behalf of God, and priesthood power should be used to bless the lives of others. If that is the case, you don’t control priesthood power. It’s God’s authority, not yours. If your priesthood keys exclude me on account of my gender, I cannot believe that is God’s desire. Am I not an heir to God too? The scriptures say I am, moreover I believe God meant for Their daughters to bless the lives of others with priesthood power too, but that would be significantly easier if you believed in us enough to ordained us. If no one believes in our priesthood power, it won’t work. Priesthood power operates according to faith. It’s the ultimate placebo, if you will. I mean no disrespect, I say that with sincerity and reverence. We must believe in the priesthood power of God if we are to become Gods. Isn’t that the point of Mormonism?</p><p>Some will consider me blasphemous for suggesting that priesthood operates as a quasi-placebo. Others will mock me for maintaining any faith in priesthood power, but even so, I maintain. For me, faith is the only thing that makes sense after secularism, atheism, and nihilism. Proof in the miraculous only comes after belief that proof is possible. But in the journals of academia, how do I cite a feeling? How do I cite the spirit? How do I cite my heart? How do I cite faith? They say my feelings, my heart, the spirit, my faith are unreliable confirmation biases, but to me, what I feel is the only thing I really know. All other knowledge I might gain depends on my subjectivity, biases, and feelings. I cannot deny my feelings anymore than I can deny my logic. I have a feeling that tells me there is more to my existence than I currently understand, and it comes by a power greater than myself. Perhaps it is faith in those feelings which will be the pathway to proof. If priesthood power is the ultimate placebo, why not put all our faith in it? If we want the power of God on earth, why not believe it enough to act like it?</p><p>To be fair, you are not the only one to be held accountable for sexist discrimination of priesthood ordination policies. You, along with others in leadership, are still bound by the masses. Your authority is dependent upon the lay membership. I understand the quandary. We all have agency, and you cannot share a revelation that membership would reject, at least not without hurting the institution and your own position of authority. You and I both must wait until the masses have given a sign of their clear consent for political change. Revelation is up to you, but it’s also up to them. Thus, our policies will be sexist, so long as we hold sexist attitudes.</p><p>However, I feel as though I have convinced as many as I can. I don’t know how many times I can say the same thing over and over while having any significant impact. You have an impact on the membership that I don’t, yet you do not use it to help me. You speak of your respect and high regard for women, yet you leave me and my children at the whims of the men we are associated with for political priesthood access. How can I be a full member of the LDS community when you exclude me from full participation in the LDS community? I understanding we don’t get to participate in all the ways we want, but tell me, who is going to baptize my son? If not his father, shouldn’t it be his mother? Should I really ask another man to participate in my husband’s stead as if I were a widow? Is that what our religious rituals have come to—tradition for the sake of tradition without regard to the growing needs and feelings of the membership?</p><p>It’s quite tragic really. I cannot think of another desire more celebratory at this moment than the desire of God’s daughters to baptize our children in God’s name. What could be a source of sublime celebration is now a source of suffering.</p><p>I’m trying. I’ve been trying. I’m doing everything in my power to participate in my church as a queer woman, but I’m running out of options. I honestly don’t know what to do. In this moment, I wish not to love my church anymore, because waiting for my church to love me in return is too painful.</p><p> </p><p>Sincerely, a queer Mormon sister</p> Join the Turing Church Telegram group Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:467af678-110c-1c49-dcba-1ec8ed1b6c8a Fri, 22 Jun 2018 02:32:43 -0600 <figure><img alt="" src="*Bs7Ry8llpdKN72twtkGG3Q.jpeg" /></figure><p>The <a href="">Turing Church Telegram group</a> is live at <a href=""></a>. Please feel free to request to join.</p><p><a href="">Telegram</a> is minimalist, lightweight, works flawlessly on all devices and the web, and its creators <a href="">say</a> that they strongly support privacy and freedom of speech.</p><p>We all know that heavyweight internet services like G-F-T do NOT support privacy and freedom of speech. They sell user data to spammers and censor user opinions.</p><p>At this moment most Turing Church community interactions happen on Facebook. But many people prefer not using Facebook for the reasons above.</p><p>Some alternatives have been tried and abandoned. But let’s experiment with Telegram, perhaps it will fly.</p><p>So please request to join the <a href="">Turing Church Telegram group</a> at <a href=""></a>. I am <a href="">@giulioprisco</a> on Telegram.</p><p><a href=""><em>Picture</em></a><em> from Pexels.</em></p><img src="" width="1" height="1"><hr><p><a href="">Join the Turing Church Telegram group</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> My Definition of God and a Possible Response to Homosexuality in Church Policy Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:c6344c9e-9f4b-1d34-88f8-a820897e9bff Wed, 13 Jun 2018 14:33:26 -0600 Two issues many members of the church—myself included—are struggling with are gender and sexuality. Both are highly charged. Here I am sharing some ideas that I&#8217;ve had to help me reconcile church positions with my own logic. I&#8217;m attempting to do so with respect and ask that any response be returned in the same way. Systemic [&#8230;] The Future Needs Queerness Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:1cfd8e00-b850-1d2f-6c0a-b0c6624f4a4b Sat, 02 Jun 2018 23:51:29 -0600 <p>*Copy of speech given at the Annual Affirmation Donor Dinner.</p><p>Last night I got a call from a friend who works in artificial intelligence development. His team was preparing to make a sizable financial commitment to a project they had been developing and during their meeting one of the men looked around the room and questioned, “Has anyone asked a woman about this?” There was an awkward silence among the men in the room until my friend said, “I know a woman who’s a transhumanist. We could try calling her.” I was grateful to receive their call and to have the opportunity to represent a perspective outside their personal demographic.</p><p>After the phone call, I found myself wondering what would an artificial intelligence be like without the experiences of gender and sexual minorities? We offer a unique perspective that if taken out of the narrative, paints a bleak and dismal future. What if suddenly all the queer people were gone? It can sometimes feel as if that’s what the world wants us to do—disappear or recode ourselves into a caricature that doesn’t challenge the perspectives of the reigning majority. What would humanity look like, be like, sound like, feel like without the philosophy, science, poetry, music, and art of queer people?&nbsp;</p><p>Alan Turing, British mathematician, scientist, and inventor of the Turing machine, was homosexual. Imagine the world of computer science without his contributions. Sally Ride, America physicist, astronaut, and lesbian, was the first and youngest American woman in space. Imagine NASA and space travel without her contributions to physics and robotics. What would the field of science and technology be like without our queerness?</p><p>Emily Dickenson challenged readers with poetry that blurred the lines of heterosexuality and homosexuality, including ambiguous gender identities. She, nor her poetry, could be defined as either lesbian or straight. Walt Whitman causes historians to wonder if his repeated homosexual themes in his poetry were expressions of his own desires, even though he was married to a woman. James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Virginia Wolf, and many more queer thinkers and writers have graced the world with their work. Artist Frida, my personal favorite, was openly bisexual and polyamorous. American pop artist, painter, and filmmaker, Andy Warhol, was homosexual. Photographer, Annie Leibovitz, is lesbian. What would the face of art, literature, and poetry look like without our queerness?</p><p>Actors and actresses have made roles come to life inspiring waves of imagination and social movement. Marlon Brando, <em>The God Father</em>, had homosexual relationships. Alec Guinness, also known as <em>Obi Won Kenobi</em>, was also homosexual. Neil Patrick Harris, most known for his staring roll in Doogie Howser, M. D., is homosexual. Ian McKellen, known for his roles as <em>Magneto</em> and <em>Gandalf</em>, is also homosexual. Angelina Jolie, Zachary Quinto, Ellen Page, Jodi Foster, Laverne Cox, Jazz Jennings, Thandie Newton, and many more. What would the world of cinema look like with our queerness?</p><p>Russian composer, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, though married to a woman, was most likely homosexual—a desire he tried to keep private and likely served as a major component of his life-long battle with depression. The landscape of music, both historical and contemporary has been graced by numerous queer artists. Elton John, Billi Holiday, David Bowie, Queen, Halsey, and Sia. What would music sound like without our queerness?</p><p>Leonard di Vinci, genius of science, art, and engineering, though he spent most of his life celibate, many historians and scholar agree on his desires for homosexuality. Aristotle, perhaps the most influential mind of philosophy, engaged in homosexual relationships. Joan of Arc challenged the social norms of her time with gender representation, cross-dressing, and gender identity. I do not recommend applying modern terms like sexual orientation, transgender, or gay to historical identities, but these people engaged in behaviors that are undoubtably queer. What would philosophy and history look like without our queerness?</p><p>So, I repeat again, what would the world look like, be like, sound like, feel like without our philosophy, science, poetry, music, art, and yes, queerness? I shutter when I think of it. It feels hollow. It tastes bland. It looks gray. It lacks creativity. It’s incomplete.</p><p>You don’t get to praise the world we live in and erase all the queer people who helped build it. You don’t get to enjoy our talents and genius while condemning the queerness which inspires our work. We helped build this world. Queerness may seem like a politically charged, new phenomenon, but it’s not. We’ve always been here. It is time for our existence to be valued as a necessary aspect of the human family.</p><p>We are a part of the past and we belong in the future. When I envision the future, I see a rainbow. I know it’s a little cliché, but it’s true. I see a rainbow of diversity where each life is a treasured entity and vital part of Divine creation. Queerness is not something to be ashamed of or stamped out, but it’s something to light the way. Queerness represents a space in the human family which celebrates our differences. In the future, queer people don’t contemplate their suicide, instead they contemplate their dreams and how to make them a reality. In that future, queer people chose life over death. In that future, the human family chooses love over fear. In that future, love wins!</p><p>When I was younger and grappling with my own queerness, I would picture that future in my mind. I would fantasize that at some point in the future there would be a kind, warm, welcoming world ready to greet me with open arms and <em>that</em> was the world I was <em>supposed</em> to be born into, not this one. I would rationalize that I was simply “born ahead of my time” and I really belonged in the future. Upon further reflection and maturity, it became clear that was not the case. Those picturesque vistas of the future were simply the fantasies of a young girl in pain. That future didn’t exist. At least not yet.</p><p>The truth is I wasn’t born ahead of my time. I was born here and now for a reason. I am here to create that world—the one that existed in my dreams. That world would only exist in my mind unless I created it here and now, and it certainly wouldn’t exist if I were dead or wasted my time contemplating my suicide. I don’t want to live in world void of queer intricacies. That’s a world where all things queer, including me, are dead. I want to live in the world I envisioned in my mind—the one which celebrates diversity through love, compassion, and understanding.</p><p>All of us here today are in a unique position to create that world. I believe we are here for a reason. I cannot tell you what that reason is, but if it’s up to me, I want that reason to be love.</p><p>This is the work of Affirmation. Affirmation understands that the future needs queerness. In our small cornier of the world we keep queerness alive in our Mormon community. While there seem to be insurmountable obstacles ahead, it is my belief that if we work together, miracles are made possible. That is why I am here, tonight. I am building the future of my dreams. I can’t do it alone. I need you to help build that future with me. Let’s build a world where love triumphs over death!</p><p>Thank you.</p> From a Logical Point of View Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:c15f0daa-74d2-4db6-6d99-e01413d8c2ac Fri, 01 Jun 2018 14:07:00 -0600 <p>*Transcript of an interview done for <a target="_blank" href="">From a Logical Point of View </a>by Tarik D. LaCour.</p><p>Tarik D. LaCour: Normally for my Friday Traditio’s I share an interview or debate from a famous philosopher/scientist/ public intellectual, etc. But today I wanted to do something different. So, I decided to personally interview my friend Blaire Ostler, who is a philosopher and board member of the Mormon Transhumanist Association. Blaire, welcome to From a Logical Point of View.</p><p>Blaire Ostler: Thanks, Tarik. Happy to be here.</p><p>Tarik: Likewise. Tell my audience who does not know much about you who you are, what the central ideas of the Mormon Transhumanist Association are, and why you call yourself a “Mormon Enthusiast.”</p><p>Blaire: Sure thing. I’m a ninth generation Mormon. I often claim that if there is a Mormon DNA I have it. Mormonism is essentially woven into my identity. I was raised LDS and have served in just about every calling a woman can serve in except the Relief Society. As a queer Mormon, I also volunteer with many other Mormon and queer groups working to facilitate constructive reconciliation among Mormons and queer persons. As you noted, I’m also a Mormon Transhumanist. I am the former CEO and current board member of the Association. The Mormon Transhumanist Association generally works to promote the reconciliation of science and technology with religion. We do not see these idea as competing elements, but rather complementary elements. The term “Mormon Enthusiast” is a label I took upon myself after once being mistaken as a Mormon apologist. For me, I don’t have as much interest in apologetics as I do Mormon theology itself. For me, a Mormon Enthusiast is one who highly interested in, motivated by, and invested in Mormonism. Needless to say, in my work and worship, I’m a Mormon Enthusiast.