Pythonism

code and the oracular

A Scientist and an Indian Guru have a debate

leave a comment »

Since most of us veer towards godlessness, geeks often seek to discredit religious myth, mucky, inconsistent and pre-rational as we see it, thinking that the conflicts it brings can be outgrown, but perhaps we dont see well enough that scientific materialism in the hands of a powerful state could become just as much of a nightmare

Science as a religion can be a similar phenomenon to ordinary religion too if you see past the hypocrisy. its salvation is seen as the transcendence of the flesh into a state of cyber-bliss, the elimination of nature and ascent into an artifical heaven. in Science Fiction the future is often held to be of an immense city, rich with delights and nightlife. while beneath the concrete the earth is a famished skeletal remnant of her former glory. this is the fantasy of unlimited growth and the unlimited resources it needs. The exponential curve can only be infinitely extrapolated on paper, in the real world it always, always crashes.

The bubble must burst.

And it will, when the oil finally runs out and 1 billion migrants out of the tropics seek to re-settle in the first world. This is science’s doing, science harnessed as a super-power not by a Marvel Comic Hero but by blind politics. Religion hasn’t chopped down rainforests nearly so much. So I try to balance my geek worldview.

In a daydream as I sat in my kitchen I imagined I was present at an Ashram in India, where a fascinating conversation was taking place between a visiting hacker-scientist and the guru of the ashram. The encounter between two such radically different thinkers was very telling for the state of humanity. Somehow I think that the spiritual philosophies still have a few tricks up their sleeves!

The dialogue went something like this.

++

Guru: Hail man of science, what is the nature of your work please?

Scientist: I am a roboticist.

Guru: Ahh and what do you dream for the future?

Scientist: The creation of an artificial lifeform will prove man’s ascent to cosmic status is underway.

Guru: Cosmic events willed by vast powers are not mere feats like something you do in one of your sinful bars to impress your friends. Only the divinity can create life. your work is blasphemy – it is known all religious sentiment is vanishing.

Scientist: Ahh then you see our plan, science is growing and will far outrank and supersede religion.

Guru: But at what cost? By rejecting your cultural heritage? The evil ambition for man to rival the gods is the ultimate sin that comes to the unbeliever.

Scientist: Oh, I thought that your indian religions have always recognised the limitless capabilities of man.

Guru: Well perhaps… but, because the self is beyond form, no words can successfully be applied to it. But your robot is under development by an indian team so I hear, ony conferring with the western tradition not emulating it.

Scientist: Yes.

Guru: Yes my friend and this is the west’s central sacrilege and its undoing, for the arrogance of western science now seeks to deny the immanent ineffability of atman by seeking to create this travesty of an artificial atman, the pseudo-self of “AI”.

Scientist: No! Can’t you see? This is the noblest homage humanity can pay to the wonder of our physical brains, by disassembling, analysing, and building an improvement. We are as gods.

Guru: Away! Your golem is a hideous mockery of the divinely given, formless self. All your dreams of form are delusion.

Scientist: Science is a flowering of infinitely rich form.

Guru: No, form is illusion, science must fail. And with it your robot.

Scientist: But what if the self did have a form, but a nigh ungraspably complex one such as a strange attractor in Hilbert space?

Guru: No that which is formless is so because it is pre-existent. its status of being precedes and supersedes the flimsy artificality of all intellectual concepts.

Scientist: But you are an easterner, you seem to think man’s highest conceptual skill is some kind of affront to your mystics and sages.

Guru: Nonsense we transcend all conditioned thought that is all

Scientist: As a Cosmist I affirm that at some point in the distant future all possible knowledge and understanding will have been mined fom the universe, simulated in immense diversity and closed. The purpose of consciousness will then be complete, and all that remains will be to create new universes for the grand cycle to begin again.

Guru: Lies! This is a false, albeit a beguiling dream. Rather what will happen is that all mystery will be murdered by the vanity of man’s knowledge and the living self will be replaced by a machine.I’m in agony at your views.

Scientist: Calm down!

Guru: That’s so english of you. I am animated by holy passion. Work too is meant to be holy, your attitude to yours is militaristic, you are filled with aggression as you hack. Indeed this word is telling for really you are trying to dominate nature and hack and slash, command and conquer, your way to ever greater power.

Scientist: What are you talking about, we need to get the job of analysis done. To me you are just lost in a contempation of onenesss that bears no fruit. If you could give up this navel gazing you mgiht appreciate our point, a problem is an enemy.

Guru: Our scriptures tell us everything is connected. You would cut it to pieces.

Scientist: Hmm I am not expert at parallel programming where everything is like that. I use serial machines, everything is sequential and does what I, the programmer, commands it to.

Guru: You are too forceful.

Scientist: Future humans will live like royalty, waited on hand and foot by robotic servants. I bring an end to suffering but not by wafting to a higher plane, this is earth.

Guru: Ha! sounds like you believe we will not even need each others company.

Scientist: Probably less so than now, my robots will be friends and lovers as well as slaves.

Guru: That would be so boring.

Scientist: Future life will be one of constant stimulation and novelty… Boredom, like the sickness of the body will be eradicated.

Guru: It sounds awful.

Scientist: When we have reached the limit of human intelligence through enhancement of our existing wetware, first through chemical means, then perhaps nanotech, finally we will be ready for the arrival of a sucessor, whose flowering will be a beautiful thing.

Guru: AI?

Scientist: Yes.

Guru: Well I hope these beings will be happier and less troubled than us, we are a mess.

Scientist: As virtual entities our successors will inhabit clean and tidy virtual spaces.

Guru: Clean and tidy? what is this. You believe it will be heaven dont you.

Scientist: No need for religious metaphors, like all the other pre-technological baggage we will outgrow those.

Guru: As an student of man I disagree. There’s nothing new under the sun. Your fantasy is to escape the chains and bondage of the flesh, man of technology, our rishis saw this but the way to Liberation is not through your teachings but ours.

Scientist: Why not escape the flesh, it is imperfection as you seem to say, now we are just starting to understand these bonds we can release ourselves, not by meditating in a glade but through our science!

Guru: You have not yet seen all the mysteries that the flesh offers. Through it we Become. That is all I will say.

Scientist: Becoming? pah! Evolution has always been in the business of innovating so that new things become, contrary to the picture of you religionists where everything came into existence through one single divine fiat.

( to be continued … )

Advertisements

Written by Luke Dunn

January 16, 2015 at 10:06 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: