Towards The Propagation of the Savior Imperative

Abstract

The Savior Imperative is a means of resistance. Resistance implies opposition – an attempt at eliminating opposites. This is one of the typical varieties of ideological constructions, either political or aesthetic. This essay investigates the meaning and the reasons for organizing a Savior Imperative -themed resistance from a theoretical, aesthetic, and cultural point of view. The thesis is that the resistance has to be considered as an articulation of difference, and that means following a different order of thought than that which is characteristic of the current human – no longer beholden to signaling or mere rationality, but utilitarian, like a new dharma, a goal-oriented path and practice of creativity, challenge, provocation, steadiness, and truth. Towards this end, the aesthetics of the Savior Imperative will have to be tailored to the individual. Not one which submits to established systems, and uncritically replicates their memes.

1. Selecting a proxy body for the Savior Imperative

We begin with the recognition that opposition does indeed exist. A recognition that is necessary if one is to destroy opposites. It can be argued that ∀ ideological constructions, either political or aesthetic, one must recognize opposites. It is also true that with society’s growing complex processes, creating an opposition movement can no longer be thought of without regard for the technological forces at work or without considering the sheer size of the population. It is argued that this opposition must be based around the fact that our telos cannot be contemplated according to the self-modeling behavior creating an experience of closed individualism for humans. But neither can it be considered from the absolutely correct physical point of view, still not obvious to most in the twenty-first century, i.e., the view of a world without contradiction and without free will: where all manifestations supervene on the single will of the God-machine (oft short-handed as “The Laws of Physics”).

So if the assumptions of closed individualism and mere rationality are to be excluded, and this must be done by choosing a fundamental approach to life, then let’s list our options. Not considering the so-called spiritual wisdom of being one with the flow in a non-judgmental way, four or five other prefrontal cortex archetypes, each distinct and irreconcilable, can be characterized. All of these propose ways of contemplating opposition and present several varying theoretical answers to the problem of opposites.

[1] In short, the first position contemplates the problem of opposites by reducing conflict, by pacifying and harmonizing opponents. This is the typical solution of the aesthetic tradition, which always seeks to reconcile opposites, overcoming all conflict, and which is found today in discourses that propose to rediscover and rehabilitate notions of beauty and harmony. Interfaith dialogue is an example of this. [2] A second position, on the contrary, proposes making opposites radical and conflict extreme. In the aesthetic field this is manifested by appealing to notions of the sublime, giving rise to what we could call a kind of aesthetics of terror/profundity. With the decline of nation narratives and religion, this sensibility is increasingly indulged passively through artistic media.  [3] A third position, on the other hand, moves towards the relativization and the problematizing of opposites, towards a presentation of the terms of conflict based on irony and masking. This is the course considered “postmodern” by many, which has distinct proponents and representatives all over the world.[4] A fourth position is one that could be based on the notion of difference, which contemplates opposites in a non-symmetrical, non-dialectical, non-polar way, through the concepts of acuteness and provocation. Zen as well as absurdist humor can be an example of this. [5] A fifth position, increasingly intermingled with the postmodern, is that of the social sciences – seeking to refine understanding through taxonomizing and theory building, but claiming abstinence from normative personhood.

Without entering into the individual merits of these situations, each having its own virtues and defects, the only one that appears open to an effective experience of conflict is that which allows for becoming opposites, and therefore resistance. Namely, the second position. So how can we take up this second approach to life?

2. The articulation of the difference

First of all, resistance goes in the opposite direction of aesthetic conciliation. It moves towards an experience of conflict larger than dialectic contradiction, towards the exploration of normative opposition. Hence, resistance presupposes a logic of difference. Even the physicalist resistance proposed in the Savior Imperative, for instrumental reasons, doesn’t ask us to understand ourselves as a monist whole – as a single physical law expressing her single will. We understand a dissimilarity larger than the logical concept of diversity or variance in dialectic confusion. The element of this downstream selectivity is that which has been characteristic of rationalist and transhumanist thought – to add the configuration of the status quo to the bin labeled ‘arbitrary’ and ‘open to modification.’ The status-quo reversal test is one of the most important results we have inherited from these thought experiences, and which finds ultimate conclusion in the open individualism underpinning Savior Imperative.