</p><p>Tarik: Well, there are many things you point out that need clarification. So, you say that science and technology are not in conflict with religion (Richard Dawkins likely had a second stroke upon reading that), but does that mean that you are a proponent of developments in Artificial Intelligence?</p><p>Blaire: Haha! Dawkins and I would likely disagree on more than a few things when it comes to religion. As for artificial intelligence, like any technology, I advocate for the ethical use of said technologies. For example, a hammer could be used to build a house or kill an enemy. The hammer is not the issue–it’s how we use the hammer. AI is already here, the question is how far do we want to take it and what are we planning on doing with it? For me, AI is often a reflection of ourselves with similar strengths and weaknesses. We run the risk of passing on our shortcomings if we do not learn to become more compassionate and benevolent. We need to evolve with our technology.<br />Tarik: The main concern with A.I. is that it could overtake us in the workforce and make humans obsolete, and you can only be on vacation for so long. So, would you be open to a treaty that says that A.I. can be legal only insofar as it does not overtake humans in the workforce?</p><p>Blaire: To me, that’s like suggesting we shouldn’t use a printing press, type writers, or word processing, because it puts scribes out of work. We don’t need scribes anymore, because that occupation has become obsolete. Similarly, the development of new technologies will create new jobs and old jobs will become obsolete. For example, autonomous cars will put cab drivers and truckers out of jobs. This is a problem, because people need a way to earn a basic living. But I don’t think the solution is not to move forward with innovation. Instead we need to better prepare people for new jobs.</p><p>Tarik: That is not getting at the heart of the question I asked. No one is saying that we stop all technological innovation. We are concerned however that our machines may overtake us rather than help us. So, while it is true that the printing press made scribes obsolete, it did not make humans obsolete. Printing presses cannot think and operate without humans, but A.I. potentially can. And if that is the case, it could destroy us. Now, I am familiar enough with robotics to know this is not something that will likely occur in our lifetime. But it is a real question to think about in the present, would you agree?</p><p>Blaire: I’m okay if AI overtakes humans in the workforce, because at that point the workforce will be optional. If we have developed technologies that can do all our work for us (which I’m not saying is happening anytime soon) there will be no reason to earn a living wage. I think the bigger ethical concern is at that point, if an AI can walk, talk, and think as a human does it seems unethical to expect them to work for us and obey our commands. I do think we should consider the ramifications of AI developments as they unfold, but as of now, I don’t see sufficient reason to consider AI a threat to human existence. I’m more concerned about humans hurting humans than AI hurting humans.</p><p>Tarik: Certainly I am more concerned about President Trump causing harm than I am about A.I. causing harm at the present moment. But as philosophers it seems that we should be thinking about possible scenarios and how to avoid the potentially harmful ones.</p><p>Blaire: Agreed. That’s why my concerns are with the humans that are programming the AI, as I originally mentioned. We need to be more benevolent if we are expecting our AI to be benevolent. If we change ourselves, so will our programming of AI.</p><p>Tarik: I think our fundamental difference is that you are an optimist while I am a pessimist. But either way, it seems that A.I. is something we should all be keeping a close eye on.</p><p>Blaire: Yes, that does sounds about right. But I’m optimistic about our ability to find common ground.&nbsp;And I agree, AI is a very important development that deserves attention to both the risks and benefits. I thought we were going to talk about feminism and priesthood ordination for women?</p><p>Tarik: Yes, that was the next topic. But now that you bring it up, you are very outspoken about feminism, female ordination, and the fact the polygamy is not necessarily demeaning to women. Could you start with what feminism means to you? One of the great problems with feminism is that most feminists think there should not be a definition of it, which causes people like me to wonder if feminism is itself a belief or just a subset of humanism.</p><p>Blaire: Generally, feminism means that there is gender oppression happening to women and feminists seek to fix it. At least that’s my experience. The trick is not every feminist agrees on how to fix it. Many would consider this a subset of humanism. For me, I think of feminism and the efforts made toward gender liberation. By that I mean creating a community that does not put unnecessary mandates, expectations, or limitations of what a person is capable of according to the gender. This does not mean to imply gender is unimportant, it means your gender doesn’t necessarily determine your destiny.</p><p>Tarik: Thank you for that clarification. I do not think the average member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would oppose what you have said, though certainly some might. But where feminism has become controversial in the mainstream LDS Church has been that some feminists also demand that women be ordained to the Church’s lay priesthood, and you have expressed that you want to see that happen. Why is that important?</p><p>Blaire: First, some feminists “demand” ordination, but not all. I don’t. I’m not sure that making demands like that is the most productive means to an end.</p><p>For me, I would personally like to see the ordination of any or all genders, not only women. I don’t see anything inherently “male” about the priesthood that means other genders should be excluded from it. I think it is important for many reasons. Churchwide ordination would give more people, such as women, autonomy within their religious community, especially single women. Churchwide ordination would also allow for a more gender is have an immersive and robust participation in religious ritual. Churchwide ordination would also allow diverse gender representation in church leadership and callings. It would also send a strong message to women and other genders that the power and authority to act in the main of God is not something they should be excluded from. Mormonism especially teaches the principle of theosis, humans becoming Gods. If this is to be taken seriously, as I do, how am I to become a God if not to practice with the power and authority of God on earth? I trust God wants us all to participate according to our skills, talents, and abilities. If a woman is discouraged from using their talents because of their gender, I cannot believe that is the will of God.</p><p>Tarik: Certainly if women were given the priesthood the dynamics of the Church would change. But it does not seem likely this will occur, so should feminists aim for lesser changes, such as more autonomy over the Relief Society, which has happened in the past?</p><p>Blaire: Hmmm. Good question. I’m not certain it will happen in my lifetime or not. The optimist in me says “yes” and the pessimist says “no.” I cannot speak for other feminists, but I cannot ask for anything less that what I believe to be the will of God. I believe God has much more in store for me. Sure, minor cosmetic changes to the political structure would help, but it cannot compensate for a failure to offer ordination independant of a person’s gender.</p><p>The strangest part to me is, why is this not a cause for celebration! There are worthy, willing, capable women desiring ordination to serve and bless the people of their community. Why aren’t we ringing the church bells in celebration for this godly desire? I can only imagine our Heavenly Parents, as any loving parent would, by responding, “This is wonderful news! Let’s ordain you and put you to work. Go! Baptize people in my name! Bless them! Serve them! Love them! Go to work thou good and faithful servant.”</p><p>Tarik: Well, I see no problem with women wanting to be ordained for the reasons you mentioned. But, if the person making this argument also sustains the president of the LDS Church as the only person who holds priesthood keys, it seems they would have to leave it his discretion whether or not women should be ordained. So, it is fine to say that you would like to see something happen, but organizations such as Ordain Women go far beyond that. Am I off base here?</p><p>Blaire: The Ordain Women movement has been tricky, with both pros and cons to consider. I personally appreciate that Ordain Women has put the discussion front and center. They have people talking in ways no one else has. I doubt you and I would be having this discussion without the Ordain Women movement. On the other hand, I can’t say I agree with all their tactics.</p><p>Tarik: An argument that has been used to advocate female ordination has been that their situation is similar to that of blacks before 1978. I have not found this argument persuasive because even during those years non-black women were never ordained, and second there are records of black men being ordained during the life of Joseph Smith, Jr. Should this argument be retired?</p><p>Blaire: I think there are parallels in the experiences that could be useful to draw upon, but I certainly wouldn’t consider the situations of black men in 1978 to be congruent with women in 2018. Even though women aren’t ordain today, black folks were also denied temple blessings. Women today aren’t excluded from the temple. Honestly, I think that question would be best answered by a black woman. I imagine her perspective on the matter to be far more enlightening than mine.</p><p>Also worth noting, there were also accounts of women being ordained in Joseph’s time. Although, it was likely different than what ordination looks like today. Women used to have more priesthood responsibilities than we do at present. Women blessed other women by the laying on of hands. They also gave healing blessings. There’s room in our history to improve upon on current practices if LDS leadership saw fit to. I trust there are many things that have yet to be revealed. The restoration is still happening.</p><p>Tarik: Certainly the Restoration is still happening (Article Nine of the Articles of Faith makes that clear), and it is also certainly the case that women were more involved in the past than they are in the present, as Jonathan A. Stapley’s new book The Mysteries of Godliness persuasively shows. However, even Stapley acknowledges that women were not ordained to priesthood offices in the past, though they did give blessings. And the terms “authority” “priesthood” and “keys” have meant different things in the past than they do today. So, while I do see evidence that women can take a greater role than they do at present, I do not know that there is evidence that demands women be ordained as was the case with men of African descent.</p><p>Blaire: Again, I have a hard time with the word “demand.” But I agree with your point about the experiences being different. If I were to make an argument that “demands” women be ordained to the priesthood, I would argue that our theology demands it–not that because black men were ordained in 1978.</p><p>Tarik: This has been a productive conversation, but all good things must come to an end. Let’s conclude with the following: Three things you would like to see changed in Mainstream Mormonism, and also if you care to share your testimony, you may do so.</p><p>Blaire: Wow! I get pick three things to change? This is awesome! For me, first, I would like to see ordination be extended to any gender. Second, I would like to see the full acceptance and celebration of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities including sealings being made available to same-sex couples and our transgender siblings. Third, I’d like to see plural sealing made available to all, not just men. I have shared my testimony in a blog post title <a target="_blank" href="">The Mormon Enthusiast</a> so people can take the liberty to reading it there if they would like.</p><p>But lastly, before we conclude we should probably ponder in our spare time the possibility of AI joining us in the pews. If AI wanted to be ordained and join in the work of building Zion, I think we should welcome them too. At that point, I suspect concerns of female ordination would be past time controversy that is laughable.&nbsp;</p><p>Tarik: Well, robots would certainly spice up elders quorum, but that is another conversation we will have later. Thank you so much for sharing your views on Mormonism, and I hope this is not the last time that we do this.</p><p>Blaire: It was a pleasure, as always, Tarik. Thanks for having me.</p><p>Tarik: Always a pleasure.</p> Ether, quantum, chaos: Building blocks for transcendence Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:1db54f66-9fe8-6b16-f74e-c14ea24c67fe Fri, 01 Jun 2018 08:11:34 -0600 <figure><img alt="" src="*leDab0nzfLRpwHXVW0SNKg.jpeg" /></figure><p>Elaborating on previous essays, here I summarize my physical theology framework. Radically emergent models of fundamental physics hint at new ether physics, transcendent engineering, and quantum/chaos magic.</p><p>Current theories of fundamental physics seem to fail at small scales and high energies (two related concepts). This is often considered as a problem to solve. But we have probed nature only in a small range of scales. Why should our theories continue to work near zero length and infinite energy, which is infinitely far from the laboratory?</p><p>In his 2006 book “<a href=""><em>The Trouble with Physics</em></a>,” a provocative look at current problems in theoretical physics, <a href="">Lee Smolin</a> praises emergent models of fundamental physics:</p><blockquote>“These are models developed by condensed-matter physicists, such as Robert Laughlin, of Stanford; Grigori Volovik, of the Helsinki University of Technology; and Xiao-Gang Wen, of MIT… These men are master craftsmen and seers both. Having done perhaps the best and most consequential normal science of the last few decades, they decided to try their hands at the deep problems of quantum gravity…”</blockquote><p>I have written some notes on the work of <a href="">Volovik</a> and <a href="">Wen</a>. In his <a href="">1998 Nobel Prize lecture</a>, Laughlin defines an emergent phenomenon as a low-energy collective effect of huge numbers of particles that cannot be deduced from the microscopic equations of motion in a rigorous way and that disappears completely when the system is taken apart, and suggests that “most of the important outstanding problems in physics are emergent in nature, including particularly quantum gravity.” See also Laughlin’s book “<a href=""><em>A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down</em></a>” (2006).</p><p>Simple example: Phonons in metals are emergent in nature. Smolin explains that a phonon is not an elementary particle: “It is certainly not one of the particles that make up the metal, for it exists only by virtue of the collective motion of huge numbers of the particles that do make up the metal.”</p><blockquote>“But a phonon is a particle just the same. It has all the properties of a particle. It has mass, it has momentum, it carries energy. It behaves precisely the way quantum mechanics says a particle should behave. We say that a phonon is an emergent particle.”