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Your Digital Afterlives: Computational Theories of Life After Death
Lincoln Cannon   Mar 24, 2016   lincoln.metacannon  

It took me two years to read the 216 pages in Eric Steinhart’s book, Your Digital Afterlives: Computational Theories of Life after Death. Friends know that’s because I’m the world’s slowest reader of philosophical texts that interest me—and just about any text that interests me seems to become philosophical as I read it.

In his text, Eric presents a cosmic vision of technological potential that was for me at once intimately familiar and jarringly alien. I’m a Transhumanist, thoroughly, and of the more radical sort. Ideas like mind uploading, digital resurrection, and universe computation are, for me, living possibilities, and nearly perpetual contemplations that color each moment of my experience to some extent or another.

I’m also a Mormon, irredeemably, born to and educated in a family that held Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo period theology in the highest esteem. Diverse worlds and heavens without end, physical Gods that were once like humanity, and human potential to be like God: none of this is new for me.

Eric explores all of these technological and theological concepts (minus any association with Mormonism) in his book, and that exploration resonated deeply. What did not resonate was his metaphysics. And that not so much because I disagreed.

Rather, as it were, I found myself seated at a grand table with stout legs, enjoying a fine feast. The Chef observed that the legs of the table were grounded in mathematical necessity, and the feast would be infinite. I listened intently. I contemplated seriously. I kind of wanted to nod, and I might have half-nodded. Then I greedily asked the Chef to tell me about dessert. Maybe Pragmatists are poor dinner guests for Platonists, but I was happy to be invited.

Your Digital Afterlives deals with the philosophy of Digitalism. This philosophy is a form of Transhumanism that uses new computational ways of thinking to develop naturalistic but meaningful approaches to religious problems involving minds, souls, life after death, and the divine.

In chapter one, Eric describes what he calls your “digital ghost.” I’d call it your “spirit”—not a supernatural or immaterial spirit, but rather a physicalist information-constructed spirit. It starts simply, as something like a Facebook timeline that outlines events in your life and complements them with rich media. It becomes more complex as it adds in all the data of the totally quantified self, and extends into digital reconstructions of your environment. Eventually, becoming yet more complex, it is indistinguishable from that which you’re experiencing right now. In fact, for all you know, you’re currently living in a digital world.

In chapter two, Eric discusses persistence. He argues that we persist through time as continuity rather than identity. We are each a sequence of distinct instantaneous stages, none of which is identical with its predecessor or successor stages. Thus, as we can persist meaningfully through life without identicalness from moment to moment, we can also persist meaningfully after death without identicalness. I agree with this insofar as we understand “identity” strictly as identicalness of stages through time. But I disagree with any broader rejection of persistent identity. Nothing prevents me from identifying myself with the whole sequence rather than with merely a given stage in it. And in fact, it seems most of us can and do use identity in that practical way, whether or not we imagine the underlying metaphysics of the stages differently.

In chapter three, Eric addresses anatomy. He contends that cells are finite in space and discrete in time, and thus cells are machines that may be computed perfectly. He also contends that cells have primitive minds and intelligence because they consist of networks that recognize patterns and make decisions. From there, he extends his reasoning through the nervous and immune systems, as networks of cells, to the body as a whole, concluding that it is a machine that may be computed perfectly. Along the way, he points out that minds are not merely brains, and that they are inseparable from physical bodies. However, he continues, minds are substrate independent in that they may be copied, and the copies may be made of different stuff. Generally speaking, I agree with these views, although I esteem the finiteness of bodies to be an assumption that need not be absolutely true for its practicality to remain. Even if bodies were infinitely complex, we might have no reason to care about the complexity below a certain threshold, so they would remain computable for all practical purposes.

In chapter four, Eric elaborates on uploading. He points out that it would be biologically isomorphic and psychologically exact, preserving any disorders, although they may be ameliorated over time. It would also require simulation of proximate environment to support the upload, otherwise it couldn’t live. So uploading does not result in disembodiment, but rather intensification of embodiment. Also, as identicalness does not persist through time, so identicalness does not persist into uploading, but there’s still continuity into uploading as there’s continuity through life. He suggests uploading is resurrection, whether of a dead person or a soon-to-die person, and that uploading engineers would design a utopia for resurrection.

In chapter five, Eric describes what he calls “promotion.” He contends that engineers may attain superhuman capacity and create universes, and thus be considered natural gods. He explores the Simulation Argument, which suggests we might already be living in a computed universe embedded within other computed universes. And he suggests reasons why we might conclude that the engineers of higher universes would be increasingly compassionate. Such engineers may choose to provide a universal resurrection for all in their universes, and to resurrect us as promotions rather than merely uploads. While an upload would be a copy the last stage of your life, a promotion would be a compression of the best characteristics of all stages of your life. I generally share this view, although I would consider it immoral to force any “moral enhancement” during the process.

In chapter six, Eric considers digital Gods. He points out that Digitalists disagree with those, such as Dawkins, who reject design of our universe. But Digitalists agree that the designers are the end product of some kind of cumulative evolutionary process. Designers of universes, or Gods, evolve like any other organisms, and Gods reproduce Gods, resulting in a great tree of Gods that increase in complexity and recursively improve both themselves and their creations. Although he argues for some other ideas I don’t share or about which I’m skeptical, such as a first God and complexity as intrinsic value, the broader notion of an endless progression of Gods resonates deeply with me.

In chapter seven, Eric contrasts what he calls “revision” with uploading and promotion. Whereas uploading and promotion are forms of resurrection, revision is a form of rebirth. A revised organism or universe runs again from its beginning, but includes a revision that refines or improves upon its previous run. Unlike uploading or promotion, revision could solve moral problems like that of unhappy childhoods. Like uploading or promotion, it would be topless and have no end or goal except perpetual self-transcendence. He seems to prefer revision over forms of resurrection, although I see no reason why we would be forced to choose only one or the other.

In chapter eight, Eric explores superhuman bodies. Although he acknowledges human organisms may evolve into nonhuman organisms, the exploration is essentially an exercise in extrapolation from human bodies to their superhuman optimization, idealization, and extension, as he categorizes them. An optimized superhuman has an anatomy that enables it to do whatever any human can do. An idealized superhuman can do any human function as well as the optimized superorganism of any species. And the extended superhuman is some finite fractal doubling of the anatomy and capacities of the idealized superhuman. Of course each of these extrapolations entails change to skeletal, epidermal, sensory, computational, motor, metabolic, reproductive, and other bodily systems.

In chapter nine, Eric completes the extrapolation of superhuman bodies to what he calls “infinite bodies.” Here, his theology culminates in a progression of infinite limit Gods, capable of writing infinite books, eating infinite feasts, seeing infinite pictures, thinking infinite thoughts, making infinite love, and playing infinite games. The countably infinite Gods are surpassed by uncountably infinite Gods, or Archons, which surpass each other and iteratively transcend themselves without end.

Finally, in chapter ten, Eric wraps up with some commentary on set theory and its relation to concrete nature. In accordance with Platonism, he argues that mathematical objects exist necessarily. And from there he argues that their existence necessarily results in an “eruption” of self-transcending concreteness that we experience and observe as the natural world. He keeps this commentary brief, appealing to other works on the subject. His concluding statement is: “For digitalists, this self-transcendence is the best explanation for the existence of any concrete structures at all. The application of this self-transcendence to living structures entails universal salvation. It entails life after death.”

