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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Cyborgs and God-shaped holes...

As I mentioned to a friend, today I am feeling much like THIS...

So I "blew" a vacation day to try and de-snotify myself (with varying degrees of lack of success), and hadn't planned on actually having anything substantive to post about.


I ran across an article on MarketWatch of all places, about what might be the next big thing for speculative investors:

Investors searching for the next transformative technology destined to turn a bunch of Ivy League dropouts into billionaires, and half the market into a loose slot machine, need only look in the mirror.

“The greatest industry of the 21st century will probably be to upgrade human beings,” historian Yuval Harari, author of the fascinating new book “Homo Deus,” told MarketWatch.

Sounds a little Star Trekkie, you say?  Well, at least the article had some misgivings as well.  Because you know that if something can be commercialized, it will be...

There is, of course, a catch. Many of us will remain flip phones, as the technology to upgrade humans to iPhones is likely to be costly, and regulated differently around the world. These advances will likely “lead to greater income inequality than ever before,” Harari said. “For the first time in history it will be possible to translate economic inequality into biological inequality.”

And that's just one of the problems, but what caught my eye started with a discussion of what a race of techno-ubermensches would do in a world where other super-tech would have remade society to the "in the year 5555" level.

“The only serious answer I can give is they will play computer games,” Harari said. “Immersive, 3D virtual-reality games that will be far more fun and more exciting than anything in real life.”

Uh-HUH.  Sounds real worthwhile.  But the damning part of the article comes next:

If that sounds straight out of an episode of “Black Mirror,” Harari noted that we have been playing variants on such games for thousands of years. “This is actually not completely new — religion is in a sense a virtual-reality game. There are a set of quite arbitrary laws, you have to gain points, and if you gain enough points in this life you get to go on to the next level.”

NOW we know we have a problem, because his false concept of religion has been exposed.  Let's take this apart, shall we?

There are a set of quite arbitrary laws

In his world, good and evil are arbitrary concepts.  When you remove God as a loving, merciful part of the equation, the world has no basis in reality, just an arbitrary list of actions and consequences.  In a bit, we'll see how that works for him.

you have to gain points

Oh, so?  I know that in Christianity, we know we are saved by Grace- the unmerited favor that God grants us at salvation.  Buddhism preaches the letting go of the things of this world to attain a higher understanding.  The Tao teaches that we should empty ourselves so we might be full.  Harari is an Israeli who supposedly has embraced Vipassana Buddhism- although by that statement, I would have to wonder if he either hasn't a good grasp on a faith he claims to hold, or else he just believes that of all the OTHER religions.

 and if you gain enough points in this life you get to go on to the next level.

Now, I WAS going to label him an atheist, due to those comments, but as usual, it's not so simple as that.  But his is an inaccurate concept of God.  In an article in which he was interviewed, he had this exchange:

Q: In a certain sense, we have now closed the circle by achieving the power to create.
A: Yes. We are engineering other creatures, like God in Genesis.

But when you see God as a cold engineer instead of a Loving Father, it creates a dissonance- one even a deep thinker like Harari can't deny (though he can't figure it out):

Q:Is the conclusion that the desire to move forward effectively dooms us to a harder life?

A: If we replace “harder” with “unsatisfying,” it will be easier for us to agree on that. The more people attain, the greater their inclination not to be satisfied, but to find more and more problems in the new situation and try to solve them, too. We see it, for example, in the areas of health and beauty. People are healthier and better looking than ever before. Objectively. But despite this, the system has not achieved a state of balance. There is no satiation. In the field of improving human capabilities, the ambition to create a superhuman, it is very clear that it has no end. There is no point we will reach and say that this is it. That is humankind’s basic nature. And of the universe in general. An absence of satisfaction.

Q: Where did this originate, and why?

A: That is one of the greatest questions of human thought.

Q: Is there no answer?

A: I am working on it. For example, I go to retreats, meditation seminars. That is actually the question I am researching. The question of suffering and dissatisfaction. 