</blockquote><p>In radically emergent models of fundamental physics, all known particles are emergent particles. All known fields, symmetries, and physical laws, including Einstein’s relativity and quantum mechanics, emerge from new physics in an underlying substrate. Following <a href="">Volovik</a> and <a href="">Wen</a>, “ether” seems an appropriate name for the fundamental substrate.</p><p>I like these models because they are physical, permit reasoning by analogy with known material systems like superfluids that can be studied in the lab, and are flexible enough to leave room for spiritual and theological speculations.</p><p>According to Einstein’s special relativity, the speed of light in vacuum is the same for all inertial observers (<a href="">Lorentz symmetry</a>). But a Lorentz symmetry for the speed of sound can emerge in a superfluid, Wen <a href="">explains</a>, “if the clock and ruler are [made] by low energy phonons.”</p><p>In other words, inner observers in the superfluid would think that the speed of sound is a fundamental speed limit. But we know that the speed of light in our vacuum is much higher than the speed of sound in the superfluid. Similarly, influences in the ether might propagate much faster than the speed of light in our vacuum. The idea comes to mind that future ether engineering might permit faster-then-light communications and travel.</p><p>Metric fields analogous to the gravitational field in empty space, which according to Einstein is the structure of our spacetime, emerge in condensed matter systems. Similarly, our space and time themselves might emerge from the physics of the ether, opening the way to spacetime engineering and time magic (time scanning, time travel and all that).</p><p>Quantum mechanics itself might emerge from chaotic dynamical systems in the ether. The underlying dynamics would be nonlocal and causally open. In fact, even in classical (non-quantum) physics, the chaotic evolution of <a href="">strongly fractal dynamical systems</a> is causally open (<a href="">undetermined in principle</a>).</p><p><em>Note: I am using “causally open” instead of “nondeterministic” in light of an ongoing discussion on my previous essays (</em><a href=""><em>1</em></a><em>, </em><a href=""><em>2</em></a><em>) with mathematician and chaos theory pioneer </em><a href=""><em>Ralph Abraham</em></a><em>.</em></p><p>Using quantum-speak, the path of a dynamical system in a fractally “<a href="">riddled</a>” region of its phase space can be considered as a superposition of different possible paths, and eventually undergoes a collapse (apparently random, with probabilities instead of certainty) to one specific path.</p><p>This analogy suggest the possibility that quantum behavior could emerge from “deterministic” mathematical equations for the underlying ether physics. But these mathematically deterministic equations would allow indeterminate, quantum-like behavior.</p><p>The Planck scale and beyond, which is currently considered as a no-go zone for physics, could be accessible to new ether physics. The ether could be a continuum described by continuous mathematical models, with differential geometry extended to fractal geometry.</p><p>Once the physics of chaos and nonlocality in the ether is better understood, quantum ether engineering might permit controlling fundamental chance and change.</p><h4>Life, mind and Mind in the ether and beyond</h4><figure><img alt="" src="*9n3zUx76CyC1wDuwb5Xsww.jpeg" /></figure><p>We are only aware of carbon-based life in the Earth’s biosphere, but we can’t assume that all forms of life in the universe must be similar to life as we know it. Surely nature is much more imaginative than that.</p><p>Following the analysis in the privately circulated book “<em>Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization</em>” (<a href="">available online</a>), by molecular nanotechnology pioneer <a href="">Robert Freitas</a>, <a href="">Clément Vidal</a> analyzed possible metabolisms of living systems based on all four fundamental physical forces in his 2014 book “<a href=""><em>The beginning and the end: the meaning of life in a cosmological perspective</em></a>.”</p><p>Following astrophysicist <a href="">Fred Hoyle</a> (in “<a href=""><em>The Black Cloud</em></a>” and related nonfiction), Freitas and Vidal speculate on living creatures operating on the principles of plasma physics rather than the usual molecular biochemistry. Super-exotic life forms based on non-electromagnetic interactions such as the strong nuclear force (<a href="">quantum chromodynamics</a>, QCD) could exist in high-energy environments such as neutron stars, and even more exotic life could exist in black holes.</p><p>From here, another leap of imagination brings us to thinking of intelligent life based directly on the sub-quantum physics of the ether.</p><p>There are speculations that the biological brain could be “quantum matter” and support the thinking and feeling mind through long-range quantum coherence. According to radically emergent models of fundamental physics, the ether also exhibits long-range coherent behavior.</p><p>Recent research <a href="">suggests</a> that quantum fields (ether fields) could process information in mind-like ways. Since ether fields are much denser and faster than familiar forms of matter, <a href="">we can think of the ether as ultra-high performance computronium and self-aware perceptronium</a>.</p><p>Therefore, we can imagine self-aware, intelligent life in the ether. Some of these beings could be super-intelligent, God-like Minds able to control the universe (divine action) through ultimate ether engineering and “quantum/chaos magic.”</p><p>Let’s go back to the possibility, mentioned above, that quantum behavior could emerge from “deterministic” mathematical equations for the underlying ether physics. If so, how can the divine Minds, and smaller minds like you and I, make freely willed choices? Where do the apparently random inputs needed to actualize one of several possible outcomes come from?</p><p>A possible answer is that, if the underlying mathematical laws are deterministic in the sense that they don’t contain uncertain parts, free will and divine action can be thought of as emerging from inside in some way, as opposed to coming from outside.</p><p>If so, there’s no need to resort to mind/matter dualism. Monism is a viable philosophy, and there might be a self-consistent unified description of mind and matter.</p><p>Another possibility is that freely willed choices really come from outside, which brings us straight into <a href="">simulation hypothesis</a> territory. Or, since it’s really the same thing, traditional theology territory.</p><figure><img alt="" src="*6JwYbNTx6vywevVPJw2qqA.jpeg" /></figure><p>Yet another possibility is an infinite regress. Beneath the ether there might be another ether, or the simulating reality might be a simulation itself, and so forth with <a href="">turtles all the way down</a>. In this case, the origin of freely willed choices is pushed down to the infinitely far, unattainable bottom.</p><p>In any case, I am persuaded that intelligent organic life forms like current humankind can learn much more and earn a place in the community of God-like Minds. If there is an absolute God, <a href="">we’ll become cosmic engineers in God’s control room</a>. If needed, we’ll start exploring deeper turtles on the way down. Eventually, we’ll re-engineer the universe and resurrect the dead, achieving <a href="">the Cosmist vision of Nikolai Fedorov</a>.</p><p>I just found out that I have been quoted in an essay on Fedorov, published in <em>Atlas Obscura</em>, titled “<a href="">The Russian Philosopher Who Sought Immortality in the Cosmos</a>.”</p><blockquote>“In particular, cosmism is open to the possibility that future science and technology might be able to resurrect the dead from the past, and to the idea that our universe might be, for want of a better word, a simulation,” says Prisco. “These ideas are, like it or not, both compatible with science and totally indistinguishable from religion. Many Transhumanists, who tried to kick religion out through the back door of superstition, are now finding that religion is coming back to them through the main door of science.”</blockquote><p>In fact, the parallels between these ideas and traditional religions are clear and evident for those who want to see. My message is that, if you want to believe in the <a href="">cosmological core</a> of your religion without abandoning the scientific worldview, yes you can.</p><p><em>Pictures from Wikimedia Commons (1, 2, 3).</em></p><img src="" width="1" height="1"><hr><p><a href="">Ether, quantum, chaos: Building blocks for transcendence</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> Dealing with Death Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:ae3fccf1-670a-d0a7-9416-a9c26d480863 Wed, 30 May 2018 07:37:46 -0600 On Tuesday, April 24th, I was interviewed on BBC Radio about technology, the pursuit of immortality, and the meaning of death. In the middle of that night, we were awakened by a call from an out-of-state hospital, telling us that my father-in-law... <p><img src=",w_600/v1527917254/vzxd3zsvjyickyw77quh.jpg" alt="Dealing with Death" /></p> <p>On Tuesday, April 24th, I was <a href="" target="_blank">interviewed on BBC Radio</a> about technology, the pursuit of immortality, and the meaning of death.</p> <p>In the middle of that night, we were awakened by a call from an out-of-state hospital, telling us that my father-in-law had lost consciousness.</p> <p>We spent the next week with doctors and nurses and members of the community, fighting for his life. On May 4th, around noon, he died peacefully, surrounded by friends and family.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">People express their grief in many ways</a>—and I have grieved in many ways over these last few weeks. One way that I express it, though, is to try to put my thoughts in order, to try to capture what I am experiencing and processing.</p> <p>These are some things I wrote during this process.</p> <p>I think that all expressions of grief capture something that is true, and leave out something that is true—including this one.</p> <p>Read it in that spirit.</p> <hr /> <p>Death is bad.</p> <p>Anyone who tells you otherwise has either not experienced it personally and individually, or is trying to find a way of coming to terms with just how bad it is.</p> <p>It is a tragedy—a loss of so many, <em>many</em> irreplaceable things.</p> <p>People who believe in an afterlife or a higher spiritual dimension might suggest that the person hasn’t really been lost at all. Why, therefore, should we cry? What has really been lost?</p> <p>But something significant <em>has</em> been lost:</p> <p>Relationships.</p> <p>What really is the value of life, if not this? What is it we struggle for, fight for, and remember about someone, if not their relationships? What do we live to do?</p> <p>We live to <em>be in relationship</em>—with people, animals, our bodies, the physical world.</p> <p>Most of us want long, healthy, productive and meaningful lives. We want to contribute to others in our community, our society, our family. We want to create new things, and fix old things. We want to share joy and jokes and stories with other people, who will then share joy and jokes and stories with us.</p> <p>Relationships, in the deepest sense, are who we are. We are not atomic, isolated, Cartesian minds—we are a deeply intertwined network of relationships, stretching out to the ends of the world.</p> <p>Death takes all of this away.</p> <p>I don’t want to mitigate this reality. I don’t want to hide from, or sugar-coat these facts. I want to know it and acknowledge it fully, for the all-embracing tragedy it is.</p> <p>In that way, I know that whatever hope I find, and whatever goodness I discover, is no mere coping mechanism for hiding from the truth.</p> <p>Whatever else I say, I want to know that it isn’t a shallow platitude, but something that can ring out through the halls of an ICU.</p> <hr /> <p>I think there’s something good that happens when we grieve.</p> <p>We focus our thoughts and memories, we take stock of a person’s impact on the world, we realize they reached far beyond what we might assume.</p> <p>We think of all the things we wish we had done. We process all the missed opportunities. We celebrate them and mourn them and love them.</p> <p>This is good, and I think that sometimes the goodness of it makes us think that death itself is desirable. Like maybe finitude is the value of life.</p> <p>But that’s a mistake. This process of bringing good out of bad requires life. This is what life is—it’s what life does. The goodness contained in grief isn’t brought to us by death. It’s created by life.</p> <p>Grief is a taste of resurrection. Life bringing life out of even death.</p> <hr /> <p>Death is a tragedy. That’s the reality of it.</p> <p>“Death is a doorway to a better life” …or… “Life is valuable because it is finite”</p> <p>Are both ways of saying that death is not <em>really</em> a tragedy. But I would rather just face the tragedy head-on.</p> <p>In a sense, my whole project is to figure out how <em>hope</em> can be real and meaningful, without ever backing away from the tragedy of our lived experience.</p> <p>The resolution is to recognize that tragedy is real—but that tragedy can be ameliorated, and eventually, overcome. And what we learn through the tragedy can make the final outcome better than it would have been.</p> <p>That’s redemption.</p> <p>And it requires our participation. We have to recognize tragedy for the horror it is, grieve it, and learn from it. Only then can we participate with life in overcoming that tragedy.</p> <p>But this is complicated. Thinking about death, the loss of someone is a tragedy, and it’s a tragedy that compounds. Even if they are resurrected, we will have lost immeasurable opportunities in between.</p> <p>That might indicate that death can be overcome, but never ceases to be a tragedy.</p> <p>Unless there’s something else.</p> <p>Perhaps if we learn from their loss, then their resurrection can do more than simply undo the loss. Perhaps it can create new, better possibilities for that relationship. Perhaps we can all make better choices on the other side, than we ever would have otherwise.</p> <p>If that’s a possibility, it’s one that requires us to be involved and engaged in learning from and seeking to overcome these tragedies.</p> <p>And that’s why I never want to draw back from any of it.</p> <p>Whatever the loss, I want to be there, in the flesh, experiencing that very real tragedy with all of my being.</p> More thoughts on (non)deterministic chaos, divine action and free will Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:96340401-97ef-321a-b6f5-f3e8978e22ec Wed, 23 May 2018 08:47:47 -0600 <figure><img alt="" src="*pw9J1R9A9SeT9MDqI4_Vyg.jpeg" /></figure><p>Some readers of “<a href="">Riddled with gaps: How the Old One plays at dice</a>” have objected to “chaotic evolution is really nondeterministic in principle” and insisted on “deterministic chaos.” Fine with me, provided my point is clear: In the physical universe, there’s plenty of room for divine action and free will.</p><p><a href="">I have cited</a> solid research works showing that, in simple dynamical systems with ultra-fractal “riddled basins” of attraction, the attractor that the system will eventually reach is undetermined, regardless of the accuracy of the starting point.</p><p>This can be shown to be the case in simple, isolated, classical dynamical systems described by simple equations, without having to invoke external noise or quantum mechanics.