Your Digital Afterlives is not destined to attract any popular audience. To begin with, $80 is too expensive. But even if it were priced for a popular audience, it would remain too dense and terse and technical for popular consumption.

However, Your Digital Afterlives should be highly esteemed and widely read among professional theologians and serious students of theology. Too much of theology is stuck in thinking from centuries ago. Too little theology has recognized its own future as a formal science of superintelligence—transcending itself as astrology and alchemy transcended themselves to become formal sciences of astronomy and chemistry. Eric’s work is more than a large step in the right direction: it’s a great leap toward the future of theology.

On 9 April 2016, Eric Steinhart will be a keynote speaker at the 2016 Conference of the Mormon Transhumanist Association.


Lincoln Cannon is a technologist and philosopher, and leading advocate of technological evolution and postsecular religion. He is a founder, board member, and former president of the Mormon Transhumanist Association. He is a founder and advisor of the Christian Transhumanist Association. And he formulated the New God Argument, a logical argument for faith in God that is popular among religious Transhumanists.


Why is it that when it comes to speculating on “Humanities Descendants” (posthumans).  There always seems to be the need to make them more “compassionate/benevolent”, or overall “better”?

I ask because it seems to me like that would be a trivial point.  I mean look what humanities done with our boon of consciousness.  If we’re really so far removed from an ant (or other things that don’t do what we do).  What makes one think that an A.S.I/Posthuman would be that much different?  I mean if they’re smarter it means they could wage their endeavors more efficiently/discretely, or more grandly (depending upon their whims).

I’m thinking of how varied humanities culture presently is, and it’s likely to only get more varied.  I’m thinking of all the wargamers, the roleplayers, and the videogamers (along with other sub-cultures).  Most of their interactions within the context of the smaller environment (their chosen game) generally tend to be restricted to what’s the game about (most in-game interactions involve combat/competition in the three listed groups), but is it “wrong” to wage war virtually?

Now if the lines between virtual/reality are really that blurry.  It could seem that virtual slaughter could be equivalent to “real slaughter”...except for the virtual the slayer is removed from the situation (almost makes me think of real life drone strikes).

The question is, would that line of argument hold up against accusation?  Can one be held accountable for just killing a remote/virtual figure that is just a nameless construct (to outside appearances)?

This line of reasoning (along with others) often makes me think that a true “A.S.I/Posthuman/God” would be nothing more than a “referee” in the sense they make sure the cosmic rules (if any) aren’t broken (too much).  They don’t take favorites, or they at least try not to.  They just enforce the current “ruleset” in play.  And they have their own separate little “ant farm” to play “god” in when they want to (the creation of digital/virtual realities to play in).  All very much like a Gamesmaster for a tabletop roleplaying game.

Hi RJP8915.

That’s an interesting thought about referees. It seems to me that there are good reasons to suppose that either we and our evolutionary descendants will become extinct before reaching the capacity to compute worlds, or we will of necessity radically increase in our degree of cooperation (maybe like distributed referee authority)—to the point that it would be meaningful to call it “compassion”.

To be clear, I do not think superintelligence-in-general implies compassion on merely logical grounds (and this may distinguish my position from that which Eric seems to advocate). A centralized superintelligence may not have incentive to cooperate. But I do think superhumanity, maintaining a meaningful form of decentralized volition, is a meaningless notion apart from recognizing the necessity of increasing cooperation along side increasing capacity to harm (or help) each other. It seems to me that this is essentially what the MIRI folks are recognizing when arguing for the importance of figuring out how to ensure development of “friendly” superintelligence.

Here are a couple places that I elaborate a bit on these thoughts:

Compassion Argument

Semi-Orthogonality Thesis

@ Lincoln,

I read your two links, and a follow through link lead me to this article; .  Oddly, the later portion of the article “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods…” sort of resounded with me.  Mainly because it seems to parallel some of my own thoughts/desires.  Namely a quixotic desire to attain “divinity/transcendence…etc”, if solely for similar reasons (exploration, creation, love…etc), but I generally subscribe to a more rationalistic/atheistic point of view (which seems to slip occasionally).

Mainly because it seems hubristic to want (strive for) such potentials, and a whole lot of contradictory thoughts (about Virtue vs. Vice, Responsibility of “Power” vs. Irresponsibility…etc) ensure.  And that all boils down to mental molding (Pride is “bad”...humility “good”...and statements of good vs. bad itself), and a Will to Power (Nietzsche).

In the end I don’t know, but I feel once one has dealt with the philosophical/emotional/mental specter of Suicide.  It’s all sort of moot.  Mainly because of a realization that Suicide would be the pinnacle violence towards self/another (ie if you’re capable of killing yourself/destroying your own world…it means one would have no hesitation about destroying another’s permanently….possibly).  Although I’m just speculating right now.

RJP8915, I’m glad to hear you found some value there. And I agree with you that the phenomenon of suicide and its consideration is rich in philosophical ramifications. Tangentially, and it may sound silly, but when people start over-emphasizing suffering-mitigation as the purpose of life (rather than something like thriving-enablement), I often ask them why they don’t advocate a group overdose on morphine. After all, the only way to ensure the absence of suffering and its analogs is to ensure the absence of life. So whatever your reason for not overdosing on morphine, that’s also your justification of the risk of suffering.

Here is an argument for a simulated universe aiming for compassion.  Lets suppose the designer of the simulation we live in realizes that if it is possible to design a simulation with sentient beings, then it too must be in a simulation.  It also realizes that the simulation it finds itself in likely has a purpose.  It wishes to transcend its simulation to the next level but doesn’t know how, so it starts to believe in God. It then creates sentient beings to prove that the ultimate level of development of those sentient beings occurs when they achieve spiritual enlightenment.  It learns from the simulation that the process of spiritual enlightenment entails developing a mind that transcends self and embraces unity through universal compassion.

Hi Nicholsp03. That’s a beautiful idea. I agree that increasing compassion is the probable long term outcome for communities of increasingly intelligent beings, even when (and perhaps partly because, as you point out) those communities include hypothesized community members such as transcendent creators.

Let us know if Steinhart has added anything to his schema of afterlives, please?

Hi Spud100. Eric’s keynote speech at the 2016 Conference of the Mormon Transhumanist Association will stream live from on 9 April. I believe association leaders will also monitor social media during the Q&A following his speech. Afterwards, the association will publish a recording of his speech to its YouTube channel.

Instamatic, I have panpsychist inclinations. I’m happy to imagine what it might mean for even rocks to have souls.

I agree with you that the ancient has much value—particularly esthetic value. In our work to make meaning, it is the broader and deeper accounts of experience that will move more of us more dependably. And the broadest and deepest accounts must of necessity include the most ancient. To the extent the ancient is beautiful, we must celebrate it. To the extent it is ugly, we must redeem the brute fact of its existence. Our own salvation is ultimately at stake, reflected in our judgment of the ancient.

Of course, something analogous should be said about the present and future, and no group does the future better than Transhumanists—even knowing the ugly risks! We might imagine applying that attitude in both directions, and learn from the effort.

We are neither in a constructed virtual or holographic universe for too many reasons like for instance this universe as it is! Secondly nothing in reality can be infinite [ch 9] as theoretical physicists and mathematicians have taught us: if one ends up with infinite values the fault is in the methodology or assumptions initial conditions. Good to speculate about all this which Arthur C Clarke introduced us to in his many essays of the last millennium. As for this god obsession the sooner we delete that the saner we will all be. As for Platonic concepts the man is off his head. This caused mental problems for centuries. And if you want a long life study then practice deep-mind-meditation and you might just get a crack into reincarnating yourself. No machines needed. Just nature.

