Monday, June 19, 2017

Let There Be Light

(Let There Be Light, by Blaire Ostler)

For my final term project for Philosophy of Singularity I created an original piece of art, Let There Be Light. My position as CEO at the Mormon Transhuman Association directs my attention to the intersections of religion and Transhumanism, and while the class briefly touched on religious Transhumanism, I wanted to continue that thought here.

While the two, religion and Transhumanism, may seem like an odd pairing, they are not only compatible, but complimentary. Transhumansim itself functions as a theology of sorts, with both dystopian (hell) and utopian (heaven) narratives. In fact, it is arguable that the nature of Transhumanism and the optimization for human flourishing is a more robust and thoughtful theology, predicated on traditionally recognized religion. What is post humanity, if not another projection of God? What is a Singularitarian’s dystopia, if not hell? What it is an utopian earth, if not Heaven? We tell ourselves and each other stories, and those narratives function as trajectories, ones we should embrace and work towards, or ones we should resist and mitigate.

Transhumanism is the intellectual and philosophical movement that works towards the radical improvement of humanity. The trajectory is “post humanity”—beings so far evolved from our current state they would seem like Gods in comparison. This trajectory includes the robust expansion of our intellectual capacities.

The word “light” is used in the scriptures to convey more than one meaning. In the scriptures light can mean the actually light of the sun, a symbol of life, and a representation of increased intellect.

“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3)

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light.” (John 3:18–21)

“That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (D&C 50:24)

“The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God” (D&C 88:13)

“Whatsoever is truth is light” (D&C 84:45)

“Let your light so shine” (Matthew 5:16)

“I, the Lord, […] will be a light unto them forever” (2 Nephi 10:14)

“I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy” (D&C 11:13)

But what does “light” have to do with Transhumanism? Well, more than you might think.

I recently read an interesting article that thoughtfully articulated the interesting relationship between AI developers, many of whom consider themselves aggressively secular, yet their language and pursuits are dripping with religious language, projections, and basic human desires. Most avid believers in AI tend to recoil at the idea of incorporating religion into their creations without recognizing they already have.

The point of illuminating the compatibility between religion and Transhumanism isn’t just some desperate attempt to hold tight to a cherished tradition and theology, or a misguided attempt to alleviate cognitive dissonance, it's about recognizing the potential of humanity as a story. Not only are we storytellers, but we're also story creators. Transhumanism is one more, or the next, story on the way to more light. Are our stories any more or less powerful because we have a more nuanced perspective? Perhaps it is through understanding our narratives more thoughtfully that we will come to appreciate and utilize them in a much more profound way, thus giving more power to our narratives, ideas, theologies, and beliefs.

Let There Be Light is a representation of all forms of light: secular, religious, intellectual, poetic, philosophical, and aesthetic. The narrative of how light is found, understood, used, and projected is open to innumerable interpretations, but light, in this sense, is at the core or our existence. It is light that gives us life. It is light that enables knowledge. It’s is light that we seek. In all things, let there be light.