Re: future technology as animism

From: Miriam English (
Date: Sat Oct 06 2001 - 21:44:37 MDT

Great post Reason.

Gotta say "Yeah!" on almost everything you said.
Just one slight exception:

At 07:56 AM 07/10/2001, Reason wrote:

>3) We are programmed to like certain stories
>As has been shown by numerous authors, certain myths, stories and memes all
>share underlying commonalities. These commonalities resonate with humans,
>are attractive, have a power of fascination. We are drawn to them and we
>create them.
>This is why the future will resemble the animistic past. We will try to
>build a world that resonates with our preferences for memes, myths and
>stories. We will build spirits (AIs), we will try to become immortal
>(cryonics, any number of other potential technologies), we will attempt to
>transcent, to become Gods, heroes, kamis (uploading, inloading, outloading,
>Yes, we will change our fundamental selves, but the initial builders of this
>posthuman world will be humans. Before the spirits and Gods are let go to th
>eir own devices, they will have been designed and built by humans and those
>close to humans.
>So in essence, there is a sense of full circle. There is a sort of world
>that we desire to live in, that we are built by our very nature to desire
>living in. A world of awe, spirits, Gods, heroes and magic, a world in which
>there *is* an intelligence behind every complex object. We will build that
>world: we are building that world.

Had a conversation with some people recently on this topic.

Many people think there is some internal programming for only a few stories
(and some are actually engaged in trying to write programs to classify and
create stories). But I think it is a case of the cart before the horse.

Many writers work really hard to create different stories. Sometimes they
hit upon ideas and ways of seeing things that are so different that they
become highly acclaimed and their stories are hailed as new and refreshing.
Mostly, it is very hard to throw off learned responses and stories end up
falling into one cliché or another, but this doesn't mean that we're
programmed for just a few of them. Our incredible ability to see patterns
in things makes us able to retrospectively see commonalities in what may
actually be widely different concepts. (20/20 hindsight.)

Relating that to our quest for the future: We do many things now that were
not only inconceivable in the past but it was unimaginable that anybody
would even *want* to. I think the future will bring us new ways of thinking
and new desires that we can't yet imagine. (Try to explain the pleasure of
surfing to someone in medieval England. "You get on this board and paddle
out to a wave which pushes you back to the beach, often smashing you back
into the water on the way."). Many of us are driven to find novelty,
whereupon it spreads like a virus through the rest of culture. Afterward it
feels like it's always been with us.

That said, I still largely agree with you even on that point. The future
may continue to resemble the past in a number of ways. As you mentioned,
some of the most powerful myths are powerful precisely because they
resonate with something possibly prewired to feel important.

Best wishes,

         - Miriam

To the optimist, the glass is half full.
To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.
To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
Virtual Reality Association

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