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Where We Are Headed

22 Oct

Often, when I read Christian revelation, I notice that something seems to be left out. They never talk about the role of technology. There are many Biblical passages that seem to describe technology, but they only suggest that it will exist. They never seem to explain why it will exist. In other words, why was the world set up so that we would eventually be able to build mills, automobiles, airplanes, rockets and computers? Did God fill the earth with metals and other elements that could be transformed into wires and microchips just because he thought a computerized Internet connected world would be a more interesting place for the drama between good and evil to play out?

When Christians, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses, describe the paradise their scriptures depict, they seem to envision a place where all of our technological achievements have been peanut buttered over.  They depict a pastoral landscape where lions literally lie down with lambs and people who once operated heavy machinery or managed accounts with Excel spreadsheets instead tend to crops with ordinary gardening tools. 

So, why did God set the world up for us to create all this technology if he really had no use for it?

I once heard a rock climber describing an artificial practice rock. It was one of the somewhat realistic rocks made of cement and chunks of stone that are found at outdoor parks. He explained that he could tell it was planned because just at the place where a handhold or foothold was needed, a handhold or a foothold just happened to be there. My strong suspicion is that the universe has a similar dynamic. It has handholds exactly where we need them to be just when we need them to be there.

Consider a real rock that was not designed to be climbed. A climber might go up twenty or thirty feet and suddenly realize that further progress is impossible. Of course, climbers also have metal pitons and chocks they can fall back on, but that actually brings me to a point I will get to shortly.  When humans first contemplated space travel, some well meaning and informed scientists said that men will never go to other planets. They calculated all the sundry forces and obstacles and the equations just did not balance. Of course, they imagined that men would be launched into space from giant cannons or something of that nature, and the physics of a cannon capable of launching a person into space simply did not work out. We now realize that with the right technological approach men can go to other planets. Men have already gone to the moon and few doubt that we will eventually send human explorers to Mars. However, this did not have to be the case.

It is possible that we would have eventually discovered that there simply are not materials or fuels on earth that can facilitate the journey and that space travel will be forever out of our reach. Humans would have been incapable of traveling into space, or even sending satellites into space, and would never have known more about the heavens than could be surmised from their terrestrial telescopes and other instruments. In that case, we would have been like the climber that scales a cliff to twenty or thirty feet and discovers that he can go no further.

Similarly, we might have discovered that it is impossible to build something that imitates a human neuron and is sufficiently small to facilitate artificial intelligence. There is no reason why the world had to be set up so that we would eventually discover the transistor or a means to miniaturize circuits via printed silicon chips. In that sense, also, we might have gotten to a certain point, such as giant awkward machines built from vacuum tubes, that could perform calculations to a certain extent but could never go much further.

I could be mistaken, but I cannot escape the notion that the universe was set up for humans to develop technology. Unlike Christian writers, I strongly suspect that technology will play a role in humanity’s future. Moreover, I suspect that it was deliberately set up this way so that we will eventually use our technology to accomplish some divine purpose.

So, what is that purpose?

If one were looking at an obviously manufactured climbing rock, one would guess correctly that the purpose was to get to the top. I am, of course, describing only the purpose of the design. The purpose of the rock is to gain practice climbing. Similarly, looking at our universe, I surmise that our purpose is to get to its more hypothetical and abstract top. In the case of the universe, I doubt that climbing practice is a significant aspect; since most of human history has been spent tilling fields and few humans are directly involved in the advancement of science and technology.

What is the “top” of the universe?

One way to approach this question would be to look at the limits of what our technology might be able to accomplish. It appears certain that people will be able to colonize the solar system. They will undoubtedly be able to move, however incrementally, out to the stars. It appears that people will be able to develop machines that are vastly more intelligent than any human. These machines will be able to contemplate algebras and algorithms that no human has ever suspected exist. All the evidence suggests that it will be possible to prolong human life indefinitely. It will certainly be possible to manufacture replacement organs so that a human body can remain forever youthful. I do not contemplate people replacing their brains with either new biological brains or alien devices that mimic brains. I strongly suspect that a human’s identity is associated with retaining their current brain…although that relationship is far from simple, as I will explain later. We probably will not replace our brains, but I suspect that we will find ways to clean them up and restore them much as one restores an old car to a seemingly new state.

That last likelihood suggests that there is a “top” that is visible to a person who makes it just over a certain false peak. I suspect that we may be overtaking that false peak as I write.

If people will be able to live indefinitely, and the universe is designed for technological advancement, then technological advancement was probably intended to accommodate humans with indefinite lifespans. Therefore, the question becomes, what will humans with indefinite lifespans do in this universe?

The universe we inhabit is actually rather monotonous. It is filled with matter that can take the form of stars and planets and even black holes. However, I suspect that these things will not be sufficient to hold the interest of people who have lived for thousands or even millions of years and may have acquired, perhaps through technological means, intelligence that far exceeds that of any contemporary human. The moon was once considered mysterious, but now it is pretty much a giant ball of dust to which we have been and have not bothered to return. No green cheese, I guess! Black holes were mysterious until we took a picture of one and it looked pretty much like we expected it to. I don’t want to minimize the mathematical mystery that black holes represent, but I suspect that one day that mystery will be worked out and anyone with an average IQ of, say, 300 will be familiar with the details.

