MISC: At the Cusp

David Musick (David_Musick@msn.com)
Sun, 26 Jan 97 00:01:47 UT

Newcomer, Joy Williams, has made a first public appearance on the Extropian
List, and has thrown out many scraps of meat, to entice us to respond to. A
somewhat provocative introduction, talking about the "cold, technological
world", about reincarnation, about Divinity, about death being "a part of the
circle of life.". Joy is basically Extropian, since the Extropian core is
*basically* about finding better and better ways of doing things, and Joy is
appearantly interested in that. But I must address these other memes,
especially the "cold, technological world" one.

The idea that technology is "cold" comes from people who really don't know
what they're talking about; who don't really understand what technology *is*.
"Technology" embraces nearly all aspects of human life. How we walk is a form
of technology, how we tie our shoes, how we kiss, how we make love, how we
drink a glass of water, how we talk, how we sing, how we dance, how we cook
our food, how we grow our food, how we build our shelters, how we study the
world around us and learn to understand it more clearly. Nearly everything we
do is a form of technology. Even our very minds are technological in nature,
the very way we *think* has been shaped and tinkered with over many thousands
of years by countless humans, an ongoing technological project, passed down
from generation to generation. Those who condemn technology as being "cold"
are condemning Humanity itself. We *are* technology. Our minds and thought
patterns are technology itself. Even most of our emotional responses are
*learned*, and thus technological in nature.

Technology is *essentially* a learning process. It is the way that humans
understand their world and learn how to manipulate it. Every one of us
undergoes technological development, from the time we are infants. When we
learn how to move our bodies and move things around in our environments, this
is raw technology at work. Learning to walk is a technological endeavor.
Technology *is* learning. Learning *is* technology. Building nuclear
reactors is not different in its basic nature than building sand castles or
stacking blocks.

Calling technology "cold" is a form of self-damnation and self-loathing. It
is the "original sin" doctrine in another form. Our basic nature is as
technological creatures, we are learning, manipulating beings. That is what
we *are*. To condemn technology is to condemn learning, is to condemn oneself
and one's very nature.

Yes, people have certainly done a lot of damage to the environment, but that
should not be blamed on *technology* itself, any more than it should be blamed
on the laws of physics. Technology is the process of learning. Recognizing
that certain ways of behaving are destructive to our environment is a learning
process, and thus it is also technology. Just because *some* forms of
technology are harmful doesn't mean *all* forms of it are. To expect that
humans are going to get everything right the first time around is insane. We
are *learning*. We have *never* done anything like what we are doing now, not
on such a massive scale. Of *course* we are going to make some errors. We
simply have to *learn* from those errors and modify our approach, not call the
whole endeavor off. The attitude of giving up whenever we face a few
obstacles is a very immature and destructive attitude. Unfortunately, this is
the attitude many, if not most, environmentalists seem to have, regarding
advanced technological development. It's kind of like telling a baby to give
up trying to walk because it falls down and skins its knees a few times, or to
give up trying to feed itself because it's making a mess in its environment.
We must allow the learning process to continue. It is self-correcting, in its
very nature.

Death has been a part of the complex web (not circle) of life, for all of
life's existence. Systems get destroyed. That is part of the nature of this
world. However, I don't see how having the system that one is destroyed will
make one's life better. Death may be a part of life, but I don't see how it
makes *my* life any better, when I'm the one doing the dying. If we become
immortal, then one could just as easily say that immortality "is a part of the
circle of life". Disease has a long tradition of being "part of the circle of
life". So does murder. "It's just part of life." Does that mean we have to
accept it into our own lives? No. Just because something's traditional
doesn't mean it's particularly ennobling, and it doesn't mean we have to
maintain the tradition. Death is simply a *tradition*; it is not essential to
life itself. I say: Question Tradition. Find better ways of doing things.

When someone claims they have evidence that they have been reincarnated, I am
very skeptical. I study my dream state with great curiosity, and I notice how
vivid all the images and situations appear to me. I know how easily my mind
can fool itself. I also know how creative my mind can be and how it can
compose very elaborate and convincing situations for itself to experience.
Having vivid memories of a past life is not sufficient evidence that one has
actually been reincarnated, and more importantly, it is not sufficient
evidence that one will be reincarnated after one's life ends this time.
People under hypnosis have been influenced to experience extremely vivid and
believable hallucinations, even to not see things that were right in front of
them. Our minds are capable of extreme self-deception. The evidence for
*that* is quite clear. In light of that evidence, memories of past lives
should most reasonably be viewed as self-delusional. Entertaining and
educational, maybe, but fantasy nevertheless. Practially speaking, one should
make the most of *whatever* experiences one has, delusional or not, but I
wouldn't bet my life on remembered past lives; I wouldn't say "Oh, I'm just
going to be reincarnated, so it's okay if I die."

As far as I'm concerned, the experience of the Divine is self-generated. When
one is out in a forest or on a high mountain and one feels one's deep
connection to everything, the feeling is quite orgasmic, and we call it
Divine. The experience of the Divine is self-generated and masturbatory in
nature. The feeling is very real, but we are the cause of it. It's basically
a drug induced state of mind, like an orgasm is; it's just that the drugs are
created by our own bodies, just like an orgasm. The most potent drugs are
produced right in our own brains. Those, like myself, who have experienced
these "Divine" states of mind, become very addicted to that drug-induced state
of mind, and we work at finding more reliable ways to trigger this response
within ourselves. These methods are our rituals (a form of technology), which
we modify and evolve, to make them more effective at producing the effects we
want. We are druggies, basically, trying to get our fix. Pure hedonism.

I welcome Joy Williams to the Extropan List; I am sure that Joy has much to
offer and can contribute to our lively discussions of all kinds of interesting
things. I am an Extropian who also, like Joy, embraces "spiritual" things, in
the sense of being highly sensitive to the dynamics of life around me and
becoming highly affected by beautiful experiences. I work to maintain that
beautiful background hum of bliss and contentment that marks the spiritual
life, and I strive to deepen my awareness and appreciation of every detail in
my life. Extropianism is not against spirituality, but it *is* against dogma,
because dogma closes one off to finding better ways of doing things, and
finding better ways of doing things is the core of Extropianism.

- David Musick

-- Pay close attention to everything, and learn to improve everything you
can. --