review of Chang-Rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea, some of the themes of the review/book seemed to parallel the themes of my piece so I thought, well, why not post it.] In 1818, Mary Shelley dreams of a scientist bringing a dead man back to life through the power of electricity. In 1947, Claude Beck, professor of surgery, resuscitates a human being for the first time using a calculated dose of electric shock. 1865, Jules Verne imagines three men leaping from The Earth to the Moon. 1969, Neil Armstrong takes one giant leap for mankind. 1976, Isaac Asimov writes about the world’s first cyborg. 2002, Professor Kevin Warwick becomes the world’s first cyborg. What has been conceived can be realized. Transhumanism: the intellectual and cultural movement which glorifies the future as holding the answers to the riddle of existence. It seeks to augment our mental and physical capacities through the use of science and technology with the goal of transcending the human condition. The Singularity: an idea first popularized by science fiction author Vernor Vinge, brought to the masses by Ray Kurzweil, in his book The Singularity is Near. A theoretical point in time when we realize the transhumanist ideal though the combined use of genetics, computer science, pharmaceuticals, nanotechnology and cybernetics. It is when we finally shed this mortal coil and ascend the spiral staircase of our engineered DNA into the firmament and take our rightful place among the very gods we created in our image. What has been conceived can be realized. Science fiction It has often blazed the trail for science. But there are two kinds of sciences, the outer and the inner
Two kinds of technology, that of steel and that of spirit. The outer sciences have made our lives easier, longer, safer, faster Better living through Valium, Vicodine, Viagra iPhone 5 Google Glass Each new invention another drumbeat in the implacable march towards our magnificent, mechanical future. A future about as real as the weekend lover who awaits you on the Holodeck For the human condition cannot be transcended by vanquishing the three-headed monster of Time, Age and Death. What will it amount to when, with all the sweeping knowledge and technology we have already— so vast that our ancestors, could they see us now, would surely fall to their knees before us with offerings of milk, honey and soma—when with all of this, we cannot be content. All this searching and manipulating of the elements This unlocking of newer and better permutations of physical reality is but a tortured search for the meaning and purpose that have eluded us since day one To silence the cosmic terror that lurks at the heart of every new technological advancement. The reason we want to live forever is that we want to be here when the future comes And why do we want to be here when the future comes? Because we have been told that all good things come to us in the future: peace, happiness, love—the answers to the big questions. But the future, of course, never comes Because the future, by definition, is that which lies beyond the present moment And it is always the present moment So it can never be the future. Do not fall for this carrot on a stick this existential snake oil being sold to you by the prophets of progress. Hans Moravec, speaking of the cyborgization of the human race, the birth of a new robotic species, describing this future with such lascivious glee, you can almost feel his lust for metal and grease, his revulsion and contempt for the soft, moist, vulnerability that makes us what we are. Stephen Hawking, waxing poetic about space colonization as the destiny of mankind As if inhabitable planets were like disposable Bic razors With all his brilliance and erudition, what makes him think we will do any better on the next planet if we have not figured out what to do on this one? Now, I am a Trekkie My very soul, born and bred on the Starship Enterprise Do you think I do not want to fly through space at warp speed? Or to live forever? Or to store all the data in the universe inside my digitally amplified brain? I want all of these things Yet I stand here and say that all this future-gazing and proselytizing is just sound and fury signifying nothing And nothing is what the Singularity will amount to Because in its left-brained arrogance humanity has become a black hole pulling everything in, collapsing even the profound into the profane, the holy into the hollow What is miraculous today becomes mundane tomorrow. So we could uncover the digital fountain of youth Join together man and machine in unholy matrimony Traverse the cosmos in floating sapphire palaces Dance with a myriad newly discovered life forms Soar through eternity together at the speed of thought for eons and eons No, better yet, we will merge our very consciousness into the ocean of infinite numbers and bask in a sea of mathematical nirvana. And still We would not find what we are looking for. Not in the ways we are looking
Not in the places we are seeking
Not in the future we are awaiting. For we are lost, you see, not because we have not having developed this enough. [point to brain] We are lost because we have not developed this enough. [point to heart] First things first, my sisters, my brothers. First things first. Science fiction It has often blazed the trail for science But we have been missing the point For no amount of outer perfection will ever make us happy without inner cultivation and this, I can promise you 1961: Robert Heinlein conceives of an alien being, a Stranger in a Strange Land, who comes to live among human society and teaches them that the true barometer of progress is not technology— it is unconditional love, forgiveness and acceptance. “Thou art God,” he said to them. And they, in turn, crucified him. 1967: Roger Zelazny conceives of a colony of humans so advanced in technology they are the very epitome of Transhumanism. Yet they have no home planet. Because they destroyed it. As we are destroying ours. To find a new home, they conquer and exploit a primitive alien world, using their superior technology to fool the aliens into believing they are gods. But one among them teaches the aliens that the worship of false gods, on the one hand, and the worship of technology on the other, was both folly and that the only true path towards higher evolution was the cultivation of mind and spirit. And the aliens called him Mahasamatman, the Lord of Light, the Buddha. The final frontier to which we must go The Holy Grail which we must find is not out there—in the future, in progress. Space. Immortality. It’s right here and now Hidden within the heart of the human being sitting next to you Whose silent voice whispers the secrets of the universe into your soul If only you had the ears to listen Telling you that the answers to the mysteries of life Are but a handshake, an embrace, a kiss away. Thou art God. And the salvation you seek is hidden light years within your own self Find this… And what has been conceived will be realized.