It must be the case that the universe has far more to offer than meets the eye and that our technology is intended to take us there.

The universe has a lot of matter. It also has a lot of volume. I cannot help but suspect that all that matter and volume will play a role in what we eventually accomplish. Perhaps we are meant to restructure the universe so that the laws of physics are slightly or completely altered and we are able to transform it into something completely different. Perhaps we will find a way to eliminate entropy. In this way, we may create something more akin to the classic notion of heaven…a place that is truly perfect and eternal.

It would be a cruel joke if something like human consciousness, which I believe to be the evident manifestation of the human soul, were ephemeral. I suspect, as I have described in other writings, that the human soul is eternal and that it is possible to unite a soul that has passed on with a contemporary body. My suspicion is that a soul, as it develops, becomes something of the complement of a particular brain and that if the brain is reproduced more or less exactly, the soul will automatically reunite with it. There is some logic to this. When a person’s brain is shut down for some surgeries and they lose consciousness, they are, in many ways, like someone who has died, and yet it seems as if their original consciousness is somehow restored to them. I suspect that this is a case of a soul being temporarily dislodged and then reattaching to its host. Materialists would dismiss all of this of course, and I understand their reasoning. Since I believe, for other reasons, that the soul is substantial and continuous, their ideas have little relevance to me.

In order to fully utilize the universe in the way I have suggested, it will be essential that we be able to get out there and, in some sense of the word, surround it and rein it in. This means that faster than light travel must be possible in some sense of the concept. Whatever paradoxes, such as violations of causality, are associated with faster than light travel, they are apparently hazards rather than hard limits. A hard limit on velocity like the speed of light would be comparable to the natural cliff that cannot be scaled, and I am well past believing that we are in that kind of environment.

The top of the hill, therefore, must be complete mastery of the universe and the eventual ability to rein it in and transform it into something more to our liking and with far more possibilities. It entails the resurrection of the dead. We may discover that the universe we see is part of a much larger structure that we will also conquer and rein in. The real universe and its possibilities may be to the one we observe as the world we inhabit is to the inhabitants of Sentinel Island.

Of course, the Sentinelese may know something we don’t. I am open to that possibility too. Maybe they wonder when we will give up our technological schemes and return to the life they have seemingly perfected.

A Simple Way to Reconcile Quantum Mechanics With Gravity

10 Sep

Quantum mechanics seems to be irreconcilable with gravity. However, there is a simple way to reconcile them. Instead of assuming that gravity bends space, suppose we assume that it bends quantum probabilities.

It appears that quantum mechanics would work properly if gravity did not exist. So let us start from that assumption. If there were an infinite number of universes comparable to our own where gravity did not exist, quantum randomness would result in at least some of them behaving exactly like the one we observe. However, what I propose is not that our universe is an anomaly. What I propose is that gravity influences quantum probabilities. In other words, instead of bending space, gravity skews the outcome of quantum events.

In a random walk, a walker seems to move around without any pattern other than randomness:

Suppose we have two random walkers standing in proximity. In at least some instances, purely by chance, they will seem to move toward each other as if they are drawn by gravity:

If this occurred on a regular basis, we would be forced to assume that there is some outside force that is skewing the probabilities. In the case of our universe, this force is gravity.

Gravity does not bend space. It bends probabilistic outcomes.

Since gravity can only affect the outcome of quantum events, at the level at which quantum mechanics and gravity seem to be in conflict, gravity effectively disappears.

The curious thing about this theory is that it has already been proved. At the level of particles, the laws of quantum mechanics must be observed. However, at the macroscopic level, gravity must be observed. The only way that a particle can follow the law of gravity is through quantum events occurring in such a way that the law of gravity is effectively observed. The probabilities involved in quantum events are the only available degree of freedom. This is analogous to building a large curved shape out of millions of Legos.

Regardless of how curved the shape appears to be at a large scale, at the scale of individual Legos, they must be joined in the usual manner. Only their offset joining can account for their ultimate shape.

George Floyd Protests: Open Letter by UC Berkeley Professor

12 Jun

I have been looking for a way to express my concerns about the protests that have been going on around the world. When I encountered this open letter written by a UC Berkeley Professor, I realized the job had been done for me:

Text of the Letter:

Dear profs X, Y, Z

I am one of your colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley. I have met you both personally but do not know you closely, and am contacting you anonymously, with apologies. I am worried that writing this email publicly might lead to me losing my job, and likely all future jobs in my field.

In your recent departmental emails you mentioned our pledge to diversity, but I am increasingly alarmed by the absence of diversity of opinion on the topic of the recent protests and our community response to them.

In the extended links and resources you provided, I could not find a single instance of substantial counter-argument or alternative narrative to explain the under-representation of black individuals in academia or their over-representation in the criminal justice system. The explanation provided in your documentation, to the near exclusion of all others, is univariate: the problems of the black community are caused by whites, or, when whites are not physically present, by the infiltration of white supremacy and white systemic racism into American brains, souls, and institutions.

Many cogent objections to this thesis have been raised by sober voices, including from within the black community itself, such as Thomas Sowell and Wilfred Reilly. These people are not racists or ‘Uncle Toms’. They are intelligent scholars who reject a narrative that strips black people of agency and systematically externalizes the problems of the black community onto outsiders. Their view is entirely absent from the departmental and UCB-wide communiques.