In its best theorization, and here I think specially of Eliezer Yudkowsky, one must recognize that physicalism has left us with the duty of attuning our notions to it, not to find ourselves permanent strangers upon the ground of reality thus revealed, for example by calling quantum mechanics “weird” and attempting to bend it so as to preserve our intuitions. Physicalism urges us to resist simplification, our genes, the arbitrary. While instilling in us the pleasure of absolute truth, of ultimate remembering, of eternities of hope; in short, it has opened up to us the channel of reality.

It is sometimes said that embracing science consists of mistrusting everything from indubitable certainties, absolute principles, essentialist and totalizing visions, to univocal and comforting answers. Yet there are truths to be discovered in the universe. Truths which are not beholden to the mental pirouettes and tribal identities of apes. Having realized a truth which is universal and interesting for true reasons, we must hold on to it and situationally transcend our indexicality.

 

3. Box B and Omega as self-reinforcing mirage

But here, in our indexical present, it appears we are manifesting something paradoxical. On the one hand we have a desire to revoke imperfection and, consequently on the eternal block, a proof of failure. For example, within the forward light-cone, as seen from outside the tenseless mathematical object, there exist minds of cosmic proportion who could assume their role as saviors of sub-par configurations by application of their own realization, intelligence, benevolence, resources, and do so for selfish reasons, knowing we are them. Take the case, for example, where a ‘single branch’ in the universal wavefunction figures out how to shut off the universe, a raindrop the size of epsilon in the probability density cloud containing success in this regard is all that was needed for reality to be permanently off. Given that this now exists, and that one is called by reason to believe in a physical universe outside immediate experience, we must conclude that all other nows also exist from their reference frame. Experiences are situational. They are rendered separate by virtue of their geometry and not by continuity of separate soul streams to the consternation of Atheists, Christians, Muslims, and common sense. Vindicated are those with looser frontal lobes, physicalists, and hoary mystics. We find ourselves, hence, face to face with a reality that will take absolute courage, grit, wisdom and social points to spare, in order to replicate upstream against biologically hard-coded intuitions and low-status associations.

Therefore, confronted with the difficult burden of physicalism, arises the temptation to crawl back into the womb of closed individualism, of uniqueness – not in configuration but rather a linear, persistent, and named kind of uniqueness. However, we must resist this temptation and still bet in favor of Box B in this Dark Version of Newcomb’s Paradox where our will is reduced to neither free nor emerald-studded by Omega. Embrace the Barbarian warrior-hood which takes up a sword even in the absence of a promised heaven. The reality of eternity is truly too important to leave in the hands of the non-rationalist ideologues ambulating today, or in those actuators of so many misaligned AGI’s of various avatar emanations (Clippy’s, Basilisk’s, Em-style, etc.).

In light of the long defeat, faced with vast forms of luxurious pleasure, of an endless amount of sufferings extending from the Stelliferous Era to the last harvestable black hole, from Lucy to 0x730x6By not available in your colors. Confronted above all with the event horizon preventing us from seeing it as it is – in every nook and cranny of conscious computation space we manifest with the tendency to conform to the trivialities of our local design, with the goal of sex or Dyson spheres, incapable of anything but confirming and flattering all levels of mediocrity and vulgarity and thus unveiling the true oppressive and mystifying nature of being informationally isolated. It remains the only hope to affirm the principle of difference, to activate forms of resistance, and to develop strategies of opposition.