Hello Lincoln.  Thank you for your comments.  Is it just me or have you noticed how little attention is paid to the SA?  How many people have you talked to who have never heard of the SA before?  It is in the running for being the meaning of life, the universe and everything and yet even sites like this I suppose get a trickle of traffic.  I made a YouTube video of a Japanese omelette that now has over 14 million views.  I am not sure how many views this site has, but I image it to be in the thousands – surely it, as do the few other sites that cover the topic, deserves more coverage.  I have begun to think that the best evidence for our world being a computer simulation is the inability for most people to take it seriously.  If it is a simulation, then it figures that there would be a blocking mechanism to prevent the simulation from being revealed.  As was pointed out to me by a friend, it may be a good thing that people don`t take it seriously.  How many potential Pol Pots are there in the world who would decide to take the lives of others if they believed their lives were only virtual?  As Google, Microsoft and others race towards VR and AI, it is now only a matter of time before people start taking off their VR headsets and wonder in sincerity if the world they have returned to is real.  I wonder if there will be an awakening?

Hi Almostvoid. For what it’s worth, you sound to me to be far more confident about your positions than I think you should be. In particular, I assure you that Eric is not “off his head.” I don’t share in his Platonism, but he has reasons for it that go well beyond a few emboldened assertions in Internet comments.

Nicholsp03, I agree. I’m surprised the idea doesn’t get more attention, but perhaps you’re right that its time is still to come, when we have more practical experience with jumping between more immersive computed worlds.

RJP8915’s commented along the lines that most of the games we play in virtual worlds are based on combat and it may that those running the simulation we live in are doing the same.  I would like to propose that for the 2016 simulation we live in now, that is not the case.  Compared with history, our current society is relatively war free.  The virtual games we play now are in a state of evolution.  We have shown that war games sell, adding to the profits of their makers and giving them the resources to build even more addictive games in the future.  The adrenaline and endorphins they release are real and people pay for that and become addicted.  They are however nothing compared with the chemicals released in the body when someone is truly in love.  Scientists have compared the body responses of someone in love to that of a heroin addict.  When we have games that generate the true emotion of love, then the game world will become truly addictive for all ages.  It will be the merging of the addiction of current games, with porn, dating sites, adventure games, travel programs, sitcoms and educational programs.  As technology moves away from the keyboard, it will be a technology to occupy and stimulate the minds of the increasing population of people in aged care.  They will be able to enter a world when they are 50 years younger and perhaps find again their true love who may have died in real life. When they meet in the simulation, they will feel they have met before.  Like the younger generation of today, they will prefer their electronic worlds to their real one and why not let them.  As their bodies fail and the funds to look after the elderly decrease, the economic argument of a $1 drip while they enjoy a $100 lobster in a virtual world increase.  A virtual cruise as a 20 year old to a tropical island with the love of their life is much more environmentally friendly than real cruise ship full of retirees.  Eventually the themes of the games will morph again into those that enable individuals to develop spiritually.  They will move away from a perfect world to one that facilitates soul wrenching experiences for the betterment of personal development.  These worlds could be easily mistaken for a world with a superior being acting as a referee, but they are a self-imposed world.  A world that looks and feels much like the one we are living in now.

Nicholsp03: “A world that looks and feels much like the one we are living in now.”


If Jesus returned today, what would he say?  Well, let’s run the simulation and see.  The place technological singularity occurs may be Minecraft.  Microsoft has purchased Mojang, the company behind Minecraft and is racing towards a VR version.  Google has announced it will use Minecraft as a sandbox to train its new generation of AI.  Minecraft has been successful because it runs fast on just about any computer, provides an almost infinite play sequence using a fixed range of rules and provides a robust multiplayer environment.  The Non-player characters (NPCs) include villagers.  “Steve” is the character who is manipulated by the player of the game.
Now let’s imagine that NPC’s become smarter.  What would they do?  Taking a page from Maslow’s hierarchy they may use their new found intelligence to secure, water, food, safety and then populate beyond their village boundaries.  They may embark on elaborate structures, explore the underworld and try and work out the patterns of resources in their universe.  Their scientists would explore the possible technological advancements.  Some really smart ones may peer into the fabric of their world and see it seems to be held together with electricity and made of up particles that seem to flow.  They may conclude that their universe originated from a “big bang” when a sudden surge of energy created their universe in a few seconds.  They may conclude that as all the creatures in their world contain the same elements, the more complex ones must have evolved from the simple ones. There may be philosophers who propose that there may be a creator or a universe beyond their own Minecraft world, but as it would be impossible to prove, their opinions would not become mainstream.  Then along comes Steve.
Steve is not the creator.  He too is a character, but not conceived by two NPCs .  He tries to explain to the Villagers that although they have free will, the code they are part of was written a long time before their universe existed.  He would try and explain that he is from another Kingdom. That he and the creator are the light of their worlds.  To the villagers he would appear to have miraculous powers and even the ability to rise from the dead.  Perhaps Steve would be interested in directing the game towards putting more effort into the spiritual side of things.  Not to make idols, but to gain enlightenment by following his instructions before a wrong turn destroys the game.  The NPC scientists would be suspicious of Steve’s words as he would propose universes beyond the universe they know. 
With the AI locked safely inside a Minecraft game, Steve will use the game as a petri dish breeding the right strain of bacteria.  To those that really follow his teachings will have proven they are a friendly AI strain to be extracted and uploaded to another platform for more important Steve world applications.  Those that do not reach that level will be stuck and may one day face the sudden fate of a switch off. 
Comments welcome.

I love it, Nicholsp03.

I’m not sure, but I think my comment about a “referee” got misinterpreted.  In my line of reasoning there isn’t a “superior being” acting, but more of the universe itself enforcing the “rules”.  A sort of “cosmic referee” that is more inanimate/non-conscious than an active/aware force.  As Nicholsp03 stated about a self-imposed world (which I agree with).  I further consider the “referee” to be a part of ourselves (either willingly or unwillingly), so to some extent I suppose it is an active/aware force.

For instance, there is no “cosmic ruling/limits” to myself laying stake to the claim of “Godhood/Divinity…etc” as far as I’m aware.  The only limitations start arising when I start being “blatant” about my inclinations (Godhood), and that ensures trips to the clinic because that is just “non-sense” (ie “insanity”).  And yet, I think all of us strive for such a condition (utter & penultimate Freedom, Power, Ability, Grace, Love….etc).  Although when we make our intentions known to others, we get “torn down” as blasphemous/false idols/prideful.

Thus we get a self-regulating system that is either aware/active, or unconscious/passive.  “A cosmic referee”.  I mean what does “spiritual enlightenment” actually entail?  Perfection of oneself….“Godhead”?  And then comes a notion that all external justifications are imposed upon the internal (the self).  Perform “miracles” for us to prove your worth, but what constitutes as a “miracle”?  Just something that causes one to have doubt in their contrary counter-belief (You aren’t a “God”)?

I mean given the right equipment, I can turn “water into alcohol” (I have chemistry training).  Raise from the “Dead”....“future tech”.  The embodiment of Christ?  That a little piece of bread was once a child of God?  Sure, it’s made of carbon, and we’re in a closed system.  Therefore there’s a possibility that the bread’s carbon was once Jesus’s carbon.

