Where does your salvation come from?
In quiet thought? In the pressing of flesh and smile on a crowded street? God? Christ? A good book?
Will you perish quietly, unaware?
There are many in Silicon Valley, at least among the wealthiest, who are investing billions of dollars into efforts they hope will radically extend their life. There are some amongst this cohort convinced they can live forever, albeit in non-traditional form.
The Singularity is a vision of an after-life whereby a person’s consciousness can be effectively digitized and uploaded or merged into a computer, allowing this spirit-version of the person, no longer flesh and blood, to live forever.
Or until shut down.
I doubt this techno-infused data-driven version of a heaven will happen and if it does, I suspect it will be horrifically constricting — no touch, no sight, no sound, possibly no randomness, no love. Still, the idea of living forever is appealing, the thought of our awareness, presently so very short-lived, an almost immeasurable blip in the near-infinity of time and space, going dark, blank, for always, literally, seems cruelly unfair.
But who goes first?
Into this singularly technological after-life, who goes first?
The richest of the rich?
Brave, eager, doomed volunteers?
Is there a way back?
Will those that go first prevent others from crossing into binary heaven? What for?
There are some religious faithful that believe select humans went into heaven before dying.
Entering Heaven alive (called by various religions “ascension”, “assumption”, or “translation”) is a belief held to be true by multiple religions. Since death is the normal end to an individual’s life on Earth and the beginning of afterlife, entering Heaven without dying first is considered exceptional and usually a sign of God’s special recognition of the individual’s piety.
Enoch, Elijah, and Mary, mother of Jesus, are so regarded, also Yudhishthira and a few others across the world’s many religions.
AI big thinker and Google employee Ray Kurzweil says the exponential growth in computing, artificial intelligence and thinking machines, including nano-sized bots, will enable humans to transcend beyond the “limitations of our biological bodies and brain.” Perhaps.
Can we say no?
If those brave, crazed volunteers successfully “ascend” into a (partly/mostly/fully) non-biological form and the super-rich and the techies quickly follow, and they don’t prevent the rest of us, nor kill us or enslave us, but welcome us into their world, somehow — magically — placing no bounds on who may transcend into this computer heaven, no matter how that person is or was or wished to be in human form, whether vile, perverted, sadistic, criminal, intolerant, bigoted, all are welcome, will we be allowed to say no?
Try living without a credit card or a phone.
The pressure to conform, the rules of society, the teaching of following the existing path, cultural norms, these are all nearly insurmountable to abandon.
Dare you try?
What if you say no, I won’t become part of this, I reject the digitized realm, I believe I have a soul and I further believe that if I believe and abide, God will liberate my soul from my (dead) body and I will enter heaven? Will you be allowed this? If you state that you believe humans should not live forever, in any form, God or no, or simply reply that you do not wish it for yourself, will you be allowed this?
Confession: If I was convinced it was safe and mostly good and then presented with an opportunity to ascend into the giant computer in the sky, I believe I might, maybe would — but only if there was an out, a log off.
You are never going to have a fembot to pleasure you. You won’t live on a moonbase, or below the sea. Probably, you will die — actual death — before ever driving a flying car.
What the Singularity offers is radically, exponentially greater than all that you will never have. But at what price? Can that be measured? You may soon have a choice: upload your consciousness onto a machine or take the chance that upon the death of your flesh, blood, brain, heart, all of it, that God will pluck your spirit from you and escort you into heaven.
Which do you choose?
All our beliefs are being challenged. I’m not yet convinced a computer — or even all of them — are our best guide forward, whatever the realm.
Is it God?
The only constant we’ve ever known is evolution — change. Living forever, in however a form, defies this, halts it. Game over.
The universe is playing with house money.