Smackdown: Are We Spiritual Machines?

And now we continue with Transhumanist Week

In a previous blog post, I mentioned that the word "spirit" or "spirituality" is absent from The Extropian Principles. Now contrast that with one of the champions of transhumansitic thought, Ray Kurzweil. He not only wrote a book called The Age of Spiritual Machines, but he is also open to debate anyone who accuses him of being a "materialist."

In the book, Are We Spiritual Machines?,
Kurzweil responded to his critics and fleshed out his ideas even
further. The result: an uber-geeky mind-blowing intellectual royal
rumble smackdown among scientists, thinkers, and philosophers.

I particularly like what Kurzweil said on Chapter 10: The Material World: "Is That All There Is?":

"As we move into the biological world, consider the intricate dance
of spirals of DNA during mitosis. How about the “loveliness” of a tree
as it bends in the wind and its leaves churn in a tangled dance? Or the
bustling world we see in a microscope? There’s transcendence everywhere.

A comment on the word “transcendence” is in order here. To transcend
means to “go beyond,” but this need not compel us to an ornate dualist
view that regards transcendent levels of reality (e.g., the spiritual
level) to be not of this world. We can “go beyond” the “ordinary”
powers of the material world through the power of patterns. Rather than
a materialist, I would prefer to consider myself a “patternist.” It’s
through the emergent powers of the pattern that we transcend."

Nice. I think that’s a very integral statement! Why? Well, it reminded
me of what Ken Wilber said about the nature of the integral approach
(e.g. AQAL). And I quote:

"So how can we describe the integral approach in simple terms? It’s
clearly going to be a bit of a new idea, so bear with me. We might
start by calling it a "content-free cross-culturalism." Gulp. That’s simple?


"Content-free" refers to the fact that virtually all previous
approaches at unification have attempted to find some sort of unity on
the level of actual content (whereas the integral approach does not).
For example, most of the world’s great religions have some version of
the Golden Rule, and most universalists use those types of common elements to find their unity in the world’s religions. 

"The integral approach does none of that. Or rather, all such
similarities in content are looked upon as quite secondary, even
trivial. This is why we call the core of the integral approach
"content-free." It finds its similarities in certain patterns of content, not in the content itself."

Nice. So, the two great thinkers I admire are both "patternists." One
focuses on fleshing out the patterns of subjectivity/intersubjectivity
(Wilber mainly as a philosopher) while the other focuses on fleshing
out the patterns of the material world (Kurzweil mainly as a
scientist). Neither of them a flatlander. I like that.

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