Notes philosophy politics

Chapter 10: The Ocean of Consciousness (Homo Deus)

The most interesting place in the world from a religious perspective is Silicon Valley, that’s where the promises of salvation through algorithms and genes are.

There are two main techno religions, techno-humanism and data religion. Data religion argues that humans have finished their cosmic task and should now make way for new kinds of entities. The next chapter will discuss the nightmares involved with this.

Techno-humanism sees humans as the focal point of creation and adopt many humanist values, it also agrees that Homo sapiens have run their historic course, that is why we must use technology to create Homo deus – a superior human. Homo deus will be somewhat like humans but will have upgraded physical and mental abilities.

The goal of techno-humanism is to upgrade the human mind, but this is tricky and dangerous, since we don’t really understand the mind.

Humans can see only a minuscule part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The spectrum in its entirety is about 10 trillion times larger than that of visible light. Might the mental spectrum be equally vast?

One of the most important articles about the philosophy of mind is titled ‘What is it Like to Be a Bat?’ The article was written in 1974, by Thomas Negel, who points out that our human mind cannot imagine the subjective world of a bat. We can engineer systems to simulate bat behavior, but we can’t know what it feels like to be a bat.

Our challenge today is a new one, as liberal humanism makes way for techno humanism, and medicine has shifted its focus towards upgrading the healthy rather than curing the sick.

Doctors, engineers and customers no longer want merely to fix mental problems – they seek to upgrade the mind. We are acquiring the technical abilities to begin manufacturing new states of consciousness, yet we lack a map of these potential new territories.

Our data about human minds comes almost exclusively from tests done on psychology students in Western universities, we have no idea where to aim towards. Unsurprisingly, positive psychology has taken the lead in this field. In the 1990’s, Martin Seligman, Ed Dinner and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi argued that psychology should not only study mental illnesses, but mental strengths as well.

Over the last two decades, positive psychology has made important first steps in the study of super-normative mental states, but as of 2016, the super-normative zone is largely terra incognita to science.

Humanism emphasized the difficulty of identifying our authentic will. Our inner voice is often a cacophony of conflicting noises. We often try to ignore our authentic voice because it can make us feel uncomfortable, but humanism also demanded that we should face this fear and overcome it, regardless of how difficult it might be to do so.

Technological progress is different, it does not want you to listen to your inner voices, it wants to control them. This is essentially what drugs like Prozac and Ritalin do.

Read Homo Deus

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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