NOTE: Students of human nature have coined the term “time horizon” to describe the amount of time one thinks he or she has left in life, and, to that point, how that perception shapes one’s values and actions.
Young people, often subliminally, think that they’re likely to live to a hundred before they die, so, subliminally, are incentivized into taking undue physical, emotional, and financial risks - with the hope and expectation of a big payback in the form of an adrenaline rush, sexual fulfillment, financial reward, or all of the above. And so they roll the dice. If things don’t work out as planned, well, there’s always tomorrow and a chance to start over. Their motto: Just do it!
Old people, on the other hand, see a short time horizon, and therefore, wanting to make every day, week, month and year count, prioritize life goals around things they value most, things that bring them the greatest joy, like spending more time with children, grandchildren and close friends. Less inclined to take physical, financial, or emotional risks, the elderly tend to value safety and security over adrenaline rushes. Their motto: Contentment!
These observations, based largely on human biological evolution, have been the rule for thousands, if not millions of years. But now, thanks to a new dynamic that transcends human evolution, i.e., the explosion of artificial intelligence, we are witnessing a complete flip-flop of the natural order. Let me explain:
Most experts agree that the final and inevitable end of AI evolution will be the vanquishing of death, which, when it happens, will upend everything we know and feel about what it means to be human. By many accounts, we may be within a generation or two of reaching that goal, which is where Ray Kurzweil’s war cry to Baby Boomers: “Live long enough to live forever” comes into play.
What Ray describes as “radical life extension” is the ultimate geriatric pitch. It not only reignites a youthful flame, but a willingness to take whatever risks are necessary to achieve personal immortality, even if it ends in the extinction of the human species. For Boomer Singularitarians, this is not a time for caution, just the opposite. It’s time to throw caution to the wind and boldly go where no man has ever gone before, and Ray, now 74 years old, intends to lead the way. I’ll turn 78 this year, so, to be perfectly honest, I’m rooting for Ray.
It’s important to note that among this group are the living pioneers of modern AI technology. Individuals, besides Ray, like Bill Gates, Bill Joy and Robert Hariri, men who are acutely aware of what is at stake, that aging Singularitarians are caught in a vice. With each passing hour of each passing day, death closes in, and the hope of personal immortality fades. To their last breath, it’s an all-out race to the finish.
GEN X, THE MILLENNIALS
The next younger generation, Gen X, are the Millennials, people like Elon Musk and Nick Bostrom. The mantra of these individuals is “move fast and break things.” While conventional wisdom suggests that they might be inclined to take more risks and higher risks than their Boomer elders, just the opposite is true.
The time horizon of Gen Xers, being longer, grants them the opportunity to “do it, but be damned sure you get it right.” With their legitimate and widely expressed concerns about the AGI “control problem,” they come across as the real adults in the room, and tend to look at Boomer AGI geeks as a father might look at his unhinged son behind the wheel of a Corvette racing towards a cliff – with him in the back seat! They have good reason to be scared.
And then there are the kids, the Gen Z crowd. With the longest time horizon of all, they have the most to lose if Singularity research goes awry. Their hopes and dreams could dissolve in a heartbeat if George, the moment he evolves into the Singleton, sees them as little more than savory data-meat.
Being as young, stupid, and easily distracted as they are, Gen Z-ers are Like Pavlov’s dog. Trained and conditioned since infancy to be content and docile when fed a steady diet of ever new and more exciting tech-toys (particularly those having to do with violence and sex), they equate loud music, fast cars, fast hands and loose women to living large. But the Singularity is a different kind of paradigm, an environment where traditional rules don’t apply.
Compared to the extreme risks that AGI Boomers are prepared to take in pursuit of immortality, Gen Zers are like old fogies in rocking chairs and lap warmers, largely oblivious to what’s coming down the pike.
However AGI evolves, it is the youth who are destined to be the big losers. If the hopes of Boomer AGI geeks come true, the old farts will never die or fade away. Instead, they’ll turn themselves into gods and goddesses, relegating Gen Zers to eternal second class citizenship.
