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

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Sun Sep 15 2002 - 00:27:59 MDT

Ben Goertzel wrote:
> 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....

I am very delighted at how many people here do "get it". It
feels like the efforts toward Singularity are much more balanced
as a result. I believe a good deal of "I", "we" based
world/self/humnity understanding is quite important in addition
to the more "it" objective external reality based understanding
of the purely scientific/rational. Both are essential to any
efforts to transform/transcend human limitations. Without that
balance we are likely to fail to understand ourselves, our world
or what it is we wish to see magnified and freed from current

> 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."

It can be argued that the inner world is by no means
non-empirical just because it is inner. Not when the same
experiences, states of consciousness, stages of development are
seen in inner life of person after person across many cultures
and throughout recorded history.

> 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
> taste....

And to a particular rather mythic and exclusive variant at that.
  There have been many others since then and many mystics of all
faiths and varieties who said similar things.

> 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
> take)
> 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.

This is a very interesting point and one that I have pondered
for some time now. As the level of general abundance through
technology increases there is, imho, a non-zero probability that
patterns of societal and individual consciousness may make a
jump into a new state based around a different set of
fundamental abundance vs. scarcity core reality assumptions. As
the technology increases our abilities and the speed at which
developments unfold, there is a magnifying of the effects of our
individual and collective state of consciousness, it becomes
increasingly crucial that consciousness itself is transformed
using all means possible. Short of rewiring human brains,
spirituality/philosophy/"consciousness raising" is the fastest
way of effecting such change. You say that it doesn't seem to
work out. But I have to ask, have we really tried in the modern
context of abundance and its radically internal and external

What would happen if you could take the essence of the
religions, the spiritual awakening at the core of their
founding, and link it up to a radically abundant and prosperous
vision of what everyday, on earth human society and life can be?
  What if you could support the "getting it" on a larger scale
and without requiring "leaving the world" but instead greatly
and positively transforming the world precisely by means of part
of that "getting it"? What if you could get enough people en
masse to step beyond scarcity thinking and begin thinking in
terms of abundance and maximal development and well-being for
everyone? It would be extremely and wonderfully powerful. It
could turn the tide of a lot of dystopias and impending disasters.

> 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.
> Yecccch.

Well, we "tiny parts" seem to have the Whole ingrained within us
and be able to some extent to consciously plug into the Whole.
Ultimately I don't see that there are any limits. Of course, as
we plug into this Whole in various ways, especially
technologically we become different from what we were at the
beginning. Our tininess is both necessary to apprehend to not
place so much emphasis on our mini-me and local temporary drama
and necessary as the flip side of recognizing the Unlimited
Wholeness, yearning for it, reaching for it, bringing it into
being in our lives and fully appreciating It.

Spiritual laws exist and are important truths of our existence
and development. They are fundamental laws of that inner side
of the balance. But they are much, much different from some
hoary lists of "Thou Shall" and "Thou Shall Not".

> 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...

I think that at least some of us must devote our lives and best
efforts to the work of transforming/transcending human
consciousness and institutions. We can't put all our eggs into
one basket. Nor do I think we can assume that humans can create
a true Friendly AI seed without to a large extent raising our
own consciousness. I think it is highly dangerous to believe
we can do a mainly techological and super-rational end-run that
will solve everything and keep us from the need for such efforts.

If the Singularity does not come rapidly or does not "save us"
quite like we hoped it would, then we may well not have time
enough for the work at the consciousness level before we succeed
in destroying ourselves.

- samantha

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