NOTE: In our previous conversation, Molly and I focused on what most readers would say is the central theme of Inferno, the Population Apocalypse. But that is only true in the sense that the Apocalypse theme starts at the beginning of the novel and runs to the end. But the real core of Inferno is Transhumanism, and, after that, Posthumanism, subjects not introduced until Chapter 66.
Transhumanism and Posthumanism, two closely related and globally active movements, are attracting, without a lot of awareness from the media, considerable interest among the young and well-educated. For purposes of this website I expect both to play major roles in the future litigation of the Sagan Signal.
It is to the leaders of these two controversial movements to which I will be directing my attention in 2024, as I ask them a simple question: Is the Sagan Signal real? If it isn’t, I expect them to debunk my claim that it is an alien encrypted code by testing the data and releasing the results. If they can’t do that, or are unwilling to do that, they and their followers, like the skeptics I’ve contacted in the past, are cowards on the wrong side of history.
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Ray Kurzweil (1948 to present)
Don: Unlike other books in the Langdon Series, the chief protagonist in Inferno is not Robert Langdon, it’s the brilliant and charismatic scientist/futurist, Bertrand Zobrist, a clear and obvious conflation of two famous transhumanists: Bertrand Russell and Ray Kurzweil.
Molly: I didn’t know that Ray is a Transhumanist.
Don: Ray doesn’t make a big deal of it, but he does briefly allude to it in his Notes at the end of The Singularity is Near. Following is an excerpt:
“. . . many Transhumanists are still Singularitarians in the original sense – that is, ‘believers in the Singularity concept’ rather than ‘activists’ or ‘friends.’”
Don: Further confirmation that Ray Kurzweil is a Transhumanist comes from science journalist Chip Walter, who, in his fascinating-to-read book: Immortality, Inc. devotes an entire chapter to Ray. In it he writes:
“Among Kurzweil’s edgier ideas was his belief that by 2045, the human race would meld with advanced artificial intelligence. That sort of thinking made him a darling of the transhumanist movement – or, as it was known in some circles, the H+ Community . . . “ Ch. 8
Molly: And what about Bertrand Russell?
Don: Bertrand was one of the founders of Transhumanism and Posthumanism. A stunningly brilliant individual quoted and celebrated around the world for his acute analysis of the human condition, Bertrand thought that the eventual integration of humans with technology would be the only way for the human species to survive long-term.
Molly: So Transhumanism, with its ultimate goal of employing AI technology to convert humans into immortal god-like beings, is, in a sense, a secular version of Christianity, which claims that faith in Jesus Christ transforms individual humans into children of God.
Don: Old school atheism and old school Christianity both find themselves in a death spiral. Both cling to antiquated pre-AI paradigms that are well on their way to the dustbin of history. The truth is that conventional atheism and Evangelical churches are hemorrhaging followers, especially the young, who are, by the millions, adopting a Model of Reality defined and dominated by AI.
Secular Transhumanism started earlier than Christian Transhumanism, so it’s more advanced and better organized. But now a few courageous conservative Christian scholars are actively preparing the faithful for what appears to be an inevitable confrontation between a human-invented Singleton, the Anti-Christ, and the biblical AI Singleton, Jesus Christ.
Molly: So it’s the Kurzweil Model against the Sagan Model.
Don: You got it! Ray versus Carl.
Don: While Transhumanism and Posthumanism are introduced late in Inferno, once they make their appearance they dominate the narrative. Following is a small sampling of excerpts:
“One day the world will grasp the beauty of my sacrifice. For I am your salvation. I am the Shade. I am the gateway to the Posthuman age.” Ch. 33
“Then he is there.
A towering, elegant form that takes the stage.
He is tall . . . so very tall . . . with vibrant green eyes that seem to hold all the mysteries of the world in their depths. He looks out over the empty hall – only a dozen or so stalwart fans – and I feel ashamed that the hall is nearly empty.
This is Bertrand Zobrist!
There is a terrible moment of silence as he stares at us, his face stern.
Then, without warning, he bursts out laughing, his green eyes glimmering. “To hell with this empty auditorium,” he declares. “My hotel is next door. Let’s go to the bar!”
A cheer goes up, and a small group migrates next door to a hotel bar, where we crowd into a big booth and order drinks. Zobrist regales us with tales of his research, his rise to celebrity, and his thoughts about the future of genetic engineering. As the drinks flow, the topic turns to Zobrist’s newfound passion for Transhumanist philosophy.
