24 August 2007

Letter from Utopia

Nick Bostrom has captured the essence of the "next level" in his Letter from Utopia.
I am really writing on behalf of my contemporaries, and we are addressing ourselves to all of your contemporaries. Among our numbers are many who are possible futures of your people. Some of us are possible futures of children that you have not yet given birth to. Some of us are possible artificial persons that you may one day create. What unites us is that we are all dependent on you to make us real. You could think of this note as though it were an invitation to a ball - a ball that will only take place if people turn up.

...The challenge I put before you is one of self-transformation. To grow up. This is not only about technology, but technology is necessary to participate in this way of life. If you want to live and play on my level, you need to acquire new capacities. To reach Utopia, and experience life here, you must discover the means to three fundamental transformations.

  • The First Transformation: Extend your life.
  • The Second Transformation: Amplify your cognition.
  • The Third Transformation: Elevate your well-being

...When you embark on this quest [utopia], you will confront high seas and difficult problems. To solve them will take your best science, your best technology, and your best politics. Yet each problem has a solution. My existence violates no law of nature. The materials are all there. Your people must acquire the skills of master builders, and then you must build yourself up, without crushing yourself.

Do not accept that it is good for you and your friends to get sick and die in a cage. Do not assume that it's a blessing to be forever confined behind the fences of stupidity. Do not believe that there is nothing worth experiencing outside your current psychic limitations.

...We love life here every instant. Every second is so good that it would knock you unconscious had your mind not been strengthened beforehand. My contemporaries and I bear witness, and we are requesting your aid. Please, help us come into existence! Please, join us! Whether this tremendous possibility becomes a reality depends on your actions.
Nick Bostrom

The "Twelve Step" programs utilise the concept of "something greater than oneself" in order to provide the motive power for self-improvement and emergence from dead-end living. Seekers of utopia or the next level can do the same in order to push themselves to achieve even higher goals.

This is what many of the world's religions seem to be reaching for. But without the ability to extend the mind's reach and the life's span, the elevation of well-being and mind states can only be heart-breakingly transient.

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Blogger Will Brown said...

May I suggest that a better modification of the 12-Step mantra might be; "something greater of oneself" to undertake Bostram's three transformative processes.

That would seem to be the reality we face. Melding our technology with our physical selves to attain lives that are longer, more capable and satisfying then are within our ability as we are.

I part with Bostrom's projection of this more capable state of awareness as being any form of "utopia" though. Such an existence can only be an end-state given that utopia is the satisfaction of all possible wants and desires. What's the point of that?

Somehow, I doubt most transhumanist's regard the effort to achieve the next level as being little more than a form of extended suicide.

Saturday, 25 August, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...

And yet, the next level is only the starting point for something better.

Sad how so many people fixate on the lowest levels of existence. It is all they know, alas.

Saturday, 25 August, 2007  
Blogger Will Brown said...

It's even worse than a simple lack of knowledge, I think, Fin. My own experience is that many (if not most; no actual data you understand) of those who reject consideration of a possible next level are themselves invested in the myths and concepts of current and previous levels of human existence (trying to leave the "R" word explicitly unstated here).

Basicly, if your current belief system places ethical/moral authority in some figure outside yourself, then you likely will reject efforts that usurp to the individual some aspect of that authority.

Your reference to the 12-step methodology is a practical example of what I mean. The process requires the adhearent to surrender personal authority to a deity figure in order to take part. Acsension to the next level requires exactly the opposite; only through the determined retention of authority can one make the decisions necessary to progress. With authority comes responsibility for the outcome, of course, and this frightens many people - not necessarily for themselves alone. This line of reasoning gets off into the whole "slippery slope" argument, which is too much for a comment thread.

Suffice to say that each next step requires a new strategic paragigm.

Saturday, 25 August, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...

Interesting, Will.

My experience administering mind-altering substances to patients, and using hypnosis, suggests that the conscious mind is not always the proper mode for the moment.

In other words, the best form of "self-control" can be to surrender control to "something else." Not necessarily someone else."

The mind is modular like the brain. Various states of mind may be more or less functional depending upon the circumstances. A top athlete speaks of achieving a level of "unconsciousness" when he/she achieves effortless genius in an athletic activity.

I have experienced such a "letting go" in various life or death situations which have worked out quite well for me and others. There is undoubtedly something greater than "myself" involved, at least if I think of myself as my everyday, conscious self.

Sunday, 26 August, 2007  
Blogger Will Brown said...

I think we may be talking about two very different states of being here. As well as two different models of the physical universe.

States of being first; what you seem to be describing in your last is what I generally associate with the "Zen state" of being. That is, your actions or intellectual conclusions are the result of your mind's non-concious process. In the shooting sports (as in several others of my now-past experience), we call this "muscle memory". One practices in such a fashion that, even with extraordinary distraction or interference, the body completes the desired task to the desired result. Similarly, the process of deciding a question by not thinking about it - by not thinking at all actually - is the intellectual equivelant of the same self discipline, I think.

As to the different models of being, I would ask you, "Does the existence of something outside of one's self necessarily imply that something possesses a sence of self or identity independent of your own?" Put another way, is your (all of our upon occasion, of course) fleeting sence of god-like illumination or physical feat also evidence of an independent god-like being interacting with you?

Traditional 12-steppers would say "Yes" and demand you surrender your independence and control over decision making to this being.

My thought is that in order to make advancement to the next level at all, first we must retain control to ourselves and accept responsibility for the result. Only then will we have the freedom of decision and action to make the necessary changes in our differing life conditions to work towards individual advancement in level. If some independent, presumably superior, entity does exist entirely outside our self(s), then we can none of us advance without first gaining it's permission (from that, we can't remain at any stage of development at all without propitiating it as and how it requires).

Given your examination of models elsewhere on these pages, I feel sure you recognise the problem that results from conflating the preconceptions of one model onto another. The model of human development that permits human control over our continued development beyond what we have already attained does not permit the inclusion of the preconceptions inhearent to the 12-step model example or any model of the universe that would be permissable by that model.

The conditions for conflicting strategies don't come any more stark than that, I'm afraid.

Sunday, 26 August, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...

I am not referring to any conventional religious ideas or concepts of religious deities.

Within the human mind are the inchoate makings of something larger. Many of the pieces are rudimentary and disconnected, therefore largely useless.

But there are hints and traces of their existence.

More on this later.

Sunday, 26 August, 2007  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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