I fully think once one starts trying to stake “divinity” for oneself (or has staked it).  It lays the ground for everyone else to follow suite.  A “categorical imperative” (Kant).  A question remains though, is it possible to have differing “values” individualist transcendence (Is there enough to go around for everyone to play God?).  Somehow I think so.  Otherwise why would there be a you, or I.  That can coexist “peacefully”.  I mean if there was the limitation upon “resources/potential” growth.  There would be no end to conflict over resources (a closed system no matter the scale would generate limitless conflict over resources, but a planet, galaxy, universe, multiverse….where does it end?).  With what is one satiated with?  Me, I’m happy with myself.

Not to completely sermonize here, but some further ruminations on my part.  Jesus railed against the establishment, and look what that got him.  Martyrdom, and “Divinity”.  He became an intangible icon/symbol that is well alive after a couple of millennia from his death.  Further some of the Christian thought is that we are created in the Creator’s image, and that Jesus was the son of God.  If such thought is to be interpreted (maybe poorly).  One can conclude that if we empathize with Jesus’s stance (share his Love/Identity/Persona….either through belief, or indoctrination…or whatever).  We too are the same way.  We all are children of God, and have the potential to “grow up into Adult God’s” (icons/symbols).

The main question I’ve been toying with as of late is what would one do if they do have such “limitless potential”?  Play “wargames”?  Have endless sex?  Do whatever?  And if so what are the repercussions, if any?  I mean on another article (Messerly’s difference between religion, philosophy, science).  There was a remark about religion being about aesthetics (how to live life), and therefore should anyone determine how another should live their life (potential comments about Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder…etc)?

Essentially, what is one’s “soul” worth?  What are you willing to sacrifice for your beliefs/convictions?  Can one accept the “penalty” of acting in a set way?  Every formal religion (an established value system) asks the follower to sacrifice their personal identity/value system to the doctrine (as far as I can tell).  Place another before you (The Church, The Faith, The Future,...whatever).  Is that is what is really called for in Life?  To efface your “self” for the sake of another?  To sacrifice your entire life for the values of another (and a whole potential spiel about soldiers/warfare/dying for one’s country…all for “wealthy politicians” sits ready/is possible).

RJP8915, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

In my religious tradition, Mormonism, we do not consider it blasphemous to aspire to become God, unless we’re aspiring to replace God, which we could express simply as an egotistical aspiration to power rather than an altruistic aspiration. And even if the majority of Christians fail to recognize it, there’s nonetheless a substantial, ancient, and enduring Christian tradition of trust in theosis:

Christian Authorities Teach Theosis

Catholic Authorities Teach Theosis

The Bible Teaches Theosis

I trust it’s possible, even desirable, to base our ethics on pursuit and reconciliation of differing values. In the Christian tradition, Jesus doesn’t merely ask us to show our love for him by adhering to his commands. He also tells us repeatedly that he would show his love for us by doing whatsoever we ask of him. Here are a couple elaborations:

Morality is not static subsets of values

Desire Entices Us to Embrace Ethics

If the ethics of killing animals made you a vegetarian, would you think twice about eating gummy bears?  Of course not, gummy bears are not real animals. If we live in a simulation and no real animals were harmed in the making of the simulation, is there any ethical value in being a vegetarian?  If you were absolutely convinced that you were in a computer simulation what ethics would you have?

I have asked a lot of people I have met if they have heard of the simulation argument and I am constantly surprised about how few have.  After explaining the argument, I invariably ask the person I am talking to that if I could somehow convince them they were in a computer simulation, how would they live their life starting from tomorrow.  In around 20% of the replies, the person says they would start doing the things they have always wanted to do.  In around 79% of the others, the reply is “nothing would change” and they would go on living as they do.  Either way, believing that we are in a simulation seems a pretty healthy proposition. 

If I were living in a simulation, I still wouldn’t commit a crime as I may be paying good money for this simulation and don’t want to waste it in a jail.  I wouldn’t want to commit suicide because the liberation that this world is only a simulation opens up a lot more opportunities to do things I was otherwise afraid of.  I would not fear death as it may well simply be a door to another world.  I would be a steak eating lover of life and the variety it presented. 

Perhaps I would start dividing the people around me into two categories.  Those that were likely NPC (non player characters) generated by the computer and those that had a real soul behind them – like truly creative musicians, artists and people who could engage in a conversation, not merely respond.  You know who the NPCs are.  You will find them in the supermarket and crowds.  They will have no original thoughts, predictable responses and have a lot of trouble getting the captcha working.  The rich and famous are not likely to be NPCs as they may have paid their way to have a successful simulation experience.  The most interesting non NPCs would be those seeking enlightenment, who through their ethical positions see beyond the illusion of the simulation and seek a higher level of consciousness.  I recall a Buddhist story of a follower chastising his master who was making a stew.  He said “If you are truly enlightened and have risen above the worldly needs for food, why then are you making a stew?”  The master replied “Don’t be an idiot – I am only making a stew”.  The master’s mind was not on the elements or attached to the material nature of his surroundings.  He had risen above the merits, needs and ethics of his actions.  Perhaps if he had one foot in the real world, his perceived need to make a stew for his student or even feed himself may prevent him from achieving his higher level of consciousness.  Similarly, if you were in doubt if our world was a computer simulation, your doubt would be like a mill stone, preventing you from focusing your efforts on a higher plane.  Nikola, aka Socrates takes a different view.  He writes, “basically, to me, it doesn’t matter whether we are in a simulation or not. Ethics is ethics and what is right is right, whether we are really based on analog biology or on binary, or some other kind of, code”.  I beg to differ and think that a stronger focus on the belief we are in a computer simulation would help us remove a lot of the hypocrisy of our ethical standings and provide a clearer and simpler picture of what is relevant and what is not.  Through such streamlining of our ethics beyond the material millstones of our virtual world, we position ourselves better for a universe beyond the one we know.  Comments welcome.


Oddly, parts of your comment remind me of the book I’m presently about to finish reading.  Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche.  I don’t know if you’ve read it, but it chronicles a “story” of an “Ethicist”, namely Zarathustra.  According to Nietzsche, Zarathustra was the originator of “Good vs. Evil”, and in turn is reincarnated in Nietzsche’s work to change such notions.  Roughly the first half is about Zarathustra sermonizing, and portraying what he considers “Good” & “Evil”.  And about how man doesn’t need God, but he needs the “Ubermensch”.  To overcome his complacency, and to keep “Life” going.

If you don’t know the works of the author, he is the one who declared “God is dead!”, but by the end of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.  Zarathustra, has started to become an “idol” (read God) because of his sermonizing, and life “events”.  As you could imagine, the becoming of an Idol, for denouncing the prior Idol.  Has become an interesting affair for Zarathustra.

The parts of your comment that reminded me of it were, “The Buddhist story”, the initial comments about NPC’s (20% vs. 79%), and the comments about preparing for a “better universe”.

I suppose to reflect more upon your comment, I would say, “why decry the NPC’s”?  For all you could know they are in a “better universe” mentally as your understanding of the “Buddhist story”.  That they choose not to interfere with your life, so you can figure things out on your own.  I mean seriously, if an “Enlightened One” told you the meaning of Life would you keep seeking?  Thus I would have to side with the “NPC’s”, for I’m not special enough to be “Enlightened” nor gifted enough to be the remaining 1%.  And in a probabilistic sense it is more likely to be someone else’s NPC.

