Convictions

Oh, life-altering realizations, how I adore thee:


I realized something today. And that is that I believe in something. Completely and honestly. At least for a little while.

First let me explain (in short) a bit why this is such a big deal to me.
I grew up under the assumption that you can change the world. That Great Things must be Done. I think this mostly has to do with my father being an organizer against the Vietnam War and an activist in general.
But to do Great Things, you must have Conviction. And to have Conviction, you must have Belief.
At first, I found that belief in Catholicism. I went to All Saints Private Catholic School from Kindergarten to eighth grade. I believed so strongly, so blindly in god then. Not so any longer, for reasons that are too extensive to get into here.

At any rate, that Belief was gone. And there was nothing True enough, Big enough, Meaningful enough for me to Believe in again.

Cue my introduction to a certain Community
When Corey and I started dating, living together, etc, I met his friends. I was taken into a Community. I didn’t know exactly what everything was about, but I enjoyed the generality of it. I liked the sharing of information. I liked the ideals. I liked the aesthetics. I liked the discussions and the possibilities. But as much as I liked it, I didn’t understand it. I picked up a few of Corey’s books on cybernetics on occasion to flip through.

Lately
Lately I’ve been reading more on the subject. Lately I’ve had amazing conversations with Matt about it. Listened in on Geeking between Matt and Corey. And I started to understand. I started, just a little, to Believe.

Catalyst
I have this class: Religion, Ethics, and Medicine. And we’ve spent the last week and will spend next week on Transhumanism. We just sit, and talk, for two hours twice a week about our views. And through these discussions I realized something:

I’m not regurgitating what I’ve heard on the subject. I’m taking the (far too) limited knowledge I have and applying it to what I Believe about it. When my viewpoints are challenged, I all ready know the response. It all makes Sense.

This is where my thoughts become a bit more scattered, as they are still forming.
We will be able to live forever, if we so choose. Eventually. I hope Matt is right that it will happen in our lifetime. I think everyone should have the choice of whether to be human, transhuman (what I associate with still being a Human body, but replaceable organs, use of external technology, etc), or posthuman (upload into a fully cybernetic body, foglets, what have you). Please forgive me if my terms are off, I’m reading everything I can get my hands on, but school work still takes precedence. I don’t believe in having children, but if someone chooses to do so, that child will have to reach adult hood as a human before having the option to Alter themselves. I believe in Freedom of Information and Singularity. I believe in never going hungry again, massive social change, autonomy, group consciousness.

We were talking about possibile discrimination in the workplace, education systems, etc. And this is where I realized I Believed in this. “If, theoretically, and only speaking for myself, I upload into a cybernetic body, what need do I have to compete with you? I don’t have to eat, own a home, etc. My only purpose is to learn. I have no reason to interact in that context with you. What is the competition in that? The only discrimination I have to worry about is what would come from you.”

I do not personally believe in god, but if there is one as the Christian ideal, he/she/it is offering a state of the Garden before the Fall from Grace. And I’m happy to argue my case from your viewpoint, if that will help.
This is the point in class where it dawned on me that I believe in this enough to have Conviction.
We were discussing a return to Grace through technology. The loss of the Tree of Life when the Tree of Knowledge was tasted from, etc. (I can fill out details on this if you’d like).
And I turned around to the class, and I asked.
“You, as Christians, strive for a return to Grace. An immortality without your body, a symbol and cause of sin. As created co-creators, we are achieving the possibility of this. It will, I believe, be offered to YOU, in THIS lifetime.” I held up a piece of paper. “Here. This. What you’ve been looking for. What you’ve always wanted. What your religion has taught you to strive for. All the guilt you’ve had to carry for generations has paid off. Your promised reward. H.E.R.E. You can have it. Will you take it?
The room sat in silence for a few minutes. One gentleman raised his hand. “If I believed it was the Will of God, I would.” Another: “If I believe strongly enough in the idea of a created co-creator. Which I don’t. I need Jesus to tell me I’m saved. Spiritually.” Most people who responded at all were uncertain.

I’m confounded that I Believe so much in something again.

I feel like I have Purpose.

