Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies


The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.


Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:


Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view




whats new at ieet

This Milk Lasts Up to Nine Weeks Without Spoiling

A forgotten Space Age technology could change how we grow food

Moral Enhancement and Moral Freedom: A Critical Analysis

What will be the next big scientific breakthrough?

Self-Awareness Is Essential in Comedy and in Life

IEET Fellow Stefan Sorgner’s Autobiographical Nietzschean Transhumanism in New Book


ieet books

Philosophical Ethics: Theory and Practice
Author
John G Messerly


comments

Giulio Prisco on 'The Community Delusion: “We” are not the world.' (Jul 27, 2016)

dobermanmac on 'Beware the Rise of Gerontocracy: Some Hard Lessons for Transhumanism, Not Least from Brexit' (Jul 26, 2016)

instamatic on 'How our police became storm troopers, redux' (Jul 25, 2016)

almostvoid on 'How our police became storm troopers, redux' (Jul 25, 2016)

almostvoid on 'Optimize Your Brain: The Science of Smarter Eating' (Jul 25, 2016)

RJP8915 on 'How To Live With Doubt About Life’s Meaning' (Jul 23, 2016)

Paul Tiffany on '“Robots will colonize space, without human beings”' (Jul 23, 2016)







Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List



JET

Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”

Moral Enhancement and Political Realism

Intelligent Technologies and Lost Life

Hottest Articles of the Last Month


How VR Gaming will Wake Us Up to our Fake Worlds
Jun 28, 2016
(10719) Hits
(2) Comments

Worst case scenario – 2035 and no basic income.
Jun 29, 2016
(7013) Hits
(0) Comments

Existential Risks Are More Likely to Kill You Than Terrorism
Jul 8, 2016
(4340) Hits
(1) Comments

Transparent Smart Chargepoints and the Internet of Things
Jul 16, 2016
(4099) Hits
(1) Comments



IEET > Security > Biosecurity > Rights > Neuroethics > PostGender > Life > Innovation > Vision > Bioculture > CyborgBuddha > Futurism > Directors > Giulio Prisco > Affiliate Scholar > Ted Chu

Print Email permalink (4) Comments (10983) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


Cosmic Beings: Transhumanist Deism in Ted Chu’s Cosmic View


Giulio Prisco
By Giulio Prisco
Ethical Technology

Posted: Feb 12, 2014

In Human Purpose and Transhuman Potential: A Cosmic Vision for Our Future Evolution, IEET affiliate scholar Ted Chu, a professor of Economics at New York University in Abu Dhabi and former chief economist for General Motors and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, argues that post-humanity is a logical and necessary evolutionary next step for humanity, and we need a new, heroic cosmic faith for the post-human era. “The ultimate meaning of our lives rests not in our personal happiness but in our contribution to cosmic evolution,” says Chu…

“a process that transcends the human and yet is integral to who and what we are in the universe.”Chu believes that we should create a new wave of sentient beings, artificial intelligences and synthetic life forms, and pass the baton of cosmic evolution to them. This doesn’t mean that humanity will be discarded, but only that in the future our spiritual descendants will take over. Creating our successors isn’t betraying humanity and nature but, on the contrary, a necessary continuation of our evolutionary journey and an act of deep respect, to the point of worship, of humanity, evolution, and nature:

“[W]e should pursue nature-worship to an extreme that goes beyond what is currently considered acceptable… For us, the best way to create new (‘artificial’) life forms and intelligence is to allow them to emerge through evolution, as nature does, only in much shorter timeframes and with much greater efficiency and variety.

For conscious evolution to be successful, we need to observe and understand the actual workings of nature, in all its dynamism, to the point of profound reverence, or ‘worship.’ This is what I call extreme nature-worshipping… From the perspective of extreme nature-worshipping, the real significance of Darwin’s evolutionary theory is not that humans descended from lower species, but that we can continue to evolve.”

Chu doesn’t cover in too much detail the myriad of current results and advances in artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, artificial life, and robotics, which will enable our upcoming, post-human phase of self-directed evolution.

Scientific results and advances are, of course, covered in near real-time by professional and popular science-oriented media, and Chu assumes that science and technology will continue to advance on their path, leading to the creation of our immortal, post-biological, hyper-aware mind children, a new species on the frontier of cosmic evolution that is unimaginably powerful and creative.

“[T]he last great invention that humans will ever need to make is in sight: the autonomous intelligent cosmic being (CoBe) that is spontaneously adaptive and has a will to continuously evolve and push forward the evolutionary frontier in the universe.”

The transition to post-humanity won’t be easy though, and it will present daunting technical and social challenges.

Chu is “wary of all the talk about smooth sailing to the inevitable Singularity, where technological progress is said to accelerate so fast that it can be represented by a rising curve eventually going straight up to infinity,” and warns that “the future is likely to be far more difficult than the techno-optimists are predicting or hoping for.”

“The emergence of CoBe will not be the result of a simple straight-line progression… [N]atural evolution is eventful, chaotic, rough, unclean, unbalanced - it is a storm of ‘creative destruction.’ Likewise, conscious evolution will be full of unintended, unpredictable consequences as well, including calamities as well as magnificent, seemingly ‘miraculous’ advances.”