The claim that the difficulties that the black community faces are entirely causally explained by exogenous factors in the form of white systemic racism, white supremacy, and other forms of white discrimination remains a problematic hypothesis that should be vigorously challenged by historians. Instead, it is being treated as an axiomatic and actionable truth without serious consideration of its profound flaws, or its worrying implication of total black impotence. This hypothesis is transforming our institution and our culture, without any space for dissent outside of a tightly policed, narrow discourse.

A counternarrative exists. If you have time, please consider examining some of the documents I attach at the end of this email.

Overwhelmingly, the reasoning provided by BLM and allies is either primarily anecdotal (as in the case with the bulk of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ undeniably moving article) or it is transparently motivated. As an example of the latter problem, consider the proportion of black incarcerated Americans. This proportion is often used to characterize the criminal justice system as anti-black. However, if we use the precise same methodology, we would have to conclude that the criminal justice system is even more anti-male than it is anti-black. Would we characterize criminal justice as a systemically misandrist conspiracy against innocent American men? I hope you see that this type of reasoning is flawed, and requires a significant suspension of our rational faculties. Black people are not incarcerated at higher rates than their involvement in violent crime would predict. This fact has been demonstrated multiple times across multiple jurisdictions in multiple countries. And yet, I see my department uncritically reproducing a narrative that diminishes black agency in favor of a white-centric explanation that appeals to the department’s apparent desire to shoulder the ‘white man’s burden’ and to promote a narrative of white guilt.

If we claim that the criminal justice system is white-supremacist, why is it that Asian Americans, Indian Americans, and Nigerian Americans are incarcerated at vastly lower rates than white Americans? This is a funny sort of white supremacy. Even Jewish Americans are incarcerated less than gentile whites. I think it’s fair to say that your average white supremacist disapproves of Jews. And yet, these alleged white supremacists incarcerate gentiles at vastly higher rates than Jews. None of this is addressed in your literature. None of this is explained, beyond hand-waving and ad hominems. “Those are racist dogwhistles”. “The model minority myth is white supremacist”. “Only fascists talk about black-on-black crime”, ad nauseam. These types of statements do not amount to counterarguments: they are simply arbitrary offensive classifications, intended to silence and oppress discourse. Any serious historian will recognize these for the silencing orthodoxy tactics they are, common to suppressive regimes, doctrines, and religions throughout time and space. They are intended to crush real diversity and permanently exile the culture of robust criticism from our department.

Increasingly, we are being called upon to comply and subscribe to BLM’s problematic view of history, and the department is being presented as unified on the matter. In particular, ethnic minorities are being aggressively marshaled into a single position. Any apparent unity is surely a function of the fact that dissent could almost certainly lead to expulsion or cancellation for those of us in a precarious position, which is no small number.

I personally don’t dare speak out against the BLM narrative, and with this barrage of alleged unity being mass-produced by the administration, tenured professoriat, the UC administration, corporate America, and the media, the punishment for dissent is a clear danger at a time of widespread economic vulnerability. I am certain that if my name were attached to this email, I would lose my job and all future jobs, even though I believe in and can justify every word I type.

The vast majority of violence visited on the black community is committed by black people. There are virtually no marches for these invisible victims, no public silences, no heartfelt letters from the UC regents, deans, and departmental heads. The message is clear: Black lives only matter when whites take them. Black violence is expected and insoluble, while white violence requires explanation and demands solution. Please look into your hearts and see how monstrously bigoted this formulation truly is.

No discussion is permitted for nonblack victims of black violence, who proportionally outnumber black victims of nonblack violence. This is especially bitter in the Bay Area, where Asian victimization by black assailants has reached epidemic proportions, to the point that the SF police chief has advised Asians to stop hanging good-luck charms on their doors, as this attracts the attention of (overwhelmingly black) home invaders. Home invaders like George Floyd. For this actual, lived, physically experienced reality of violence in the USA, there are no marches, no tearful emails from departmental heads, no support from McDonald’s and Wal-Mart. For the History department, our silence is not a mere abrogation of our duty to shed light on the truth: it is a rejection of it.

The claim that black intraracial violence is the product of redlining, slavery, and other injustices is a largely historical claim. It is for historians, therefore, to explain why Japanese internment or the massacre of European Jewry hasn’t led to equivalent rates of dysfunction and low SES performance among Japanese and Jewish Americans respectively. Arab Americans have been viciously demonized since 9/11, as have Chinese Americans more recently. However, both groups outperform white Americans on nearly all SES indices – as do Nigerian Americans, who incidentally have black skin. It is for historians to point out and discuss these anomalies. However, no real discussion is possible in the current climate at our department. The explanation is provided to us, disagreement with it is racist, and the job of historians is to further explore additional ways in which the explanation is additionally correct. This is a mockery of the historical profession.

Most troublingly, our department appears to have been entirely captured by the interests of the Democratic National Convention, and the Democratic Party more broadly. To explain what I mean, consider what happens if you choose to donate to Black Lives Matter, an organization UCB History has explicitly promoted in its recent mailers. All donations to the official BLM website are immediately redirected to ActBlue Charities, an organization primarily concerned with bankrolling election campaigns for Democrat candidates. Donating to BLM today is to indirectly donate to Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. This is grotesque given the fact that the American cities with the worst rates of black-on-black violence and police-on-black violence are overwhelmingly Democrat-run. Minneapolis itself has been entirely in the hands of Democrats for over five decades; the ‘systemic racism’ there was built by successive Democrat administrations.