</p><p>In “<a href=""><em>Does God Play Dice?: The New Mathematics of Chaos</em></a>” (a highly recommended masterpiece), <a href="">Ian Stewart</a> notes that a system with two intermingled <a href="">riddled basins</a> is <em>seriously</em> unpredictable: “You can predict that eventually any chosen initial point will end up on either one attractor or the other, but you can’t predict which.”</p><blockquote>“As close as you like to initial points that end up on attractor 1 there exist initial points that go to attractor 2, and vice versa. Now the butterfly effect doesn’t just move points around on the same attractor — it can switch them from one attractor to the other.”</blockquote><p>A simple dynamical system with riddled basins of attraction is deterministic in the sense that it has a simple mathematical description without uncertain parts. One could think that, once the initial conditions are given accurately enough, the evolution of the system is determined and can be predicted.</p><p>But no, it doesn’t work. This is stronger than the “butterfly effect” (exponential amplification of small differences in initial conditions). Here, we are talking of zero difference in initial conditions. No accuracy short of the unattainable infinite precision of a mathematical real number will work.</p><p>It can be mathematically proven that (see “<a href="">The End of Classical Determinism</a>,” by John Sommerer, and references therein) that some simple dynamical systems have intermingled riddled basins: Any infinitesimal phase space neighborhood of any starting point contains, with full Lebesgue measure (that is, with nonzero density), points that will eventually end up on different attractors. See also the book “<a href=""><em>Transient Chaos: Complex Dynamics on Finite Time Scales</em></a>” (2011), by <a href="">Ying-Cheng Lai</a> and <a href="">Tamás Tél</a>.</p><p>Sommerer explains that there are starting points, arbitrarily close to an attractor, which still end up going to another attractor. There is also a dense and uncountably infinite set of starting points that never reach an attractor (imagine an endless pinball game).</p><p>Regardless of the accuracy of the starting point, the attractor that the system will eventually reach can’t be predicted even in principle. In other words, the evolution of the system is NOT determined. Only probabilities, proportional to local phase space densities, are determined.</p><p>So both terms (deterministic and nondeterministic) can be used, depending on what one wants to say. Like, a half-empty glass and a half-full glass are exactly the same thing, and calling the glass half-empty or half-full depends on the emphasis one wants to give. It depends on why one is talking about the glass.</p><p>Here, I want to protect free will from the threat of a totally deterministic universe (see “<a href="">Eligo, ergo sum</a>”). I consider free will as a very solid experimental fact.</p><p>I also want to protect the free will of the <a href="">cosmic intelligence</a>, aka God, which I believe exists in the bedrock of reality and acts upon the universe (divine action). As in <a href="">the previous post</a>, I’ll follow Einstein and call the cosmic intelligence “the Old One.” According to <a href="">Erwin Schrödinger</a> and <a href="">Eastern spiritual traditions</a>, our free will and the free will of the Old One are essentially one and the same.</p><p><a href="">Philipp Frank</a> used a circle perfectly balanced on the tip of a triangle in a vertical gravitational field to <a href="">illustrate nondeterminism in classical mechanics</a>. Any neighborhood of this starting point contains both points that will go to the left and points that will go to the right. It could be argued that this very special initial condition has zero probability, but riddled basins extend Frank’s example to finite probabilities: The tip of the triangle can be everywhere.</p><p>If a dynamical system starts in a riddled region of its phase space, there’s no way to tell, even in principle, to which attraction basin it belongs. The starting point is in a space-filling fat fractal boundary between different attraction basins, and can be thought of as being in all basins, with a potentiality to reach any attractor.</p><p>So, let the Old One choose (divine action).</p><p>Of course one is tempted to speculate on what it is exactly that the Old One DOES to PUSH the starting point into one specific basin. But the thing is, the Old One doesn’t have to push, because the point IS ALREADY THERE as far as we can know.</p><p>The Old One doesn’t have to spend energy to put the starting point in the right position. The Old One doesn’t have to shout, because an imperceptible whisper will do. Whatever it is that the Old One does, it seems more of a perception than an action.</p><figure><img alt="" src="*WKxLXSgX1-Jq5qUNfqhbZg.jpeg" /><figcaption>My Wife and My Mother-in-Law. They are both in this picture — Find them.</figcaption></figure><p>Think of “<a href="">My Wife and My Mother-in-Law</a>,” an optical illusion created by British cartoonist William Ely Hill in 1915 and published in <em>Puck</em> magazine with the caption “with the caption “They are both in this picture — Find them.” (h/t <a href="">Amit Goswami</a>).</p><p>You don’t have to DO anything substantial, like editing the picture with a pencil, to push a young woman or an old woman into the picture. Both women ARE ALREADY IN THE PICTURE, and you can choose to see one or the other with an insubstantial act of perception, without doing anything to the picture.</p><p>Werner Heisenberg <a href="">noted</a> that, in the rigorous formulation of the law of causality — “If we know the present precisely, we can calculate the future” — it is not the conclusion that is faulty, but the premise.</p><blockquote>“We simply can not know the present in principle in all its parameters. Therefore all perception is a selection from a totality of possibilities and a limitation of what is possible in the future.”</blockquote><p>Heisenberg had quantum physics in mind. But it can be argued that quantum behavior might emerge from nonlinear, strongly fractal chaotic dynamics in an underlying substrate. The collapse of a quantum state into one or another eigenstate might be thought of as the collapse of a chaotic dynamical system with riddled attraction basins into one or another attractor.</p><p>In “<em>Does God Play Dice?,</em>” Stewart outlines <a href="">Tim Palmer</a>’s <a href="">suggestion</a>, based on this analogy with riddled basins, that “quantum indeterminacy may perhaps be replaced by certain kinds of ‘hidden variable’ chaotic dynamic, provided that the chaos is sufficiently nasty.”</p><blockquote>“[The] spirit of the approach is mathematically sound. And Einstein would definitely have approved of the philosophy.”</blockquote><p>It’s worth noting that this approach suggests that the underlying mathematical models might be continuous, with Einstein’s differential geometry extended to fractal geometry. I think Einstein would have approved of this as well.</p><p>In <a href="">a talk</a> titled “ The Development Of Quantum Mechanics” (Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Roma, 1972), Paul Dirac <a href="">said</a>:</p><blockquote>“One can always hope that there will be future developments which will lead to a drastically different theory from the present quantum mechanics and for which there may be a partial return of determinism.”</blockquote><p>Dirac’s new quantum mechanics with a partial return of determinism might be provided by strongly fractal deterministic chaos, which I am calling nondeterministic. Feel free to call it deterministic if you like, labels don’t really matter. “<a href="">It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice</a>” (Deng Xiaoping). Here the mice are free will and divine action. This cat catches mice, so color it as you like.</p><p>These considerations suggest that, even if quantum behavior emerges from underlying “deterministic” mathematical laws, nature is still underdetermined, with gaps that leave room for free will and divine action.</p><p>It’s worth emphasizing that, if the underlying mathematical laws are deterministic in the sense that they don’t contain uncertain parts, free will and divine action can be thought of as emerging from inside in some way, as opposed to coming from outside.</p><p>Therefore, there’s no need to resort to mind/matter dualism. Monism is a viable philosophy, and there might be a self-consistent unified description of mind and matter.</p><p>Of course this is not a full theory, but an example of what physicist and Christian theologian <a href="">John Polkinghorne</a> calls thought experiments — “attempts to explore and try out ideas in a simplified way, rather than purporting to be complete solutions to the problem of divine action” (“<a href=""><em>Theology in the Context of Science</em></a>,” 2009).</p><p>Polkinghorne had <a href="">previously considered</a> (non)deterministic chaos as the most plausible entry point for divine action through system-level top-down causality, or active information. In “<a href=""><em>Theology in the Context of Science</em></a>,” Polkinghorne limits himself to pointing out that, while we really don’t know enough yet to say more, these thought experiments are worthwhile.</p><blockquote>“[The] plausibility [of top-down causality] demands some demands some form of causal analysis, however tentative, to indicate that there is genuine room for its operation… Interpreting intrinsic unpredictabilities as signs of ontological openness to the operation of other causal principles affords just such necessary room for manoeuvre.”</blockquote><p>I agree with Polkinghorne. We aren’t ready to understand divine action in more detail, but fractal chaos theory provides useful templates and directions.</p><p>In my thought experiment, the Old One whispers imperceptibly through fractal chaos to shape the evolution of the world. This is divine action. The whispers seem random, but that’s because we don’t have the decryption key and aren’t yet smart enough to find it.</p><p>I think we’ll one day develop the ability to whisper ourselves. Some really advanced civilizations out there might already be whispering alongside the Old One.</p><p>In the meantime, you and I are whispering along in a more limited way. My whispers have a special influence on the fractal chaos in my brain, and the same for you. This is personal free will.</p><p>In the book and TV documentary “<a href=""><em>The Colours of Infinity</em></a>,” starring among others <a href="">Arthur C. Clarke</a>, <a href="">Ian Stewart</a> and the “father of fractals” <a href="">Benoît Mandelbrot</a>, mathematician <a href="">Michael Barnsley</a> says:</p><blockquote>“This is how God created a system, which gave us free will.”</blockquote><p>In “<em>Does God Play Dice?,</em>” Stewart notes that the “texture of normal weather patterns” is an attractor for the dynamics of the Earth system, but dynamical systems can possess more than one attractor.</p><p>I think a “spontaneous” switch to a better attractor with much gentler weather patterns could be interpreted as divine action, freely willed by the Old One, or ultra-advanced technology indistinguishable from divine action.</p><p>Similarly, the Old One, perhaps aided by <a href="">future cosmic engineers</a>, might one day switch the entire universe to a better attractor with new forms of matter “arising from the divine transformation of present matter” (Polkinghorne).</p><p><a href=""><em>Cover picture</em></a><em> from “</em><a href=""><em>My Wife and My Mother-in-Law</em></a><em>” from Wikimedia Commons.</em></p><img src="" width="1" height="1"><hr><p><a href="">More thoughts on (non)deterministic chaos, divine action and free will</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> Be Thou My Vision, the Royal Wedding & Theosis Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:35e25507-1235-4415-6639-638d5465ed52 Sun, 20 May 2018 16:50:33 -0600 At the Royal Wedding yesterday, there was a brief moment when everyone in attendance, including the royal couple, sang together. What they were singing was Be Thou My Vision, one of the most beautiful hymns ever written. The hymn has origins deep ... <p><img src=",w_600/v1526866463/s8ciuynlzdb0e1yyrlyf.jpg" alt="Be Thou My Vision, the Royal Wedding &amp; Theosis" /></p> <p>At the Royal Wedding yesterday, there was a brief moment when everyone in attendance, including the royal couple, sang together. What they were singing was <a href=";index=36&amp;t=0s&amp;list=PL-S97LROgRNzo--DO8vVoRMQXFnBPYXXw" target="_blank">Be Thou My Vision</a>, one of the most beautiful hymns ever written. The hymn has origins deep in Irish history—perhaps even tracing back to Saint Patrick himself.</p> <p>But what may be even more beautiful than the haunting Celtic melody, is its profound meaning. This song, more than any other I can think of, evokes the ancient Christian concept of <em>theosis</em>.</p> <p><em>Theosis</em> literally means “divinization”. In Christian thought, it means becoming a “partaker of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4)—being united with God, such that God’s nature permeates and transforms your own.</p> <p>This is what we enact in Communion or Eucharist, symbolically consuming Christ’s body and blood, that we may be transformed into Christ’s body and blood.</p> <p>This is why Christ came, according to the church fathers. <em><a href="" target="_blank">“God became what we are, that we might become what he is.”</a></em></p> <p>One of the most poignant statements about this is in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians:</p> <blockquote> <p>And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)</p> </blockquote> <p>The image is of vision—of seeing face to face. In ancient times, according to Paul, people had covered their faces when approaching God. They could not see him, could not understand him. There was no intimate relationship.</p> <p>They longed to cross that chasm.</p> <p><em><a href="" target="_blank">My eyes shall see him, mine and not another</a></em>, echo the heart-wrenching words of Job.</p> <p>In the biblical story, humans were made in the image of God, made to reflect God’s glory to all creation. Thus, to see God dimly, through a covering, was to be disconnected from what we really are. It was to fall short of the glory of God.</p> <p><em><a href=";version=NIV" target="_blank">Now we see as in mirror—then we shall see face to face.</a></em></p> <p>In Christ, according to Paul, that covering has been ripped away. Now, we can look at God face to face. Now, in contemplating God, we are transformed into a vision of God.</p> <p>Every relationship transforms us. We become part of the other person, and they become part of us. We become increasingly like each other. The more clearly we see the other person, the more deeply they become part of who we are.</p> <p>To see God face-to-face is to be in a relationship deeper and more intimate than you can imagine. It is to know that God is within you, transforming you into God’s image and glory.</p> <p>The desire to look upon God, to have that relationship fill you and transform you in every way—to feel it as deep as love, and as strong as power—is what this song is about.</p> <p>-</p> <blockquote> <p>Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;<br /> Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.<br /> Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,<br /> Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.</p> <p>Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;<br /> I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;<br /> Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;<br /> Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.