Transhumanism as religion
Incidentally, I'm currently reading/participating in a Facebook based discussion on atheism leading to nihilism and whether we can find some "meaning" in life... and someone's position is "What about a quest for immortality? Otherwise it's like being an amnesiac that has a 20 second memory". Surprise surprise, she's listed as an out-of-the-closet transhumanist.
Seriously, it seems like simulation, transhumanism, and the singularity is just religion for smart people (religion being religion for stupid people).
Took you that long to figure it out? :P Just cross out "god" and substitute "technology" or "computers" in any of their tracts.
Jebus The Singularity is coming, look busy!
Also, I should add the hard-line transhumanists scare me just as much as the Bible thumpers. Is it any surprise that the founding father of their fore-runner cult got mixed up with fascist movement?
Just trying to get my brain around the argument. Is it -
1."Atheism leads to nihilism therefore atheism is wrong"
2."Transhumanism does not lead to nihilism therefore it is superior to atheism."
If this is the argument, then it is one worthy of PJR.
Sort of, but I think it's more along the lines of "What now?" rather than what is "superior." Transhumanism is already atheistic.
So far it's going like:
"But atheism doesn't give life any meaning." "So what?"
That's why you should join my secular religion. Philosophical suicide hurts. Don't do it.
The grand irony being that I imagine most of these people subscribe to a Yudkowskian idea of rationality where beliefs must act as constraints for expectation of experience. Except where you're discussing cool sci-fi concepts where computers rule the world.
Most of them come from physics, computer science and engineering backgrounds. Those disciplines tend to produce a lot of crypto-Platonists that are totally in love with ideal, universal laws. This tends to lead to them applying the same style of thinking to everything and oversimplifying "real world" problems. I see this all the time with AI-types (and they're a dime a dozen in the transhumanist movement), they basically just take all the computational models in cognitive psychology and reify them. They basically have invented a new soul, which they call "information." If you take computational models literally, the mind is simply information, thus, if you want to upload it, you just "extract" the information. Of course, this is classic Cartesian dualism, but they usually get around it with some half-assed quantum argument or, viz. Yudkowsky, "It doesn't matter what paper it's written on!" This is also why LW drinks the capital-EP Evo Psych (in the Buller-ian sense) kool-aid: The hypothesis of massive modularity makes the brain into nicely mechanistic computer (or one big computer running a bunch of smaller computers, if you want to be precise). Of course, most of them don't know jack about neuroscience, otherwise they'd realize how nutty actually claiming the brain literally is a computer is. So they've created a new type of soul, end times, teleological/determinist view of history, salvation, etc. At the end of the day, they've just dressed up dat ol' time religion in blinkenlights. Which is why I love when they rail against the irrationality of religion.
I don't see how it's the same as dualism. Sure, a literal interpretation of the brain being a computer is problematic, but the principle is that if you simulate the material that makes up the brain perfectly, then that should function as a brain. In fact, it's denying that this is a possibility is what dualism posits - though whether it's a realistic possibility is different entirely, of course.
Except you left out the main reason why they want to simulate a brain: Immortality. I don't think it's out of the question that we could simulate a brain, the sticking point is whether your "uploaded" mind would be "you." And then we're off into the land of swamp men and p-zombies, let's not even go there.
The Swampman thing was handled so much better in Caprica and at the end of The Prestige anyway.
Though I do contend that, just as "is there a meaning to life?" is loaded to whether you want a God or not, the "is it really you?" question is loaded to your fuzzy feelings over souls and whatnot.
I'm also reminded of a line from the Atlas Shrugged fisking: "Listening to her impatience at other ideologies reminds me of a five year-old considering the world’s problems. Can’t get the Chilean miners out? “Why not just build a robot?” she’d say, handing over a sketch; herself pictured overseeing the operation from a unicorn. When kids do it, it’s cute (theoretically), but seeing a brusque Russian author do it — not so much." It might be about Objectivism, but, same idea.
Might be no.2, individual involved are all atheists that I can tell. Transhumanism wasn't mentioned explicitly, but is on said person's FB profile in "about". But I can see it edging in that direction.
But even if we accept both 1 and 2 as being "true"- itself potentially dubious -, the first is an argument from adverse consequences and the second one is a non-sequitur.
Bob, you're using logic against religion. Stop that, you damn atheist fundamentalist.
Hey, I'm an atheist, transhumanist, and nihilist. :(