21 May 2011 is Mercy Day
21 May 2011 (updated 19 September 2015)
I’m pretty sure Harold Camping’s judgment day rapture isn’t happening. No. I’m not basing that on the fact that I’m still here to post this message. Rather, apart from the sadly-usual 150k persons that died today of mostly aging-related causes, apparently everyone is sticking around. It may be that the number of persons eligible for the rapture is so vanishingly small that the rest of us just aren’t noticing, and we’re still on track for the end of the world on 21 October. If that’s the case, though, shouldn’t we see Jesus coming through the air by now?
Probably for as long as humans could conceive of the end of the world, we’ve been predicting it. In my own religious tradition, some Mormons expect that, on some unspecified future day, Jesus will literally appear in the sky with angels, raising the righteous into the air as the wicked burn below. On the secular side, some Singularitarians expect machine intelligence will soon self-replicate and improve at a rate that will produce something like a technological event horizon, with uncontrollable and unpredictable results for the rest of us.
Some of us laugh because just about everyone knows such predictions have been failing for a long time. However, anyone trained in logic or statistics knows that past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. Moreover, if we continue to make such predictions long enough then we probably will be right eventually, at least to some extent, particularly as the probability of global catastrophic risks and our power to realize our own predictions continue to increase. That’s the nervous edge you might sense in some of the laughter.
Today, though, we do persist. While some will chalk this up to random chance, I won’t. Instead, I propose we chalk it up to grace. It’s grace, not because we can prove it’s grace, but rather because it’s in our practical and moral interest to posit it’s grace. We have a choice. On the one hand, we can choose negative or passive religious interpretations or analogous secular interpretations. On the other hand, we can thank God for negated negative prophecies or trust in our posthuman potential and its implications. The choices we make affect our thoughts, words and actions, which in turn affect our relations and world. My fate is to some extent in your hands, as yours is in mine. Thank you for making today one of grace. Rather than judgment day, 21 May 2011 is mercy day, as is each day you choose to work with me to make a better world.