RE: continuity of self [ was META: Sept. 11 and Singularity]

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Sat Sep 14 2002 - 08:11:50 MDT

samantha wrote:
> I should shut up. It is difficult to say what I mean and
> probably even more difficult to read and get some notion of what
> I am talking about.

No, some of us "get it" quite vividly....

It is a different perspective than the "rationalist" perspective often put
forth on this list, but in my view it is also a very valid perspective. It
leads to statements that are neither supported nor refuted by empirical
observations, but are strongly supported by "experiential evidence."

A few years back I wrote a kind of blank-verse prose poem on similar themes,
"The Journey of the Void." ...
What I call the Void there is what you call That or Universal Mind ... the
Suchness of Being, others have said. The nature of the universe can
sometimes be usefully viewed by humans as consisting of a primordial
substrate of some sort, which has separated little bits of itself off into
particular forms... these little bits suffer from their separateness from
the whole, but also display great beauty at times (and various forms of
"time" are themselves just little bits of the original whole) ... and there
is then a process of reunification with the whole.... The Singularity fits
into this pattern. It must be admitted that Teilhard de Chardin was getting
at this same archetypal pattern with his vision of the Omega point at the
end of the evolution of the noosphere -- although his language and the
details of his vision were too closely tied to his Christianity for my

You say "It is difficult to say what I mean" ... I agree, it is hard for any
of us to write about such things without sounding ridiculous, and one might
conclude that this is because what's being said *is* ridiculous... but
perhaps it's because language -- modern Western language especially -- is
not made for discussing such things, it is made mostly for discussing
practical things in the physical world -- with specialized vocabularies for
discussing other topics, which draw on the "practically focused" subset of
language for metaphors. The physical-world metaphors infusing our language
are particularly misleading and awkward when talking about things that are
beyond our physical universe.... Words like "process", "reunification",
"bits", "forms" bring to mind everyday-life connotations that are not quite
appropriate and, in the context of a conversation like this one, can mislead
the reader if the reader doesn't have the experiential grounding to see
through the language-bias-induced implicit-misleading-metaphors...

It is interesting to observe that

1) some of us on this list, who are die-hard Singularitiarians, take a
spiritual perspective on the Singularity (among other perspectives that we

2) most people in the world are religious (& to some extent spiritual)

One might conclude from this that the spiritual aspect of the Singularity
could be a good way to connect Singularitarian thought with the world-view
of "the masses." Unfortunately though it doesn't seem to work out that way.
This is, in my view, because the entrenched belief systems of the world's
religions have deviated too far from the spiritual experience that was at
the essence of all these religions originally. The Singularity idea is
extremely harmonious with the spiritual experience at the essence of
religion, but not very harmonious at all with many of the beliefs that have
accreted onto these experiences to form organized and doctrinized religions.

Put simply, one of the things the spiritual experience brings is a kind of
humility, coming from the knowledge that we humans are just a teeny tiny
part of the Big Grand Multi-Universal Mish-Mash (Douglas Adams called it
something like that in the Hitchhiker series ;) .. it brings a sense of the
extremely limited nature of our own knowledge and understanding, and the
potential massivity and power of what else is out there.... Yet somehow,
thru the pragmatics of human cultural dynamics, this humility & intuition
has become associated with a whole host of overconfident beliefs about life
after death, the rules we're supposed to live by each day, etc. etc.

Well I have rambled long enough for one weekend morning -- time to get the
kids brekky!!

> I believe that even before Singularity the Path of Technology
> will lead us to the point where we must transcend the
> evolved-ape phase in some quite crucial ways if we are to
> survive at all. If we are going to be able to upload and
> continue to grow the notion of self must become more fluid.

This I am not so sure about. It depends on the timing of events.... if the
Singularity comes rapidly enough this won't be the case...

-- Ben G

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