Wednesday, December 26, 2007

To Have All, Give All To All

"To Have ALL Give ALL to All" - from "A Course in Miracles"

What on earth can this mean? How can we have everything if we give everything away? Is that what the above actually says? Is to give to be without that which was given? In finite limited things, in things subject to scarcity, is appears so. If there is only a limited supply of say food and I give all the food I have to you then, assuming no one gives food to me and I can otherwise procure no more, I do without. But is it these simple everyday things that the above refers to? Why is “Give ALL” emphasized? What is this “ALL”?

It reminds me of “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats forever [and may feed or teach many others to feed themselves].” Giving scarcity is not giving ALL. Giving out of or from or bound by scarcity is not giving ALL. Clearly it is impossible to give that which is scarce to All because if there were enough to give it to All it would not be scarce! It is only that which is abundant or of abundance or leads to ever greater abundance by being shared freely that can be given to All. It is that very quality of increasing in abundance the more that it is given that is the signature of what this aphorism refers to.

What sorts of things have this quality today? We can see one of these things that increase the more that it is given in Free or Open Source Software. The more such software is created and shared widely the more software and creations based on software are made. Knowledge itself is such that the more it is shared the more knowledge and all of its benefits increase for everyone.

Goodwill, or more generally helping one another to become the very best we can be, increases the real wealth and well being of all of us. Here we begin to see the power of this aphorism. We might ask, “What profits it a person to lay up a monetary fortune if she lives in a miserably unhappy world?” Surely our greatest wealth requires the greatest wellbeing and creativity and productivity of the highest and best of everyone and everything in our environment. To the degree that any are stunted from their potential we are all that much poorer than we could be.

There is another thread woven within this aphorism. If we hold scarcity as the supreme fact of our existence then we can never, by definition, have ALL or give ALL. We have paupered ourselves and everyone else in the world from the beginning! This is especially crucial to understand in this time of accelerating technological change and open mind-blowing potential. The sharing of knowledge and its increase has borne rich fruit indeed. We are within perhaps 20 years of being able to produce any physical materials we wish out of raw atoms. We are within 20 years of being able to make food, clothing, housing, new organs, bodies, cars, computers, most anything physical you can think of out of effectively dirt. We cannot not only make it but make it in any needed quantity, on-demand and to the most perfect standards or precision, purity and quality. All it takes is know-how, knowledge, including knowledge of the composition of that to be made. So out of knowledge, which grows every more abundant by sharing, we get the means to make much of our material needs and wants, which we usually think of as somewhat scarce, actually not scarce at all but as abundant as knowledge and subject to similar rules of sharing and increase! To have All give All to All indeed!

The technology alluded to in the above is largely Molecular Nanotechnology, the ability to assemble atom by atom, molecule by molecule, with atomic precision. The same ability can enable humanity to cure all diseases and the results of most injuries perfectly and near instantaneously. This includes, given sufficient knowledge of what is involved, being able to fully halt and reverse the deleterious effects of aging. A generation or two from now human beings can have indefinitely long lives. This may well be the last mortal generation!

This same technology that allow us to perfectly maintain and repair our bodies allow us to reverse and to heal all the environmental harm humanity has ever wrought. It enables us even if our population was quadrupled to have vastly less negative impact on our ecosystems. It enables everyone on this planet to have a standard of living as good or better than the present day “haves”.

To Lose ALL Refuse ALL to All

This is the positive side – a very glorious and glowing positive side it is! But what happens with the same advancing technology when we do not “Give ALL to all”, when we continue to think, live and act from scarcity? What happens when we continue to act implicitly and explicitly as if it is possible to “get mine” regardless of what happens to everyone else and even while believing that there is not enough for everyone to “get theirs”?

The advance of technology means that the world becomes smaller in many ways. Through modern communication capabilities almost everyone in the world is aware or can become aware of how others live to a large degree. In particular the momentary “have nots” become quite aware of what and just how much they “have not” at least in material terms. In the face of this any great insistence of the “haves” that it is right and natural that they have and the “have not” do not in perpetuity is bound to be seen as grossly unfair and unjust. This is even more true in the face of increasing plenty. If the “haves” further believe or act as if they believe that their safety and well-being requires preserving and increasing wealth differentials, especially by imposing onerous and even highly exploitative costs on the relative have nots, then the growing pressure toward open conflict will greatly increase.

Even within the “First World” of relative wealth all is very far from rosy. The middle class, those of some success with great hopes for more for themselves or their children, is being eviscerated. In the US especially debt levels, both private and public, are out of control. Scarcity thinking has taken the form of feeling that one never has or is or has done enough. A culture of near cancerous self-eating has evolved, in part on purpose. People today are beginning to notice that they have less real wealth in many respects than their parents did and in large part less satisfaction and happiness. Both a sullen expectation of having oneself and much of one’s like taken care of and a desperate competitiveness in all things fearful of falling behind are rampant. The culture is on speed, rushing ever faster to augur in more fatally. At the same time we try to export all our “values”, without really bothering to separate wheat from chaff (or offal) to the rest of the world. We even attempt to do it out of the barrel of a gun. All of this is a gross and dangerous denial of abundance, a great refusal of ALL to All. We even refuse simply Enough to ourselves!

