Re: Aha! experiences

Joe Jenkins (
Tue, 20 Oct 1998 12:08:46 -0700 (PDT)

---Spike Jones <> wrote:
> Scott Badger wrote:
> > Where I work, it would have been socially and politically
> > courageous of me to bring up or admit that I was an
> > Agnostic . . . let alone an Atheist.
> why is that? are you a minister or something? none of
> my business really, just curious.

Spike, I work for the same company you do, except I'm in the bible belt and your way outside. Many of the cubicles surrounding me have that jesus fish thing proudly displayed. Now, if I were to so boldly display that evolve fish with legs thing - all hell would break loose. Not to mention that all these church ladies would stop giving me that Sunday morning "high on the jesus high horse" smile five days a week - not that I would miss it either. It actually makes me sick.

Back to the subject line:

I had a similar but less intense aha experiences concerning, evolution, nanotechnology, and immortality. My aha experience for identity was however, much more intense and long lasting. It started around 1988 when I found Engines of Creation and literally read it front to back, called in sick at work turned the book over and did it again. When I got to the end the second time, I went directly to the library and started looking up most of the references including the books.

When it was all over, I started realizing that what *I* had read "in between the lines" was having the most effect on me. Identity had not even been a subject discussed in the book, but indirectly, my own working definition was falling apart as a result of my reading. I had not really ever put a lot of thought in my own definition of identity. It was just something I assumed was the "physical stuff inside my skin".

All of a sudden, I found myself inventing simple, yet non-intuitive, thought experiments to help narrow and refine my personal definition. It was as if, within just a few days, I was intellectually ready to change my working definition, but that change just wasn't happening at a more personal level. It was as if allowing a discontinuity of that definition was not allowed. Something was forcing me to change my definition of identity much slower than what I could handle intellectually. I found myself repeating simple thought experiments many times a day for about two years before the dichotomy within my own mind was resolved. The whole time this was happening, only slow continuous change (never discontinuities) was experienced.

Over many years of reading the extropian and then transhuman list, I had always assumed most had adopted the same definition I now use. Recently, to my surprise, I found out this was true for many on the list, but just as many were using different definitions. Then the reality of the difficulty of putting this "so called" definition into debatable words hit. Now I find myself somewhat unable to communicate such a subjective issue and resolve the differences or at least identify their roots. I'm still working on this though.

Joe Jenkins

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