The book is about evolution, its messiness, glory, sometimes cruelty, and awesome power to create more and more complexity. Darwinian processes, driven by variation, selection, and replication, are fundamental cosmic patterns found not only in biological life but also in the evolution of cultures, technologies, and societies. The only permanent feature of an ever changing universe is the process of change itself. Evolution works by creating complexity and diversity, in an endless search of better adaptation to changing environmental conditions, and ruthlessly discarding experiments to make room for what works. “Natural selection is a process of exuberant creation and ruthless elimination,” says Chu. “Similarly, the best practice in science and culture is a kind of negative pragmatism: find out what is not working and get rid of it.”

It’s not surprising, then, that the most successful product of evolution – ourselves – must necessarily make room for new experiments in the search of optimal adaptation to a wider environment – the whole universe. Chu uses the powerful metaphor of a killer whale – another creature that evolution has placed at the top of its habitat – that jumps out of the water to catch glimpses of other, more challenging alien environments. At this point in human history, “blind” Darwinian evolution is about to give rise to self-directed, conscious evolution. But self-directed evolution will not be a clean, aseptic, top-down, design-review-implementation project.

On the contrary, it will be as messy, unpredictable, and full of unexpected twist and turns, as natural evolution:

“[N]atural evolution is eventful, chaotic, rough, unclean, unbalanced – it is a storm of ‘creative destruction,’ not a walk in the park… Conscious evolution must follow the same strategy as natural evolution, only with more intensity.”

Chu considers the technical feasibility of post-human evolution toward CoBe as a given. “If mindless natural evolution can generate a conscious mind and Einstein-like geniuses, accomplishing as least as much is certainly technically possible with artificial intelligence,” he says. “If the extremely intricate and complex protein nano-machine called the cell somehow came into existence, then duplicating the same degree of ‘miraculous’ transformation in the nanotech lab should not be impossible.”

The book is not focused on the scientific and technological aspects of conscious evolution, but rather on its cultural, political, and religious aspects.Diversity is good, not only in the cosmic arena of universal evolution, but also in the human arena of culture and politics, and even more so as we stand on the edge of post-humanity. Chu has a strong preference for an open society without excessive control:

“Mao’s slogan ‘Let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend’ reflects the true spirit of evolution. Despite the risk of serious damage, we badly need single-minded religious zealots, political fanatics, and scientific cranks who can sustain direction even with repeated setbacks and depressing disarray and turmoil.”

”We should despair, however, if personal freedom and the freedom to experiment with a variety of social organizations are taken away by a global political entity. While global integration in many areas continues to deepen, it is a blessing that no centralized ‘world government’ is on the horizon. By conscious will or by chance, there will be a few people who can ‘dream of things that never were’ (in the words of John F. Kennedy), people who will seek to realize their dreams in some nurturing social environment with a high degree of enthusiasm and risk tolerance.”

At the same time, Chu is aware of the dangers of excessive societal fragmentation and runaway laissez-faire. What he proposes is a balanced approach, oriented toward healthy diversity in a free society. “It is the messy, yin-yang environment that proves to be most fruitful and sustainable over the long term.”

Quality of life and happiness are certainly desirable and worth pursuing, but not as important as our duty to forward cosmic evolution. The book begins with a question: “[W]hat will it take to get humanity to accept this new understanding of place and purpose?”

“Faith and religious sentiments are too great a natural creative motivation to ignore and to not take advantage of,” says Chu. “Like a powerfully drawn bow, faith stretches the soul, enabling us to aim at the furthest goals.” An accomplished student of both Western and Eastern philosophies and religions, Chu feels equally at home citing the Buddha and Jesus, the Tao Te Ching and the Gospels, Teilhard and Confucius, the Tao and the Holy Trinity. To stretch our soul and aim for the stars, he proposes a “Cosmic View” based on active contemplation of our transcendent destiny and cosmic duty to create our successors, the CoBe who will move to the stars and ignite the universe with hyper-intelligent life. The Cosmic View merges the best of Western and Eastern traditions, combining “the Western transcendent faith in Cosmic Creation and the Eastern realistic view of humanity.”

The Cosmic View can play many of the impersonal, philosophically oriented roles of religion. But it doesn’t offer belief in a personal God who cares, or hope in afterlife. “The best way to overcome the fear of death,” says Chu, “is to make one’s interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the spiritual walls of the self recede, and one’s life becomes increasingly merged into the universal whole.” This contemplation of self as a small part of the wonderful cosmic adventure of intelligent life and the creation of more and more evolved entities is, indeed, intellectually satisfying and motivating.

​But I am afraid that the impersonal, essentially Deist Cosmic View, may not be emotionally satisfying enough for the most people, especially for Westerners with a worldview strongly centered on self. Chu is well aware of this possibility - he acknowledges that the Deism of the great architects of the American Revolution has never taken root in the majority of the American population, and that “a non-personal God that is cosmic in nature has to be blended with certain human-friendly characteristics in order to be attractive, in the same way that colors are added to the pictures taken through space telescopes to enhance perception and draw popular interest.”