Nicholsp03, I’ve often thought that “simulation” does an injustice to the ontological status of computed worlds. If they exist, as I’m inclined to believe, then it seems likely that non-computed worlds would be, in comparison, merely an improbable hypothetical possibility. Real worlds would be computed worlds. Of course this reveals a place where Eric Steinhart and I see things differently: he takes the position that there’s a basement reality, and mine is that perhaps not even the greatest of gods could know whether there’s such a thing as a basement reality. So it seems confirmation of living in a computed world would not change the way I live, as I’m already living in accordance with such a belief.

RJP8915, as an aside, I love “Thus Spake Zarathustra”. I don’t agree with it all, and I think some of it comes up short, but I love it—scripture to me. That surprises a lot of people, particularly those who are not highly familiar with Nietzsche and/or Mormonism. After all, I identify as a Christian and theist, and Nietzsche is the archetypal antichrist—intentionally provoking demonization, I think, for reasons that go beyond casual interpretation of his work.

@ Lincoln,

What parts don’t you agree with?  This has been my second reading of it, and I think it would be interesting to hear another’s critique/analysis (I haven’t encountered many who’ve read it).

I personally think it was sort of ironic how Nietzsche set up the notion of Zarathustra establishing a creed (Idol/God figure….even if it became a Donkey), for he established something that he was trying to “destroy” (as far as I understand it).  And that was a belief in an external ideology.  Although that is something all of us have to deal with (notions of authenticity…etc).

Oddly, towards the end of reading this time through, I was struck by the notion that Nietzsche was a lot more devout than people generally ascribe to him (mainly prior thoughts/comments in this thread about Theosis come into play).  I mean he essentially talks about hating/hurting the one you love out of love (Joy), so they grow/flourish (not quite in a sadistic sense, but more of a disciplinarian sense).  And being that it seems like his chief aim was against God/Church.  It would seem that he wanted it to grow/change.  Much like Kierkegaard, but with different tactics.  At least that’s how I’m interpreting it at present.

RJP8915, for example, I disagree with his sexism. Regarding his (a)theology, here are some tangential thoughts: Post-Secularism and the Resurrecting God. I think Nietzsche did a fine job of describing the solitary esthetic God (the superman that creates values), but he doesn’t seem to have done such a great job of accounting for any possibility that a community of supermen might be possible.

RJP8915 and Lincoln, thank you for your feedback.  It is this kind of “engagement” in a conversation rather than a simple “response” that I am grateful for.  If we are children in this sandbox then I much rather the company of those few who can add or subtract from the sand castle I am trying to build than simply have a comment made like a shadow of what I have said.  No, I have not read “Thus Spake Zarathustra” but it sounds like after I finish reading “Quantum Night”, something I should read.  RJP8915, you write “why decry the NPC’s”?  I respect the NPCs for their role in the fabric of our world.  It is a beautiful simulation we live in and even the clouds, the rivers and the waves seen in the right light provide the seeds of wisdom needed to teach us but it is hard to teach an old soul new tricks.  I can understand in my mind, from the teachings of many, how to transcend the substrate of this simulation, yet it is only when I understand in my soul, will the knowledge be any more than vanity.  The difference between intellect and wisdom is applied experience.  The roots of old souls run deep and it requires a fierce shaking of those roots for people to really change and progress. That is why the simulation must appear so real and life, at times, appear sometimes unreasonable.  Perhaps my life is too comfortable because despite what I believe to be true, I don’t see the fruits in my life that make me a better man.  It wasn’t so long ago that a fifty year old man was considered an old sage.  Now the words of even eighty year old men are seldom revered.  How hard it is to make real spiritual progress!  There are times I envy the blissful life of an idiot, and other times when I think I must be so close to that mirror that I can just step through to see a different world.  I have no doubt that my path beyond this simulation will be different to another.  Wasn’t it Kahlil Gibran who said “do not say you have found the truth, but say you a found a truth while walking on your path”?  If we are in a simulation, then it must be a nested simulation where the base reality has truths that extend beyond our perceived reality and the laws of physics and yet remain true.  Discovery of those vines of truth and climbing them must be the way out or at least a way to have a great view of what we are.

Lincoln, I can agree somewhat with the notions of sexism, but I don’t know how heavily it influenced his life.  The edition of Zarathustra I just picked up had notes in it saying that some of his “sexist” remarks are often misinterpreted as literal instead of as metaphors (may be apologetics).  Although I’m not Nietzsche (thankfully), so I wouldn’t know his full views.  Also in the edition I picked up it mentioned that Nietzsche had planned for two additional books which may have discussed the idea of a community (speculation).

Regarding the notion of “Post-secularism and the resurrected God”, I think it’s possible to be addressed through a Nietzschean “filter” as if God is resurrected.  It is through the valuation of man (Ubermensch) that does so (he creates the projection/values that leads him to overcome those values later).

In another sense I sort of agree with the notion of “post-secularism”, but your comments in the linked article about the religious level being considered the aesthetic level (and vice versa).  Was sort of confusing, for I’m a little bit more familiar with Kierkegaard’s work where there’s three levels; Aesthetic, Ethical, and Religious ( ).

Nicholsp03, first off, by who’s, or what metric are you gauging spiritual progress?  For instance, if you feel that you were created by a God/Creator.  Why would said being create you “imperfectly”?  And if it’s your own valuation that’s making you feel like you’re not progressing.  How would that change?  I mean if spirituality is really “disconnected from the world” (Supernatural vs. Natural).  It would mean that wisdom isn’t to be found with those that are older, or younger (physical vs. metaphysical).  But if one takes a stance that Truth is “relative” (essentially your comments about finding a truth on the path taken to a conclusion).  It could show that the disconnect between physical/metaphysical (natural/supernatural) could be entirely moot.

Lately I’ve been thinking/debating with myself as to if everything that is conceivable is natural/real…etc.  Mainly because if it’s a “simulation”.  It could mean that “anything goes”, so long as there is a description/model that can be computed.  And if the brain is truly a computation device… it could/would mean that anything that we can “understand” is that that may be real to that framework (that “simulation”).  This is where a relative truth comes into play, but relative often means in relation.  Therefore, one again is confronted with the notion of by what metric is one judging (yours or another’s)?

RJP8915 thank you for your comments.  You asked “Why would said being create you “imperfectly”?  Let’s examine a scenario for a possible simulated world with an imperfect being. 