The patronizing and condescending attitudes of Democrat leaders towards the black community, exemplified by nearly every Biden statement on the black race, all but guarantee a perpetual state of misery, resentment, poverty, and the attendant grievance politics which are simultaneously annihilating American political discourse and black lives. And yet, donating to BLM is bankrolling the election campaigns of men like Mayor Frey, who saw their cities devolve into violence. This is a grotesque capture of a good-faith movement for necessary police reform, and of our department, by a political party. Even worse, there are virtually no avenues for dissent in academic circles. I refuse to serve the Party, and so should you. The total alliance of major corporations involved in human exploitation with BLM should be a warning flag to us, and yet this damning evidence goes unnoticed, purposefully ignored, or perversely celebrated. We are the useful idiots of the wealthiest classes, carrying water for Jeff Bezos and other actual, real, modern-day slavers. Starbucks, an organisation using literal black slaves in its coffee plantation suppliers, is in favor of BLM. Sony, an organisation using cobalt mined by yet more literal black slaves, many of whom are children, is in favor of BLM. And so, apparently, are we. The absence of counter-narrative enables this obscenity. Fiat lux, indeed.

There also exists a large constituency of what can only be called ‘race hustlers’: hucksters of all colors who benefit from stoking the fires of racial conflict to secure administrative jobs, charity management positions, academic jobs and advancement, or personal political entrepreneurship.

Given the direction our history department appears to be taking far from any commitment to truth, we can regard ourselves as a formative training institution for this brand of snake-oil salespeople. Their activities are corrosive, demolishing any hope at harmonious racial coexistence in our nation and colonizing our political and institutional life. Many of their voices are unironically segregationist. MLK would likely be called an Uncle Tom if he spoke on our campus today. We are training leaders who intend, explicitly, to destroy one of the only truly successful ethnically diverse societies in modern history. As the PRC, an ethnonationalist and aggressively racially chauvinist national polity with null immigration and no concept of jus solis increasingly presents itself as the global political alternative to the US, I ask you: Is this wise? Are we really doing the right thing?

As a final point, our university and department has made multiple statements celebrating and eulogizing George Floyd. Floyd was a multiple felon who once held a pregnant black woman at gunpoint. He broke into her home with a gang of men and pointed a gun at her pregnant stomach. He terrorized the women in his community. He sired and abandoned multiple children, playing no part in their support or upbringing, failing one of the most basic tests of decency for a human being. He was a drug-addict and sometime drug-dealer, a swindler who preyed upon his honest and hard-working neighbors.

And yet, the regents of UC and the historians of the UCB History department are celebrating this violent criminal, elevating his name to virtual sainthood. A man who hurt women. A man who hurt black women. With the full collaboration of the UCB history department, corporate America, most mainstream media outlets, and some of the wealthiest and most privileged opinion-shaping elites of the USA, he has become a culture hero, buried in a golden casket, his (recognized) family showered with gifts and praise. Americans are being socially pressured into kneeling for this violent, abusive misogynist. A generation of black men are being coerced into identifying with George Floyd, the absolute worst specimen of our race and species. I’m ashamed of my department. I would say that I’m ashamed of both of you, but perhaps you agree with me, and are simply afraid, as I am, of the backlash of speaking the truth. It’s hard to know what kneeling means, when you have to kneel to keep your job.

It shouldn’t affect the strength of my argument above, but for the record, I write as a person of color. My family have been personally victimized by men like Floyd. We are aware of the condescending depredations of the Democrat party against our race. The humiliating assumption that we are too stupid to do STEM, that we need special help and lower requirements to get ahead in life, is richly familiar to us. I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to deal with open fascists, who at least would be straightforward in calling me a subhuman, and who are unlikely to share my race.

The ever-present soft bigotry of low expectations and the permanent claim that the solutions to the plight of my people rest exclusively on the goodwill of whites rather than on our own hard work is psychologically devastating. No other group in America is systematically demoralized in this way by its alleged allies. A whole generation of black children are being taught that only by begging and weeping and screaming will they get handouts from guilt-ridden whites. No message will more surely devastate their futures, especially if whites run out of guilt, or indeed if America runs out of whites. If this had been done to Japanese Americans, or Jewish Americans, or Chinese Americans, then Chinatown and Japantown would surely be no different to the roughest parts of Baltimore and East St. Louis today. The History department of UCB is now an integral institutional promulgator of a destructive and denigrating fallacy about the black race.

I hope you appreciate the frustration behind this message. I do not support BLM. I do not support the Democrat grievance agenda and the Party’s uncontested capture of our department. I do not support the Party co-opting my race, as Biden recently did in his disturbing interview, claiming that voting Democrat and being black are isomorphic. I condemn the manner of George Floyd’s death and join you in calling for greater police accountability and police reform. However, I will not pretend that George Floyd was anything other than a violent misogynist, a brutal man who met a predictably brutal end.

I also want to protect the practice of history. Cleo is no grovelling handmaiden to politicians and corporations. Like us, she is free.

