The Singularity is Here!
I am convinced that the destruction of transcendence is the actual amputation of human beings from which all other sicknesses flow. Robbed of their real greatness they can only find escape in illusory hopes.... The loss of transcendence evokes the flight to utopia. --Pope Benedict
[Don't you love that line? "The loss of transcendence evokes the flight to utopia." It's so pithy, and yet it sums up a whole dimension of soul pathology that connects most of the organized enemies of mankind as such. No, wait a minute.... half the enemies, i.e., neo-Marxists, metaphysical Darwinists, radical secularists, and scientistic reductionists. Our other adversaries, the Islamists, have the opposite problem, that is, the loss of immanence. Along these lines, the big-brained Spengler wrote,
"Secular liberalism, the official ideology of almost all the nations of Western Europe, offers hedonism, sexual license, anomie, demoralization and gradual depopulation [i.e., an infrahuman and immanent hell]. Muslims do not want this.... For Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality."
Thus -- and this is about as ironic as it gets -- extremes meet in the radically immanent Lizards and their enemies, the radically transcendent Islamists. But BOTH are enemies to the Raccoon -- and American -- way of life; for the Lizards and other radical secularists cut us off from our vital transcendent center, while the Islamists would cut us off from or earthereal existence, and have us lead a life of bodily death while we still inhabit one.]
Anyway, a reader asked me to comment on a post by ShrinkWrapped from a couple of days [years] ago, entitled The Despair of Abundance. The reader mentioned “Kurzweil's theories of a coming singularity, and how that might affect man's search for ultimate meaning.... I often wonder if in Kurzweil's future, where all horizontal needs are easily available and we have all that we want, will man's nature provide him with no choice but to set out in earnest to discover the new world of the vertical? Or will he simply continue to wallow in the material world all the more enthusiastically.” [Short answer: see the Pope's pithy pronouncement above.]
I am not familiar with Kurzweil, but ShrinkWrapped linked to an article by Douglas Mulhall, in which he discusses this “singularity” in terms of the development of “superintelligent” human beings through genetic engineering and artificial intelligence: “Thanks in part to molecular manufacturing, accelerated developments in AI and brain reverse-engineering could lead to the emergence of superintelligence in just 18 years. Are we ready for the implications -- like possible annihilation of Homo sapiens? And will we seem to superintelligence what our ape-like ancestors seem to us: primitive?”
[Ho! For some pinhead to suggest that a computer could ever exhibit superhuman intelligence only emphasizes that said pinhead does not know what superhuman intelligence is. In short, could a computer ever write the Torah, Tao Te Ching, Upanishads, or the Book of the Subgenius? The question answers itself. Except to a materialistic pinhead.]
Mulhall spins out a number of possible dystopian scenarios that seem not just fanciful to me, but based on more fallacies than it is possible for me to even address in this post. Let me say first of all that human beings have always intuited and lived in the light of the singularity, or eschaton, at the end of history. Consciously intuiting this singularity is one of the prerogatives of being human, and what sets us apart from the beasts, for it really amounts to intuiting God, or the Absolute, or the One, or O, or the coondom thereof. I believe that Kurzweil’s notion of some sort of purely “horizontal” singularity is simply a garbled misapplication of a transpersonal religious idea. It's just a kind of sophisticated stupidity, like that of the Lizards.
For the singularity is already here, and has always been here. It is radically transcendent, beyond space and time. But because it is, it is necessarily immanent as well. It cannot be contained, so it “spills” into manifestation, sending its rays into every corner of reality, including human consciousness. To be “born again from above” is precisely what it means to reorient one’s life in light of this singularity or "attractor" at the end of history.
The idea that there will be some sort of material singularity that will end human suffering is both absurd and undesirable. According to all religious traditions, the cause of most human suffering is not lack of intelligence but man’s own corruption. No material progress will undo this decadence, and would likely even aggravate it. For as Schuon notes, “the lasting elimination of our miseries depends on our conformity to Divine Nature, or on our fixation on the ‘kingdom of God' which is within you.” What Schuon is talking about is conforming ourselves with the singularity discussed above. This is not theoretical, abstract or ethereal. Rather, it is entirely empirical and experiential -- it is the experience that is at the heart of any religious transformation.
To the extent that we do not use the world as a plane to rediscover our divine “inwardness,” then we will be strangers in this world, wandering from pleasure to pleasure with “no direction home.” In other words, in our fallen, “exteriorized” state of consciousness, we require suffering to overcome our faults, to “tear ourselves from sin,” and to reascend back to our source. In the spiritual view, it is our illusory, exteriorized state that is the cause of our suffering. Therefore, to provide this illusory state with even less suffering -- to try to make it completely comfortable and to eliminate all friction -- is simply going to increase confusion and cause more souls to deviate from their proper end.