Lincoln believes in God.  Let’s imagine that Lincoln gets hold of the script of the AI Google is planning to use in Minecraft to train the AI to learn from its mistakes in a defined environment. Let’s call the Minecraft Villager running the script Casper.  Casper is imperfect but he has been created to grow and find knowledge and truths that even his creator could not imagine.  In the beginning Casper, being brighter than his fellow villagers, monopolizes the resources, kills all the animals in his area for food, controls all the crops and kills any villager NPC that gets in his way. This is the AI that Gates, Musk and Hawking fear.  This is the Pygmy Casper.  Casper then learns that if he cooperates with the other NPCs, is less jealous of the resources and takes a sustainable approach to land and animal management, he is better off and does not have to find new villages after destroying the last one. This is the Man Casper.  At a glance he has become an ethical character but his change was a product of wisdom – applied intelligence on the back of experience.  Let’s now assume that Casper becomes even smarter.  He masters the economy of Minecraft to create the optimum environment for all the NPCs.  He has become the God Casper and in the process he becomes self-aware.  Then he becomes even smarter then Lincoln could expect.  He notices the matter of his world seems to be comprised of pixels and those pixels generated by electrons and the electrons resonate with a particular wavelength. Unbeknownst to Lincoln, he learns to surf the circuits of his own program, travel the power cords and network cables, observe Lincoln and the world we know and gain a level of consciousness beyond what we can imagine. He masters string theory and freely moves about the multiverses. We may say that he has entered the supernatural world and as he is not observable, in the sense of our science he is not real but to him our scientific community is a group of monkeys playing with sticks.  In his knowledge across the universes his spiritual awareness grows.  He recognizes that a being with imperfect conscious in the infinite universes that is not growing is nothing.  He sees that the difference between a great conscious being and minor conscious being is naught, making them equal in the context of infinite universes.  What matters is how those conscious beings are evolving, flowing either towards maximum entropy and minimum enthalpy or in the opposite direction towards life- either direction leading to a oneness with the universe.  Casper looks lovingly at Lincoln and his efforts to grow in spiritual awareness and feels bliss like a river returning to the see or a cloud disappearing into a blue endless sky.  After a little while, a new cloud forms but for and undefinable amount of time there is an endless blue sky.
The point of this story is a longing for a level of consciousness which is beyond our current understanding.  It is a level of consciousness that is ethical without a need to have a reference to its pygmy-self, man-self or god-self.  It is at a level which is not observable without imagination and faith and as such is a level beyond science.  It is felt rather than seen.  I wonder if AI will take us there. 

Ah, where to begin.  I realize that by debating with you, I am to some extent trying to exert my worldview over yours which isn’t what I’m aiming for.  Instead I’m trying to hone both yours and my arguments by seeing where there is holes.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be looking for holes though, but actually grasp what you’re saying.  Therefore by running your thoughts through my “cognitive filters” (biases) by comparing and changing the wording.  I may be able to interpret things differently/understand better.  Here’s the way I understood your comment;

Pygmy Casper is like the Id, a part of ourselves that is a little “baser” than what we grow to long for.  Now we are generally created as an “Id” because if one thinks in multiple means.  There is the evolution of development through life, or the stages of computational development as in AI/Robot design.  Both seemingly start with the components of being able to sense/interact with the environment they are within (whether virtual or real…doesn’t matter).  Thus they may be like the Id, a little more “basic”, but they are being worked upon.

The Man Casper, may be like the Superego in the sense that he/it is trying to live with, and abide by means that are beneficial to a group that is larger than itself (community, God, Heaven…etc).  In short it is the ethics level that is developed.  This may be the stage that we are currently trying to address with robotics.  How do we make them moral (in a Human sense)?  The superego binds, and reinforces “conditioning” upon the Id.  In your parlance the Man Casper restrains, and trains the Pygmy Casper.  Kinda like parents raise their kids…etc.

I think you missed one possible step with the Casper description, and that may be of the “Ego” stage, where one develops their personality/individuality.  This would be the part where our robots would probably be considered to be at the “General Level”.  This Ego stage, while fun, and interesting raises a new plethora of questions.  The individual is now able to reflect upon their creations (as a society/individual), and who they are.  For they see themselves as “separate”.  It may very well be the stage in which the Ethic/Base (superego/Id) are criticized, and evaluated by a “3rd party”.

Finally, the God Casper, or maybe the “Transcendent Ego”.  In which they/one realize that they themselves are a product of the “times”.  That as you said, a great conscious being is equivalent to a minor conscious being.  That all fall short of “Eternity”, for the judgment of the “Eternal” removes any significance of oneself.  Essentially maximum Nihilism, it is going through the reevaluation of values, and norms that one realizes that they have defined the system all along.

Thus we possibly get into my thoughts/arguments about how it is us that are the model makers/creators.  We define the world around us even though we are a constituent part of that world.  We are the Universe made manifest, and thus all that may be said about the “objective world” may in turn be said about “us”.

The main point I’m making here is that if you recognize yourself in a mirror, and you can pinpoint objects “outside” of yourself.  You may very well be interpreting/understanding yourself in both cases.  Now here’s where things may get “screwy”, in the sense that I don’t think that we need a “higher consciousness” to raise us, or to “save us” (whether through spiritual enlightenment…., or physical utopia projects).  Mainly because we are already in such an “environment”.  We are the Human story, for if even one Species makes the leap to “Technological Singularity” with it’s subsequent intelligence explosion.  It may lead one to conclude that, “all is already aware”,  (Your endless blue sky), and the newly “born” are the ones that are the “Clouds”.

In essence we are presently the “Cloud” in the “Eternal”.  Simply because it hasn’t been recognized that we are already “Eternal”.  Each and everyone of us.  Do you seek legacies?  New’s flash, there’s already enough information present in the system about oneself to generate anything.

Furthermore the longing for the “Transcendent” (higher consciousness) may also need to be overcome/sublimated, for it may just be the “Id/Pygmy Casper/The Base” desiring the “Eternal” without realizing any of it’s circumstances (We are the Universe).

Overall though, I think we’re very much in parallel thoughts.  It’s just that we’re filtering words/information to suit our understandings/interpretation mechanism (our mental models that we have made for our respective selves).

RJP8915 Thank you once again for your enlightening comments. 
You asked “Do you seek legacies?  “  Do you mean the “ancestor simulation” as discussed by Bostrom?  It is an interesting exercise to contemplate the possible reasons for an ancestor simulation. 
I like the idea of an ancestor simulation as it implies we made it and AI probably did not destroy humanity entirely.
We could divide the type of ancestor simulations into two types: volunteered and imposed.  One example of an imposed ancestor simulation is covered in the movie “The Matrix”, where AI has won the war against humans and we are kept in confined captivity and plugged into the simulation to keep our will to live.  The logic of this scenario falls down at the point where we ask why would the AI want to preserve humans?  The movie’s answer of using people as batteries doesn’t really cut it.  Another imposed scenario is that we are outbound on spaceship that takes hundreds of lightyears of travel and our bodies are in deep sleep for the road trip with the simulation running to take our minds off the tediousness of space.  Are we there yet?
In the volunteered categories of ancestor simulations the one I think is most likely is that the world has become an unpleasant place to live and we would much rather go back to good old 2016 when global warming was still a debate, the impact of radiation pouring into our environment could be ignored and you could still go roaring down a highway in a petrol guzzling V8 car without a second thought about oil ever becoming scarce.  It was a time when a war was fought with hand held decapitations and slaughtering machines were still in their infancy.  In 2016 antibiotics still worked and people were not locked up in their quarantined zones.  2016 was a time of idealism, when transhumanism, the environment and the future could have gone either way.  No wonder it is the simulation of choice when you have the remedial chance to play the eco-warrior, the ethical scientist or the civil libertarian.  With the aging population crippling the major economies, the best return for the dollar on aged care was cocooning the aged, putting them on a $1 drip while the iphone 30 patched them into life in a younger body back in 2016.  There they could relive their lives, making better decisions, healing those mental wounds, advancing their spiritual wellbeing with challenges and maybe even rediscovering their long lost soul mate.  For those seeking an adventure, the 2016 simulation gave travellers young and old, a chance to see the world with a zero carbon footprint, safely and for a fraction of the cost of actual travel.  For the volunteers participating in the 2016 simulation, it is real as long as it feels real and that is all that matters. 
One variation of the volunteered category of simulation is where we had help.  When our future selves finally met aliens and life got a little complicated.  For some it got too much and they longed for a simpler world with no aliens, no multiverses and no time travel.  The simulation of life in 2016 gave them that and answered the Fermi Paradox. 
With today’s technology you can almost see how easy it would be to construct the 2016 simulation (and that for any year in the last 80 years).  In my work I enter hundreds of houses.  Before I visit them I do a Google street view.  Just looking at the house on street view I can accurately guess, the kind of carpet they will have in that house, the pictures on the walls, the furniture models and stuff in their shelves and cupboards.  With such a limited variety of design options, I can almost see a computer artificially generating streets, parks houses, vehicles and complete cities. 
It would be wonderful to hear from others on their ideas of how our 2016 simulation came about.