SOURCE

The Biden Syllogism

15 May

Joe Biden says that if you believe Tara Reade’s sexual allegation, you should not vote for him.(1)

He also says that when a woman makes a sexual allegation, she should be believed.(2)

Therefore, Joe Biden says that you should not vote for him.(3)

(1) https://www.npr.org/2020/05/15/856708004/biden-says-voters-who-believe-tara-reade-probably-shouldn-t-vote-for-me
(2) https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/joe-biden-when-a-woman-alleges-sexual-assault-presume-she-is-telling-the-truth/2018/09/17/7718c532-badd-11e8-a8aa-860695e7f3fc_story.html
(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syllogism

 

2020

29 Apr

Prologue:

The coronavirus has emboldened American tech platforms to emerge from their defensive crouch. Before the pandemic, they were targets of public outrage over life under their dominion. Today, the platforms are proudly collaborating with one another, and following government guidance, to censor harmful information related to the coronavirus. And they are using their prodigious data-collection capacities, in coordination with federal and state governments, to improve contact tracing, quarantine enforcement, and other health measures. The Atlantic News Magazine

Chapter 1

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features. Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.

Dig a Hole to China

22 Mar

Dig a hole to China.
Start from hallowed ground.
If you breach at Wuhan,
In we all will bound.

Spike’s New Moral Society (SNMS-38)

26 Feb

Explaining the Law

I posted a portion of this before under the title “My Moral Constitution”. Through much discussion and reflection, it has developed into a kind of guideline for some future society that has achieved what might be called technological perfection. I envision a society in which senescence and disease have been conquered, all labor is performed by machinery, and fully immersive virtual reality has been perfected. I contend that such a society will require a straight-forward moral compass to keep it from drifting into decadence or possibly self-destruction. This is neither a religious doctrine nor a set of laws. It is a set of guiding principles from which a society with an implied religion and a set of laws could be constructed. Some will take offense at many of my precepts. I regard that offense as the price one inevitably pays for any such endeavor. In later posts I may explain and justify individual precepts in detail. This is a hubristic undertaking and I take full responsibility for my hubris.

SNMS-1: God exists.
SNMS-2: God is both Truth and a necessary consequence of Truth.
SNMS-3: God is omniscient.
SNMS-4: God is omnipotent.
SNMS-5: God is the creator of all that exists (the Universe).
SNMS-6: God is patient, tolerant, and forgiving.
SNMS-7: God created us with immortal souls and free will.
SNMS-8: Love is the perception of another soul as a part of oneself.
SNMS-9: God loves all souls with perfect, infinite love.
SNMS-10: God is omnibeneficient.
SNMS-11: God cannot communicate with us in any way that is statistically verifiable. God can only communicate with us through what appears to be coincidence.
SNMS-12: God guides us and protects us.
SNMS-13: The nature of God is the definition of Good.
SNMS-14: Faith is the belief that God exists as previously described. Faith is not about kowtowing to God or being rewarded for our good works; it is about believing in more than the material universe. Faith is not about believing that we will get what we want or think we need in this lifetime; it is about believing that we will ultimately get what we actually need.
SNMS-15: We may speak to God whenever we like and talk of whatever we please. This speech is often called “prayer”. God requires no such speech, but he welcomes it. Prayer should be commenced by addressing, “God.” Prayer should be concluded by saying, “Amen.”
SNMS-16: We should depend on God but not live as though we are dependent on God. To practice dependence on God is to repudiate free will.
SNMS-17: Belief in God should be implicit rather than explicit in our actions. Our faith should be practiced rather than professed.
SNMS-18: The behavior we exhibit toward others and the behavior we hope to experience from others should be consistent.
SNMS-19: We should strive to live and prosper and to help others live and prosper.
SNMS-20: We should strive to be like God. In this manner we effect Good.
SNMS-21: God’s methods and purposes are difficult for us to comprehend, but we are to assume that our choices and actions have meaning and value.
SNMS-22: The hardships persons experience are part of God’s plan for our completion. We should assume they are essential, even when they do not seem to make sense.
SNMS-23: God cares for us in this life and God will care for us in the time after this life. We should not neglect this life, or ignore the time after this life, but live in harmony with both.
SNMS-24: Humans will not be generated from modified or artificially constructed genetic material. They will always be the product of the joining of a natural male sperm with a natural female egg.
SNMS-25: Human life will be assumed to begin at conception with the joining of a sperm with an egg.
SNMS-26: During a person’s early morphology, their growth will be carefully monitored and controlled to ensure that they are delivered as a well-defined physical male or a well-defined physical female with an erotic compass oriented to their well-defined physical gender.
SNMS-27: Humans will remain human. They will not undergo extreme modifications of their minds or bodies. They will not migrate away from their natural biological basis.
SNMS-28: No brain altering protocol will be developed or disseminated that induces a modification of human will.
SNMS-29: Government will be in the form of a synthetic intelligence that is accountable to a democratically elected body of humans. This form of government is called a synthetic republic.
SNMS-30: Policing will be done by the aforementioned synthetic republic.
SNMS-31: Every human will be monitored and policed at all times by the synthetic republic. It will patrol and moderate their behavior but not report it to any human except upon legal warrant.
SNMS-32: Trade will be in the form of lightly but strictly regulated capitalism.
SNMS-33: Reality will be kept dignified and austere. Erotic impulses may be indulged only in virtual reality.
SNMS-34: Erotic impulses may be indulged in their most extravagant and lascivious forms in virtual environments where no others need be affected.
SNMS-35: In public, citizens will wear unprovocative clothing that does not emphasize their natural form and that covers their shoulders and the rest of their body from the bottom of their manubrium to the top of their ankles.
SNMS-36: The appearance and behavior of complex creatures may be simulated in virtual environments, but not the creatures themselves.
SNMS-37: Synthetic intelligence will neither be recognized as sentient nor afforded associated rights.
SNMS-38: The generation of synthetic intelligence by directly copying a human brain is strictly prohibited.