I’m all ready going to law school for communication law to help out the CBLDF. I’m not giving that up, because that’s part of who I am. But I’m also something more now. And I’ll do everything I can to support this movement. Because I Believe it’s the Future. However irrational it may be, however long this may last for me, for now..

It’s my Belief, and my Conviction, and my Future.

Feed back is appreciated, but if it’s to be a discussion I would much prefer face-to-face. As always.

43 thoughts on “Convictions

  1. Funny, I grew up Catholic, but came to the conclusion that the apple had been left for us for a reason. That it symbolized our adulthood and need to leave the nest, in a mythological sense. It depresses me that so many people look at it as a great failing and that Eden is something we should strive to return to, or that it all is some great transgession that requires redemption.

    Transhumanism in certain ways entertains me, but I see a simple fear of death/need for immortality in a lot of those that embrace it. No need to judge the merits on that, but I see a lot more good in focusing the human effort towards equality and egalitarianism for all. The secular humanist/environmentalist in me talking.

    Maybe as we get older we won’t be so afraid of death. Maybe not all of us.

    • That’s the odd thing, though… I’ve never personally feared death. I view it as just something that happens. I know I personally don’t want to be immortal… I think I would get bored. But I like the idea of having enough time to get everything done I want done.

      There was a short story about how in a world of immortals, two types of people exist: those who lounge about because they have all the time in the world to get things done, and those who go out and Do things because there’s so much!

      I view the Eden story in a lot of different ways… but I’m willing to argue for my point from another person’s point of view. Plus I like the conversation and neat Ins and Outs.

      • I would never ask somebody to argue/defend religious belief, especially not a friend.

        My main concerns with transhumanism is that, much like religion, the faith and ideals can very easily be exploited by powers-that-be. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision early stages of man/machine integration to involve overt/covert state-controlled tracking/RFID/GPS devices. While some people would invent workarounds and hacks against such devices, I doubt those efforts would extend towards Asia Minor sweatshops and African dimaond mine slaves with explosive GPS collars.

    • oh yeah

      I also love this world, which is more than I think most trans/posthumanists feel about this place. I want to be able to do more in it.

      After some very interesting trains of thought, I had come to the conclusion that you can have Equality with slow progress or Progress with eventual equality (idealy everyone would be treated well during the process). You can’t really focus on both. And I feel that Progress is the way to reach Equality.

      • Re: oh yeah

        Good points, all. I think everybody who isn’t completely depressed/stagnant/what-have-you feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day.

        I suppose the entire subject cuts too wide a swath to encapsulate in a freaking livejournal discussion. Medical advancement via nanotechnology vs paranoia of government/corporate enslavement alone is a debate that could consume decades.

        • Re: oh yeah

          A good point. As I was reading this I’m thinking about political aspects too.

          Corey and I were talking about “which comes first, strong AI or nanofactories”…I think another option has to come in there…political upheaval. Do we have equality before uploading, or will uploading bring about equality…
          Points to ponder. I need to get to work.

  2. exactly. as usual, I have many things to say on the matter. =p

    Spoonage, and coffee, and face-to-face-ness, as usual, will greatly improve the discussion.

  3. I’m not sure why I am even commenting, as I have only read one book on this subject (Donna Haraway and her work on the cyborg might be useful to you). But the potential for discrimination, etc. would still exist in *who* would be able to afford such “upgrades”…the current systems still need a lot of work, I think, before such ideas can be fairly implemented. Technology already belongs in the hands of the wealthy and powerful, I fear them all being cyborg-types to boot.

    But having a drive to learn/believe in something is always refreshing, no?

  4. >If, theoretically, and only speaking for myself, I upload into a cybernetic body, what need do I have to compete with you? I don’t have to eat, own a home, etc. My only purpose is to learn. I have no reason to interact in that context with you. What is the competition in that? The only discrimination I have to worry about is what would come from you.

    you have me in tears. lets get together and talk about this sometime.