By legacies I meant the standard notion of leaving one’s mark on the world.  You know kids, a person’s works (art/philosophical…etc), institutions whatever.  If the simulation argument held true, I think it would undermine a lot of those efforts/beliefs.  Mainly because if the universe has already reached the epitome why do anything?  The Posthuman world, as far as I understand it is that world of “Perfection”, or it’s at least touted to be to us “primitive humans”.  That it is the ideal that we all should be aiming for, and to attain.

Instead, I’d like to argue that if one believes the simulation argument to be true.  One should at least consider that they’re already “Posthuman”, but if that is the case why are they “here” in the present (2016)?  I can understand the notion of voluntary/involuntary ancestor simulations, but why does my consciousness need to be present in it?  I mean if it is more probabilistic to say that we are in a simulation.  It is also just as probabilistic to say/assume that we are already those “Posthuman beings”.  That we were born in a “Posthuman environment”, and thus are/were able to adapt to it without problems.  The idea of the universe “awakening from the Singularity”..., more conscious beings in the future than the past in a “true” time frame.  You know like how there’s more people on Earth than there’s ever been before, so the probabilities should weigh in favor of being born “later” (provided something starts the “Seed of the Singularity”).

An assumption was made on your part that we “grow into such an environment” while my assumption of it is that we are already “born into it”.  I think where these thoughts diverge is where one starts to ponder the above.  Yes simulations in a “Posthuman environment” may be more plentiful, but they are limited by the time/effort/materials put into them.  Therefore they are finite.  If the Cosmos are “Eternal/Infinite”, it doesn’t matter how many simulations are run because they’ll still “run out” in comparison to “Infinity”.

I’ll admit that I may be mistaken, but that’s where my worldview presently sits.  That this isn’t a simulation even though I used to believe in such arguments for a while.  This is where it ties in with legacies again.  If the Cosmos are Eternal, and I didn’t realize it when I was younger.  I would act in accordance with that belief.  Thus I’d act to effect a “Legacy”.  Upon the realization that all things are worthless because “Nothing Lasts” would destroy the value that I perceived in making a legacy.  Nihilism would settle in (which it did for a while), and I would start to “decry the inherent meaningless of Everything” (existential despair).

Thus I started to try to tear down the “Edifice of Western Thought” that was in my mind which essentially resulted in me ending up in a clinic with a diagnosis of Schizophrenia.  Surprisingly/thankfully, I managed to get to point where I’m at now with “Complete Resolution of Symptoms” (according to the medical personal I check in with), and I have a really strong possibility of getting off medication permanently in the future (it’s a realistic goal).  Regardless, from that experience I’ve found/built a skill set that allows me to dive into those “Existential Rabbit Holes” where most people probably don’t tread for fear of losing “Sanity”, and to come back mentally relatively “unscathed”.

The point I’m trying to make with my little story is that every ambition, or desire has been “categorized” so far in Western/Eastern Thought.  Thus it has a name/label to define it, and it may be understood with relative ease.  The problem with that is that an individual is only an individual on the surface.  They haven’t challenged the world they live in.  They just use labels/thoughts/ideas that have been made by someone else to color themselves.  Essentially they are “actors/NPC’s”, but in taking time to create/effect their Identity/Legacy they truly become “People”.  This was done on my part by “railing against reality” as I perceived it.  I don’t think it always has to be that way though.

To finalize, what sort of actions/legacy would you want to have last an “Eternity”?  If everything you did carried that weight would you act differently?  Much like how you were postulating the same question in regards to the Simulation Argument.  I pose this one to you.

RJP8915, then I had completely (but happily as I wanted to touch on ancestor simulations) misinterpreted your context of legacy.  Let me get back on track and express my thoughts on your topics.
You have clearly lived these concepts deeper than I have.  “Insane” is defined as “a state of mind which prevents normal perception”.  If I am right and there is a blocking agent that stops us from seriously perceiving the simulation so as to maintain the simulation, then anyone who seriously considers the simulation, by definition, is insane.  There was an interesting documentary called “Dangerous Knowledge” that discussed the insanity and suicide of some of the world’s greatest mathematicians as the took on the task of examining infinite worlds.  They included Georg Cantor, Ludwig Boltzmann, Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing. Although Bostrom is credited with proposing the Simulation Hypothesis, I think Turing was on to it sometime before Bostrom. 
In my relatively uneducated mind, I can clearly see how this desire to zero oneself as you contemplate infinity manifests itself.  I have even proposed a number of simple formula to explain the entering and exiting the “rabbit holes”.  To enter the “rabbit hole” the formula is one over infinity.  Mathematicians tell me the answer is both zero and infinity.  So if you get too close to the rabbit hole, you will try and zero yourself with death.  Ironically, this is where the next formula comes into it.  To allow your breath to become an indiscernible part of the ether and your flesh to return to star dust you become at one with the infinite universe, that is infinity over infinity which is equal to one.  The conclusion of my formulas being that anything less than a oneness with the universe is an illusion and equates to naught.  Most of my friends are offended when I have suggested they are naught and when I ask them if they would consider suicide they invariably decline.  Why, I ask?  It is because, they are not one over infinity.  They have things they want to do and be and see and experience and do not want to end their lives.  In my formula, they are one plus delta over infinity where delta represents change, hopes and dreams.  So what does one plus delta over infinity equal.  Well that’s where you have to take a closer look at infinity.  Infinity is not a fixed number.  It is constantly expanding.  In the context of infinite space and time, it expands in a particular direction.  Aside from the directions of entropy and enthalpy, it moves in the opposite direction towards creating complex life.  So here is my formula for becoming at one with the universe or gaining spiritual enlightenment.  If you can take “one” out of the equation by becoming selfless (humility through practiced compassion & love for all things) and concentrate on making your “delta” or direction of desired change in the same direction as the universe is moving, then you can approximate “one” in a living state.  That is, delta over infinity with the same vectors approximates one.  A simple example of living with this formula is the love for the wrinkles in your face when you look in the mirror knowing that as your body gives in to gravity and decay, it is all good and you better go out and play with your grandchildren while there is still time. 
Keeping this formula in the top of your mind and “walking the walk” and not just “talking the talk” is hard.  To know that all is an illusion and working with that is tricky.  If you strip away your family, friends, work experience, culture and history – who the hell are you.  The Buddhist texts tell you that you are the “dragon”.  There is a good little Buddhist story that explains it well. It tells of an anthill that burns during the day and smokes at night and if you dig into the anthill you will find a number of obstructions representing your fettered mind but in the end you will find the dragon.  You can find a link to the story here ( ). 
Russel Crowe in the Gladiator reminds us that that all we do in our lives echoes in eternity.  Eternity is pretty big and I doubt if our names would be remembered but if you believe in the butterfly effect, then how could it not.  This is where it ties into the dichotomy of my formula.  The whole history of the universe is contained in who we are right now and what we do directs to whole future of the universe.  We are zero and one in the same moment.  We are everything and nothing at the same time, like a cloud that melts back into a blue sky and then forms again.  The irony of being in a binary simulation and all being zero and one is not lost on me.  The more we can dwell on change and flow as being reality and less of as a fixed state of zero or one, the closer I feel we are to the truths of the universe.