The Ten Year J.J. Abrams Production

12 Feb

When we look back on history, we realize that it was mostly centuries of almost nothing exciting happening punctuated with an occasional war or the intrusion of a new disease. Life was, for the most part, so boring that people had to invent stories with mysterious endings and hold public festivals just to make it bearable. A typical person might have been born, grown up, grown old and died without travelling more than a mile from their place of birth.

Skip forward to the year 2020. Americans have Donald Trump as President. His antics and daily tweets are both unsettling and entertaining. The ongoing effort to drive him from office is a daily drama.

New technologies are introduced daily. Just yesterday, I learned that it is possible, for about $2000, to get a completely electric portable power source that is dead quiet and does what an old gas generator did.

Bluetti

Just today, I learned about advances in 3D printing that will make it possible to 3D print items that used to be impossible. Any day now, Samsung will unveil their folding smart phone. Someone else will unveil a product that no one anticipated and that solves a problem no one knew they had.

Every day, we get new images of the sun or the planets. Every day we learn something new about gravity and black holes. Yesterday, the Corona virus was threatening to become a global pandemic. Today, scientists announced that they have found a cure. In regard to diseases, just three days ago I learned that a new treatment for multiple sclerosis has been developed.  Maybe it will pan out or maybe it won’t.

Today, it dawned on me that, if we think of 2020 as the beginning of a TV series, we are entering upon a ten year drama the likes of which J.J. Abrams would be proud to produce. However, there are some vital differences.

Unlike TV series’ like Lost, everything that we see and hear is a real part of the plot. There is no filler or misdirection. If a politician seems to be covering up a crime, the reality of whether or not they are doing so plays inextricably into the narrative. If a scientist claims to have explained or solved something, either they have changed the world or they will be exposed as a fraud. Either way, it is a real part of the drama. This afternoon, I was fooled by a video of a combat robot developed by Boston Dynamics. The video was an elaborate spoof, but the ability to make the video and the sociological implications of being able to do so are very real.

Combat Robot

Another vital difference is the depth with which this series can be explored. A TV series is only as deep as the imagination and dedication of the writers and directors. In this real life series, a person can look into any political activity or scientific endeavor in as much detail as their ability and ambition permit.  A person could spend a whole year just trying to get a firm grip on the Donald Trump Impeachment saga. They could study science for years trying to understand if there is anything to claims that black holes do not actually exist.

In this real life TV series, everything is intertwined. Science, politics and economics are inseparable. The Internet had to be invented for Twitter to be invented. Twitter had to be invented for Donald Trump to become the tweeting President. Drones had to be perfected in order for Amazon to consider delivery by drone. Delivery by drone may change home delivery forever. Changes in home delivery change all of our lives. Unlike a fictional drama, the intertwining is real. It is not just possible, but inevitable that every single thing that is introduced or changes will affect the plot.

In fictional dramas, the introduction of unexpected new forces is often referred to as deus ex machina and is frowned upon. In this real-life drama, dues ex machina is a daily phenomenon that cannot be dismissed because it is not really dues ex machina at all. Just because we cannot see something coming, does not mean it was not truly in the story all along. No one anticipated Nancy Pelosi tearing up Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, but her doing so was not a plot contrivance. If anyone had really understood her and the situation, they might have anticipated it.

Nancy Tearing Speech

Yet, curiously, no one seems to be giving away the end of the story. We really do not know who will be elected President in November. Will America have a gay president that is married to a man? We really do not know if the mach effect thruster Professor Heidi Fearn is developing at NASA will culminate in a star drive. Could Jetsons style flying cars be next?

Allow me to digress for a moment. I have a movie sitting on my desk: Spiderman Far From Home. I have been having difficulty getting myself to watch it and have been wondering why. It should be a movie that I am excited to watch. However, this evening, I realized why I am having trouble dropping it into my DVD player. Nothing that any screen writer can pen or that any filmmaker can produce compares with the news that I can turn to at any minute. Nothing in any Marvel script compares to the real-life drama that plays across our TV screens and into our lives every day. No story we can read or see enacted compares with the real thing.

Perhaps the reason why movies are becoming so impatient and erratic is that they are trying to compete with real life. Perhaps the reason why we are losing interest in stories and storytelling is that the real-life story we are all living every day is so much more compelling and exciting.

Not only is it more exciting, but we are all active participants. Any one of us could record a video or think of an idea that will make at least an incremental difference to the plot. Everything that we see or read in the news has an effect on us individually. When the Me Too movement got started all of us had to immediately be on our guard not to do or say anything that could put us at odds with this political reality. When Donald Trump was acquitted in his impeachment trial, this influenced the stock market. When the stock market moved, many of us were able to look at our personal IRAs and see that they had changed. Every one of us has an affect on everything and everything has an affect on every one of us…instantly.