In the focusing on the absence of satisfaction, he misses the obvious solution to the problem:  Look at those who see themselves as satisfied; learn their definition of satisfaction; and figure out what they derive it from.  Unfortunately, Harai sees us as a cosmic accident, undeserving of even the spot at the top of the food chain that we have "achieved":

 I think it stems from our understanding of ourselves − that we are not the crowning glory of creation, as we had always thought. In the course of thousands of years, people grew accustomed to seeing themselves at the top of the pyramid and to justify everything they did, particularly to animals, with the argument that “we are the crowning glory of creation.” But if we are not at the top of the pyramid, if something else occupies that place, the whole, vast baggage of inferiority that we have attached for thousands of years to animals and whomever is below us on the chain explodes in our faces. If we are allowed to do experiments on monkeys because we are superior to them in a certain way, then someone who is superior to me is allowed to do experiments on me.

Someone like his concept of God, the Great Engineer.   To his credit, he doesn't see this as a good thing- he worries about the super-race technology will turn us into soulless monsters experimenting endlessly on the less fortunate.

The underlying problem with his logic is this- that evolution should be driving all creatures to a higher sense of welfare, security, and thus satisfaction- but technology is just driving us to different desires, harder to achieve and harder to live with.  He sees it as an engineering problem, a equation that he'll be able to meditate away.

You may have heard this one before:  That when God designed man, he was complete.  But that original sin left him with a God-shaped hole that he has tried to fill, to deny, to ignore.  That hole is the root of his desires.  It manifests itself in a desire for "religion", a desire for "more", that he cannot fill unless he puts in it the one thing that fits- God.  God, who gave us rules to give our lives structure.  God, who realized that we had no way to earn "enough points" and thus earned them FOR us at Calvary; God who moves us to that next level long before we leave this earth, if only we let Him fill that God-shaped hole.

Harari would be well served to go back to his Jewish roots and study the Book of Ecclesiastes. With all the wisdom in the world, Solomon was unfulfilled.  Unsatisfied.  Until the end, when he found the one thing that fit the hole...

9 And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs. 10 The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written was upright—words of truth. 11 The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars[b] are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd. 12 And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.

13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
14 For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.


  1. Chris:
    ---Man have YOU found a prime candidate for "Loon of the Week"
    (no judgment, just an observation)

    As far as Homo Deus, or even Homo Superior, I would point this "historian" to one specific book that's often overlooked:
    The Terminal Man (Michael Crichton)
    And that's at best the very tip of this whole "technology merging with mankind".
    Be careful of "side-effects" maybe?

    Obviously, he does not comprehend SO many aspects of religion, save for a secular humanist viewpoint.
    (and this coming from one of "God's children"...amazing.)
    Sure God is an engineer, but don't even try to put HIM in such a small box as that. God is everything to ALL of us, right?
    The way in which you went about explaining God and His relationship to us was well spoken.

    Goes to show what you can dig up when you're not even looking for it, hmm?

    Good post.

    Stay safe (and dry) up there, brother.

    1. Especially considering I had half the post written when I stumbled onto the interview and had to do an in-flight rewrite...

  2. Alright, so if this is my second time commenting, I apologize. I was at the shop getting my car worked on and the guy came in to tell me it was finished, so I hit publish...but don't know if it went through or not so I'm writing again just in case:

    You mentioned Black Mirror and while that's not the point of this post, it totally derailed me because, as you know, I'm an avid fan of the show. Such a great way to look at the downside of technology and all of the advancements we take for granted. The loss of humanity, the need for speed. People have forgotten how to slow down. People like me who could've just waited to hit publish when I got home, huh?

    Have you seen Humans on AMC? A great show. Well done on how even the best intentions with advancements in technology can bite us in the rear.

    1. It did not make it through the first time, so you did good. Don't you hate it when that happens?

      Actually, it was a "they" and not an "I" that mentioned BM. I have just a handful of shows I pay attention to, as it happens. Those are two I will have to look into.

  3. Hi, I am in pain, I can't think because of the pain but I am here that must count for something. Also I did enjoy the post

    1. Counts for everything. This was not a post to be read in pain.. and by the struggle I had with it, to be written in pain, either!

  4. Hope you feel better soon friend!!! Very interesting post for sure.