June 7, 2010
Have you ever wondered what the end goal of all our science and technological developments will be? When I look at things from the big picture, it really makes me wonder.
When I look at all other species on this planet, their lives consist of gathering food, eating, sleeping, having sex, migrating back and forth during the seasons, building simple shelters, having children, and raising their children. A lot of species differ as to their details but that’s the gist of it.
Now look at us. What’s the end goal of all our technology? What happens when we have machines which create our food for us by compressing energy? What happens when our children are created in the laboratory by stringing together DNA?
What happens when we no longer have to cook, clean, do the dishes, take out the trash, work jobs, or do much of anything for that matter? What will we do with ourselves? Leisure and study?
I don’t picture school and learning to be around for much more than a few hundred years. By then they’ll implant micro-processors into our brains which can store memories, enhance our thinking abilities, calculate things, etc. It will probably be like the Matrix movies. They’ll plug you in and you’ll download whatever you need to know. Actually, it’ll probably be wireless and automatically update without you even thinking. Technology may well get so advanced that the second you’re popping out of the womb you already know all human knowledge in existence.
A large degree of our happiness today comes from learning new things, exploring, and self-development. In the new age, instead of developing individually we’ll all develop together. Everyone will be sharing a common mind so to speak.
At this point will the goal of life be happiness and fun? I don’t know what that will mean to the coming age. Neuroscience is already telling us the biochemical and electrical processes which give us happiness. They’ll probably learn how to surgically alter our brains. At that point, what does happiness even mean?
I have a hard time swallowing that kind of power. Take what I find beautiful. Right now, when I look out of my own eyes, I find women beautiful, I like good food, landscapes, sunsets, the night sky… But to think I could make myself feel those same feelings about anything? I could reprogram myself to have those same blissful feelings when stamping papers for an insurance company?
I don’t know. The areas of our brain which perform logic and discover truth are separate from our emotional and moral systems. That’s why people’s emotional reactions to the same facts can differ so much. Even now, as I interpret this information, I may well attribute emotional significance to it all, but then again, I don’t know if how I feel about it all even matters. I don’t even feel qualified to have feelings about it.
But how to explain my feelings. Well, I feel violated. I feel so malleable that I don’t even have a solid existence at all. My current life is not only temporary and ephemeral but completely ductile.
Our whole philosophical tradition going back to the Greeks is based around finding happiness in a difficult world. With scientific progress I guess we’ve not only solved the problem, but have taken complete control of it. With time we’ll be able to reprogram our brains to find happiness in anything.
And what happens to the individual? Modern society is all about being an individual, and living to find happiness and fulfillment in your dreams. What happens when you can reprogram your brain and live happily doing anything whatsoever?
This new age we’re moving into is unlike anything we’ve ever even dreamt of. I think we’ll figure out how the brain communicates with consciousness and we’ll be capable of living in any body we construct. Bodies may well become playthings similar to what they are when we play video games. We’ll construct “characters” and live lives based on whatever we choose. We won’t play online RPGs hacking each other with swords; we’ll just create real bodies and remove the painful sensations from the brains and then battle one another.
Even so, using my present mind and feelings to interpret these things is futile. Once the brain is enhanced with micro-chips to make us think faster, we’ll come up with scientific theories and knowledge at a pace that’s currently unfathomable. At that point, what we find entertaining will probably be a lot different. Education does have a tendency to change how a person spends their time.
I don’t think there will be such a thing as a ‘specialist’ because everyone will know everything. We’ll probably no longer age, and our bodies will be near completely artificial. We’ll be time-lords who can wormhole in and out of parallel realities and build play universes for our leisure (and even construct what we find to be entertaining).
But what does this mean? I can’t even comprehend building separate bodies and living multiple lives at once, possibly even as completely different species. I can’t comprehend navigating parallel worlds.
I get the feeling that this game of “life” which we’re all living today is almost finished. Some sort of weird game has been playing out and now the game is coming to a close. A few thousand more years of civilization and progress (maybe a lot less, scientific knowledge does increase exponentially) and we’ll have “beaten” this universe. We’ll be “done”. The struggle for existence, of life, finding happiness, being pushed around by nature… all a thing of the past.
That’s not to say we’ll be “dead”. We just won’t even resemble humans as we know them. That’s why I’m not even qualified to comment. What we call “life” and the discussions of it found in biology textbooks will be obsolete.
I don’t say these things as science fiction. This stuff is very real. I read neuroscience textbooks and modern physics and it’s crazy what’s beyond the door. Just read Nature and Discover magazine. Crazy stuff is going on. Scientists are working on technology that would blow most people’s minds.
Maybe this new era will be amazing. Maybe people will have such control over their lives that they’ll all live blissfully. But I don’t know. This is all too much. For now I’ll just keep studying science wondering about quantum mechanics. I’ll surely be dead before these issues become mainstream problems. Even so, they’re really not too far off; that is, if we don’t blow ourselves up or kill ourselves off in our own stupidity.