This story is building to a giant crescendo around the year 2030 when technology may eliminate jobs and cure every disease. Maybe robots and/or computers will take over the world. It may even culminate in something that futurists call the Technological Singularity. That is a whole topic in itself. In ten years, we may see the end of history as we know it. What then?

Maybe God will literally descend from the machine. About now, I am ready for anything.

In a way, this new reality is disconcerting. However, it is also the best show on television. J.J Abrams, eat your heart out! I guess we will all just have to stay tuned and enjoy the ride.

Keep watching. It’s a great show!

Do Not Fear Oblivion

30 Jan

It was while thinking about topics like this that I first discovered consciousness. Before that, I had never heard the term, or at least it had never registered. While thinking about what changes when we die, I realized that I had never thought about what makes us alive. That was when I realized there was something to me that is more than the parts I am made of.

However, I want to talk now about a hypothetical state: the possibility that when we die we simply cease to exist. From the standpoint of physics, that is an impossibility. All the parts that make up our bodies and brains must still be present. They just begin to interact in a different way. Since those parts do not seem to be able to account for conscious experience, it seems odd to say that something will cease to exist that, as near as I can tell, should not exist to begin with. Nevertheless, I am going to make the assumption, for the sake of this discussion, that somehow when we die we cease to exist.

That idea once bothered me. I imagined myself sitting forever in a dark room all alone. However, I realize now that this conception of nonexistence is unreasonable. To be alone, one must “be” in some sense of the word. Besides, when we sit in a dark room alone, we tend to fall asleep, and when we are asleep our minds fill up with colorful visions called dreams. The image of death as being in a dark room alone is completely irrational.

Nonexistence is the complete absence of thought. It is the complete absence of time. It is the complete absence of position in space. There is a reason why mathematicians have concluded that the empty set it a subset of every set. Nonexistence is so obscure that it takes on surreal properties.

Nonexistence does not erase the self. It erases everything. If a person does not exist, where does their nonexistence take place? How can there be a universe relative to a person that is not in anything? Where would the universe be located relative to someone that is nowhere? What time would it be for a person that is not in a time?

If a person ceases to exist, is it meaningful to say they ever existed in the first place? For a person that does not exist, there is no such thing as evidence or reason. There is no argument they can make that they ever existed at all. There are no witnesses relative to someone that is nowhere, in nothing and at no place in time. How can one lose something that one never possessed?

In actuality, nonexistence would be perfect freedom. How could anything possibly harm someone who does not exist? Where would it find them? What would it do to them? If a person does not exist, they cannot worry. They cannot have a nightmare. They cannot feel insecure. They cannot feel inadequate. They cannot regret or feel any nagging urge to strive. Nonexistence is the perfect coffee break.

I want to live forever and I believe living forever is the overarching plan. However, that is because I love life, not because I fear death. If death is what most of us fear that it is, then there is nothing to fear at all. We may see it coming, but we will never see it going. If death brings nonexistence, then death will become the thing that never was.

That was a tiresome thought and I am glad I got it out of my system.

Humanity Is Not a Fallen Race

24 Jan

Many Biblical scholars have made the observation that religious thinkers are constrained by a phenomenon having to do with religious heritage. These religious thinkers, which include prophets, chroniclers and letter writers, are never allowed to make a clean break with old traditions. This is because people are unwilling to consider a “new” religious idea. They are only willing to consider a seemingly new religious idea if it appears to be a new understanding of an old religious idea.

This unwillingness to consider a new religious idea stems from a simple dilemma. If the idea is new, why didn’t God, who is supposedly omniscient and omnipotent, tell them about it before? Worse, if the idea seems to contradict something they have already been taught, then that means that something they accepted out of faith is wrong. In other words, it must mean that God has lied to them. How can God lie? Moreover, if one part of it is wrong, maybe other parts of it are wrong. If other parts of it are wrong, maybe all of it is wrong. If the whole thing is wrong, then what do they have left? Do they resort to science which seems to say there is no God and that they should not bother to contemplate him?

I am not going to propose here that all the old ideas about religion are wrong. I am, however, going to propose that certain fundamental ideas entertained by the world’s preeminent religions are wrong. However, before I do that, I would like to state up front what I believe is correct.

I believe that God exists. I believe that he is omniscient and omnipotent. I believe that he is a being that humans can relate to, if not entirely understand. I believe that human intuition about the nature of God, his motivations, and his objectives is possible and desirable. I believe that God has a plan for humanity and that his plan is that which is most favorable to humanity.

The idea that I propose is wrong is that humans are a fallen race. However, before I explain my position, I would like to elaborate a bit on why the belief that humans are a fallen race exists and what purpose that belief served in the past.