[By God, it's like putting a bunch of penguins in Chicago in August, and then giving them some swamp coolers to feel at home, that's what it is. A lot of good that will do. There are NO horizontal conditions, no matter how "comfortable," that could ever make up for the loss of my Raccoon habitat.]
These spiritually flabby horizontaloids are Nietzsche’s pathetic last men, the cosmic losers who shall live in a “pitiable comfort.” I’m afraid that we are well into the phase space of that false singularity, and we can already see it’s baleful effects. I believe that ministering to the lower needs of these last de-virilized men forms the basis of contemporary liberalism, which increasingly cannot tolerate discomfort, disappointment, or inconvenience.
Theodore Dalrymple wrote of an ironyclad truth that the modern liberal will never understand, which is that misery always rises to the level of the means available to alleviate it. Therefore, even if a liberal program “works,” it doesn’t work, because it simply creates an appetite -- an expectation and narcissistic sense of entitlement, really -- that unhappiness or unfairness should not exist. To live one’s life in this infantile way is a recipe for metaphysical disaster, or liberal cluelesside.
If we eliminate the suffering that provokes “inwardness” and rebirth, it actually leads to a frenzy of manic activity in which less and less imperfection is tolerated, and at the same time, magnified. Just as luxuries become necessities, inconveniences -- or even delays -- become cosmic injustices. This is why, for example, the phenomenon of “black anger” occurred only after the civil rights movement had accomplished all of its aims, or why feminists still exist.
[This is also why the horizontally privileged Michelle Obama walks around with her own personal black cloud. It's amazing, really. If she had been my student in graduate school, I would have failed her just on the basis of her tortured grammar and poor spelling, not to mention her kooky and/or shallow "ideas" (just liberal cliches, really). But racist liberals passed her along anyway, since they don't believe blacks should be held to the same standards, but just want to feel good about themselves. Thus, she harbors an abiding sense of grievance, despite the attempt by liberals to remove all friction from her life. I'm guessing that no one's ever told her that she is an idiot, least of all the mealy-mouthed Barack -- which she desperately needs to hear in order to even begin to remedy the situation. What a lousy husband. You shouldn't have to learn that you're braindead from a total spengler.]
Leftism attempts to eliminate evil without eliminating the cause of evil, which is in the human heart. In so doing, it causes deeper existential alienation, a more profound attachment to the very impermanent things that can never satisfy us. This doesn’t mean that we do not attempt to improve the world. Of course we do. But only in the context of perennial wisdom and total, integral truth -- of horizontal and vertical realities. Exclusive focus on "horizontal perfection" would lead to a kind of hell with no vertical escape. But this is the explicit program of liberalism. And to the extent that spiritually blind Lizard-types foreclose the vertical, they only hasten the coming of this hell.
I think I’ll conclude with a comment on the bizarre notion of a “superintelligent” human species that would somehow replace us. The fact of the matter is that human intelligence is already absolute and infinite, so it cannot be surpassed, certainly not by “artificial intelligence.” We are already "superintelligent."
As I have mentioned before, I was little concerned that my book, what with its bird’s-eye survey of history, may have created the false impression that we are “smarter” or better than our forebears. This is not the point I was trying to make. Rather, my point is that only now, at this point in history -- especially in the Christian West -- do so many human beings finally have the opportunity to achieve their potential, even if most people just waste the opportunity. In the past, only a tiny fraction of human beings had that opportunity.
But make no mistake -- no human writer, no matter how “superintelligent,” will ever surpass Shakespeare. No musician will surpass Bach, or even John Coltrane or Van Morrison, for that matter. No human philosopher will ever surpass Plotinus, or Eckhart, or Schuon, or the Upanishads, because OBVIOUSLY, knowledge of the ultimate can by definition not surpass itself, any more than artistic perfection can surpass itself. There is just “perfection.” One either achieves (or approaches) it or one does not.
It is as absurd as suggesting that, because of genetic engineering, the women of the future will be much more beautiful than the women of today -- that they will be “superbeautiful,” as it were. Preposterous. Women are already ultimately beautiful. Seriously, how could women be more beautiful than they already are? When they try to become more beautiful -- e.g., through plastic surgery or breast implants -- it usually just backfires and detracts from their natural beauty. Likewise, how could music touch our soul any more than it already does? With more technology? Ho! Does Justin Timberlake sound better than Louis Armstrong's Hot Sevens? And how could ultimate truth be more true than it already is?
The singularity is already here. So quit complaining and just enjoy it.