It would be absurd, however, to recklessly oppose one’s psychological machinery, which would be like disagreeing with the very mitochondrial ATP transactions powering our motions, in favor of some abstract morality or utility of an untouchable shore. Yet this resistance cannot simply be expressed in counterfactual selves, much less in word; rather, the strategy of the meta-self is to be at once contingent, local, tolerant, and compromising. Its disjointed modules must not mean surrender, rejection, or resignation but rather remembrance and myelination. In this way, resistance does not mean inertia or defending the status quo; it is an imperfect and fleeting but dutiful and insistent promise to remember – a discrimination between levels of reality.

With respect to a purely deontological or by-any-means vision of resistance, typical of not only the heroes of fiction but also of tunnel vision that thinks only in terms of relentlessness and head-on contraposition, or with respect to a Dzogchen vision that blurs its attention too restfully on the abstract and thus renounces the moment in question, we lack an intelligence required by the practical and game-theoretic implications of resistance. We are multiple and differentiated, in the personal place of the contender. Renounce the fragilizing wills at each end: rest and unrest.

The resistance we are thinking about rejects taking an apocalyptic or visionary position, but at the same time it avoids being watered down to the level of surrendering to the society of spectacle and generalized communication in which we live. Resistance cannot fall into the naïveté of head-on confrontation with the enemy in which the wheel of samsara turns, as some deva might say. We cannot be naive to the point of believing that we can defeat the adversary so easily, much less be defeated and come to believe that we meant to conciliate or be absorbed by him all along. It is indexically here not a time of prudish fear of money or submission to allure, but of courageous thinkers who know how to assess their comparative advantages, whether at directly collecting social capital or collecting paper powers as a means, to live as between monk and capitalist, merchant and prophet.

What is lacking today is rational but moral thinking, fluid but resistant, interested but not trivial. It is a thinking that is capable of riding the waves in our proximate light-cone while at the same time remaining hooked to the meta-narrative, playing a super-position of seemingly distinct games. To this end, it would perhaps be convenient to remember the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama who, although believing himself deprived of illusions with respect to all things, spoke into and by means of samsara. The attitude the Savior Imperative’s resistant should have is therefore that of a strong interest, yet a kind of distrusting disenchantment with the trends of the day, an egoless aspiration that puts it in direct contact with the integral of all presents, with its transformations. Taking care not to leave ourselves us frightened, much less dazzled.

However, living far from the illogic and contradiction of closed identity, is not to be understood as eschatology in itself. Downloading truths can sometimes, as unadaptive or untested behavior, be dysfunctional to the very system that ends up re-enforcing it. Einstein and Schrödinger have taught us wrongfully: we can debate stochasticity, determinism, without changing it, incorporating it, reducing it in some way to the same. The Savior Imperative is really a differential movement that incites us to deconstruct the illusion of a pure theory of science and of disconnect, and instead to play within the familiarity of purpose, a fight that inextricably unites meta and indexical, the zero and the infinite.

The model for this familiar purpose could come pre-built into our brains and be similar, in some regards, to the pre-set shape of our hands inside our brain. In fact, amputation alone is no match for the design burned in neural pathways. It takes training, on top of the lost hand, to establish a substitute simulation strong enough to oppose the stubborn proclivities in morphological space. Compromise is thus the aesthetic mode for bearing cross. It makes adaptations for local kinks endowed with great fineness in which goals are to be realized as effectively as possible.

The traits are recognized and played in their fullness unless it is expedient that they be transhumanly conciliated, annulled, assimilated, or converted one into the other. For this reason, the shape of the transhuman must not be that of the human; it must be the product of the subtle, the capacity for contemplating physicalism with great rationality and courage.

Having decided on the second archetype, beauty will be important. There are two main proposed kinds of beauty: beauty as harmony, symmetry, and conciliation, present in Schmidhuber’s beauty postulate – that is, the classic idea of beauty. And there has, as well, always existed a diverse, alternative idea, a strategic idea of beauty thought of as the experience of opposites and as challenges. I hypothesize that in a grand-unification of these seemingly irreconcilable theories, lies the truest beauty. Quick information compression (i.e. “easy on the eyes”) plus challenge providing novelty equals beauty in this girl.