The problem – how to make the Cosmic View emotionally appealing to the majority of the population – is addressed but not solved in Chu’s work. But I am hopeful that future refinements of Chu’s ideas will permit the emergence of Religion 2.0, based on the Cosmic View, with suitable colors and human-friendly features added to make it emotionally satisfying.

Another in my opinion questionable aspect of Chu’s excellent work is an excessive conceptual separation between today’s humanity and future post-humanity. While I wholeheartedly embrace the necessity, our cosmic duty, of self-directed evolution to create Cosmic Beings able to ignite the universe with intelligent life, I never liked the concept of “post-humanity.” What’s wrong with just “humanity,” evolved? I imagine a co-evolution of humanity and technology, with humans enhanced by synthetic biology and artificial intelligence, and artificial life powered by mind grafts from human uploads, blending more and more until it will be impossible – and pointless – to tell which is which. Like children retain their fundamental identity after growing up and becoming adults, we don’t need to fear a post-human takeover, because the post-humans will be ourselves. This alternative vision of “Cosmic Humans” is, I believe, equally consistent with the Cosmic View but more emotionally appealing.

Images:
http://www.deviantart.com/art/Cyborg-348434931
http://www.deviantart.com/art/Blue-330278501
https://www.prote.in/en/feed/2012/05/brainput
http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2012/07/
http://indiafuturesociety.org/wp-content/uploads/
2013/06/Human-Evolution1.jpg


Giulio Prisco is a writer, technology expert, futurist and transhumanist. A former manager in European science and technology centers, he writes and speaks on a wide range of topics, including science, information technology, emerging technologies, virtual worlds, space exploration and future studies. He serves as President of the Italian Transhumanist Association.
Print Email permalink (4) Comments (10984) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


COMMENTS


@Giulio:

I have a piece that should go up early next week that builds off of Lee Billings excellent 5 billion Years of Solitude. Here is a quote:

“Billings finds other, related, possible explanations for our solitude as well. He discusses the thought experiment of UC San Diego’s Tom Murphy who tried to extrapolate the world’s increasing energy use into the future at an historical rate of 2.3 percent per year. To continue to grow at that rate, which the United States has done since the middle of the seventeenth-century, we would have to encase every star in the Milky Way galaxy with in an energy absorbing Dyson sphere within 2,500 years. At which Billings concludes:

‘If technological civilization like ours are common in the universe, the fact that we have yet to see stars or entire galaxies dimming before our eyes beneath starlight-absorbing veneers of Dyson spheres suggests that our own present era of exponential growth may be anomalous, not only to our past, but also to our future.’

Would be interested in your thoughts once it is up…





@Rick - I look forward to reading your piece. Exponential trends don’t last forever in the real world - at this moment we are in an exponential phase in computer science, biotechnology and neuroscience. I hope this phase will last long, but it won’t be forever. Also, other things are not accelerating or improving.

My favorite explanation of the Fermi paradox is that the universe is full of advanced civilizations, but we are not smart enough to notice.

By the way, a couple of minutes ago a nanoprobe much smaller than a dust speck, carrying thousands of hyper-intelligent alien uploads, landed right on the tip of my nose. Too bad I didn’t notice a thing.





The necessary first step towards a spiritual and intellectual post-humanity is to accept that the brain algorithm is muscular, not computational.  Thus, language is how we access the knowledge in the culture, by muscular actions of the vocal system muscles.  Of course culture is peer pressure (superstition), which is why humans have always looked to spirituality for Highest Guiding Principles. 
    Once people realize that important decisions cannot be justified by verbal logic, but rather by empirically validated principles, the scientific revolution will be extended to the arena of everyday affairs.  Brain connectomics research is very close to showing that the algorithm is muscular;  this results that language is not symbolic;  and the brain contains no representations, computations, or knowledge - all are in effect offloaded to the culture.
    The perceptual leg of the algorithm is consciousness, so conscious AI is close at hand.  It was only held up by the illusion of language - that words represent entities that actually exist.





True enough, exponential trends do not last forever. But the exponential growth in intelligence may last a good deal longer than the exponential growth of energy use. Our computers continue to do a lot more with less energy and material. So no dimming of stars or galaxies would be needed for civilizations to be vastly more advanced than ours.





YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Future Beautiful Identical People - is this horribly icky, or sexy wonderful?

Previous entry: Rick Searle’s Rational Monster

HOME | ABOUT | FELLOWS | STAFF | EVENTS | SUPPORT  | CONTACT US
SECURING THE FUTURE | LONGER HEALTHIER LIFE | RIGHTS OF THE PERSON | ENVISIONING THE FUTURE
CYBORG BUDDHA PROJECT | AFRICAN FUTURES PROJECT | JOURNAL OF EVOLUTION AND TECHNOLOGY

RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

East Coast Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
56 Daleville School Rd., Willington CT 06279 USA 
Email: director @ ieet.org     phone: 860-428-1837

West Coast Contact: Managing Director, Hank Pellissier
425 Moraga Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611
Email: hank @ ieet.org