“We Have Become Evolution”

A Timothy Leary for the Viral Video Age – Ross Andersen – Technology – The Atlantic

think that technology is just evolution evolving its own evolvability, to quote Kevin Kelly. He’s got this idea that everything is on a continuum, and humans are stuck right in the middle between the stuff that’s born and the stuff that’s made. We human beings are the eyes and ears of the universe, the thinking stratum of the universe, and in some sense we have become evolution—because of us, evolution can now think.

Transhumanism is the obvious marketing angle for evolutionism. I would go further and suggest that without transhumanism, the political objectives of evolutionism will never be achieved: the acceptance rate will never pass 50% of the population. This should not be a surprise to the purists of evolutionary theory, the ones who dream of a utopia ruled by scientist-kings, because the modern history of evolutionary thought has always depended on melioristic idealism and has no correlation with increasing scientific knowledge or “the spread of rational thinking”, as many Internet evo-nuts would have it.

Also, the public science of the future will be pantheistic, because that is the only way to reconcile philosophical naturalism, universal idealism, and secular humanism. It may seem contradictory to pair pantheism with secular humanism, especially if one has ever watched a Bollywood movie, but they are perfectly compatible. The primary political objective of secular humanists is to enable control over all expressions of human desire, not to force the extinction of transcendent ideals, so long as they are subject to universal scientific laws. Secular humanism is commonly thought to require atheism, but that is a conclusion, not a prerequisite; it is a conceit of those who believe that religion is a crass political ploy and must be eradicated in order to implement an efficient secular totalitarianism.

Anyway, atheism does not preclude pantheism; it merely precludes attribution of a personal deity with monarchical, universal authority, power, and goodness. The atheist manifesto, “I do not believe there is any kind of being greater than myself”, requires only ignorance of the universe at large, which leaves plenty of room for awe when new mysteries are revealed, especially if they can be incorporated into a schema of universal law.

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2 thoughts on ““We Have Become Evolution”

  1. It sounds like Olaf Stapledon with computer graphics. Controlled evolution as art form: ‘Last and First Men’, 1930. Life as the cosmos getting to know itself: ‘Star Maker’, 1937. Substrate-independence: in ‘Star Maker’ the ‘Cosmic Mind’ ultimately forms in the reduced circumstances of a Universe approaching heat-death, sort of worm-like creatures burrowing around in collapsed-matter stars. (There is even a hint of an anthropic principle; the Star Maker contrives multiple universes, some more conducive to life, some less.)

    However, Stapledon portrays his vision as ironic, ultimately tragic. He also adds a sense of community, albeit a misguided socialistic one. Silva’s ‘secular humanism’, if that is what it is, seems to lack much of an appeal to the human heart (other than by way of vainglorious grandiosity), or a role for the individual. So with any luck it will be self-limiting.

  2. I like old SF, but I don’t remember if I’ve read Olaf Stapledon. I think there are similar ideas in other places, such as the journalist John Horgan (citing someone else, maybe Ray Kurzweil), who discussed the possibility of the universe achieving self-awareness over time as it becomes more interconnected, thus coming to resemble a massive computer.

    Also, Marvin Minsky, in Society of Mind, posits that consciousness arises as a result of the activity of multiple autonomous (but not necessarily intelligent) ant-like “agents.” He uses this as a metaphor to describe his theory of mind, without really specifying the structure of the agents, so it could apply to other things besides brains.

    Yes, that paradigm really leaves out any kind of individual will or emotion, which is presumed to eventually become subsumed in the greater consciousness.

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