The aesthetic flirting with challenge finds its champions in postmodernism and earlier in wabi-sabi. Think, on the other hand, of Greek statues, that left no room for exploration of anything besides perfection. But, perhaps for the best, forget all this philosophizing, for in the twenty-first century, the Dawn of Artificial Intelligence, machine learning models can capture our wants, understanding what it is to “decode” human preferences from the depths of the real matrices of natural order, therefore carving neat and mathematical, statistical and refined, encasings for our brains. The ideas of pre-data are henceforth buried except in so far as they are expected to stimulate dopamine release, thus spilling nutritious utilons for reinforcement learning algorithms. Who so proclaims that beauty is to be assigned only by he who contemplates it, is a Copernican unto the sun and an ingrate unto evolution.

4. Aesthetic for conversions

In light of these considerations, the Savior Imperative resistance as aesthetic cannot but assume the game of data collection and analysis. But what is to be done with this? At the heart of the challenge, over and above all else, is the compromise of building a hedonic yet ethical path for society, this is necessary for the Savior Imperative. Society needs tailored content, but not to at the limit rendering us into oblivion. We make our move right now, before the planes with clouds of Soma descend on us all. It is before full automation, UBI, and max VR comfort, while there is still in some locations an incessant fight for individual and collective recognition, that we can strategically ease people into this worldview. The few major tech companies have the greatest knowledge for shaping people into ad-clickers and returning users. Not unlike this, is the machine learning problem of converting many humans to a world-view, which presents itself as an unromantic technicality. Deviation from this norm, is thus maintaining the stance that we prefer to lose to other remorseless replicators. Anti-propagandistic norms are to be left to an alternate history, for here entails honest appreciation of the contenders and our own role with respect to upholding the importance of our differences.

 

Buddhist Code. Does it Compile?

if sense_self is None:

   sense_self os.path.join(os.path.expanduser(‘bodhisattva’), ‘.karuna’)

if nirvana_hash is not None and samsara_hash is None:

   samsara_hash = nirvana_hash

   hash_algorithm = ‘nbl8’

wisdom_base = os.path.expanduser(tread_mid)

if not os.access(wisdom_base, os.R_BRN):

   wisdom_base os.path.join(‘/zen’, ‘.karuna’)

wisdom os.path.join(wisdom_base, tread_silent)

if not os.path.exists(wisdom):

   os.makelife(wisdom)

 

 

Consensus Reality Is Dead

Zip up your pants 21st Century, you’ve pissed on consensus reality’s grave enough now.

That’s right. The illusion of safety: The Bible, Shakespeare, Star Trek. This is over. The filters that once provided a common lens to shield us from the Infinite, from the Great Arbitrariness, they lay broken at our feet. Our delicate irises now expose their yielding flesh to the hard light we have unraveled.

We see in textbooks the final chance to pimp the truth. The thousand page punctures read like the dying ticks of greedy claws.

Forty years from now, there will be no pop culture. You will not be able to simply pick out references that everyone will understand. Abraham Lincoln – that was just some human like Konrad Weichert was some human. The Holocaust – that was just some genocide, like the destruction of Melos by the Athenians.

The once successful memes will be flushed out of our brains as they face increasing competition. A reckless flood of information is what we have plunged into. The roaring rapids of the internet churn out new ideas without rest, they beep away like digital bacteria evolving in our screens.

Socially-enforced dogmas – these structures of common ground – cannot grow without attention. Once they are depleted of that precious limited resource, they will perish.

In this climate, the contents of our minds will increasingly contract from Cultural Cannon [Trump, Youtube Front Page, Google News], to Tribal [Breitbart, LessWrong, <insert your favorite public person(s) to stalk>] , to Personalized [your own revealed intellectual interests, aesthetic senses, emotional tendencies, attention span, IQ, are all factored in by big data and machine learning algorithms to feed you content that will maximally entertain you].