</p> <p>Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;<br /> Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;<br /> Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:<br /> Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.</p> <p>Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,<br /> Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:<br /> Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,<br /> High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.</p> <p>High King of Heaven, my victory won,<br /> May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!<br /> <em>Heart of my own heart</em>, whatever befall,<br /> Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.</p> </blockquote> My Biases on Bryan Johnson's Plan to Save Humanity Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:e56927ef-0952-d601-da2a-444fb92d7852 Thu, 17 May 2018 16:28:00 -0600 <img border="0" data-original-height="475" data-original-width="844" src="" /><br /><br />Tech entrepreneur Bryan Johnson has written a brief <a href="">plan for the future of humanity</a>. He's concerned about global catastrophic risks associated with technology. And he intends his plan to start a conversation, prefacing it with the disclaimer that he, like everyone else, has biases and shortcomings. So he's interested in hearing and understanding other perspectives on his plan. To that end, here are my own biased thoughts.<br /><a name='more'></a><br />Bryan says that less than 1% of humanity is future literate. He defines future literacy as the ability to forecast approximate milestones and create the capacity to reach them, regardless of contextual change. This sounds to me a lot like a definition of intelligence-in-general, which I consider to be the capacity to set and achieve goals across diverse contexts. With my definition of intelligence in mind, and relating it to Bryan's definition of future literacy, I'd say nearly 100% of humanity is future literate. The problem is not an absolute lack of future literacy or intelligence. The problem is that many of us, I think rightly, aspire to greater general future literacy and intelligence. So I agree with Bryan that we can and should do much better, but I think he's positioned his assessment in a manner that's too black-and-white and insufficiently generalized. It's too black-and-white because future literacy in not an all-or-nothing capacity. And it's insufficiently generalized because future literacy, as defined, seems indistinguishable from intelligence-in-general, and misrecognizing that may inhibit effective efforts at remediation.<br /><br />Following his definition of future literacy, Bryan remarks that, "if enough of us become future literate, we stand a chance of surviving ourselves." I agree with this&nbsp; observation, by definition, particularly when understood to be about intelligence-in-general. As we become better at setting and achieving goals across diverse contexts, we demonstrate that we are more intelligent. Again, this is not a hypothetical. It is simply true by definition.<br /><br /><b>Step One: Self Reflect</b><br /><br />Bryan then proceeds to describe the first of seven steps in his plan, which is to self reflect. He notes prevalent bias among humans, including the meta-bias that most of us think ourselves less biased than most others. And he characterizes prevalent human bias as a global catastrophic risk, "as real as an asteroid half the size of earth barreling towards us." He's right, undoubtedly, about the prevalence and risk of bias. But he frames bias and risk in a manner that seems rather absolutist and lop-sided to me. What I mean by that is that he seems to be suggesting, intentionally or not, that there's a possibility of non-bias, if only we can become intelligent enough. And he likewise seems not to be considering the opportunities of bias, which accompany its risks. I'd propose, as I seem quite unable to imagine otherwise, that bias is inherent in subjectivity. And to eliminate bias, we would need to annihilate ourselves. In fact, that which we value most about our humanity is probable bias. For example, what is love if not bias? Even the most altruistic love seems to me to be a bias toward life and against nihilism, which in itself cannot be somehow proven on strictly logical grounds as the "right" perspective. So perhaps instead of concerning ourselves quite so much with overcoming bias in general, we might concern ourselves more with reconciling between and among our various biases for mutual benefit. And that benefit should, I suspect, always remain firmly founded in that which we severally and diversely actually desire, according to our biases. That doesn't require moral relativism. And it doesn't require indiscriminate tolerance for biases that oppress others' harmless biases. There's much shared value to be attained, given our common environment and commonalities in anatomy.<br /><br />Bryan proposes that the best way to deal with prevalent human bias is admission. I agree that's an excellent first step. He seems to imply, suggesting anti-bias self reflection, that the next best step is work toward overcoming bias, with some non-biased end-state in mind. I disagree. I think that's ultimately nihilistic. Instead, I'd propose the next best step, after admission, is the hard and ongoing work of reconciliation. It's perhaps a kind of overcoming bias, but it's not done by aspiring to a non-biased end-state. It's done by aspiring to compatible and complementary biased end-states.<br /><br /><b>Step Two: Improve Ourselves</b><br /><br />The second step in Bryan's plan is that we should improve ourselves -- radically. He says, "after recognizing our flawed condition, the next step is to improve it." This sounds like the step of "repentance" in the transformation process described by Christianity (one of my biases). And he emphasizes that the most important way to improve ourselves would be to improve our cognition because, by doing so, we can improve everything else. I think that's mostly right, at least insofar as practical matters are concerned. Strictly speaking, of course, we cannot improve that which beyond our individual and collective ability to change. But insofar as we can change anything, it begins with cognition: with trust in the potential, observation about and reasoning on how best to interact with the world in a way to achieve the potential, and action driven my an internal motivation. It's all cognition of one form or another. So improving our cognitive capacities should do wonders for improving our world, at least in all the ways we're empowered to do so -- which may eventually be far greater than that which we can do now.<br /><br />Bryan mentions a few ways that he thinks we should improve our cognition. First, we should become more rational and logical. I agree with that, as long as we don't understand that to entail less emotional and intuitive. It's not an either-or.<br /><br />Second, he says we should overcome our biases. I commented on that above. As mentioned, I think acknowledging and reconciling biases would be a better way to frame and pursue this.<br /><br />Third, he says we should become less vulnerable to manipulation. I agree. But there's a fine line between some forms of manipulation and some forms of persuasion, and persuasion can certainly be good.<br /><br />Fourth, he says we should improve probabilistic thinking. I agree that's something that would benefit us enormously in all kinds of practical ways.<br /><br />Fifth, he says we should break free from constrained imaginations. I generally agree with this, but I think it's important that we recognize it can be taken too far in many ways. There have been many creative serial killers and genocidal maniacs.<br /><br />And sixth, he says we should liberate ourselves from belief systems that are no longer useful. I fully agree with this, to the extent they are genuinely no longer useful, and with the observation that I cannot ethically assess utility with only my own direct utility in mind.<br /><br />Bryan mentions several ways to improve cognition. He thinks meditation, supplements, exercise, education, self-help, and therapy are all useful. He's a supporter of work in psychedelics and entheogens. But he notes that we need to improve our cognition by orders of magnitude, and none of the available means, even in combination, is sufficient. I agree with this. Of course there's a risk, here, of undermining practicality and hope. And we should take that risk seriously. While hoping for and working toward greater means, we should continue to celebrate and advocate the means we have.<br /><br />At this point, Bryan exhibits the problem about which I expressed concern in his assessment of biases. He notes, rightly, that we are limited by our imaginations in our aspirations to improve cognition. But I suspect he may be exemplifying that limitation of imagination when we frames his aspirations in terms of "becoming perfectly logical, rational, and eliminating all blind spots." He has assumed that's possible. More significantly, he has assumed that's meaningful. He's expressing a great deal of epistemic humility and open-minded wonder about how we might improve our cognition, but he's doing it within the scope of an unquestioned assumption that there's such a thing as perfect logic and totally eliminated bias. Godel seems like sufficient grounds on which to question the possibility of at least any final or static perfect logic. And, as discussed before, I don't think total elimination of bias is desirable or even possible without annihilating cognition.<br /><br />Bryan shares some thoughts on the importance and relevance of AI in relation to human intelligence enhancement. I strongly agree with him on most of this. I trust we can and should and need to enhance human intelligence to complement AI. And I'm a huge fan of Bryan's work in this area, including Kernel, the business that he has launched.<br /><br />But I do have one item of clarification or perhaps disagreement to mention here. Bryan says that intelligence is the most powerful and precious resource in existence. I agree that intelligence-in-general, including that of humans and AI and their descendants, may prove to be the most powerful resource in existence. I hope so! But I think it's worth noting that intelligence-in-general is just power-in-general. And power-in-general is neither inherently greatest nor inherently precious. Returning to my definition of intelligence, as optimization across contexts for goals, even a flush toilet exhibits a limited amount of intelligence. But we rarely if ever consider our toilets the greatest or the most precious resources. Certain forms of intelligence, perhaps presently existing beyond our ability to observe and comprehend fully, or perhaps in our future, may become greater than anything we presently have the anatomical capacity to imagine. And yet other forms of intelligence already are and will remain most precious to us. They are that which we love most: perhaps friends and family, and perhaps ourselves. So, in lived estimation, there's not necessarily a high degree of overlap between the greatest and most precious resources in existence.<br /><br /><b>Step Three: Change Economic Incentives</b><br /><br />Bryan's third step in his plan for the future of humanity is to change economic incentives, particularly to make humans economically viable. He warns that our current economic incentives are structured to make humans irrelevant as fast as possible. The ROI on automation and artificial intelligence may be already higher and are surely growing faster than the ROI on human intelligence, Bryan points out. So we should buy more robots, and fire more humans. Then, if the humans are lucky, we can live on a universal basic income while the robots rule. Overall, I agree with Bryan that this is a real and growing, even momentous, risk.<br /><br />In the context of economic incentive, Bryan presents a criticism of Facebook, which he sees as a preeminent example of the problematic economic incentives. Overall, I agree that Facebook is operating on the problematic incentive model. But Bryan seems to me to be overstating the social consequences when suggesting that Facebook cultivates the "worst versions of ourselves." In my experience, I've observed some persons behaving worse sometimes because of Facebook and social media. But I've also observed some persons behaving better sometimes, also because of social media. It seems too narrow of a criticism only to blame social media for its negative consequences and not give it credit for anything positive that has come from it. For example, social media probably has heightened overall global empathy. And I think that's generally a good thing. So unless Bryan can make a stronger case for the evils of social media, I think his positioning would be stronger if his criticism were more nuanced.<br /><br />In any case, returning to the broken economic incentive model, Bryan suggests some ways that we might fix it. First, we might incentivize businesses to improve human cognition and not just manipulate us to make money. This is a challenging distinction. How do we discern legitimate exchange of value (money for cognitive improvement) from manipulation? And to what extent is that not actually happening already? I'm not sure. I'm hesitant to conclude that we're not already engaged in at least a significant amount of legitimate exchange. But I'm also hesitant to conclude that it's possible to know, in advance, that any given proposed exchange of this nature will not prove to be merely manipulative. There's a chicken-and-egg problem here. If I need cognitive enhancement, I may be inherently unable to discern whether the offered cognitive enhancement is what I need. And so I'm in a strange position, where I must trust, which arises from some amount of persuasion or manipulation, characterized based on whether and to what extent it's engaged ethically. And of course that's a rabbit hole of complexity.<br /><br />Second, Bryan says we might re-design political systems to make data-driven decisions rather than pander to wealth or well-organized special interests. This too is a challenging distinction. On what data do we base the decisions? Who decides? Assuming an altruistic response, we must all decide. We must all contribute to the data on which the system makes decisions. Historically, that would have been impossible at large scale. But it seems there may be hope for new systems of governance empowered by technologies such as blockchain, which Bryan mentions.<br /><br />Third, Bryan says we might start improve humans at a faster rate. This one seems problematically circular. It seems to be a suggestion that we can increase incentive for improving human intelligence by improving human intelligence. It may indeed be a virtuous cycle. I trust it is. But recognizing that doesn't, in itself, seem to offer a practical way to change incentives now, when we're concerned the virtuous cycle hasn't already begun.<br /><br />Fourth, and most important from Bryan's perspective, we might take control of our own digital data. This seems to be one of the main drivers for Bryan's negative attitude toward Facebook. He observes that Facebook and similar companies are gathering and using data about us as a resource that they own. Instead, he argues, we should change this so that we each own the data about ourselves. Then the data would be less likely to be used to exploit us and more likely to be used to improve us. And this could introduce the virtuous loop mentioned previously. I agree with Bryan on this. And I think he's right to emphasize this point, as I cannot presently imagine a way to improve the economic incentives for human cognitive enhancement that would be more effective and more imminently actionable.