But Gen-Zers also lose if things go sideways and Boomer geeks screw things up. To crystallize the issue, imagine Ray, within a whisper of discovering the eternal Fountain of Youth, is told he has only six months to live! What risks would he be willing to take?
The burning question in this generational mix is this: Will Millennial geeks find a way to outsmart and outmaneuver Boomer geeks, and take control of the AGI process - before they blow things up and kill us all? Unfortunately, I don’t think they will. The secret and largely underreported collaboration between top military leaders and civilian AGI experts is based on a common time horizon. The only difference is that while Boomers hope to live long enough to live forever, the goal of military leaders, in both the East and the West, is to create an all-powerful Singleton who, created in their warped image and holding their dark values, slays the enemy and leaves them rulers of the world, and, eventually, the Universe. It’s a radical strategy that, by definition, will necessitate the taking of risks and the cutting of corners, but, if that’s what it takes, so be it.
With an “If you can’t beat‘em, join‘em” mindset, savvy Millennialists like Elon Musk and Nick Bostrom, seeing the handwriting on the wall, have thrown in with Western Boomer geeks and military leaders in hopes of helping them solve the numerous control problems. But the Boomers and Militants aren’t stupid. While welcoming Millennials, with their money and talent, into their fold, they know that at some critical point just before Takeoff, tech upstarts like Elon are likely to attempt a palace coup. In an environment where inner circles exist within inner circles, Ray Kurzeil and Elon Musk stand face-to-face, each with a hand behind their backs, clutching a Glock. The MO? Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.
So what is the juxtaposition between all this and the Sagan Model? This is what today’s discussion is about, so let’s get on with it.
"I will rise"
"He is risen"
Don: Molly, think of this as our “1st Annual Easter Conversation.” Since Easter represents renewal and rebirth, our focus will be on the extraordinary hope encapsulated in both the Kurzweil and the Sagan models of the Singularity: Personal Immortality.
The greater Singularity family (and I count myself a member) tends to shy away from making immortality a major talking point. Why? In my view it’s because it sounds too much like religion, something that Singularitarians try to avoid at all costs.
So, to distinguish ourselves from religion, we don’t call it “immortality,” we call it “radical life extension,” and quietly add it to a long list of benefits AGI experts believe will accrue to those who merge with the Singleton.
For example, in the colorful dialogues you and Ray share in his books, radical life extension comes across as less important than virtual sex. But let’s be honest, you know, Ray knows, I know, and all Singularitarians know that eternal life stands above and apart from all other considerations as our number one hope and priority. In deflecting attention away from immortality to less important matters, Ray is attempting to silence critics who might otherwise be inclined to dismiss his views as a novel form of chilianism, a millennialist doctrine that Carl Sagan sharply criticized as little more than a lame excuse to shirk the moral responsibilities of environmental stewardship.
But Saganism fares no better. If the Kurzweil Model is vulnerable to “guilt by association with religion” attacks, the Sagan Model even more so. Built on the foundational assumption that the Sagan Signal is undeniable proof from the Bible that JC is an ET, the Sagan Model finds itself intrinsically associated with core doctrines of the Christian faith. If Ray and other Singularity leaders are hesitant to publicly recognize the Sagan Model as scientifically legitimate, it’s because they see it as a threat that will almost certainly expose the metaphysical nature of Singularity philosophy. In advocating for the Sagan Model, I can’t do that, it’s too obvious.
Molly: Okay, you got me to thinking. It sounds like you’re saying that the Singularity is quasi-religious, with a technological God rather than a supernatural God. Can you explain in more detail?
Don: Sure. Carl Sagan, convinced that JC/ET is the Singleton, saw the Resurrection of Christ, not as a religious miracle, but as a triumph of alien technology. JC/ET is exactly what AGI experts are hoping George will become.
Molly: And the reason JC/ET is more advanced is because his species is millions of years older than the human species.
Don: Right. From the onset of the Age of Science, it will have taken less than a thousand years for humans to invent the Singleton. A million years is a thousand times a thousand. Carl, acutely aware that AI technology represents a new form of human evolution, reasonably concluded that if ETs exist, they would have reached Superintelligent status eons ago, and would have long ago explored and colonized our galaxy.