  5. I have had this cross my mind before… but I keep getting images of the film AI where the young Android ended up in the forest with the rejected robots that were pretty much junk collectors to keep themselves going…
    problem I have is that we would still be dependant on human made goods… which as we all well know are in no way immortal and we break down (look at your car, computer, shit everything that even broke)… in effect I feel that with technology we can extend our present exsistance (just as we have done so far with medical advances) but it still comes down to the fact that we would be in a constant struggle to keep what we feel was real alive as it were… just as the rich can purchase any organ they need to replace their failing ones… even as androids we would still be trapped in a world of struggle to not be shut down (number 5 said it best “NO DISASSEMBLE!!)

    Don’t get me wrong… the rate of technological advancement is astounding to me… to look around and see where we have come and knowing that the rate of advancement only increases with every new advancment…my only hope is that it only brings us closer to an understanding of why we are here… after all… how better to understand a creator than to attempt to create ourselves…

    anywho.. it seems that you got my mind going this morning and I will most likely have this subject on my mind for the majority of the day at least… so I will leave yu now for me to contemplate on the subject a bit more so that I may be better able to communicate that which i feel…

    • I think the reliance is necessary, though, at first. That way the advancement doesn’t seem like such a threat. We could be turned off at any time.

      Until we get it under control. Until we’re able to fully utilize solar and other forms of energy (which we should be doing anyway).

      Please let me know if you come up with any other ideas! I’m truely interested.

  6. Repost with spelling corrections. Sorry this was a longer rant than I intended.

    As always the sharing of information will have much to do with propagating this idea. But one must be mindful that people are resistant to change and that outside of a catastrophic event the movement into the “Sea of Electrons” will need to be a gradual process or it will face the heavy burden of religious resistance. “How long till evolution eliminates the Christian Right?” I am reminded of the way in which Christianity assimilated it’s fellow religions. Utilizing the existing holy days, doctrines, figures, and traditions to help people feel more comfortable denouncing their old ways. Many of these influences have been popularized by modern authors such as Dan Brown.

    In my opinion, the transhumanist movement has the potential to become not just the greatest physical evolution, but a spiritual evolution as yet unparalleled. In it’s ultimate form transhumanism offers to eliminate competition for resources, but unlike many of the socialist perspectives, transhumanism does so with out bringing every individual down to the same level. It truly offers to boost an entire society into the highest echelons of opportunity.

    One of my first concerns when recently introduced to these ideas was that of control. The “What if?” quotient. What if some individual or group tries to usurp power over this technologically dependant society? Firstly, I believe in the absolute necessity of policing force and fraud issues, just as we do today. Taking into account the ideas of our founding fathers that, the people who make up a society are the best ones to rule it, I feel that a tranhuminist society would be the optimal configuration for justice by a true jury of your peers. Who better to protect the safety and sanctity of the individual’s rights than a truly enlightened society?

    Fully replenish-able resources, education as a norm rather than a premium, the right to do to your own body or mind that which you so choose. These thing when coupled with the immortality offered through technology or technology related/improved fields i.e. medicine, offer an unlimited potential for the foreword movement of the human race.

    Some people say that progress is a violent act that rapes the natural world. Consider this. The world has already been raped, are we to continue to ravage her with our refusal to progress past our current place in this world. “Eden isn’t burning, it’s burnt.”

    J’

    • Re: Repost with spelling corrections. Sorry this was a longer rant than I intended.

      My thoughts are that, eventually, because we won’t have a need for basically anything, there will be no crime of those sorts. Beings will only interact on a basis for exchange of information.

      Getting to that point and dealing with interactions until then is the tricky part.

      I all ready feel like I’m a policy maker, trying to figure all this stuff out.

      As I said to Spooky, I think that our reliance at first is necessary, to not seem like a threat.

  7. Excellent! It looks like you’ve reached stage 1 enlightenment. You are ready for Space Orgasm. What the hell happened? Everwhere I go, I’m surronded by more and more meta-programers. 😀 Yee, gods. Neuronauts!

  8. Very nicely said. I especially like your point about competition, or lack thereof, in a world of immortality. I don’t know that it’ll be quite that simple, but it certainly bears consideration.

    I came to very similar conclusions fairly recently, when I realized I’ve been a Transhumanist ever since reading Drexler’s Engines of Creation, the classic that introduced nanotechnology to the world. I noticed one day that I’d been thinking about the nanotech revolution (and, later, the Singularity) in much the same way that Christians think about the Rapture, or Socialists about the Revolution. It occurred to me that Transhumanism is every bit as much an apocalyptic, messianic faith as any other, but resulting from our own work rather than from some “higher power.”

    Since making that realization, it’s become even harder to take myself seriously. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool cynic, and tend to have little more than contempt for people who hold to non-rational beliefs. But I can’t help being a believer; my version of Transhumanism informs a lot of what I think and feel about the world. The best I can do is try not to wave off global strife and environmental decline with thoughts of “Oh, we’ll take care of all of that after the Singularity.”

    Cheers,

    — Shig

    • Yes, I’m careful not to look too far ahead or to assume too much. I’m pretty logical about my beliefs any way, so I’m not too concerned about going overboard.

      I think the solution to problems is not to think “sigularity will take care of that” but to think “how can we fix this?”

  9. While I have long felt the same in some ways, I was always frustrated by a nagging doubt, that somehow, even a self-created immortality was somehow pointless, that no cause was really right enough. But reading this today, I noticed something that made me sit up and take notice:

    I grew up under the assumption that you can change the world. That Great Things must be Done[…] But to do Great Things, you must have Conviction. And to have Conviction, you must have Belief.

    And that’s when I realized the real problem lies in that assumption: not just that you need to do Great Things, but the entire concept of Great Things, period.

    There are no Great Things. There is only existence. It doesn’t need a purpose or a goal or belief or conviction: it just does. All you need to do is live you life as you choose to, there isn’t anything more to it than that – there can’t be, by definition. Reality absorbs everything: something is either real or it isn’t. To struggle against this is literally meaningless. You can’t be great, because everything is already great – and small, and true, and false, and meaningless, all at the same time.

    Quite a revelation. Very Taoist, in some sense, I suppose.

    I may even believe it one day. Fnord.

    • To me, Great Things are experiences, usually shared with other people. I think even small things are Amazing, though. I love watching the particular way a leaf falls or the look in someone’s eyes when they figure something out.

      To me, Great Things are events that change the way we percieve.

      I like Taoism, but it’s not active enough for me.

  10. Given your lack of any response, I wonder if you read what I posted last time I stumbled across this topic here. Given our respective social positions, I doubt a face-to-face discussion is feasible at this time. In any case, I doubt you’ll take much of what I say to heart anyway. But I have a responsibility, damn it, and it would be poor form if I refrained from making the attempt. So here goes.

    1. Why is it feasible to assume that an exponential rate of technological advancement will continue after Peak Oil, especially given the resolute manner in which world leaders have been avoiding preparation for a switch to alternative energy sources?

    2. You speak of freedom, of choice, of egalitarianism. How would you propose to avoid fucking over anyone who *doesn’t* seek Utopia in your quest for enough natural resources to produce the energy your particular movement is going to require to reach this vaunted point of technological growth? Upon examining the unsustainable mechanisms currently in place, how do you imagine such rapid progress is feasible without enormous material sacrifice on the part of those who do not necessarily share your zeal? What gives your ilk the right to decide for everyone else that the world’s resources are to be used in the pursuit of disembodied immortality?

    There’s so much more I would like to say, but I feel I’m too tired at this hour to properly articulate it. Suffice to say that I find your newfound expression of monotheism as misguided [if not abhorrent] as its previous incarnation [speaking as another ex-Catholic, albeit one who’s evidently come away with a rather different opinion of Christendom’s fundamental value], but I am making a concerted effort to suppress my vitriol long enough to discuss these things properly.

    • In short, even if such a thing is possible, I think our efforts currently ought to be focused less on the supposed transcendence of the privileged few, and more on a human level, reducing consumption, waste, desperation, psychosis, and the attitudes which underlie them socially, in the face of a crisis of energy and resources that will only continue leading to loss of life and liberty for so many.

    • 1. We can no longer rely on world leaders to figure things out for us, nor to guide our actions. People out there know how to build and utilize alternative entergy sources. We will link to them, if they will have it.

      2. I am not deciding for anyone but myself. The rate that technology is advancing does not only have to do with how small a surface we can fit a great amount of memory on; it also has to do with how we use energy. The holographic memory banks will and do use far less energy to do much more than our current systems, for example.
      As I talked about in the post, what need is there for competition if there is nothing to compete over? (I’m happy to go off planet if necessary, there are worlds to explore) A being without metabolism has no need for food, for water. The only interactions will be for pleasure.

      I do not think of this as a deity. I have never thought of the word Belief as having to do only with religion. This is a feat of a group of people who believe in their own abilities, not reliance on something/someone else.

      I am happy to continue discussing things with you, as long as they continue in a polite manner. You have hurt some of my close friends, and that is something I do not take lightly. I prefer to let people prove themselves to me, not rely on what others have told me about them, but even my limited encounters with you online have made me wary.

      I like hearing opposing viewpoints, because they help me think of things I would not have come up with on my own.

      So thank you. I look forward to a response.

      • 1. We can no longer rely on world leaders to figure things out for us, nor to guide our actions. People out there know how to build and utilize alternative entergy sources. We will link to them, if they will have it.

        I’m certainly not advocating passivity by making that statement. If you have an idea about an alternative to the current model of energy distribution that’s in place, I’m very interested to hear what it is.
        To which alternative energy sources are you referring, and on what scale? I guess I am no longer entirely clear whether you’re talking about simply upgrading the infrastructure that’s already in place, or about small enclaves building their own infrastructures from the ground up, and communicating any novel discoveries they stumble upon to other such villages?

        The holographic memory banks will and do use far less energy to do much more than our current systems, for example.

        Link to sources please? I doubt I’ve read as much of this material as you have, so I unfortunately do not have much of a means of responding to this point one way or another.

        As I talked about in the post, what need is there for competition if there is nothing to compete over? (I’m happy to go off planet if necessary, there are worlds to explore) A being without metabolism has no need for food, for water. The only interactions will be for pleasure.

        1. No food, no water, but electricity. The power plant is the mouth, the wires are the veins. As long as there are finite resources, and as long as they can be privately owned, there will be competition.
        2. Are you suggesting that greed is a concept that’s exclusively biological in origin, while pleasure is not? I think the major point on which we disagree lies somewhere along this axis.

        You have hurt some of my close friends, and that is something I do not take lightly.

        Some of your close friends have conspired to rewrite events to their advantage and my defamation, which is something *I* do not take lightly. But in any case, that discussion was closed long ago [by collective decision of the other parties in question]; I am their enemy, and each of them is mine. You need not be included in this by association, as you had absolutely no role in the events in question. I would, however, appreciate it if you extend me the same courtesy and refrain from taking their deceptive, ahistorical shit-talking at face value, KTHX.

        I like hearing opposing viewpoints, because they help me think of things I would not have come up with on my own.

        Likewise.

        • Link to sources please?

          Actually… I had to doublecheck to make sure you hadn’t. Do you have the ‘link’ color set to the same as the ‘plain text’ color here intentionally? Are my eyes just going bad?

        • Ok, no.

          The fringes of my temper have all ready been quested after.

          Do your own research, form your own opinions, I don’t think I can pursue this thread in a gentlemenly manner.

        • Which, I suppose is where I take over.

          Alright, lessee here.
          Good points, all.
          I was actually waiting to bring up something like this for in-person conversation with Willow this weekend, but why not get started early…

          I’m still optimistic, but it’s not a blind, “things will just work themselves out, and the Singularity will save us all” kind of
          optimism. That’s pointless, morally bankrupt, and kinda boring, to be honest. I think you used the term “mindlessly jacking off to the idea of progress while [the] shit… continues” to describe that kind of thinking.
          Singularity, at least in my estimation, isn’t a “do whatever, we’ll save ourselves in the future” kinda idea.
          Here, I think elaborating on a personal distinction between belief and conviction is important.
          I still have strong Discordian tendencies…and I’m another ex-Catholic –
          I’m not really fond of dogmatic systems of thought. I emphasized strong tendencies, and not beliefs for a reason.
          I make a (possibly purely semantic) distinction between belief and conviction. Or, at least, I have certain connotations for the words.

