The Future and Nihilism (was Re: >H RE: Present dangers to

Brian Manning Delaney (
Thu, 02 Sep 1999 23:54:03 -0700

> I know why -- because I don't want to drown. :-)
> But, the point about the "philosophical
> undergirding of transhumansim" strikes home. We
> are faced with a fundamental problem of
> constructing a philosophy for a system which we
> are woefully ill-equipped to comprehend.

Hi Robert!

I remember when I met you at the A4M conference several years ago you said you wanted to do philosophy someday. (And I shudder when I recall the obnoxious thing I said about science being easier than philosophy -- and to think that we want _better_ memories.... Hopefully you've forgotten the whole encounter, and don't even know who I am!) Philosophy is a good thing, to be sure.

Having a philosophy in place before the Big Change occurs might be an incredibly good thing -- life-saving, even earth-saving, perhaps. On the other hand, after the Big Change, the philosophy we come up with now will probably be entirely irrelevant. I suppose it's the interim where it might be useful, and not yet irrelevant. (In fact, it's the interim, the period when we've begun to change, but aren't yet fundamentally different beings, that, to me, is the most interesting from a philosophical and psychological standpoint.)


> A related background information piece would be
> for someone who has a significant understanding
> of philosopy to outline all of the known
> philosophies (and religions?) and divide them
> into some categories -- not/concerned with
> survival, not/concerned with purpose for
> existance, not/concerned with happiness, etc.

I'm tempted to take a stab at this, but my philosophy background is actually not very broad -- marginally deep in certain areas, perhaps, but not broad.

One thing I am fairly certain of, though: Virtually ALL philosophies, as well as religions, are concerned with the purpose of life.

Anyway, I'd say that tossing all those that don't grapple with the problem of the absence of an external foundation (like God) would be a good first step. This means tossing most religions, as well as most American philosophy (and also Bertrand Russell, though he certainly TRIED, for which he deserves much credit).


> Now, if the other possibility that seems to fit
> the available data is -- become an SI/AI, think
> about a philosopy for existence, realize that
> there is no philosopy (because survival *was*
> the purpose for existence and once survival is
> guaranteed, existence is pointless); dismantle
> yourself back into atoms.

Yup. Though maybe also: just stay the way you are, and continue to try to verify -- forever -- that your realization that there's no good philosophy is accurate.

> This seems to fit the
> paradox of "Why do we still see stars?".

I'm not convinced this is a paradox (though I'm not convinced it isn't, either). Even under the (in my view, incorrect) assumption of philosophical materialism, it seems highly likely that there are energy sources the use of which wouldn't have any manifestation that we normo-humans could know about.

Thus, from a different message --

> No, but others should to my thinking.
> I can only reach perhaps four conclusions
> in thinking about [S]ETI:
> (a) It is very difficult for life to get started
> and evolve to technological civilizations.
> (b) SIs evolve to the point of:
> benevolence|caretaking|indifference|quiescence.
> (c) We are seeing our [local] universe at a
> *very* unique time-point (before the Sister
> have consumed all the power sources).
> (d) The path to SIs is universally fatal.

I'd add:

(e) SIs are still evolving, we just don't see them.

Do ants _see_ us?

Best wishes,