<br /><br /><b>Step Four: Accept Change</b><br /><br />The fourth step in Bryan's plan for the future of humanity is to accept change. And he has a particular change in mind: artificial intelligence. He suggests that it's pointless to waste energy on disliking it or working against it. It's here, and it's here to stay. So the effective choice, apparently, is only between waiting for it to evolve beyond us, or working to co-evolve with it.<br /><br />I strongly agree. This is a major driver of my identity as a Transhumanist. Purposeful futures for humanity depend on us using the means available to change not only our world, but also ourselves. That which doesn't change, dies and disappears. That which changes, adapting, achieving its goals, setting new ones, and repeating: that is, in a dynamic sense, the ultimate form of intelligence. The difference between great and small intelligence is only a matter of time when the small intelligence demonstrates the capacity to self-improve and the great intelligence does not.<br /><br />Artificial intelligence is, so far, an expression of human intelligence. I hope we keep it that way, continuing to integrate ourselves with it, co-evolving with it. Otherwise, we've reached the end of human history, and artificial intelligence will replace us. In either case, we're at a kind of end, or disruption, in the evolution of humanity. Biologically, it's time to change. We need better brains and bodies. So, as I see it, the effective choice is between the extinction of humanity or the co-evolution of human and machine intelligence into posthumanity.<br /><br /><b>Step Five: Build a Global Biological Immune System</b><br /><br />Bryan's fifth step in his plan for the future of humanity is to build a global biological immune system. He thinks this should be modeled after or is at least analogous to the digital immune system humanity has built, represented in the Internet, security software and hardware, and innumerable software engineers constantly working to ensure the stability of the system. And he hopes we can do the same for biology, genetics, chemistry, and related materials science. For his part, he has invested $100M of his own money, via his OS Fund venture fund, into companies working in these areas.<br /><br />Here, too, I agree with Bryan. Software facilitates and expedites integration of our intelligence with and extension of it into our world, generating feedback loops of unprecedented magnitude (at least locally, as I trust far greater intelligences than humans already exist). It's instrumenting time and space with our will. Some have said that "software is eating the world." I think there's something to that, but I'm not sure "eating" is quite the right metaphor. In any case, as software permeates the physical world, we are presented with the opportunity to build a far more robust physical environment for human survival and thriving, leveraging what we've learned from the digital world.<br /><br /><b>Step Six: Focus on the Right Things</b><br /><br />The sixth step in Bryan's plan for the future of humanity is to focus on the right things: more on the problems that we must solve to survive, and less on the problems that will we will probably solve thought the "normal course of human innovation, science, and grit." While I agree, in spirit, with Bryan's prioritization. I would express the difference and effective attitudes toward them a bit differently. Whereas he mentions early on that we should not work on the second kind of problem, he later seems to contradict himself by acknowledging that we will solve the second kind of problem through "innovation, science, and grit." Those are all work. So he's implying that we do need to work on the second kind of problem.<br /><br />But I think his intended point, and the one I agree with in spirit, is that there are some kinds of problems that we're already naturally inclined to work on, and there are other kinds of problems that we're actually naturally inclined to ignore. And some of the problems that we're naturally inclined to ignore are actually momentous, including global catastrophic risks. So the practical point of Bryan's warning is that we should more carefully prioritize the challenges we face and more carefully allocate our time and resources in accordance with that more careful prioritization. That doesn't mean no one should work on less important problems at all. To the contrary, someone must at least some of the time. But it's entirely possible to approach any set of problems as a portfolio, allocating weighted time and resources according to assessments of relative concern. So long as a given problem doesn't reach zero on the relative concern scale, at least some small amount of attention should still be given to it.<br /><br />Bryan suggests that we need to develop new systems to identify and allocate resources toward global catastrophic risks that are not receiving enough attention. Echoing concerns he expressed earlier about a lack of incentive to improve human cognition, he observes that our current political and economic systems excessively reward problem-solving aimed at short term concerns in general, at the expense of long term problem solving. I think he's right.<br /><br />But I'll note, again, that we wouldn't want to focus exclusively on long term thinking. That's a recipe for disaster, subsequent to analysis-paralysis. It's a lesson we've learned in the software world, which for many years relied on large scale long term "waterfall" style planning of projects that ended up wasting time and resources without ever coming to completion. As we've become better at software development, we've learned to use more "agile" forms of project management, which aim for more incremental progress and dynamic planning. This shouldn't be an excuse for a lack of identifying over-arching values and risks to attaining them, and allowing that analysis to flow into agile decision-making. But it's important to keep in mind that there are risks of excess in both directions.<br /><br /><b>Step Seven: Update Our OS</b><br /><br />As step seven in his plan for the future of humanity, Bryan says we should update our OS, which he uses as a metaphor for our belief systems. He says that the anatomy of our brains is ancient, and our belief systems aren't much better. And this is important, he observes, because belief systems are the "most powerful technology to facilitate mass human cooperation and also one of our biggest liabilities." Their power is exhibited in She Lives Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:53cdd34b-b352-af59-2152-b8beed78564b Tue, 15 May 2018 07:14:56 -0600 <p>Imagine what it would be like to hear as much about Heavenly Mother as we do Heavenly Father. Imagine if we spoke of Her as often as we do of Him. Imagine if we worshiped Her as vocally and immersively as we do Him. Imagine if the <a target="_blank" href="">King Follett sermon</a> were written about Her just as much as Him. I imagine it might change the way women envision their godly potential.</p><p>I imagine Joseph's sermon would sound something like this:</p><p>If women do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves. I wish to go back to the beginning, and lift your minds into more lofty spheres and a more exalted understanding than what the human mind generally aspires to. It is necessary for us to have an understanding of God herself in the beginning. Turn to your hearts. What kind of being God is? Ask yourselves, have any of you seen Her, heard Her, or communed with Her? The scriptures tell us that life eternal is to know the only true God, but who here knows Her?</p><p>Today, I testify that She lives. I want you all to know Her and be familiar with Her. She speaks when we speak. Whether by Her voice or the voice of Her servants, it is the same. Today, we are about our Mother’s business.</p><p>Let others not meddle with any woman for her religion. All governments ought to permit every woman to enjoy her religion unmolested in pursuit of religious freedom—even without molestation from patriarchal governance. The Mother does not belong to the patriarchs. Her narrative is not theirs to control. She doesn’t need protection from Her children. To suggest that She needs protection from Her offspring is the sort of hubris the scriptures warn us of. We are in error to believe we could injure our Creator enough to require patriarchy’s paternal protection. &nbsp;She can unflinchingly withstand the petulant tantrums of Her imperfect children because She is God. She has the power of the Almighty in Her being.</p><p>I am going to tell you how God came to be God. God herself was once as we are now, and is an exalted woman, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by Her power, was to make herself visible, you would see her like a woman in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a woman. Eve was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked, and conversed with Her, as one woman talks and communes with another. The Mother, too, is eternally progressing. We are co-eternal with Her. We each have her Divine potential within us. She is in me. She is in you. The scriptures say if you have done it unto one of the least of these Her children, you have done it unto Her.</p><p>These ideas are incomprehensible to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with Her as one woman converses with another, and that She was once a woman like us; yea, that God herself, the Mother of us all, dwelt on an earth. But how else does a woman come to know God without worshiping and emulating Her? How do we reach our Divine potential, if not to follow in Her footsteps?</p><p>Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be queens and priestesses to God, the same as all gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and sit enthroned in everlasting power.&nbsp;It is meant for every woman who desires to receive it, and it is right to rebuke those that would thwart a woman from her heavenly inheritance.</p><p>When we begin to learn this way, we begin to learn the only true God, and what kind of a being we worship. Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach Her, and how to ask so as to receive an answer. When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Her, She begins to unfold the heavens to us. When we are ready to come to Her, She is ready to come to us.</p><p>In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and prepared a plan to create the world and populate it. The Godhead is incomplete without Her. It is only though the union of man and woman, in a cooperative partnership of plural genders, that God can attain the highest glory. God is not God without Her and Him in union, plural in nature, each made in the image of their Creator. It is in plurality of partnerships, relationship, diversity, comradery, and unions that we may attain eternal life.</p><p>God herself is an embodied Creator. She is as black as the night sky and as bright as the noon-day sun. She knows creation, birth, and generation. She created not from ex nihilo, but organized eternal elements; the same as a woman would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter. Element had an existence from the time She had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning and can have no end. Eternity is in constant motion.</p><p>She holds the keys of priesthood which enable all life and flourishing. Her priesthood power operates by persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and pure knowledge. Her power doesn’t require harsh tones or fearmongering from a God of wrath, because Her priesthood power is found in love unfeigned. There is no fear in love. She loves. O, how She loves. She loves deeply, endlessly, unconditionally. She loves all Her children. God so loved the world that She sent Her son. Through Her power and the sacrifice of Her son we are afforded redemption to join the Gods in eternal life. Priesthood power is the power by which mortal bodies will be resurrected immortal, glorified by God according to their works while in mortality. Her power will swallow up death in victory and She will wipe away the tears off all faces. For this is Her work and glory—to bring to pass the immortality of eternal life of Her children.</p><p><a target="_blank" href="">*Published at Rational Faiths on Tuesday, May 15, 2018</a></p> Wesley Smith Lies About Transhumanism Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:22bc5c87-95b1-8167-d417-2ee08b8a8b01 Mon, 14 May 2018 21:33:00 -0600 <img border="0" data-original-height="475" data-original-width="844" src="" /><br /><br />Wesley Smith at the National Review is <a href="">writing about Transhumanism</a> again. And again, he's misrepresenting Transhumanism and its relationship with religion. These misrepresentations are not the only problems with his latest article. For example, he's also engaging in poor reasoning about the potential of brain emulation and the nature of consciousness. But I'm going to ignore the technical topics (where Wesley is easily excused) and focus on the ideological topics, where Wesley should know better.<br /><a name='more'></a><br />In particular, I have three criticisms of Wesley's latest article. First, despite Wesley's implication, Christianity doesn't entail immaterialism. Second, to the contrary of Wesley's characterization, Transhumanism doesn't entail atheism or apostasy. And third, again contrary to Wesley's characterization, Transhumanism doesn't entail amorality or egocentrism.<br /><br /><b>Christianity Does Not Entail Immaterialism</b><br /><br />Wesley observes that Transhumanists aspire to immortality in the material world. He's right, at least in regards to the aspirations of most Transhumanists. But then he goes on to say that such an aspiration would give "new meaning" to the words of the apostle Paul. Here are the words to which Wesley is referring:<br /><br />"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.'"<br /><br />Wesley doesn't come out and state, explicitly, what he thinks the true meaning of Paul's words would be. But he implies that it would be immortality in the immaterial world. Why does he think that? I can only speculate. But maybe he has in mind the preceding sentence in Paul's epistle:<br /><br />"I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable."<br /><br />But it's a logical fallacy to reason that not-flesh-and-blood implies immaterial. There are innumerable material things that are not flesh and blood. For example, some Transhumanists imagine that immortality may be possible in bodies that are computational substrates for emulated brains. Such bodies would remain quite material, but they wouldn't be flesh and blood -- at least not as we presently know flesh and blood, although they could incorporate emulated flesh and blood.<br /><br />Moreover, and perhaps most surprisingly to advocates of immaterialist interpretations of Paul's words, both flesh-but-not-blood and blood-but-not-flesh are not-flesh-and-blood. That's how the logic works. This may seem like a tedious observation at first. But there's actually a Biblical reason why this matters.<br /><br />When the the resurrected Jesus (yes, the immortal version of Jesus) appears to his disciples in Luke 24, the disciples are afraid. Why? Because he just appears among them. So they think they're seeing a ghost. Responding to their fear, Jesus says:<br /><br />"Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."