HUMAN DESTINY – PART XIV – TECHNOLOGY – SUPERHUMANS

“It’s easier to create the future than to predict it.” – Joseph Traub

After looking at human destiny from scientific, historical, and theological vantage points, we can widen our investigation to possible technological futures of mankind. This can take two basic forms: genetically modified or hybrid humans, and artificial intelligence.

Within the destinies discussed in the scientific fields I alluded to man’s potential to expedite human evolution by externally modifying our genes. The science is already tantalizingly close (CRISPR), but ethical issues have slowed this approach. However some scientists, such as Stephen Hawking2  believe it is inevitable despite ethical concerns since in the absence of global deterrence, someone is likely to begin what will then become an irreversible progression. Nonetheless others suggest humans will “abandon the bodies bequeathed to us by natural selection for more efficient designs.”3 Still others think genetic engineering may be deployed on other organisms perhaps even creating future spacecraft. 4 Michio Kaku entertains the possibility of these technologies enhancing man’s ability to live on other worlds, but also worries about the ethical significance of potentially creating new genetic branches of the human race.5

A second possibility is the hybrid human, by which is meant the incorporation of technology into the human body to create superior or ultra-human capabilities essentially transforming a person into a cyborg. This does not include most current prosthetics like artificial limbs, cochlear implants, or pacemakers which simply restore normal function. On the other hand a current and simple example is the springy blade leg prosthetic design used by some para-athletes. Future possibilities include chips or other technology inserted into the body or brain that enhance function, sensation, or intelligence or which allow direct connection with a freestanding computer.

The implication of both of these futuristic technologies is clear, human destiny would involve new abilities that allow us to achieve greater physical and mental feats that expedite human progress but do not essentially change the long term picture, particularly man’s expansion beyond the planet earth. In other words, they are the means rather than the determinants of human destiny. But, combined with an evolved ethic, perhaps our descendants could realize the vision of Nietzsche’s uberman.

Next time we will look at artificial intelligence as the ultimate means to a combined destiny for humanity and the universe.

 

1Horgan, John, The End of Science, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., Reading, Massachusetts, 1996. ISBN 0-201-62679-9, page 240.

2Hawking, Stephen, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, Bantam Books, New York, 2018. ISBN 9781984819192, pages 160.

3Horgan, John, The End of Science, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., Reading, Massachusetts, 1996. ISBN 0-201-62679-9, page 247.

4Ibid. Page 253.

5Kaku, Michio, The Future of Humanity, Anchor Books, New York, 2018. ISBN 978-0-525-43454-2, page 216.

6Gimbel, Steven, Quantum Consciousness, in Redefining Reality: The Intellectual Implications of Modern Science, Steven Gimbel, The Teaching Company, 2015, Lecture 33.

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HUMAN DESTINY – PART XIII – TEILHARD de CHARDIN

“Humanity is but a transitory phase of the evolution of the eternal substance, a particular phenomenal form of matter and energy, the true proportions of which we soon perceive when we set it in the background of infinite space and eternal time.” – Ernest Haick.

Western theology allows for a human destiny other than biblical eschatology. As an alternative I offer the analysis of the French Jesuit, self-described geobiologist, who played a major role in the discovery of Peking man, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Last century he wrote a group of theses based on his belief that the world is the outcome of a progressive genesis of the universe through evolution,1  but that  morphological change in life slowed at precisely the moment Thought appeared on earth suggesting evolution proceeded in the direction of the largest brain. According to him, “we know of many forms that have disappeared since the Oligocene, but of no genuinely new species other than the anthropoids.”

Instead we see biological value in moral action and individual relationship implying evolution in the ‘sphere of consciousness’ (the Noosphere). Humans are “serving, like intelligent atoms, the work proceeding in the universe,”3  and “it is mankind as a whole, collective humanity, which is called upon to perform the definitive act whereby the total force of terrestrial evolution will be released and flourish.” 4  This will occur through education as “mankind …is organically inseparable from that which has been slowly added to it…” 5  and socialization, “the forging our multiplicity into a whole.” 6  The forces of isolation and repulsion in mankind will be overcome by external compression due to growth in numbers and mutual attraction via love for one’s neighbor. Common vision and action will lead to a ‘single being.’ The first hominization of life was man’s individual self-consciousness; the second will be Mankind’s total reflexive consciousness upon itself.7 What will follow is convergence, loss of egoism, the ‘Sense of Evolution’ wherein “the terrestrial future matters more than the present.”

