From: Dan Fabulich (
Date: Wed Nov 15 2000 - 16:17:46 MST

Nicq wrote:

> By apocalypse, I was not referring to disaster, but to rapture. Where is
> all this wealth going to come from, with our resources destroyed by the
> wasteful behavior of the 20th century?

Well, the easy answer is that we may put the finishing touches on a
Friendly seed AI which will set nanites to work for us. But I'll do a
little more work, since I doubt that will satisfy you.

I'll start with resources, because that's the easiest. While there's
lots of great things here on Earth, things that, as far as we know, we
can't find or make anywhere else, raw energy is not one of them.
Neither is raw stuff.

Now, in case you weren't aware of it, Earth's resources can't be saved
forever, or even anything like forever. The Earth will be swallowed
up by our dying sun billions of years from now; some large rock will
almost certainly come flying at us out of the Oort cloud MUCH sooner
than that.

If this happens at a technological stage in which we can evacuate the
earth, getting hit or swallowed up will, indeed, be a great loss. But
we'll be losing lots of plant and animal life, millions of years of
evolution, diversity and mystery. Resources would be the least of our
concerns; indeed, I argue that resources, as such, wouldn't be a
concern at all. Stars, black holes, other weirder forms of energy,
all of these await civilization if it doesn't kill itself.

> Where is this longevity going to come from, with our veins filled
> with carcinogens and our bodies bombarded by radiation?

As for longevity in the face of widespread carcinogens, the answer to
your question is medicine. 100 years of medicine, assuming we
survive, will almost certainly bring with it a heck of a lot of
development. While the immortality that most of us seek is certainly
impossible barring something like the AI/nanotech one-two punch that
seems to dissatisfy you, there are easier ways to live longer. Many
poisons have antidotes. Many diseases have cures or vaccines. There
will be many more antidotes, cures and vaccines developed over the
next 100 years (presuming, again, that we don't blow ourselves up in
the meantime). These medicines will become increasingly affordable,
thanks to the wealth we expect from a century of economic growth.
Medicines are cheaper now in real terms than they were 100 years
ago. This trend will continue, if we survive.

> Where is this happiness going to come from, with our spirituality
> destroyed by "flatlander" philosophers, our arts smashed by a media
> concerned only with profits, [...]

I'm sure I can never convince you that technological progress can make
us happier. I will point out that we tend to be happier the wealthier
we are, but this tendency is weak. Granted, crime tends to be lower,
and, more generally, rich civilizations tend to be freer (on anybody's
terms) than poor civilizations. * We also enjoy living longer, so long
as we don't run out of resources. But happiness, while it can
correlate with these things, is not captured in any of the above.

* [The noble savage is not a myth, but he's hardly the norm. Spare me
your hamlet of paradise story; *most* hamlets are hellholes.]

You mention "flatlander" philosophers, but flatland philosophy finds
more of a home in places and people focused on pragmatism for its own
sake (cf Soviet atheism) than in leisurely societies with time and
money to spare. There's a reason that the postmodern notion of
"discourse" wasn't discovered until the late 20th century by
capitalists yearning for benevolent anarchy. Indeed, I posit that
"discourse," especially in the sense of "free play" will characterize
philosophy in the years to come, for this very reason. We will still
be analytic, but will will understand our analysis in terms of a
discussion, rather than as a grand proof.

As for our arts, there the correlation to wealthier and more leisurely
societies is far more obvious. So, for those who WANT challenging and
engaging art, a high-technology society will be in the best way to get
it. If you want high art, you look to where there's the MOST art,
namely rich time periods and cultures like the Renaissance, like the
musings of the idle priesthood in the East and in the West, like the
20th century (more than all of these put together).

But, even if art is available to those who want it, perhaps our media
and our culture seems geared not to desire it. You're right to be
worried about the increasing solidarity our culture is developing; we
should be more open to art (and entertainment generally) that isn't
the same thing we've always had. But if anything will ameliorate THAT
problem, other than the proliferation of art itself, it is longevity.
You can't watch TV sitcoms and hope to watch the same old thing
forever. Even the best prime time dramas capture too much of the old,
and not enough of the challengingly different. But the older we get,
I assert, the duller that will be; or, if not, the more depth we will
find when we return to the classics.

By the way, try to be open minded to those working for profit. They
are, in fact, working for the masses. They're the ones finding the
common bonds between their peers, sharing in their solidarity. The
people prize them most of all. That's why they keep paying.

> living in a world where we work from sunup until sundown with no
> hope for another world hereafter?

Leisure is easier when you're richer. Breaks come more naturally when
you have time to spare. The "world" of death looks less appealing
when the future has never looked so good, and you can be sure you'll
be there to see it.

Assuming we make it, of course.

> Rationalism is a dogma in of itself.

If my *only* dogma is in being rational, then I think I'm doing pretty
well, frankly.

> Yes, but they were working from an ascending paradigm. Extropianism is
> Gnosticism reversed, the exact same stand within a descending paradigm.

I'm not sure the analogy makes sense. Most extropians doubt the
existence of a spiritual world as such. So, I GUESS you could say
that's a kind of villification of the spiritual world, but it's a
rather forced comparison, if you ask me.

> Ah, this is where you are incorrect. Gnosticism isn't just about posessing
> the knowledge- it's about using it. Extropianism is about knowledge as
> well, and the gaining of a form of arcane knowledge- Artificial
> intelligence, nanotech, etc.

Well, as I said, I know hardly a thing about Gnosticism. Will arcane
knowledge "save" us? Sort of. I'd say that if SOMEBODY has arcane
knowledge and uses it in the right way, then our chances of surviving
the destruction of the Earth look much better. But I, personally,
don't need to know how an AI works or how to program a nanite to
receive that kind of "salvation." Rather, I need to be able to afford
the medicine of immorality, when it's developed. I need to be
powerful; if knowledge gives me that power, well, great, but if I
manage to get there by investment banking, so be it.

Again, the analogy seems forced.


      -unless you love someone-
    -nothing else makes any sense-
           e.e. cummings

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