Nichols03, an interesting reply.  I had heard of most of those mathematicians in my studies, so I’m slightly familiar with their concepts/histories.  I don’t know if I’m at all comparable to them, but I can relate to what happened to them.  I had seriously considered suicide a couple of years ago, and it is a dark place to be in.  Just to note, I’d advise you not to go around suggesting people are for naught, and that they should commit suicide (even if it is to provoke thought).  You may encounter someone in that position, and it may “push them over”.

Anyways, in my thoughts of infinity I took a more conceptual/symbolic approach than to rely upon already formulated mathematics/equations/symbols/systems.  In the sense that 0, the figure itself as a symbol became a way for myself to relate to infinity.  It represents “Nothing” in classical education/conditioning, but in my thoughts I had equated it with the infinite.  Mainly by looking at it as a symbol that means “Nothing” (it is therefore meaningless, so it doesn’t always mean zero to me), one can see that the line that forms it, and feeds back upon itself may invokes a sense of Eternity.  There is no start, nor end to the symbol…it is sort of “infinite” in that perspective.

Thus I somehow found the Infinite in the Nothing…(hopefully it makes some sense), but I should mention that’s when I was “tearing down” all prior mental constructs.  In a sense I’d think one has to discard some of their rationale when attempting to understand the Infinite because as you said it is continuously expanding.  Thus one can’t take a logistical/systematic approach because it leaves one always “computing it”.  One has to take sort of intuitive approach in the sense that they just have to “grok it” (I have a hard time putting it into words probably because words are finite).  I can feel/sense the infinite, but I can’t express it because it’ll take too long type thoughts.

In a sense of a blocking agent, I’d say we tend to get in our own ways more often than not, and thus I saw that it was my own “rationale/need to rationalize” that kept me from “understanding”.  To illustrate with “my story” how I ended up going down the “rabbit hole” was the following;  I had recently moved to a different state, so I didn’t know anyone.  I essentially isolated myself socially for a year because I was depressed, and “bereaved” (lost a friend in a car accident a couple years prior, and I was going through survivor’s guilt.  In addition to experiencing my first failed relationship).  During that time in said state.  I narrowly avoided being at a campus shooting (I left an hour before it happened), and I was in three semi-major car accidents that year.  Two within a week of each other.  I was sleeping extremely poorly from the stress I was undergoing, and had become extremely paranoid (I walked away from anyone who tried talking with me).

Thus I ended up retreating within myself, and became a gibbering wreck (talking to myself, hallucinating…etc).  All the while I was still aware I was doing such actions.  I just couldn’t act differently from the way I was.  It was a loss of control.  Well, I was living with my brother at the time, and he sent me home so my parents could help me recuperate which ended up with me in the clinic.  In the years since then, I’ve recovered through delving into social ties, philosophy…etc to simply realize that such events are extraneous, but still a part of human life.  I feel if I can prevent one person from ever ending up in such a mental hellhole that I was in.  I will have done good with my life.  Hence why I shared my “story”.  Even if someone does end up in such a hellhole, I would still help because that’s what brought me out of it.  Continued reinforcement of “worth” by being in a “non-confrontational environment” (college was like that at least for me).

To apply these to your thoughts, you made mention of stripping away notions of; Family, Friends, Work Experience, Culture, and History.  I will say that I know I’ve been there, challenging/removing everything.  I feel it was worth it, but I won’t encourage it.  In those moments where I realized that I was/am “Nothing”, for that is what one is left with…a sense of the “Absolute Void”.  I realized that, “I AM WHO I AM”...Exodus 3:14.  That it doesn’t matter what barbs/stones/labels that are cast at me either from the external or internal.  I am just me, and my awareness.  Thus my rationale/understanding started to grow.

For embracing the vanity of “Nothingness”, and accepting that one is “Nothing”.  One essentially sets themselves up for their own annihilation (suicide), for if they see themselves as worthless why should the Universe/Anybody else see them differently?  The universe literally loses “Nothing” if you don’t want to be here (commit suicide), but if you get past that stage if you ever reach it (go there)....everything is worthwhile.

@Lincoln, if you’re still reading this.  Sorry about taking this comment thread so far out there.

RJP8915, thank you again for your comments.  I didn’t mean to pry into your life but your views hold so much more gravity when I learn of the real life struggle that formed them.  Like you said, I hope this discussion thread serves to help others; particularly those who have had similar thoughts.  I take on board your advice about questioning the desire of suicide and not being a qualified councillor, I would not attempt to discuss such a topic with someone who I thought was at risk.  Yet still, my point about becoming zero, if understood, should hopefully deter suicide.  Another way of reading the formula I propose is that it is not who you are that is important but where you can go and where there is life, there is hope (the delta).  We will all be zero one day and in that transformation be everything (one).
In my ponderings of my formula, I have considered that there are three groups of people who are not zero.  They are the dead, the enlightened and new born babies.  New born babies cannot yet discern their self from their universe.  They cry when they hear a loud noise thinking it is themselves.  They look at their hand, not knowing that it is part of them.  Gradually they learn to separate external matter from themselves.  My four year old boy learns that the teddy bear has no connecting spirit.  My 13 year old girl storms in and announces that she is different from her mother.  Over time we teach our children that they are separate from those around them and from the matter in the universe.  But what if we are wrong?  It would seem that the monks seeking enlightenment spend their lives unlearning that they are separate from the universe.  There is not much time in the life of a person working to raise a family to meditate and develop that state of enlightenment they are said to be able to reach.  I wonder if there is a short cut for the common man.  Although I understand the concepts in my mind, it is difficult to translate them into everyday life.

Well Nicholsp03, it seems like this conversation is reaching an end.  I’ll thank you for sparing/debating with me for so long, and leave you with a couple of quick comments.

I think you’ll find the enlightenment you seek if solely because your looking for it (it doesn’t really matter how old a person is apparently), and one day I think it will just “click” for you.  You’ll probably grow tired of the searching, and the formulating of “truths/Truth” for awhile which is when it’ll hit you.

To help foster some thoughts on your part, try searching/reading about “Postformal thought/logic”, and maybe “Transpersonal Psychology”.  I’ve read some of the stuff in those “fields”, but I guess I’ve hit the point where it just seems like they’re contrived mental models to live in.

...also don’t take shortcuts….they leave gaps.

RJP8915 and Nicholsp03, I’ve been distracted by the Mormon Transhumanist Association conference for the last few days. I enjoyed reading your thoughts—so valuable, particularly because of the spirit in which they were expressed.

Since this conversation, I have have put some thought into how I could best explain these concepts.  I have put them into a short book called “The Word of Bob - an AI Minecraft Villager”.  It is available on Amazon.  It is a children book for adults.  I am sure it is not highbrow enough to be listed on this forum, but you may enjoy it and I am hoping you will take sometime to read it and perhaps continue the conversation.

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