<br /><br />Do these words contradict Paul's claim (written chronologically before the text of the Gospel of Luke)? Is the Bible being inconsistent here? No. Note carefully the word selection. The immortal Jesus says he has "flesh and bones." Paul writes, "flesh and blood" cannot be immortal. Logically, these statements are consistent. Luke is not contradicting Paul. And it's both reasonable and entirely Christian to think that Luke may be clarifying Paul.<br /><br />So who is giving new meaning to the words of the apostle Paul? Luke? Or Wesley? In either case, Transhumanists are in solid Christian company with Luke.<br /><br /><b>Transhumanism Does Not Entail Atheism or Apostasy</b><br /><br />Wesley goes on to claim that most Transhumanists are atheist, "with a scattering of agnostics and apostate religionists thrown in." This statement is wrong in two ways. First, most Transhumanists probably are NOT atheist. I've watched polls of Transhumanist demographics for many years. I've only ever seen a minority of respondents identify as atheist. Historically, most have identified as agnostic or non-religious. And the proportion of religious Transhumanists has increased persistently over time.<br /><br />Wesley loves to reference Zoltan Istvan whenever he writes about Transhumanism. That's because Zoltan is a convenient target for Wesley's audience. Zoltan has a history of equivocating between Transhumanism and atheism, as well as a history of sensationalist and indiscriminate attacks on religion. If you're a conservative Christian, you can hardly ask for a better foil than Zoltan. Zoltan sells conservative Christian fear-mongering.<br /><br />As it turns out, though, despite his high profile, Zoltan is not representative of Transhumanists in general. He is a controversial figure. When Zoltan ran for president, and used antireligiosity as a tool to garner attention, I organized a group of Transhumanists to disavow Zoltan's candidacy. That group included several notable and influential Transhumanists. Our respective reasons for disavowing Zoltan's candidacy varied, but we shared a common concern with the manner in which Zoltan represented us.<br /><br />The second way in which Wesley's statement is wrong is in regards to his claim that religious Transhumanists are apostate. I'm a founder of two of the largest groups of religious Transhumanists in the world, the Mormon Transhumanist Association and the Christian Transhumanist Association. Most members in both of these organizations are also practicing members of traditional religious organizations. And after nearly a decade and a half of networking with my fellow religious Transhumanists, I don't know of even one who has been disciplined by a traditional religious organization for being a Transhumanist -- not one. By that measurement, we're clearly not apostate.<br /><br />Maybe Wesley simply means that religious Transhumanists are apostate from HIS version of religion. If so, yes, we are indeed. And thank God for that! Based on past interactions with Wesley, I know he considers himself an "orthodox Christian" (or at least once did). But make no mistake, he's not what most of the world would call an "orthodox Christian." He's not an advocate of interpretations from the eastern branch of Christianity. Rather, what he and others like him mean by "orthodox" when referring to themselves is, functionally, that they're right. The rest of us aren't orthodox because we're wrong. It's typical sectarianism.<br /><br />As I recall, again based on past interactions, Wesley would have you believe that his self-assessed rightness is also objectively based, at least in part, on the numerical advantage that American Christian conservatives have over, say, Christian Transhumanists. But there are FAR more Orthodox Christians in the East than there are Christian Conservatives in America that consider themselves orthodox. And the more numerous orthodox would probably consider Wesley apostate. So much for apostasy.<br /><br /><b>Transhumanism Does Not Entail Amorality or Egocentrism</b><br /><br />Next, Wesley charges Transhumanists with arrogance. Why? Because, in his characterization, we reject moral consequence. Okay. So Transhumanists, like "orthodox Christians" and every other class of humans, can be arrogant. No sense denying that. But is that vice actually entailed by the Transhumanist ideology? No. It is not. And Wesley's claim that Transhumanism eschews moral consequence is, quite simply, wildly unfounded.<br /><br />Here's a solid definition of Transhumanism: advocacy for the ethical use of technology to extend human abilities. Most self-identifying Transhumanists would be okay with this definition. And it's consistent with the Transhumanist Declaration, which many Transhumanists esteem to be a good outline of the core principles of the ideology.<br /><br />A key component of this definition is "ethical." Transhumanism is not merely technological cheerleading. It is as much about identifying and mitigating risks as it is about pursuing opportunities. In other words, Transhumanists, at least in word, care as much about consequence as anyone else who claims to care about ethics.<br /><br />Moreover, there's nothing in the definition of Transhumanism that entails egotism. Wesley wants you to believe that a Transhumanist must be in it just to serve one's self. But unfortunately for his case, there are numerous Transhumanists who passionately talk about and persistently act on an interest to extend human abilities for altruistic purposes. And many of us even consider egotism to be not only incompatible with ethics generally, but also a serious risk to our shared future as technology continues to distribute power to individuals at unprecedented magnitudes -- egotism may become a global catastrophic risk.<br /><br />Finally, here's the intractable problem for Wesley -- he suggested an intractable problem for Transhumanists, and I have one for him. Wesley already knows, or should know, most of what I've written here regarding his mischaracterizations of Transhumanism. He should know that he has persistently misrepresented us. I and others have explained it to him before, repeatedly. He has apparently ignored us before, repeatedly. Why? I believe Wesley has ignored us because it's far too inconvenient for him to acknowledge the truth. His work and reputation depend on cultivating and perpetuating a bogey man. He should know better. He should be YEARS beyond the point of innocent misunderstanding. But he proceeds with what appears to be intentional deception. And that is the definition of lying.<br /><br />Say it's not so, Wesley.<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/> Technology is Nature Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:6abeb9f9-357d-35d0-a215-48d9327dfe3b Sat, 12 May 2018 13:10:52 -0600 <p>Technology is an essential and natural part of human evolution. That may seem like a controversial statement so allow me to expand. Technology, broadly defined, is a tool or application of knowledge to serve a practical purpose. Some might recoil at the thought of technology being a part of nature or a tool of evolution, but I contend technology is nature.</p><p>The use of technology is a pattern well established in the natural world. For example, when a spider spins a web she is using the natural elements of her environment and body to produce a piece a technology to serve the practical purpose of catching her food. The web functions as a net, a common technology also used by humans to capture food.</p><p>When a beaver family works together to build a dam from timber, rocks, moss, and mud, they are using the elements of their environment to create rudimentary technologies and architectural structures. Beaver dams filter billions of tons of water every year and function as a highly sophisticate water filtration system. Beavers have been acting as technologists by gnawing through forests for over 20 million years.</p><p>The caddisfly is capable of constructing their own portable casing that acts as protective layer as they look for food. As resourceful architects they can use building materials from almost anything found in their environment in conjunction with the silk secreted from salivary glands in the mouth. This protective casing could be thought of a armor or a portable fort to protect itself from predators.</p><p>Even more impressive are cathedral termite mounds that are temperature controlled! Water condensation collects and cools the interior and some termites even maintain underground fungi gardens that feed the bustling metropolis that is the termite colony. The list goes on and on: bees, wasps, red ovenbirds, montezuma oropendola, weavers, and ants. These animals are natural born technologist creating tools to serve a specific and practical purpose.</p><p>Humans, too, are a part of the animal world using the elements of the environment to create tools, technologies, and dwellings to further the survival, perpetuation, and desires of our species. When the first prehuman picked up a stick to hit a piece of fruit out of a tree, that prehuman became a primitive technologist using the stick for a specific, practical purpose. Humans have been doing it even since. When prehumans started using sharp stones for hunting and building they were acting as primitive technologists. Sure, metals proved to be more versatile and useful materials which is why we don’t use stone tools anymore, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t engaging in similar behaviors. Moving from the stone age, to the bronze age,&nbsp;to the industrial age, to the technological age is more a reflection of our improved technologies rather than technology emerging as a new phenomenon.</p><p>Today we are expanding our abilities with even more complex and sophisticated technologies with advance forms or architecture, agriculture, and medicine. We have septic systems that prevent disease and death. We have vaccinations and surgical procedures that enhance health and mobility. We have computers and smart phones. The internet alone has transformed the landscape of human communication in unprecedented ways. But just like our prehuman ancestors, our technologies are the natural extension of human desires created from the materials of our environment, similar to spiders, beavers, caddisflies, and termites.</p><p>There’s no need to make a necessary moral distinction between what is technology and what is nature, when technology is nature. Humans are nature interacting with nature. It appears if we are anything like the many other species on the planet, transcending our boundaries and limitations with our technology is among the most natural things we do.</p> The Tower of Babel Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:87b4bd16-2192-5c59-aca8-73d02e94bc52 Fri, 11 May 2018 08:30:41 -0600 Perhaps no biblical story has captivated people’s imaginations like the Tower of Babel. In this story, a group of people get together to build a tower tall enough to reach heaven—from which they intend to launch an all-out war on God himself. God ... <p><img src=",w_600/v1526049036/iqnbl1ls8zem4rcgpole.jpg" alt="The Tower of Babel" /></p> <p>Perhaps no biblical story has captivated people’s imaginations like the Tower of Babel. In this story, a group of people get together to build a tower tall enough to reach heaven—from which they intend to launch an all-out war on God himself. God sees what the people are building, and furious at their hubris, destroys the tower, and condemns humanity to the Earth.</p> <p>Or something like that. That’s not really in the Bible, but it’s what a lot of people hear and repeat. It’s almost like they mashed up the biblical story with the story of Icarus, Prometheus, and Jack &amp; the Beanstalk.</p> <p>And every time someone feels like humanity is advancing too fast, they pull out this story, and try to slap people down with it.</p> <p>In doing so, they may be unwittingly enacting the Sin of Babel themselves.</p> <h3 id="the-tower-to-nowhere">The Tower to Nowhere</h3> <p>In the Bible, the Tower of Babel has a context. When God created humanity, he created them in his image, made them godlike (Genesis 1:26-28), and instructed them to participate in his work, creating and cultivating the life of the world, just as he had done.</p> <p>Growing into that immense role would take time, though. The very first thing humanity had to do was to become a planetary species.</p> <p>These are God’s first instructions to humanity: be fruitful and multiply (so there would be more humans to help), and <em>fill the earth</em>—so that the work could be truly global in scope.</p> <p>God had given these instructions in Genesis 1, but after Noah’s flood, the mission was relaunched, and God reiterated these instructions to the people emerging from the Ark:</p> <blockquote> <p>Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and <strong>fill the earth</strong>.” (Genesis 9:1)</p> </blockquote> <p>And that’s exactly what humans started doing.</p> <p>But then someone had a different idea.</p> <blockquote> <p>“Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be <strong>scattered over the face of the whole earth</strong>.” (Genesis 11:4)</p> </blockquote> <p>There’s a lot going on here. Notice, first of all, they’re not setting out to build a tower, they’re setting out to build a <em>city</em>.</p> <p>In the book of Genesis, this is a red flag—so far, the good guys are nomads, spreading out across the landscape, <em>filling the earth</em>, while the bad guys are city-builders, murderous tyrants trying to batten down the hatches, surround themselves with walls, and hold their ground.</p> <p>The Bible’s first city-builder? Cain, right after he slew Abel.</p> <p>Sure enough, there’s something very similar going on here. Why do they want this city, and why does this city need to have a tower?</p> <p>According to their own account, they’re doing this to make a name for themselves, so that they can avoid being <em>scattered over the face of the earth</em>.</p> <p>It’s a brilliant idea. If they make the most famous city ever, no one will ever want to leave. People will be so proud of where they’re from, no one will ever venture out to explore new possibilities or new places.</p> <p>And here’s the crux of the problem. They were <em>supposed</em> to be exploring new possibilities and new places. God had <em>just told them</em> to scatter over the face of the earth. That was part of their mission, part of what they needed to do to keep growing, so they could become the planetary species God had always intended them to be.</p> <p>God wanted humanity to grow—these people wanted things to stay the same.</p> <p>They were rejecting God’s mission of ongoing change and growth, and choosing instead to aggressively defend the ways things were.</p> <p><strong><a href="“Defending%20the%20way%20things%20are%2C%20at%20the%20expense%20of%20a%20better%20future%2C%20is%20the%20Sin%20of%20Babel%2E”&amp;url=;via=micahtredding" class="tweet-this" target="_blank">Defending the way things are, at the expense of a better future, is the Sin of Babel.</a></strong></p> <h3 id="gods-answer-to-tyranny">God’s Answer to Tyranny</h3> <blockquote> <p>But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” (Genesis 11:5-6)</p> </blockquote> <p>They had started work on their project, and sure enough, God confirms that humanity was powerful enough to build these kinds of things. After all, God had <em>made</em> them that powerful.</p> <p>So what’s God’s problem with this?</p> <p>According to what God says, the problem is not the tower—it’s that this tower indicates that <em>the rest</em> of their plans are within reach.</p> <p>Including the plan to never, ever leave. If they don’t want to fill the earth, they won’t.</p> <p>The grand project God intended for the human race will come to an end right here, as they get absorbed in a project specifically designed to thwart God’s intentions for continued growth.