          To me:

          Belief says “this is how it is”, “this will happen”, etc.
          Conviction says “this is possible”, “this could happen (if I and others apply ourselves)”, etc.

          Belief usually takes connotations of black and white for me, in other words. Connotation allows for probabilistic logic.
          Under those definitions, yes, I will criticize /belief/ in Singularity, since that reduces it to the “mindlessly jacking off” idea above.

          Colloquially, though, a strong “belief” (really conviction by this definition) that it’s possible seems to be a fine motivation
          for the kind of action toward sustainablilty, superabundance and human rights that we all agree is necessary (not to mention quite doable).
          where people might not be motivated before, cause they think we’re screwed, here they see a better future is at least possible.

          I see a kind of Sustainability/Singularity interdependence – it’s not a question of one/other, it’s both simultaneously.
          Getting over the illusion of scarcity (as long as we’re dependent on scarce resources like oil) is a prime goal.
          With the tech we already have (we talked a bit on this theme last time, yes?), each individual household can already provide its own power by means of a new generation of solar generators. Cheaply, if I recall, as well. Looking up the source on that one.
          Either way, “do more with less” is exactly what Transhumanism and the concept of singularity is about. Is that going to include some pretty major sociopolictical upheaval? Without a doubt – one of the questions I wrestle with the most is “how do we convince those in power to switch from a game of ‘we win’ to one of ‘everyone wins'”…
          Political and social activism is a necessary part of a future-optimistic conviction.
          Peak oil – well, that’ll persuade us to ubiquitize alternate energy sources pretty quick, won’t it? It could suck ass, or it could be only very very unpleasant, but I don’t doubt that humanity will evolve past the use of fossil fuels. We may stagnate for 10-20 years. Short of total nuclear holocaust (ok, a slim possibility, but a considerable one) though, nothing’s wiping our education and scientific progress out. Ok, a worldwide return to Fundamentalism, maybe.
          Damn, eerie how all the Big Lose scenarios I’m describing seem almost plausible. All the more reason to get active!

          Energy. Nanosolar panels? Personal, clean, free. It’s an idea. Build them into your clothes.
          Drexler actually evidenced a thermochemical nano-reaction (is it exo- that produces heat? yes. exothermic) where the products were more useful than the ingredients. Ah….Nanosystems, p428, 433.
          So, there’s an energy-generatingnanomanufacture process.

        • [part ii]

          A larger question you’ve raised – one Willow and I have spoken on before – the issue of personal liberty in such an environment.
          I’m of 1-2 minds on this, as usual.
          Firstly. Yes, absolutely, people should not have their liberty restricted in any way.
          But.
          Which is more restricting, gov’t regulations requiring nanoinnoculations for every known disease, or an unnecessarily short lifespan, in an unnecessarily frail body?
          I’m actually divided on that one – I could see NanoFree communities springing up, and I really have no problem with that idea.

          Ah, I think that’s all I have for now. Comments are ever-welcome.

        • gitmo

          Oh, yes, let’s allow our emotional investment in the subtextual tangent to eclipse the subject.

          Look: since we do not know each other, there’s obviously no reason for me to expect you to hold my word in higher regard than the word of your friends. However, as I am sure you are aware, and as I have pointed out earlier, you had no part in What Transpired, and therefore have no facts upon which to base your opinions of The Situation, only the word of those who would very obviously benefit from painting me as its mustache-twirling villain, if only to deflect any foul opinions formed about them by others.

          And intellectually-speaking, I find it a bit questionable that you feel entitled to bring the subject up publically when the very suggestion that maybe the entire truth of the situation has not been made available to you is considered so profoundly offensive that you can no longer continue having an intellectual debate about a completely different topic.

          If my intention had been to be inflammatory, I certainly wouldn’t have been subtle about it. That’s not my style, as anyone will tell you.

          That’s all I’m going to say. Goodbye.

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