Molly: So, with that as his guiding hypothesis, Carl was motivated to look for empirical evidence that they are on Earth now, or have been to Earth in the past.
Don: Right again. In regard to the “on Earth now” part, Carl took a deep interest in Project Bluebook, an official 1952 Air Force investigation into UFO sightings. Had they been confirmed, it would have constituted direct evidence of alien existence. But critical research convinced Carl that UFO sightings could be explained naturally, with no need for aliens. Throughout his career, Carl, ever the skeptic, confronted and debunked paranormal claims, and in the process became the number one nemesis of UFO advocates.
As for the “In the past” theory, Carl took a deep interest in ancient writings, most of which are religious in nature, that describe events that could be interpreted as human interactions with aliens. In particular, he was fascinated with Sumerian mythology, and its literary descendent, the Bible.
Molly: Which would have prompted him to consider the possibility that JC might have been an ET.
Don: Having been in the Honors program at the University of Chicago, Carl had a unique skill set. As a mathematician he extrapolated technology trends into the future, and, as a historian, he extrapolated ancient myths and legends into the past. At some point Carl saw the two trend lines merge. In what must have been a “Back to the Future” epiphany, the Sagan Model of the Singularity was born.
Molly: If I hear you right, you’re suggesting that interpreting the Bible might be better left to AI geeks than theologians, am I right?
Don: You got it. I would also add that I think Singularity experts would be smart to study, very carefully, the writings of the Apostle Paul, who, in my mind, was the Ray Kurzweil of the first century.
I find the many equivalencies between the Sagan Model and the Kurzweil Model relevant to critical issues currently confronting AGI experts. Broadly known as the “control problem,” I am convinced that these thorny issues have corollaries in the Sagan Model that appear as solutions.
Molly: Got an example?
Don: Sure, it’s one that you and Ray discussed at length, the copy-cat issue.
“I don’t mean to challenge you. But just consider that [the original] Molly’s neural scan was instantiated in a copy which became [the uploaded] you. [the original] Molly might still have continued to exist and may have evolved off in some other direction.” From: The Age of Spiritual Machines (inserts mine)
Molly: Oh, I remember it well. It’s what happens to a person when their brain is scanned and uploaded to the cloud. My post-biological person begins her life in cyberspace while my biological person is still alive on Earth. I think it was Ray who raised the question: Who is the real Molly?
Don: And, as I recall, there was no good answer.
Molly: There wasn’t, and, as far as I know, there still isn’t.
Don: Well, if the Sagan Model is right, and the ETs who came to Earth are a billion years more advanced than modern humans, wouldn’t they have solved this problem?
Molly: You would think so. So, tell me, how did they do it?
Don: To put it simply, the first step is not to upload, it’s to download.
Molly: You mean having a non-biological George downloaded into a biological Molly?
Don: Right. In the Sagan Model, when the biological Jesus accepted the non-biological Christ, he continued to be the original Jesus, but he had to share his physical body with another person, the Jesus/Christ hybrid. Does that make sense?
Molly: Let’s see if I got this straight. If George merges into Molly, there will be two of me: the original Molly and a George/Molly hybrid, in one physical body. Do I have that right, it sounds weird.
Don: You do. A merger of Molly into George will never work. It has to be the other way around. George has to be merged into Molly. Let me ask you this: If you, the lesser, were to be merged into George, the greater, would you be in him or would he be in you?
Molly: U-m-m, I think we’d be in each other, but I’m not sure.
Don: Let me put it another way. What’s the goal? Do you want to be like George, or does George want to be like you?
Molly: I want to be like George, of course, but I don’t want to lose my self-identity in the process.
Don: Understood, but here’s the problem. George is godlike and, I hope you don’t find this offensive, you’re not. Assuming that George has a vote in the matter, why would he accept you into himself? Wouldn’t that diminish him?
Molly: In all honesty, I doubt that he would, at least not without some major alterations.
Don: And how would one go about making those alterations?
Molly: It would probably have to be something that George did. I don’t think I could do it by myself.
Don: And what would be the most efficient way for George to do it, remotely, or by instantiating himself inside of you?
Molly: I suppose the latter.