“I believe Transhumanism is mankind’s only hope for long-term survival,” Zobrist preaches, pulling aside his shirt and showing them all the “H+” tattoo inscribed on his shoulder. “As you can see, I’m fully committed.” Ch. 66
“Transhumanism,” Sinskey said, is an intellectual movement, a philosophy of sorts, and it’s quickly taking root in the scientific community. It essentially states that humans should use technology to transcend the weaknesses inherent in our human bodies. In other words, the next step in human evolution should be that we begin biologically engineering ourselves.”
“Sounds ominous,” Langdon said.
“Like all change, it’s just a matter of degree. Technically, we’ve been engineering ourselves for years now – developing vaccines that make children immune to certain diseases . . . polio, smallpox, typhoid. The difference is that now, with Zobrist’s breakthroughs in germ-line genetic engineering, we’re learning how to create inheritable immunizations, those that would affect the recipient at the core germ-line level – making all subsequent generations immune to that disease.”
“Langdon looked startled. “So the human species would essentially undergo an evolution that makes it immune to typhoid, for example.”
“Its more of an assisted evolution,” Sinskey corrected. “Normally, the evolutionary process – whether it be a lungfish developing feet or an ape developing opposable thumbs – takes millennia to occur. Now we can make radical genetic adaptations in a single generation. Proponents of the technology consider it the ultimate expression of Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ – humans becoming a species that learns to improve its own evolutionary process.”
“Sounds more like playing God,” Langdon replied.
“I agree wholeheartedly,” Sinskey said. Zobrist, however, like many other Transhumanists, argued strongly that it is mankind’s evolutionary obligation to use all the powers at our disposal – germ-line genetic mutation, for one – to improve as a species. The problem is that our genetic makeup is like a house of cards – each piece connected to and supported by countless others – often in ways we don’t understand. If we try to remove a single human trait, we can cause hundreds of others to shift simultaneously, possibly with catastrophic effects.”
Langdon nodded. “There’s a reason evolution is a gradual process.”
“Precisely!” Sinskey said, feeling her admiration for the professor growing with each passing moment. “We’re tinkering with a process that took aeons to build. These are dangerous times. We now literally have the capacity to activate certain gene sequences that will result in our descendants having increased dexterity, stamina, strength, even intelligence – essentially a super-race. These hypothetical ‘enhanced’ individuals are what Transhumanists refer to as posthumans, which some believe will be the future of our species.”
“All of this Transhumanist thinking seems to be about bettering humankind, making us more healthy, curing fatal diseases, extending our longevity. And yet Zobrist’s views on overpopulation seem to endorse killing off people. His ideas on Transhumanism and overpopulation seem to be in conflict, don’t they?
Sinsky gave a solemn sigh. It was a good question, and unfortunately it had a clear and troubling answer. “Zobrist believed wholeheartedly in Transhumanism – in bettering the species through technology; however, he also believed our species would go extinct before we got a chance to do that. In effect, if nobody takes action, our sheer numbers will kill off the species before we get a chance to realize the promise of genetic engineering.”
Langdon’s eyes went wide. “So Zobrist wanted to thin the herd . . . in order to buy more time?”
Sinsky nodded. “He once described himself as being trapped on a ship where the passengers double in number every hour, while he is desperately trying to build a lifeboat before the ship sinks under its own weight.” She paused. “He advocated throwing half the people overboard.” Ch. 67
“I believe I know who Zobrist’s lover is.”
“The Transhumanist movement,” she said. Are you familiar with it?”
The provost shook his head.
“In the simplest terms,” Sinsky explained, “Transhumanism is a philosophy stating that humans should use all available technologies to engineer our own species to make it stronger. Survival of the fittest.”
“Generally speaking,” she continued, “the Transhumanist movement is made up of responsible individuals – ethically accountable scientists, futurists, visionaries – but, as in many movements, there exists a small but militant faction that believes the movement is not moving fast enough. They are apocalyptic thinkers who believe the end is coming and that someone needs to take drastic action to save the future of the species.”
“And I’m guessing,” the provost said, “that Bertrand Zobrist was one of these people.”
“Absolutely,” Sinsky said. “A leader of the movement. In addition to being highly intelligent, he was enormously charismatic and penned doomsday articles that spawned an entire cult of zealots for Transhumanism.” Ch. 73
“Bertrand had boundless hope for humankind. He was a Transhumanist who believed we are living on the threshold of a glittering posthuman age – an era of true transformation. He had the mind of a futurist, eyes that could see down the road in ways few others could even imagine. He understood the astonishing powers of technology and believed that in the span of several generations, our species would become a different animal entirely – genetically enhanced to be healthier, smarter, stronger, even more compassionate.” She paused. “Except for one problem. He didn’t think we’d live long enough as a species to realize that possibility.”