This ‘super-humanization’ will lead to a ‘planetized spirit.’ He thinks it is unlikely man will escape through space arguing “if journeying between celestial bodies were practicable, it is hard to see why we ourselves have not been invaded.”9 Rather he believes there will be convergence on a  divine center or ‘omega point’ already identified by the mystics but which will be available to all in the future. “Mankind at the end of totalization will detach from earth and join the omega point.”10 Exactly what Teilhard de Chardin means by this is unclear, but he predicts a ‘super-state of psychic tension… not a gradual darkening but a sudden blaze of brilliance, an explosion in which Thought carried to the extreme, is volatized upon itself …how I would depict the ultimate phase of a vitalized star.”11  In the end, human destiny is a “Translation or dematerialization, to another sphere of the Universe: not an ending of the ultra-human but its accession to some sort of trans-humanity at the ultimate heart of things.”12 297

If this sounds fantastic or the speculations of science fiction, you will be stunned by the subject of the next blog, the future of humanity as its technological destiny.

1Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre, The Future of Man, Harper & Row , Publishers, New York, 1964. Page 13.

2Ibid. Page 15.

3Ibid. Page 17.

4Ibid. Page 21

4Ibid. Page 31

6Ibid. Page 40

7Ibid. Page 133.

8Ibid. Page 137.

9Ibid. Page 122.

10Ibid. Page 122-123.

11Ibid. Page 295.

12Ibid. Page 297.

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HUMAN DESTINY – PART XII – THE BOOK OF REVELATION

“I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” – J. Robert Oppenheimer (thought by the ‘father of the atomic bomb’ on seeing the first thermonuclear explosion; from Hindu scriptures).

 

The most famous eschatology is the New Testament book of Revelation. The Old Testament included significant end of the world prophesies within Isaiah and Daniel, and in fact Jesus as Messiah was believed by his early followers to be the fulfillment of these prophesies. However as time passed without  the Apocalypse, and after the Roman Empire tightened its grip on the chaotic province of Israel, there appeared the last book of the New Testament, Revelation, as recorded by John of Patmos (not the apostle John).

In this curious scripture, John says he heard a “great voice as of a trumpet saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last…” (Rev. 1:10-11). John is invited into heaven to witness the future where he sees are 24 elders, 4 beasts, tens of millions of angels, and a book with seven seals. Behind these seals are the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, Christian martyrs, a great earthquake, the blackened sun, the blood moon, the falling of stars to earth, 144,000 righteous members of the Tribes of Israel, seven angels who sound trumpets bringing scourges, and an army of 200,000,000 vengeful horsemen to destroy unrepentant sinners.

Victory is delayed when three beasts appear – one from a pit in the earht (Satan), the second a great red dragon in heaven, and a third from the sea. The hosts of the beast carry a mark, the number, 666. After the appearance of 144,000 virgins and the fall of Babylon, the ‘Son of man’ appears on a white cloud followed by seven plagues and the final battle of Armageddon. God is installed on his throne and Satan is cast into a bottomless pit for 1000 years. Some men are saved immediately, but after the 1000 years, the rest of humanity is resurrected.  A final conflict occurs after Satan is released, but this time Satan is cast into a lake of fire for eternity as are the men judged unworthy by God reading from the ‘book of life.’ The chosen then enter a new eternal paradise ruled by God.

The book of Revelation has been the most controversial part of the New Testament for nearly two millennia and outlasted efforts to discard it. Why does it endure and what is its metaphorical lesson? Spiritual readers including Augustine see it as the internal battle within each of us to overcome evil and achieve ethical perfection in pursuit of heaven. But for this post, we are interested in it as a myth of the destiny of man. From that standpoint Revelation appears very optimistic. The worst evils of the world are caused by free agents which for us means mankind. Highly talented but malevolent humans symbolize Satan, and destructive technology (for example atomic weapons) the beasts. We live in the period of Tribulation – the conflict of good and evil – and although it is likely evil will proliferate further, Revelation tells us the good in man will overcome his evil. If God is the origin of the universe or the universe itself, the allegorical divine paradise may be a peaceful world filled with virtuous, flourishing men.

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