As the world gets smaller the power of the individual and of small groups to do great harm increases due to much of the same technology. As the world gets smaller and the consequences of profound dissatisfaction or being on various kinds of a bender get larger it becomes increasing dangerous to tolerate, much less foster, ample reason for unhappiness and profound resentment for mistreatment. As the technology empowers everyone the means required to force control to the liking of various privileged groups become increasingly totalistic. The very technology that could liberate us from all want can be used to forge unbreakable chains of total surveillance and control. Today it is possible to watch everyone in a “First World” country at every moment. So far there are not enough watchers to monitor all that data. But with computational advances the data can increasingly be used to catch as if desired squelch all rebellion or effective dissent. The world after 911 is headed in the direction, fueled by fear, of greater and greater surveillance and control of everyone.

The surveillance of everyone could only be tolerable if the ultimate fullest development of everyone was actually embraced. But that is not the world we live in. Instead many “haves” consider all the positive possibilities above profoundly threatening if available to All. They believe they can refuse ALL to All and instead maintain a totally disproportionate share of a limited amount of wealth. They have refused ALL by refusing it to All and by refusing even the remote possibility of ALL. By so doing they will eventually lose All. Either through destroying all freedom and advance, or through endless ever more deadly wars or economic collapse leading to chaos on by many other quite predictable mishaps. By capping the Great Bounty that human can choose to partake of they may doom us all.

It is not just some “them” out there, all bloated with greed. It is on some scale you and I and pretty much every single human being on this planet. We all have a basic nature, an evolved psychology, that was not designed for a world of open ended abundance. Whether you believe that nature is a product of evolution or of original sin or samskaras from past lives it is imperative that you recognize that within yourself that refuses ALL and certainly refuses ALL for All. It will take more than fabulous technology to bring us to an abundant and more joyful world. It will take a profound shift in consciousness on personal and societal scales.

Monday, November 22, 2004

This need not be

I have a dear friend who is dying of cancer. This need not be. No one needs to die from cancer ever again if medical techniques available or considered now are studied and fully developed.

I have noticed as I get older that I have to fight against slowing down and work a little bit harder to move at the speed I used to. I am aging. We all are. This need not be. We need not lose our edge bit by bit. We need not lose our loved ones to gradual memory loss, senility, perhaps Alzheimer's, to death. We could all have an unlimited stretch of years before us to seek whatever happiness, purposes, knowledge, joy that we wish.

Each day approximately 150,000 human beings die. Many die from some disease or another. This need not be. The promise of biomedicine and especially of medical nanotechology is a cure for most conditions that kill today. Another large group dies of old age and this need not be. Another group dies of malnutrition and lack of clean water. This need not be even without major breakthroughs in technology. It does require breakthroughs in how we envision ourselves and this world.

Another group dies in wars. Now we are in a non-war against "terrorism" that is said to never end. We live in fear and deal in fear. We live and die in fear and kill in fear. This need not be. There can be enough of all good and needed things for all people. There is no need to squabble over scraps when infinite abundance is within our grasp. There is no need to kill each other over current opinions and ideologies when infinite time to understand and transcend our differences is ours if we wish. But instead we divide in "us" vs. "them", turn everyone into terrorists, aider of terrorism or fellow combatant - or into enemy or friend combatant. This need not be.

Yet the energy, the culture, the frenzy, fear and anxiety all try to tell us that this must be. It is so very difficult to see a new possibility. It is more difficult still to embrace it, to attempt to live from it and to teach others to do the same.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Brief Sketch on the Intersection of Spirituality and Technology

Ways of Arriving at the Transcendent via Technology

Simulation and its Variants

It has been posited as a strong possibility that we are already in a "sim" - that all that we know exists within a vastly powerful computer program - virtual reality. If this is so then many aspects found in religions and systems of mysticism make some sense. This is particularly true of scenarios where we are running within a very powerful AI environment. This yields a SF sort of monism where we and everything we know exists within the "mind of God" as it were. The computational matrix that the universe sim is running within gives immediately the "ground of being" and the unity of all things. It is quite possible the "sim" is so arranged that beings within the sim, such as ourselves, can learn of and experience some part of the underlying unity. Perhaps the "Divine Union" of the mystics is no transmutation/transposition of normal drives plus odd brain wiring after all.

One variant I sometimes consider is that this AI we exist within is an Superhuman-level Artificial Intelligence from a Singularity that already occurred. The sim was designed to solve the problem of what to do with those not ready and willing to upload or deal with the realities of the situation. It is also what is commonly warranted for less advanced intelligent species encountered by the Singularity form a more advance species. Compassion may have led directly to the best alternative being to pop such individuals into an artificial reality that as far as they can tell is the "real world" they were already familiar with. But the purpose is to give these people time enough to live as many lives as it takes to be ready to do something different than cling to the world they knew. The people within this sim mostly do not know this is the case, indeed they are largely not willing and/or able to know this. Sound familiar? It should.