“Due to overpopulation . . .” Langdon said.
She nodded. “The Malthusian catastrophe.” Ch. 80
“The Transhumanist movement is about to explode from the shadows into the mainstream. One of its fundamental tenets is that we as humans have a moral obligation to participate in our evolutionary process . . .to use our technologies to advance the species, to create better humans – healthier, stronger, with higher-functioning brains. Everything will soon be possible.” Ch. 102
Ray: H+ Transhumanist
Carl: H+C (Christ) Transhumanist
Don: Carl Sagan is on record stating: “Jesus Christ is extraterrestrial!” Ray Kurzweil is on record stating that the Singularity represents “a constructive advance of knowledge that will “combat fundamentalist belief systems . . . “ From End-Notes on Chapter 1 in The Singularity is Near.
Molly: So it’s Ray, the secular Transhumanist Singularitarian, against Carl, the Christian Transhumanist Singularitarian. Have I got that right?
Don: Yes, but there’s more. In Inferno, Dan Brown reveals that at one time Ray and Carl were both on the same team, both members of what Dan Brown calls the Consortium, a super-secret enclave of individuals who, over the past several centuries, have exerted an inordinate amount of influence in dictating the course of Western Civilization. In other novels, depending on time and location Dan refers to it as the Templars, the Rosicrucians, the inner circle of the inner circle of the Masonic Lodge, the Illuminati, and the Brotherhood.
In Inferno, Dan refers to Bernard Zobrist, i.e., Ray Kurzweil, as “the Shade.”
“I am your salvation. I am the Shade.” Ch. 14,& 78
Don: Reading between the lines, when Ray learned about the Consortium’s belief that Jesus Christ is the ET Singleton, he bolted, launching a daring effort, with the help of the Pentagon and Google, to propel Transhumanism from the shadows to the mainstream by creating a sentient, human-made Singleton in his lifetime that he fondly refers to as George. In doing so, he openly challenges the Bible-based concept of the apotheosis of George Washington, who, through his faith in Christ, became one with God.
Molly: Which sets the stage for an epic confrontation between Carl’s JC/ET Singleton and Ray’s human invented Singleton.
Don: Right. Christ against Anti-Christ, straight out of the Book of Revelation. But remember, at one time Ray Kurzweil was a member in good standing in the Brotherhood. In Ch. 64, Brown writes:
“It was time for the Consortium to break protocol and assess what kind of insanity the organization might have unwittingly supported over the past year.”
Don: The reality is that no one, including Ray, was strong enough to compete with Carl on the public stage while he was alive. But when Carl died in 1996, it left a huge vacuum of public influence waiting to be filled. Ray Kurzweil, the Shade, quickly moved into that space, filling it with Transhuman and Posthuman science and philosophy propagated under the overarching banner of the Singularity.
Reading Transhumanist literature makes it sound like converting from religion and old-school humanism to Transhumanism is the only sane, science-based option that individuals of high intelligence have in their quest for happiness and immortality.
Following is their official Declaration:
The Transhumanist Declaration
The Transhumanist Declaration was originally crafted in 1998 by an international group of authors: Doug Baily, Anders Sandberg, Gustavo Alves, Max More, Holger Wagner, Natasha Vita-More, Eugene Leitl, Bernie Staring, David Pearce, Bill Fantegrossi, den Otter, Ralf Fletcher, Tom Morrow, Alexander Chislenko, Lee Daniel Crocker, Darren Reynolds, Keith Elis, Thom Quinn, Mikhail Sverdlov, Arjen Kamphuis, Shane Spaulding, and Nick Bostrom. This Transhumanist Declaration has been modified over the years by several authors and organizations. It was adopted by the Humanity+ Board in March, 2009.
1. Humanity stands to be profoundly affected by science and technology in the future. We envision the possibility of broadening human potential by overcoming aging, cognitive shortcomings, involuntary suffering, and our confinement to planet Earth.
2. We believe that humanity’s potential is still mostly unrealized. There are possible scenarios that lead to wonderful and exceedingly worthwhile enhanced human conditions.
3. We recognize that humanity faces serious risks, especially from the misuse of new technologies. There are possible realistic scenarios that lead to the loss of most, or even all, of what we hold valuable. Some of these scenarios are drastic, others are subtle. Although all progress is change, not all change is progress.