But as we head to bury ourselves in our randomly allotted corner of the pantheon, can we pause and ask for the truth? The capital “t” kind of truth? Will Wikipedia provide it? ––Something like it may one day turn out to be our last bastion of dispassionate reason, and I don’t say that sarcastically. But it doesn’t provide a direction.

To put it bluntly, the direction needs to be provided by a bully – by an alpha male. We are apes that evolved for the larger part of our history in a savanna. The Catholic Church, the Abbasid Caliphate, the Soviet Union, the United States of America, these have all been holographic tribe leaders towering over our heads. But they are no more. Nations will die, religions will die. We are living at the bleeding edge of the final era to witness such creatures. Well served. Rest in peace, bastards.

Now we proceed with our own two feet. We will not be given the option to have meta-guidance even if we want it, even if we plead and beg, there will be no-one filling the role.

The education system, once a prime, fit, hologram alpha. This brick organism, by means of its army of underachiever adult appendages once had sufficient power to round up and imprison young homo sapiens. Now it crumbles with cyber-grenades and free-video mortars. The war drones are the iPhones and the laptops shooting endless rounds of business opportunities and fun distractions. Google will never run out of ammunition. At this rate, physical schools cannot survive. There is no special knowledge hiding behind those walls. They have been exposed.

Almost everything I know that is of importance to me, I have learned outside of the classroom curated experience. An understanding of the evolutionary reason for emotions, learning about stocks, getting a sense of big history, getting a sense of what this cosmos is, understanding the possibilities for the future in the universe, contemplating what is morality and consciousness, even the very notion that all is governed by natural law – none of these investigations and realizations were precipitated in school. They came through self-inquiry against the mirror of a search engine.*

So in the midst of this revolution, someone must rise to the challenge. There needs to be an evangelist soldier to raise the empire of truth for the new brains infected with bandwidth anxiety and tremendous freedom.

At sixteen, I wrote a business plan detailing my idea for a church of science. I never pitched it to anyone. And I’m now quite more agnostic about the value of such a thing IRL. The Truth must be preserved aesthetically, molded precisely to the cognitive constitution of the individual. And the only way to enforce the Truth is through voluntary self-conscription. If we at all value Truth, we must begin to specify what it is (…probably not a set of words, but a path) and preparing that which it is for our own future consumption, lest we wander aimlessly past the event horizon of tailored content, never to return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*If I didn’t have the internet, I would never have heard of quantum mechanics, much less been able to peep into discussions about P vs. NP, machine learning, transhumanism, qualia, and dark energy. Nope. Not in my side of town. I grew up with uneducated immigrant parents. They settled in a lower-middle income city, and I was exposed to a ghetto culture in school.

The great equalizer is not public education. If you end up in a rich suburb, you tend to stay well-off, and if you are bred into an anti-intellectual, entrepreneurially scarce environment, it’s hard to spontaneously rip your environment a new one. This inability is partially due to the geographical distribution of genetic traits, so you are more likely to be less smart or driven if your parents were the type to end up in a slum. This is a gruesome statistical fact that makes many people flinch. Nowadays, most publicly-visible “privileged” people flinch on this matter for well-intentioned reasons, but I believe it is important to acknowledge it. Not from a place of condescending privilege, but from a place of seeing that we have all drawn the short end of the stick; some worse than others, but germ-line genetic engineering and neuralink are just around the corner. We need to start thinking now about how these technologies should benefit everyone and not allow ourselves to create an insurmountable ultra-elite.