</p> <p>This wasn’t just a one-time issue. Even if God stopped this project, the next project would spring up, and the next, and the next. Humanity seems intent on defending the ways things are, at the expense of the much greater future God intends.</p> <p>What kind of society engages in grandiose building projects just to make itself famous? What kind of society is determined to make sure no one ever leaves? What kind of society would every Jewish family think of, when hearing a name that sounds like the root word of “Babylon”?</p> <p><em>Tyranny.</em></p> <p>Over and over in the biblical story, tyranny is what stands opposed to God’s plans for humanity. The tyranny of Egypt, Babylon, and Rome stand against newness and growth and life. Right here in the beginning, we’re seeing just how destructive this kind of tyranny can be—if nothing is done, it will erase the glorious future of the human race.</p> <p>So God comes up with a plan of his own.</p> <p>God will introduce linguistic diversity into the human race. Diversity will disrupt tyranny, making it hard for there to be any single source of power. Without a single source of power, there will be a world of plurality and difference, and no one will ever be able to completely eradicate change.</p> <p><strong><a href="“Diversity%20is%20God%E2%80%99s%20answer%20to%20tyranny%2E”&amp;url=;via=micahtredding" class="tweet-this" target="_blank">Diversity is God’s answer to tyranny.</a></strong></p> <p>That’s exactly what God does, introducing a diversity of languages. And so, as the story sums up, the project grinds to a halt, people go back to spreading and exploring, and humanity is <em>scattered over the face of the whole earth</em> (Genesis 11:9).</p> <p>Just as God always intended.</p> <p>It’s remarkable what’s not here. God doesn’t destroy their tower. God doesn’t forbid them from building new towers. God doesn’t even forbid them from building cities—though a righteous city-builder will take a few more generations to come along. God doesn’t show any indication of being furious with them, let alone being afraid they’re about to storm his gates.</p> <p>The whole story is about this: Will humanity continue to spread out and grow, as God intended, or will they build power structures that defend the way things are, and resist the ongoing process of change?</p> <p>God, seeing that humans keep being drawn to oppressive power structures, introduces diversity as an answer to tyranny. God’s plan works, these growth-rejecting projects are thwarted, and humanity goes back to growing into a planetary species.</p> <h3 id="reversing-babel">Reversing Babel</h3> <p>That’s the end of the Babel story in Genesis. But it’s not really the end of the story in the Bible.</p> <p>In the New Testament, when the Christian church is launched on the day of Pentecost, the Tower of Babel is symbolically reversed. Where Babel marks the introduction of the confusion of different languages, Pentecost marks the beginning of a new unity, where everyone can understand each other.</p> <p>Pentecost doesn’t do this by eliminating all the diversity God introduced at Babel. Instead, it does this by equipping people to understand and appreciate that diversity. The brand-new Christians find that they can communicate in different languages, and understand people from far different backgrounds.</p> <p>Babel was a moment when humanity turned in on itself, and threatened to become tyrannical, self-absorbed, and stagnant. With the introduction of diversity, God saved humanity from tyranny, and gave it back its mission.</p> <p>But it came with a downside. Diversity cost humanity its unity.</p> <p>At Pentecost, that dilemma is finally answered. In partnership with God, we can bring about greater unity through—and not in spite of—our diversity. In partnership with God, we can learn to understand and appreciate each other’s differences, and be stronger for it.</p> <p>And that’s all part of God’s plan for us to move beyond the way things are, toward the much greater future God intends.</p> Riddled with gaps: How the Old One plays at dice Mormon Transhumanist Association External Opinions urn:uuid:c371cd11-b24e-783c-da93-997012c4f342 Thu, 10 May 2018 23:51:43 -0600 <figure><img alt="" src="*g2fltvo6G0ZWwzPrlM01Ng.jpeg" /></figure><p>I think there are strong arguments to support the idea that chaotic evolution in classical (non-quantum) physics is not only unpredictable in practice, but also undetermined in principle, with plenty of room for divine action.</p><p>If nature is undetermined in principle (the future is not uniquely determined by the present), then divine action can take place without violating natural laws.</p><p>By “divine action” I mean not only God’s action, but also the action of apparently “<a href="">supernatural</a>” technologies used by hyper-advanced civilizations in the cosmos (hopefully including future humanity). In other words, intelligent life might learn and use God’s tricks.</p><p>Some readers said that they prefer calling G “the Cosmic Mind” or something like that. I think it’s pretty much the same thing, but here I’ll follow Einstein and call G “the Old One.”</p><p>In <a href="">a letter to Max Born</a>, Einstein said that quantum nondeterminism “is not yet the real thing.”</p><blockquote>“The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the ‘old one’. I, at any rate, am convinced that He is not playing at dice.”</blockquote><p>Einstein wanted a fully deterministic universe. Born disagreed, and pointed out that even classical physics is nondeterministic, because computing the future with absolute certainty would require specifying the initial conditions (the present) with the infinite precision of a real number. In his <a href="">1954 Nobel Prize lecture</a>, Born said:</p><blockquote>“As a mathematical tool the concept of a real number represented by a nonterminating decimal fraction is exceptionally important and fruitful. As the measure of a physical quantity it is nonsense… concepts which correspond to no conceivable observation should be eliminated from physics… the determinism of classical physics turns out to be an illusion, created by overrating mathematico-logical concepts.”</blockquote><p>According to Born, since every conceivable observation has a margin of uncertainty, classical physics should be formulated in terms of statistical distributions.</p><p><a href="">Chaos theory</a> brings Born’s approach to the surface. In fact, even in classical (non-quantum) physics, many mathematical models exhibit deterministic chaos. These models are deterministic (the future is uniquely determined by the present), but strongly sensitive to initial conditions. Small initial differences are amplified exponentially in time, which makes prediction impossible in practice.</p><p>The weather is nonlinear, dissipative, chaotic, and impossible to predict in practice. This is often illustrated with the <a href="">butterfly effect</a>: A flap of a butterfly’s wings “could lead to a tornado that would not otherwise have formed, [or] equally well prevent a tornado that would otherwise have formed” (<a href="">Edward Lorenz</a> in “<a href=""><em>The Essence of Chaos</em></a>”).</p><p>The chaotic behavior of a dynamical system can be intuitively visualized with phase (state) space portraits and trajectories. A highly recommended book is “<a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1525673103&amp;sr=1-3&amp;keywords=dynamics+geometry+behavior%22"><em>Dynamics: The Geometry Of Behavior</em></a>,” by <a href="">Ralph Abraham</a> and Christopher Shaw, a masterpiece of “visual math” with plenty of illustrations and no conventional formulas. For a more conventional introduction, try “<a href=""><em>Chaotic Dynamics: An Introduction Based on Classical Mechanics</em></a>”, by <a href="">Tamás Tél</a> and Márton Gruiz.</p><p>The trajectory of a real-world (dissipative and nonlinear) <a href="">dynamical system</a> in its phase space eventually reaches an <a href="">attractor</a>, which can be geometrically simple or strange as a fractal. All trajectories that start in the attraction basin of an attractor eventually reach the attractor.</p><p>What if the system starts exactly on the boundary between two different attraction basins? It seems that the system, unable to choose between the two attractors, could only make a random choice.</p><p>But (using Born’s argument against him) one could reply that a point exactly on the boundary is a mathematical abstraction: The starting point must be on either one or the other side of the boundary, and in principle we can always specify the starting point accurately enough to be in either one or the other basin, even when the boundary is mildly fractal.</p><p>If the boundary is fractal, the precision needed to determine which attraction basin contains the starting point increases with the fractal dimension of the boundary. The system will wander chaotically for some time near the boundary, and eventually reach the attractor that corresponds to the starting point.</p><p>But chaotic behavior can be more complex, and undetermined not only in practice, but also in principle. Enter ultra-fractal “riddled basins,” for which nothing short of the infinite precision of a mathematical real number will work.</p><h4>Ultra-fractal riddled basins</h4><figure><img alt="" src="*WzyZictkED8S5S_QpJ8exA.jpeg" /></figure><figure><img alt="" src="*EgknZyZ7gOP0Kk77oZi_tg.jpeg" /></figure><p>A riddled basin is a “basin of attraction [with] the property that every point in the basin has pieces of another attractor’s basin arbitrarily nearby,” explains the review paper “<a href="">Fractal structures in nonlinear dynamics</a>” (2009), by J. Aguirre et al.</p><p>In other words, a set of intermingled riddled basins can be thought of as a space-filling “fat fractal” boundary between different attraction basins.</p><p>A system that starts on the boundary stays on the boundary, but the boundary is space-filling and contains (in the sense of extending arbitrarily close to) the attractors.</p><p>Every neighborhood of the starting point, no matter how small, contains points that will eventually reach different attractors.</p><p>Therefore, no matter how accurate is the specification of the starting point, the attractor that the system will eventually reach is undetermined.</p><p>This is worth repeating in boldface: <strong>Regardless of the accuracy of the starting point, the attractor that the system will eventually reach is undetermined</strong>.</p><p>Riddled basins, which have been found in many dissipative systems described by simple maps and differential equations, “show that totally deterministic systems might present in practice an absolute lack of predictability,” note Aguirre at al. See also the book “<a href=""><em>Transient Chaos: Complex Dynamics on Finite Time Scales</em></a>” (2011), by <a href="">Ying-Cheng Lai</a> and <a href="">Tamás Tél</a>.</p><p>I suspect that the fractal depth of riddled basins might be widespread in real-world, dissipative dynamical systems, and be the rule rather than the exception. If so, chaotic evolution is really nondeterministic in principle.</p><p>Nature “knows” (or, the Old One knows) the starting point of the system as an infinitely precise real number. But we can’t know the starting point with infinite precision, and any finitely precise starting point contains the possibility of different outcomes.</p><h4>What about quantum physics?</h4><p>One could think that this argument is wrong because quantum physics, not classical physics, seems to be fundamental. But, if we switch to quantum physics, we must deal with another source of nondeterminism: The (apparently random) collapse of quantum states upon observation.</p><p>There are conceptual parallels between riddled basins in dynamical systems and quantum physics: In both cases, an initial state contains (can be considered as a “superposition” of) different possible outcomes. After the discovery of riddled basins in 1992 some scientists (e.g. <a href="">Tim Palmer</a> in ”<a href="">A local deterministic model of quantum spin measurement</a>”) have suggested dynamical models for quantum collapse.</p><p>While no solid theory has emerged so far, I have the impression that this research program is worth pursuing. Analogies between dynamical systems with riddled basins and quantum systems could lead to physical (but still nondeterministic) models for quantum behavior. See for example the draft paper “<a href="">Entanglement, symmetry breaking and collapse: correspondences between quantum and self-organizing dynamics</a>,”by <a href="">Francis Heylighen</a>.</p><h4>The physics of divine action</h4><p>In “<a href=""><em>The Law of Causality and its Limits</em></a>” (1932), <a href="">Philipp Frank</a> distinguished between two conceptions of divine action. According to the first, a higher power intervenes in the world by violating natural laws.</p><blockquote>“The other, I should like to say more ‘scientific’, conception is that it is not in the character of natural laws that they predetermine everything. Rather they leave certain gaps. Under certain circumstances they do not say what definitely has to happen but allow for several possibilities; which of these possibilities comes about depends on that higher power which therefore can intervene without violating laws of nature.”</blockquote><p>Riddled basins, fractally riddled with holes that belong to other basins, suggest that natural laws are riddled with gaps through which the Old One can act subtly and steer the universe with elegance, without violating any law.</p><p>We only know rational numbers (numbers with arbitrary but finite precision). But the Old One (or a sufficiently advanced intelligence) knows real numbers, and uses them to play at dice. The Old One doesn’t throw the dice randomly, but accurately places the dice on the table face up, slipping divine action beneath the laws of nature.</p><p>This is a little contribution to the conception of divine action through nondeterministic gaps in classical physics. Other conception of divine action rely on quantum nondeterminism, or strong emergence (<a href="">downward causation</a>).</p><p>As noted above, future theories might blur the distinction between classical and quantum nondeterminism, perhaps through “<a href="">sub-quantum ether</a>” models, but the nondeterministic gaps would likely still be there.</p><p>In “<a href=""><em>Randomness and Undecidability in Physics</em></a>” (1993) <a href="">Karl Svozil</a> suggests that randomness in physics might be a signature of mathematical <a href="">undecidability</a> in the Gödel<strong> </strong>sense. See also Svozil’s recent open access book “<a href=""><em>Physical (A)Causality: Determinism, Randomness and Uncaused Events</em></a>” (2018).</p><p>In the reality-as-simulation picture, it makes a lot of sense for the Old One to design a world riddled with gaps that allow intervention via a programming interface, without changing the source code.</p><p>Magic butterflies operated by the Old One <a href="">&amp; company</a> might be flapping their invisible wings to subtly induce tornadoes in the fabric of reality. Perhaps one is near you. It’s interesting to note that a butterfly is also a symbol of rebirth and renewal.</p><p><a href=""><em>Cover picture</em></a><em> from Wikimedia Commons, riddled basin images produced with a </em><a href=""><em>visualization tool</em></a><em> by Takashi Kanamaru and J. Michael T. Thompson, based on “</em><a href=""><em>Riddled Basins</em></a><em>” (J.C. Alexander et al., 1992).</em></p><img src="" width="1" height="1"><hr><p><a href="">Riddled with gaps: How the Old One plays at dice</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>