Don: I think you’re right, but there’s an interesting twist. Let’s say that George enters you as an extension of himself. At that moment, a copy of the DNA that makes you the distinct person you are is downloaded into George, creating a George/Molly hybrid who only wants to please the George in cyberspace. But there’s a problem: the Old Molly is still alive, and, with her free will still intact, she may decide to act in ways that displease George.
Molly: So it’s like a big tug-of-war, a battle of the wills.
Don: Exactly. Paul put it in very succinct terms: “For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” Romans 7:15
Don: Everything you think or do that pleases George is downloaded into the new George/Molly hybrid, and the things you think and do that displease George stay with the Old Molly. This process continues until you die, at which time the perfect George/Molly hybrid is uploaded into the Master Copy, so to speak, while the imperfect Molly, the original Molly, ceases to exist.
This is the way it works in the Sagan Model. “Christ in me” is the new Christ/Don hybrid, and what I do as the Christ/Don hybrid is metaphysical equivalent of “laying up treasures in heaven.” But everything else, and I confess there’s a lot, stays with the Old Don. So, when I finally kick the bucket, the Christ/Don hybrid is uploaded to the cloud and the Old Don passes into nonexistence. I could dredge up a ton of Bible verses to prove my point, but I suspect that you would prefer I didn’t.
Molly: You’re right. Bible verses to me are like math equations, the literary equivalent of sleeping pills.
Don: To insure you don’t overdose, I’ll give you just a couple:
”if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“Christ in you, the hope of glory” Colossians 1:27
Molly: So, in accepting the New Molly, George is basically accepting himself?
Don: Right. When I accepted Christ, I signed off on the title of my physical body to Christ. Sorry, but here’s another verse:
“Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own, for you have been bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your [biological] body and in your [non-biological] spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:19&20
Molly: So in the Sagan Model, there’s no way to avoid physical death?
Don: I know how badly Kurzweil Singularitarians want to avoid dying, but there’s no other way. If it’s any assurance, Paul wrote “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” and “Death, where is your sting, grave where is your victory?”
Molly: I wonder if Ray knows about this.
Don: I’m sure he does, but he has to be careful. The “uploading” scenario in his model has been roundly panned because of its similarities to the “Rapture,” a future event when self-declared prophets like Hal Lindsey and Tim Lahaye claim true believers will suddenly levitate, to join Christ in the air. The more the Kurzweil Model looks like evangelical Christianity, the more secularists will come unglued. Ray is smart to keep as much distance between himself and Christian fundamentalism as possible.
But there’s a bigger problem. In the Sagan Model, JC/ET is crucified, and, three days later, raised from the dead. Would George do anything like that?
Molly: H-m-m-m, I sort of doubt it.
Don: I doubt it too. To sacrifice your own son so that others might be forgiven would be the ultimate expression of love. The entire process is analogized in the Old Testament when, at God’s command, Abraham and Sarah were prepared to sacrifice their only begotten son, Isaac. Only at the last moment did God honor their faith and intervene by providing a substitute, a goat.
Sacrifice of Isaac
Molly: I’m going to ask you a straight-up question: Do you think Ray is a secret Christian?
Don: No, I think he’s a secret Saganite. There’s a huge difference.
Molly: Okay, you’ve given me a lot to think about. Let’s call it a day.
Don: And, as usual, you’ve been a great conversant, thank you. But before we wrap this up I want to add one more thing: the copy-cat issue we’ve been discussing is only one item in a long list of core teachings in the New Testament that Paul calls “the mysteries of godliness,” things that we’ll discuss in future conversations.
“What would we call an intelligent being capable of engineering life, planets, stars, and even universes? If we knew the underlying science and technology used to do the engineering, we would call it an extraterrestrial intelligence; if we did not know the underlying science and technology, we would call it God.” From: The Believing Brain
“The miracles wrought by our technology would have seemed to the ancients no less remarkable than the tales of Moses parting the waters, or Jesus walking upon them. The aliens of our SETI signal would be to us like gods, just as missionaries were treated as gods when they turned up in Stone Age cultures bearing guns, telescopes, matches, and almanacs predicting eclipses to the second." From: The God Delusion.