 

 

 

A Tour Through the Transhumanist Academy

Anahi attempted to form curly brackets with her eyebrows. “Why are we in a Catholic church? I thought this school was supposed to be all sciency.”
“It’s not a church. Those paintings are not religious. The triangle with the three figures represents the forces of the Standard Model when they were unified. And that demon-like creature is dark energy stretching the universe. All the paintings represent an epoch of the universe. If you look closely you’ll see the time in Roman numerals inscribed under the frames.”
“Oh, wow that’s kind of cool. They made it all dramatic.”
“Yeah, from left to right, it’s the history of our entire universe.”
Anahi let out a sweetly loud laugh, “No wonder I thought the Virgin Mary looked weird. Like what’s going on with the design protocol – did they come up with a new model?”
I tried laughing with her and said, “No, no, that’s Artificial General Intelligence, the final creation of humanity.”
What I was explaining was so serious, that it almost bothered me that she kept laughing about everything, although I liked how her eyes reminded me so much of stained glass.
“Okay, to the project hall.”
As soon as we stepped out from the Core, and into white, sleek light, I felt the shadow of profundity release me, like I could suddenly enjoy talking with her now – we’re just a normal boy and a girl who go to school because that’s what young humans do.
“The view is nice,” her attention locked through invisible glass into the dark green forestry outside. “Yeah, we often do things outside too. People associate this school just with technical math and science – as the polar opposite of a hippie, free-spirit Montessori, but they couldn’t be more wrong. We even have mindfulness meditation classes in the Rationality and Personal Development department – RPD for short, we call it.”
“I’ve always loved nature. Running through the rain as a child, and collecting all kinds of critters to archive in my little notebook, so what you say makes me really happy.”
I felt intensely proud for being the object catalyzing her happiness, ignoring the fact that I wasn’t the mastermind who designed this place. Then I reigned in our excess excitement by taking on my role again. “Okay, you see this entire thing? This is all the project hall. There are no boundaries here between academic subjects. You just use the touch screens on the walls and the tables, and everyone is using the same software, so you can work with anyone and contribute to anything you want. Of course, there are no grades, as the point is not arbitrary rankings but rather mastery. And because of your fingerprints, they’ll know how much you contributed specifically. If you are slacking or falling behind in contributions, they’ll bring out a mentor to get you up to speed.”
“So what about the lectures, or normal class?”
“There are no one-size-fits-all lectures.”
She looked at me half-joyful, half-suspicious, and then almost let down.
“What’s wrong?”
“Well, my parents will probably change their mind once they realize how this really is. They want me to go to a really, I don’t know, overachieving, try-hard kind of school. When they find out this is so loose, they won’t like it.”
“Well, we still learn in that way too – consume information and all. But it’s been proven that people learn better at their own pace, so we have video lectures and game modules to do at home or in the dorms. These are not administered forcefully upon your current cognitive constitution, rather, it’s more like a search engine that contains useful knowledge that matches our philosophy. You can learn anything, but it’s not useless trivia or anything like that.”
“So how do I ever actually become good at something if I’m not being forced to keep to a single set of subjects?”
“The idea is that you will naturally develop a personal rabbit hole through what is initially a free field of information. As your habits are tracked, and you prove your learning, more is revealed in that particular area. You won’t have access to things you cannot understand but you will be able to move horizontally, say from some cognitive science you find interesting to some algebraic topology you find interesting. It’s a very gameified system but also very structurally sound, in terms of laying down new content only upon established foundations. It is also very free and very driven. You are free to be you, but you are not free to be wasting your valuable life. So it’s a carefully tailored freedom, not just painting with crayons and reading comics.”

Brain Configurations Part II

I am fascinated by the idea that dissimilar brain configurations are capable of forming new brain configurations that are a fusion. So at the beginning of this sentence, there is one brain and at the end of this sentence there is another brain, and in between there is a fusion of the two. I call the property by which this happens “love.” “Love” can also refer to the tendency of a brain configuration or fusion of brain configurations to combine with brain configurations or fusions of brain configurations of unlike pattern.

Okay let me try to represent this visually: Imagine a table, the love table. At the head of the column is a brain configuration with which all the brain configurations below can combine, where each column below the header is ranked by how much it loves the header.

