Documenting the Coming Singularity

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Raised Imperishable?

A bit of backstory is required here. I spent half of my life as a Christian minister. I am no longer a Christian, and obviously not a minister. Today I am an atheistic blogger, although the focus of my blogs is unrelated to atheism. I tell you this not to offend those of you who believe in God, not to curry favor with those of you who do not. I only mention it because I will quote some scripture in this post, but the post is not about religion. It is about the singularity, transhumanism, and radical life-extension. So please bear with me.

Ray Kurzweil, Vernor Vinge, and many others foresee technological advances in the near future that will make it possible to upload human beings' entire personality/mind-patterns, into machine substrates, whereupon these minds will continue the lives of the individual uploads potentially indefinitely. Michael Anissimov has an excellent article on these "uploads" here.

Now, here's the quote from the Bible I warned you was coming:
1Co 15:35-44 NASB But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" (36) You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; (37) and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. (38) But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. (39) All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. (40) There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. (41) There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. (42) So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; (43) it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; (44) it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
I can't be the first person to have made this connection, probably not the 100th, but I know I haven't read it anywhere else before. It's fairly obvious, isn't it? I am not implying that the author of these verses had the technological singularity of the 21st century in mind, that would be silly. But the striking parallel between the religious and the secular concepts may be the result of a common motive: the simple human desire to rid ourselves entirely of the vicissitudes of the flesh.

It is clear to many that the future of mankind lies nestled comfortably in durable, replicable, machine substrates, rather than in biology. I am reminded of the wonderfully humorous science-fiction short story published in April 1999 in Omni magazine written by Terry Bisson, They're Made Out of Meat. It's worth a read if you've never heard of it, and it captures perfectly the sense that moving out of biological substrates is a virtual inevitability for any sentient race.

The biblical doctrine of bodily resurrection entails the instantiation of the "soul" (read personality/mind-pattern) into a "glorious" and "imperishable" new substrate. Isn't that the sort of thing we envision happening in the singularity? Without all the religious and supernatural accouterments, I mean. Makes you think. Stay tuned.

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Michael Anissimov said...

Nice! For a paper on the connections between Mormonism specifically and transhumanism, see I like your new profile picture btw.

Barry Mahfood said...

Thanks Michael. I'll check out the link. The picture is of me at an earlier time, but I figured, what the heck, it's still me. And I think people respond more positively to a nice face. If I manage to live long enough to live forever, I can have whatever face I want. That'll be great!

CinnamongirlFla said...

You sure that's not D in that pic?

Barry Mahfood said...

That's definitely B.