Last time I posted, we imagined that one of the things we might do with vast computing resources in the future is run highly detailed family history simulations, to the point of enabling the characters with artificial intelligence and fully immersive consciousness. If something like $150 could purchase more computing capacity than that of all human brains combined, we might run many thousands, millions, or more family history simulations, for education, entertainment, research and innumerable other purposes.
Technology, and particularly computing, is essential to family history. Without it, we could still tell family stories to our children, but we certainly couldn’t substantiate those stories from billions of historical records into millions of family trees, as web applications like FamilySearch and Ancestry.com do today.
Soon you'll have the opportunity to become a wirehead: you'll be able to experience persistent intense pleasure through direct brain stimulation, perhaps via an implant or even wirelessly. It would be euphoric and, unlike the common pleasures of eating or sex, it could continue indefinitely. No matter how long you've enjoyed the experience, you'd be able to continue enjoying it. You wouldn't feel full, or fatigued, or otherwise uncomfortable. The pleasure wouldn't decline. Computer-automated modulation would ensure you're experiencing maximal pleasure, more than any conceivable alternative at each moment.
Last weekend, I watched the October 2013 general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and engaged in discussion of the ideas online. Below are 73 thoughts and highlights, from me and others, about the conference. The thoughts range from affirmations to criticisms, and from questions to assertions. Hopefully they'll provoke reflection, questions and comments.
Some of us seem inclined to understand and speak of morality in terms of some specific set of values (such as those commonly advocated by self-identified conservatives or progressives), rather than in terms of acknowledging and accounting for values generally, including the conflicts and tensions between and among them. When I posit morality as my values, or when a subset of us posit morality as our subset of values, we are merely engaged in egotism or its communal analogs.
What is the future of religion? Some expect the resurgence and ultimate triumph of this or that fundamentalism. Some expect the religious phenomenon itself to weaken and die, a casualty to the science of our day. Others, observing the history of religion, expect that it will continue to evolve, inextricably connected to and yet clearly distinct from its past. If such an evolution occurs, what will religions of the future be like?
Pew Research recently published some brief summaries of religious leaders' views on radical life extension, in conjunction with the results of a study on Americans' views on radical life extension. The summaries included one positioned to represent Mormonism (and particularly the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is by far the largest but not the only Mormon denomination) from an interview with Brigham Young University bioethicist, Steven Peck. Here's the summary:
If you would, think with me for a moment about everyone in the room with us. If you’re comfortable, you might even look around. Some are mothers, some hope to be mothers, some have lost hope to be mothers, some live with our mothers, and some don’t remember our mothers. For some, our mothers are a biological fact, and for some, our mothers are so by adoption, maybe by law or simply in function. Perhaps most challenging, the idea of motherhood may warm our hearts or it may chill our bones. Because our life experiences have been different, we each understand and feel motherhood differently. While honoring these differences, my task today yet remains to speak on honoring motherhood.
Kyle Gregg recently attended the Mormon Transhumanist Association conference and wrote an excellent blog post about the conference and the association, entitled "A Mormon Critique of the Mormon Transhumanism Conference". Kyle says he's not a Mormon Transhumanist, but he's been a Mormon his whole life and has "a firm and examined testimony". In his post, he provided both pros and cons, as he sees them. I don't have anything particular to say about the pros except that I agree with them in general terms. Here are some of my thoughts regarding the cons he identified, with his words in quotes.
PZ Myers is a biologist, a self-described skeptic, and apparently an anti-religious zealot. He recently caught my attention because he spoke about Transhumanism at the Skeptech conference and mentioned Mormon Transhumanism. After gracing me with some "kind" interactions on Twitter, he posted a video of his presentation. Here are some quick observations and thoughts that I wrote while watching.
This is a transcript of my opening presentation at the 2013 Conference of the Mormon Transhumanist Association yesterday, 5 April 2013, in the Salt Lake City Public Library. The conference room filled beyond capacity this year with around 80 in-person attendees and more participating online via the live video stream. I've embedded a recording of the presentation above, and all other recordings from the conference are available online, including the Mormon Transhumanist Barbershop Sextet! At the bottom of this post, I've also embedded the published version of the text, which I invite you to download and share. I look forward to your feedback.
Science project time came again, and my youngest son wanted to know what DNA looks like. He read some explanations of genetics and DNA for kids. We also found instructions on how to extract DNA from a strawberry, and they were safe and easy enough that he could do all the work himself after I gathered the needed materials. Check out the project and pictures below.
If mind is consciousness then it may not make sense to talk of mind being replaced by an electro-mechanical computer. It seems it would make more sense to talk of the substrate of consciousness, the brain, as one computational substrate that could perhaps be replaced by another.
Available now is my computed comparison of the Book of Mosiah to the Bible, consisting of 60 pages of side-by-side text comparisons. This is part of the second edition of As One that Hath a Familiar Spirit, which I'm publishing both here on my blog and in my Scribd library. Subsequently, pending sufficient interest, I may also work toward publishing more formal print or ebook copies of the entire work. If you would be interested in purchasing a print or ebook copy, please let me know by clicking here. Here are some highlights from and observations about the computed comparison of the Book of Mosiah to the Bible:
Technology is power, which may be used for good or evil. And technological trends increasingly suggest our future will include technology and its associated power beyond our present ability to imagine. The Benevolence Argument of the New God Argument concludes that any posthumanity, radically creative to the point of metacreativity in creating worlds of world creators, probably is more benevolent than humanity, corresponding with trust that God is good, basically because otherwise posthumanity would not have survived its increasingly complex technological ascendance long enough to attain and maintain such power.
Available now is my computed comparison of the Book of Jacob to the Bible, consisting of 11 pages of side-by-side text comparisons. This is part of the second edition of As One that Hath a Familiar Spirit, which I'm publishing both here on my blog and in my Scribd library. Subsequently, pending sufficient interest, I may also work toward publishing more formal print or ebook copies of the entire work. If you would be interested in purchasing a print or ebook copy, please let me know by clicking here. Here are some highlights from and observations about the computed comparison of the Book of Jacob to the Bible:
"Why does the Holy Ghost not have a body?" Someone raised this question in my son's class during church meetings, and the instructor asked the students to think about it at home during the week. Some of us are repulsed by such questions, either because we consider all theology to be a waste of time or because we consider speculation to be spiritually dangerous. Although I agree that speculative theology (is there any other kind?) presents the risk of superstition, I generally value and enjoy it for the opportunity it presents as an illuminator of our posthuman projections. As I've mentioned before, God always has been and is at least a posthuman projection. When we improve our understanding of each other's conception of God (or whatever else we choose to call our posthuman projections), we improve our understanding of each other's deepest motivations and aspirations, which of course presents substantial practical value in our relations with each other. The question raised in my son's class is no exception, so I share with you some of the thoughts I shared with my son.