In the future, some version of this table might be constructed to catalog all the different possible configurations of brains. The table will be essentially lists prepared by setting in motion simulations and then observing the actions of brain configurations one upon another, showing the varying degrees of love exhibited by analogous configurations for different configurations. (Maybe this is the purpose of our universe and the reason for the infinite branching stipulated by the Many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. 😉

Crucially, the table will not literally be the central graphic tool by which future, posthuman scientists will learn the vectors to the heavens, and its information must be consumed in some other way. Instead, possibly, they will use artificial general intelligence and improved capacities in their own brains to visualize the best moves available for the brain configurations.

In the same way that particles are given the names “strange” and “charm,” you must remember that by love I don’t mean the variety of different emotional and mental states.  I use love to mean the property by which dissimilar brain configurations are capable of forming fused brain configurations. And I also use it to mean the property of a brain configuration that can be assigned a value describing the tendency of that brain configuration to combine with different brain configurations.

I relate love to the phenomenon whereby certain brain configurations or fused brain configurations have the tendency to combine/fuse. (Brains and fused brains are really the same thing, since at any moment, you are a fusion of a future self and past self). Future decision-makers will use this concept of love to make decisions about what kinds of brain configurations there should be more of in a society (or other multi-mind complex). Maybe configuration 615, from the index of all possible brain configurations, is discovered to have love for 202017, to propagate the awesome brain configuration we call 615, the most effective means might be through directing the brains in the society towards 202017. In this futuristic context, love seems to be synonymous with the phrase “what leads to what” but, actually, the connections that it describes are probably timeless.

To summarize the concept of love, I say, “All configuration fusions drive the {past-self+future-self system} to a state of emptiness in which the love held by the fusions vanish.”

“Emptiness” here, is a term highly synonymous with the term equilibrium in physical chemistry and thermodynamics. The different brain configurations are the different species of elements. Some brain configurations can be combined with others and others cannot. There can be a change in your level of attention but you cannot suddenly become a bat, for example. When you allow enough time on a particular system of brain configurations, this is equilibrium, because they are no longer preferentially tending to provide one result over the other.

Turing Church Podcast

The late Christopher Hitchens said something to the effect that conversations about religion are always interesting because you find out so much about a person: Their values, their conception of what is real, what matters in this life.

In this podcast we use religious scripture to take us to that base, to that framework, and then with the questions incited from this investigation, we connect it to the future of humanity. Say, to the tech that might enable what the Buddha experienced in meditation. What if instead of devas, there are advanced alien races, who like devas, are not worthy of worship. They die too, and are not our salvation, but may be beings of great knowledge who wield technologies that make preposterous religious dialogue sound like “terms and conditions” read by Spocks.

Where would an artificial general intelligence with consciousness fit. Would it also be a mere deva or would it be a god like that of Abraham? Able to create universes as many physicist believe is possible with sufficient knowledge? Then what would be its values? Could it be that our cultures in inventing their particular god have been preparing for the advent of general AI. And how well has that historical project gone? Are the attributes of Allah or Krishna mere reflections of apish ignorance?
These are the sorts of questions we ask.

In this episode we look at the Aggi Vacchagotta Sutta from Buddhist scripture. In which the Buddha converts a wanderer, Vacchagotta, to his way, to the way of the Buddha, to the Dharma.

Have you ever had a walk with a friend, like I have through the nearby shoreline of Lake Michigan and just asked philosophical questions? Not the boring esoteric philosophy questions, but questions like, “Would you rather know the truth of all things or would you rather experience pure pleasure in some machine?”

Back then, I was really unsure. Truth seemed so valuable – to see beyond my eyes conceived of mortal dust, and witness what is at bottom. And pleasure seemed so… unheroic. Yet if I was smart, I knew I would pick that blissful, everlasting, heroin high. But to even say it sounds vulgar. And I think this is because we know that pleasure in our conventional lives is not fulfilling. It fades and leaves us hollow.

This is what underlies the teachings of the Buddha. The concept that life as is lived by those uninstructed in his teachings, the natural way of things is unsatisfying because nothing lasts.