If we start from the hypothetical position, which I find untenable, that God does not exist, then there would have to be some natural reason why humans have arrived at the idea that they are a fallen race.  The reason is relatively simple. It has to do with suffering. Many sophisticated philosophers have come to the conclusion that God cannot exist based on the observation of suffering. When humans see suffering and note the degree of suffering, they have difficulty, often insurmountable difficulty, believing that there could be an omnipotent God that cares about them. How could a God that supposedly cares about them and has the power to act for their benefit allow so much suffering? More specifically, how could he allow the kind of suffering that takes place in prison camps where prisoners are tortured and deprived? How could he allow the kind of suffering experienced by abdominal cancer patients whose guts are seemingly torn apart? How could he allow the kind of suffering experienced by burn victims that suffer burns over a large percentage of their bodies? How could he allow child abuse and child rape? How could he allow starvation of seemingly innocent humans on a mass scale?

When humans first attempted to address the issue of suffering, they came to the conclusion that people must have done something in the past to bring this upon themselves. They must have committed some horrible sin that resulted in God becoming angry and allowing suffering to enter the world. For this reason, they invented the story of Adam and Eve and other tales that supposedly substantiate this belief.

However, ideas such as this raised new questions. Why would contemporary humans be forced to pay for the crimes of humans who lived thousands of years ago? In a monumental effort to connect the sins of our forefathers to the present, religious thinkers assembled some remarkable intellectual constructs. They invented the idea that sin can be inherited or that sin has permanent residence in the world. They even reinterpreted some old Gods as monsters within which sin could permanently reside. In essence, they invented the Devil.

So, we see that if God did not exist, humans, in their attempts to explain how an omniscient and omnipotent God could allow suffering, would have invented original sin and the devil. They would have arrived at the conclusion that humans are a fallen race.

However, I believe in God and I do not believe that this explanation is correct. God is indeed omniscient and omnipotent, but he is attempting to do something very difficult. He is attempting to create a space, the observable universe, where beings can live and have free will. It is easy for a person, thinking along simple lines, to say that God could do this without allowing suffering, but I propose that God could not do this. The reasons are comparable to why God could not create an exception to the Pythagorean Theorem or Fermat’s Last Theorem. God cannot do something that is logically inconsistent.

When we contemplate a universe that has free will, we imagine one in which God simply pronounces will as free and free will comes about. However, this does not take into account the impossible obstacles that must be presented, even to an omnipotent being, in creating something over which he has no power. As difficult as this may be for some theologians to accept, free will must mean freedom from the power of God. That is an idea that has touched the minds of many religious thinkers over the millennia, but it is an idea they have shied away from because it seems to suggest that God is not omnipotent. However, I suspect that they are paying too much attention to the power of God and too little attention to the logistics of free will.

How does a God that is literally in control of the shape and movement of every dot and twiddle of the universe make something that is independent? Scientists have not been able to imagine how it could be done. In fact, most physicists consider it an impossibility. Hence, they postulate the nonexistence of free will.

Theologians insist that God could create free will without difficulty. Physicists insist that it is impossible. I propose that there must be a happy medium.

What I propose is that God had to somehow separate himself from our universe. I do not know how he accomplished this. It seems like it would be impossible. However, doing so apparently involved separating himself from human affairs in such a way that we are able to do things that he might not prefer. It also apparently involved separating himself from our universe in such a way that it becomes possible for events to unfold in a way that he might not prefer. Apparently, our universe is something like a terrarium that God is able to shine a light into but that he dares not open. If he opens it, the result will be the destruction of free will.

As a terrarium, our universe must grow from the seeds that God has planted within it and gradually form into the universe he intends for us to live in. I cannot help but wonder if, encoded in the words of Jesus, is a foretelling of this process:

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. (Mathew 13:31-32)

I suspect that the ultimate destiny of our universe is that it will become something like the Biblical concept of heaven in which everyone has plenty and suffering is eliminated. I also suspect that after this heaven is constructed, some means will exist to pull everyone and everything out of the past and give them a new life that is free of suffering. The key element is that we must assemble heaven by ourselves.

The remaining question has to do with why God would have allowed so many, for so long, to believe something that is essentially a lie: that humans are a fallen race.

Humans needed to believe in God, and they lacked the sophistication to think their way around the problem of suffering. God could not interfere with the universe to give us the requisite sophistication to get around this dilemma any more than he could interfere to prevent suffering. Therefore, he allowed us to formulate and elaborate on a myth. The alternative was that we would conclude that there was no God. For many humans, for the duration of our history, believing that there was no God would have made it impossible for them to maintain any semblance of hope. How would many, perhaps most, humans have made it through two world wars that involved unthinkable weapons and unthinkable acts if they had no hope? God did not tell us a lie. We invented it independently. He allowed us to believe the lie because the alternative was unworkable.

The universe seems to be like furniture from IKEA. It comes in a box, but it requires assembling. God manufactured the parts and packed the box so that we would have everything we needed, but he seems intent that we assemble them at home.

Anyone who has assembled furniture that comes in pieces knows the inherent frustration. This frustration is analogous to the suffering that we all experience and some of us experience to a significant degree. However, eventually the furniture is assembled and we are able to rest comfortably in our new bed, couch or recliner.

When the universe is fully assembled and all of us that have died are pulled from the past—resurrected, so to speak—the suffering will be in our past. Those who experienced seemingly soul shattering trauma will heal and the suffering will become a less personal memory. We will be like a mother that has gone through labor and who, looking upon her newborn child, forgets the pain she went through giving birth.

That day will come. We will all stand within it. We will stand within it as God’s creatures in full possession of free will.