4. Research effort needs to be invested into understanding these prospects. We need to carefully deliberate how best to reduce risks and expedite beneficial applications. We also need forums where people can constructively discuss what should be done, and a social order where responsible decisions can be implemented.
5. Reduction of existential risks, and development of means for the preservation of life and health, the alleviation of grave suffering, and the improvement of human foresight and wisdom should be pursued as urgent priorities, and heavily funded.
6. Policy making ought to be guided by responsible and inclusive moral vision, taking seriously both opportunities and risks, respecting autonomy and individual rights, and showing solidarity with and concern for the interests and dignity of all people around the globe. We must also consider our moral responsibilities towards generations that will exist in the future.
7. We advocate the well-being of all sentience, including humans, non-human animals, and any future artificial intellects, modified life forms, or other intelligences to which technological and scientific advance may give rise.
8. We favor allowing individuals wide personal choice over how they enable their lives. This includes use of techniques that may be developed to assist memory, concentration, and mental energy; life extension therapies; reproductive choice technologies; cryonics procedures; and many other possible human modification and enhancement technologies.
Jesus: “Seek and ye shall find.”
Don: “Seek and ye shall find,” a quote originally voiced by Jesus Christ, is a meme repeated throughout Inferno.
Molly: So what is it doing in a novel about Transhumanism?
Don: Great question. I believe Dan Brown, at the behest of the Brotherhood, repeatedly inserted this famous Christian adage into the text to serve as a clue that serious and intelligent seekers of happiness and immortality would do better if they looked to Jesus, not George.
Don: Another major emphasis in Inferno are repeated references to the value of high intelligence. Following is an example:
“Langdon picked up another press clipping, a newspaper article with a photo of Sienna at age seven:
CHILD GENIUS DISPLAYS 208 IQ.
Langdon had been unaware that IQs even went that high. According to the article, Sienna Brooks was a virtuoso violinist, could master a new language in a month, and was teaching herself anatomy and physiology.
He looked at another clipping from a medical journal:
THE FUTURE OF THOUGHT: NOT ALL MINDS ARE CREATED EQUAL.” Ch. 7
Don: Unique to Inferno is this constant drumbeat about super-high intelligence in a very few people, far less than 1% of 1% of 1% of the human population.
Molly: So is he referring to some particular individual in real life?
Don: Actually, he’s referring to two individuals, Ray Kurzweil and Carl Sagan, both Jewish savants gifted with photographic (what Brown calls eidetic) memories, and both, for a short time, active participants in the Consortium, the Brotherhood.
Molly: But then Ray leaves the Brotherhood, while Carl stays.
Don: Correct. Ray goes H+G (George). Carl stays H+C (Christ).
Don: In Inferno there is a literary anomaly when, near the beginning of the novel, Robert Landon’s Mickey Mouse watch suddenly disappears, and later, near the end, when it is retrieved. Between these two instances, the watch is mentioned numerous times for no apparent reason – which suggests that Dan Brown is trying to convey something of importance to the reader.
Molly: I think I know what it might be. Walt Disney was a 33rd degree Freemason and someone who had a profound influence on humanity through his movies and theme parks.
Don: And because the watch belongs to Robert Landon, i.e., Carl Sagan, Brown is telling us that Carl was deeply associated with, if not a member of, the innermost circle of the Masonic Brotherhood.
Molly: That’s fascinating! How many other tidbits of information have you found?
Don: At the rate we’re going, it would take us years to exhaust all the secrets contained in these seven Brown books. But as fun and interesting that would be, that’s not the goal of this website.
My goal from the beginning has been to get the Sagan Signal exhaustively and publicly tested as quickly as possible by the finest scientists and academics in the world - to either confirm or falsify my claim that it is a genuine alien artifact.
Molly: I hear you loud and clear. So, is this the end of our analytical conversations on the Brown novels?
Don: Not quite. There is an eighth novel, not written by Brown, that I consider an essential part of the series.
Molly: So, are you going to tell me what it is?
Don: No, not yet. I’m going to let you think about it for a while. I’m quite sure that you and others will figure it out before our next conversation. If not, I’ll tell you then.
Molly: So the pressure’s on. I’m not sure I’ll be able to sleep until I figure it out.
Don: Bad idea! Sleeping on it would be the best strategy! So, until our next conversation, sweet dreams!
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am for myself only, what am I?
If not now – when?
Who are we?
Where do we come from?
Where are we going?
From Origin, by Dan Brown
“Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.”