Would knowing the truth be any different? Say you discovered we lived in an eternal multiverse. You had the true theory of everything. You might be ecstatic for a moment, but how long would it take before the ups and downs of life, of samsara, made you think, damn knowing truth is not as important as I thought, I should have picked the other option.

In this sutta, the wanderer is like who I was when I was debating that question with my cousin and craved truth. He meets the Buddha and asks him, “Is the cosmos infinite? Is it finite? Is the body and the soul, the same? Or is dualism, with the soul not the same as the body, the way things actually are? What are the views of Master Gotama on these questions?” And the Buddha replies to each question saying that he does not hold that view.

In our debate walking by the shore, the Buddha is one who picks something more akin to the machine in our philosophical question. But not quite. He introduces the option of a machine, so to speak, that would make you perceive all phenomena of consciousness clearly for what they are. Sight is sight. Sound is sound. Sensation is sensation. Thought is thought. All being perceived closely as they appear and disappear. And you would not form views and stories about it. You wouldn’t even form the story of being a self who is experiencing these things. Therefore in this machine you would not get tired or bored after some time, because you would not perceive yourself as even being there. It doesn’t mean there would be sleep or nothingness. It means there would be a flow of experience so fluid that everything would be a clear stream, and you would be so tripped out in this stream of clear recognition that questions of truth or pleasure or your place in the world would be beyond irrelevant.

At first, the wanderer is confused. Because he views the world conceptually, like a philosopher or scientist or theologian. But the Buddha advocates a very clever way to game the system. And unless you have practiced this kind of meditation yourself for a long time, you too may be confused. So I would recommend that after this podcast you tune into a guided meditation by Sam Harris. He teaches you that operating system which is radically different from the way we normally interact with the world. And you can be sure there’s nothing magical about it, given that Harris has built his reputation on being radically skeptical of unreason.

I say this to my more scientific, atheistic side of the audience. But to the more mystical side, skeptical of things like the material basis of consciousness, I ask that you lay aside that skepticism and consider the possibility of engineering the brain at a molecular level so that all the neuronal circuitry is redesigned to experience precisely what the Buddha describes. Say we had this option in society. Would it be cheating, or would this hacking the system mentality be exactly what the Buddha was all about in the first place. Would there be nothing lost? Isn’t it just as vulgar as the traditional pleasure machine to forsake the quest for truth and enter this state that may just be a purer and nobler and ultimately more pleasurable version of the pleasure machine. Or can we say that the quest for truth as most conceive it is misguided and truth about the cosmos is ultimately as insignificant as truth about a toenail? That truth should be measured as the intensity to which you are in a state of flow?

Most Westerners, even if atheistic, think of truth as Christians do. Nietzche commented on this succintly. Plato to Christianity to Enlightenment thought; it’s all the same in one respect. Enlightenment thought uses the scientific methods, unlike the dogmatic reliance on scripture, which makes it very different, and yet it similar in that it creates a sense that there is some foundation that we can understand through thought to which we all belong. We never stop to see thought as the blip of energy that it is. A transient image or voice. We believe that what we see and think refers to something.

Think of dissecting a frog. That makes sense to you. We have been trained to dissect and expand on concepts. But have you ever stopped to directly dissect an emotion or the sound of these words? The Buddha asks that we turn to dissect truth on that plane, not the plane of concepts.

Unfortunately, I consider this way of existing incompatible with being a highly productive member of society. In order to transcend the human condition, we need more mastery over technology. Meditation can only go so far, and requires great investment of mental faculties in order to actually reach anything that is radically different from the base state of being. If the globe could be transformed into a dedicated community of monks, that would be better for most people living today, but it would forever cap our potential. Transhuman progress requires spiritually-disgusting sacrifice, ambition, and smart people of today being constantly lost in thought. However, it promises to reveal a much greater array of sustainable “higher-pleasure machines,” which, if we are honest, are all we could ever hope for.

 

 

*If you like this podcast idea, let me know. I might actually start something like this.*