Originally posted on the IEET weblog

How Can Human V2.0 Find Meaning?

This article is not about nihilism, but about epistemology and ontology, the end result in the form of scientific value of existence. Ethics from a nihilist-like world makes sense in light of current theories of existence. Human V2.0, or posthumans, will have to deal with the same scientific paradigms as we do today. Their sped-up cognition may allow for paradigms to come and go quickly, but let's imagine that the meaning to existence is still not answered, that it all comes down to agnostic, atheistic value.

By value I mean that in a godless universe one must value concepts, memes, and social constructs of reality. Posthumans will be united by a network of shared beliefs and feelings (concepts and qualia). Togetherness won’t necessarily get rid of the ego and self, however. The ego will still be able to ask “why do I exist?” and “what is the point of all this?”

As Thomas Kuhn famously wrote in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions:

“A scientific theory is usually felt to be better than its predecessors not only in the sense that it is a better instrument for discovering and solving puzzles but also because it is somehow a better representation of what nature is really like.”

The representations that the posthumans will come up with may be close to solving the puzzle, but if stuck within paradigms of knowledge, of epistemology – and, one could argue, ontology – then the posthuman will surely ask: “why do I exist?” They will be left with value over faith and interconnected value of scientific discovery.

We exist in a pre-posthuman world which is quite similar to what I am conjuring up. The only thing lacking is the speed of cognition and the amount of scientifically educated minds. With the onset of posthumans, the knowledge of scientific paradigms should increase if learning entails “downloading” of information.

The concept of model-dependent realism coined by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Milodinow in their new book The Grand Design shows that we may be faced with theories that need to coexist with each other instead of a theory of everything, Hawking’s lifelong goal. There is no doubt that posthumans will want a theory of everything as we do in our pre-posthuman world. If Hawking is right, the ego or self in the posthuman world will have to live with overlapping theories of reality.

The Grand Design also suggests that the universe did not need a god or divine creator to exist. According to Hawking, reality can spontaneously exist out of nothing because of laws dealing with M-Theory and gravity. Theories in physics which can explain how the universe can spontaneously come about have enormous implications for epistemology, ontology, and ethical theory. We are left in the end without a god, creating our own theories which can only be adopted by the mind’s ability to acknowledge and believe in value over faith.

The conclusion that god does not exist does not lead to nihilism though, because there is still existence for a self to experience. As long as this existence exists, the self, no matter how interconnected it may be with other minds, will hold on to the concept of value over faith. In a posthuman world, science will indeed replace god, and scientific value will be the norm.


Originally posted on the IEET weblog

The Posthuman Mind Continued: On Simulating Conscious Awareness of Homeostasis

When we sit back and think about how matter in its simplest stable macro form like protons, neutrons, and electrons, with properties that have the ability to retain information about how to carry on its complexity within different environmental factors, we reach a point where we can imagine these stable forms of matter becoming processes of life. We naturally use our mind to create conceptions of the nature of physical and chemical processes.

We are conscious of our simulating the environment around us; we have a feeling of what it is like to simulate many different kinds of scientific models. Here I want to concentrate on the model of consciousness and awareness within the paradigm of what it is like to be a homeostatic human brain.

The conceptions which take place in the brain can resemble moving simulations and active information manipulation kept in check by rationality and logical analysis. However, lets try and go beyond just what it feels like to think, and I want to show that in simulating the universe we produce feelings of what it is like to think of the universe in such a way. So the nature of the simulations thus becomes what it feels like to be that which is being simulated.

However we do not want to suggest that what it feels like to be the simulation is really what it is like for the process being simulated to exist as it does in nature, rather we want to show that the feeling acquired by the simulation is a feeling that has a certain amount of validity to it, into the nature of that which is being simulated. So in simulating homeostasis in my mind, I want to get a clear picture of what it is like for the emerged/evolved/form of a living homeostatic entity to exist.

An external view on homeostasis might, for example be the brain simulating a single cell. So when we think of the homeostatic single cell operating in a way modern biology allows us to think, we thus create a feeling, a concept of that simulation. Here, when I think of the concept, when I simulate a very simple cell, and try to capture its homeostatic being, but then dying off from a vast number of environmental and biological forces, I am left with a cell that either divides, lives once, dies, or then lives on, but with or without a mutation that allows it to adapt better to its current environment.

When a rational person simulates what it is like to be homeostatic they can then think about what it is like to be a homeostatic mind, (this is different than simulating in ones own mind the workings of a cell because you are actively thinking about what it is like to be aware – your own simulation of your own awareness) in turn they begin to actually think about what it is like to be homeostatic since their attention is then turned to the homeostasis of the brain/mind.

It might go something like this; we are aware that we are aware of being conscious. This awareness – independent of drugs, unbalanced neurotransmitters, and the distractions of the external environment, feels like something. This feeling is the homeostasis of the mind. It may be like that of a meditative state, or a state of deep concentration, maintaining rationality. The posthuman mind will be able to simulate this awareness and homeostasis of the mind like we can with our own brains in the human form.

References

image1: http://www.occc.edu/biologylabs/Documents/Homeostasis/Molecular.htm

image2: http://www.nature.com/nrm/journal/v8/n10/fig_tab/nrm2256_F3.html

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