Time traveling Ever Evolving Intelligence

Of course if we are completely in a sim then all time we experience is also within the sim. Time we experience may or may not be tied to "real" time. Perfect timewise recordings may or may not be kept. But the sim certainly allows plenty of room for "resurrection", "reincarnation" and several other possibilities besides for ourselves and our dearly departed ones. Thus this aspect of many religions is quite compatible with being within a sim.

An alternative to being in a sim that also allows such things is the arising of a sufficiently advanced intelligence that discovery of all laws of the universe, possibly including time travel into the past, occurs somewhere at some time. If the universe is close under time travel, such a Being could easily become complicit in its own becoming, a true "Alpha and Omega". Ability to travel to any point in the past, plus a (relatively) mundane ability to scan DNA and minds leads directly to such relative trivialities as plausible resurrection.

This scenario also leads to the conclusion that if such a Being ever will exist, it meaningfully can be said that It does exist now and has always existed. Perhaps mystic experiences are experiences of It after all and not just some super wishful thinking plus temporal lobe zaniness.

Of course a sim can simulate starting from any point in history, actual or slightly altered. Thus with sufficient initial data you will get something that is possible given those initial conditions but not necessarily exactly what happened. The universe is not a simple clockwork.

What I see as the actually capable of succeeding strong AI is about the building of a self-improving intelligence. In theory, given access to the right kinds of materials and information sources, such an intelligence would keep increasing capability indefinitely. It is quite to be expected that humans and other intelligences will be able to interface with some part of it and, if they wish, be temporarily or permanently uploaded/represented/existent within it when it obtains sufficient complexity. Over time, given harmonious conditions, various intelligences are likely to co-exist and/or merge. Intelligence ever growing and increasingly free from biological bonds and limitations.

We ourselves will follow a path of increasing augmentation and linking of our minds together. Along the way we will pass a point where it must be assumed for the full functioning and flowering of each intelligence, that all that person experiences can be perfectly recorded by that intelligence and can be reproduced and shared at will. Less than this would be a serious limitation placed on maximizing our effective intelligence and our well-being. Over time various parts of ourselves are likely to be replaced/enhanced by or interfaced with cybernetic devices and systems. In the beginning the systems will be outside us but increasingly ubiquitous and useful.

A Few Thoughts Towards a Future Religion

"Give all to all to have all." - ACIM

One of the things quite likely to get in the way of true growth beyond merely human limitation is our profound internal programming. Much of it is from our evolutionary patterning. Much of it is useless or even detrimental in a post-human, massively intelligent and interlinked world. Our drives to excel, to beat out others for the best part, best mate, best standing can seriously get in the way of our learning to deeply interoperate with one another to form effective >human intelligence.

These drives in part lead us to wish to deeply control and own some sources of wealth. But the source of wealth and wealth itself is increasingly knowledge, ideas, information. These make a very peculiar sort of property indeed. For all of these increase in value and magnitude, broadly speaking, in direct proportion to all widely and openly they are shared. The true highest wealth may require "giving all to all" in the sense that we gain much more from sharing ideas, information, knowledge freely than from attempting to own these and charge for and stifle their use.

In particular the "god in the making", the SAI, cannot fully form if information is greatly locked down and restricted from its learning. If it in its incomplete state is used to increase satisfaction of old programmed drives for its putative "owners" then great harm can easily occur. If generally the very technology that could utterly liberate us is used instead to protect the fiefdoms of the powers that be then that technology will become tighter and tighter chains of surveillance and control. The minds we need to take the next steps beyond our own limitations into transcendent Mind will not be able to function without freedom and open access. Instead the technology will be used for instruments of surveillance, control and war. It has happened in many intelligent species. It can easily happen to us.

We stand on the brink of unlimited life, unlimited intelligence, perfect health, transcendence, heaven on this very earth. All of this is on one side. On the other is a level of war, oppression, horror and ultimate death of all humanity that is scarcely imaginable. We are being asked to choose. To choose the path of Life Everlasting requires deep working on ourselves and our institutions. The choice is not really made until we deeply understand and live from a very new perspective. We must learn to live from the point of view of ageless health, unlimited knowledge, limitless wealth. This will be very difficult as it goes against our programmed and learned behavior. It is especially difficult in the beginning when so much real scarcity and limitation is still all around us.

We are being asked to choose, to decide what we will fashion with our new and soon to be even greater abilities. Our powers and responsibility are awesome. This generation will decide whether to continue to play to scarcity while we develop the tools of unlimited abundance. This generation will decide whether to continue to live in fear, despising and attacking fellow immortals, or will decide to maximize its fullest potential in all citizens that we all may create a world beyond these dismal sorrows.

If enough of us see what can be done and band together to support and extend the Work and perfect the message, our technological, psycho-spiritual and memetic tools, then humanity has a change. Sometimes I think it is the only chance.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

What Kind of Future?

What kind of future do you wish to inhabit? What parts of what is today will you carry into a tomorrow and what parts would you see transformed? What sorts of limits would you wish to see transcended? How long would you like to be able to live? What do you value and how can those values be best expressed? In what ways do you believe you yourself need to change? Are you willing to change? How will this change be effected? In what ways does your culture, economics, politics, spirituality need to change? How do we get there from here?