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Mormon Transhumanist Association

Discussion in 'Latter-day Saints DIR' started by Kirran, Jan 8, 2017.

  1. Kirran

    Kirran
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    Latter-Day Saint DIR

    So I learnt today of the existence of the Mormon Transhumanist Association which is an LDS group of around 500 members that promotes the transcendence of the human condition via technological progression from a Latter-day Saint perspective.

    I think that's pretty cool, but I wonder what people hereabouts make of these folks? Have you ever heard of them, do people talk about them?

    Thanks!
     
    #1 Kirran, Jan 8, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2017
  2. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Veteran Member
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  3. allfoak

    allfoak Alchemist

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    Is Mit Romney a member of that group?
     
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  4. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Veteran Member
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    *ha ha ha* If he ever buys Texas Instruments maybe.
     
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  5. DeepShadow

    DeepShadow White Crow

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    I'm not a member of the MTA, but I'm a Mormon with strong transhumanist leanings. I don't hang my testimony on a transhumanist interpretation of the Gospel, but apart from that, I guess I'd call myself a Mormon Transhumanist. I've considered joining the MTA.

    Well, there are diverse positions within transhumanism, and even within the MTA I've heard many perspectives I don't entirely share. Many of them are critical of the current established LDS leadership, which I most certainly am not. Most MT's are cosmist transhumanists, rather than the more common singulatarian points of view you hear about when transhumanists are mentioned. Many of us are actually quite vocal against what we see as "undue haste" of the singulatarians, and one of the founders of the MTA was on the forefront of denouncing Zoltan Istvan as not representing most/all transhumanists.
     
    #5 DeepShadow, Jan 8, 2017
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  6. Kirran

    Kirran
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    Great! Thanks for your perspective!

    What would you say is the separation between singularitarian and cosmist transhumanism?

    What do you make of the whole 'New God' thing? (i.e. God is essentially the transcendental descendant of advanced civilisations)
     
  7. Orontes

    Orontes Master of the Horse

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    I went to a two day conference on the subject back in 2011 (I think that was the year) sponsored by the Claremont Graduate School on Mormon Studies. There were several speakers from the formal organization as well as Mormon scientists: people who had worked for NASA, environmental scientists etc. I was not impressed. Mormon Transhumanism is highly problematic if one accepts several of the base assumptions of Mormonism. I will note some of the problems.

    1) The assumptions about the nature of mind and common assumptions toward a strong AI view assume the mind is identical to states or functions of mere matter. This leaves little to no room for any free will or real moral obligation.

    2) The position assumes a technological argument for god's existence. Given the number of planets and some 15 billion years of time, the emergence of a super intelligent species is possible (and many see it as inevitable). Logically, it is a type of teleological argument for super-beings (ala Arthur C. Clark). The problem is such do not possess the qualities of an all-loving God who created and organized the universe and is a being who is in and through all things the law by which it is governed (D&C 88). In other words, it sees God as a product of the universe, rather than the creator and organizer and sustaining power of order.

    3) The model provides no reason to trust the goodness of such super beings. Rather, it suggests such would act along Darwinian lines for the purposes of survival of the fittest to be the fittest.

    4) Trusting in our own capacity to find the problems of mortality by unlocking the secrets of our DNA to ensure immortality seems to me akin to the concern noted in the Book of Mormon's (Alma 42) that if Adam eats of the fruit of the tree of life without God's permission, then Man would live forever in his sins. There is no salvation in such an immortality. It is continuance, a never ended-ness that is a type of damnation (think the movie Groundhog Day). Moreover, it puts a trust in the 'arm of the flesh' rather than Christ as the basis of immortality and salvation. It is a denial of the atonement. Man becomes products of the natural order (that could be eclipsed by machines). It is the story of the Tower of Babel, with electricity.

    5) It is contradicted by scripture. To whit, the Mormon posture on deification has an example given in DC 132: Abraham. Abraham was a Bedouin living some 4000 years ago. His deification is not tied to any technological savvy or super intellect, but to his faith and commitment to the Lord. One must either reject the Abraham model of devotion, or assert a new and alternate path to deification, which per Ockham's razor is problematic. The scriptures are clear that it is through the heart and a commitment to the good: dependent on Christ, not the intellect and technology where salvation lay.


    Several of the members of the Mormon Transhumanist Association (MTA) I met at the conference admitted to me, they were actually atheists and used the MTA as a way to maintain a certain Mormon credential. MTA is basically a pastiche
     
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  8. DeepShadow

    DeepShadow White Crow

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    Singularitarian, as I understand them, are focused (too much , IMHO) on devoting time and resources to crossing the next threshold of technological singularity, which they believe will grant them immortality in their lifetime. I don't think that expectation is quite as stupid as it sounds, and if you'd like to know why, I recommend Aubrey De Grey's TED talk on the subject.

    I accept the following premises of Aubrey's proposal:
    • Incremental refinements of human life extension will come fast enough that each extension will all but ensure that we receive the next
    • To delay achieving that first life extension is to consign billions of people to an unnecessarily early death
    I will even accept, mostly on faith, one more premise:
    • that we are on the verge of our first breakthrough in human life extension, perhaps within my lifetime, certainly within my children's lifetimes.
    So why, then, am I not joining the singulatarians in pushing that we cross that barrier, and save all those billions of people from suffering and death, including (perhaps) myself? Well, first of all, whenever we cross that threshhold, it will be too late to save many who deserved it, so the hand-wringing for my own generation seems a little selfish. What about the many, many deserving generations that have come before me? What does transhumanism have for them?

    This is where cosmism comes in. The basic cosmist viewpoint is best stated by Giulio Prisco: "We will go to the stars and find Gods, build Gods, become Gods, and resurrect the dead from the past with advanced science, space-time engineering and 'time magic.'" So, if I can count on that to save my ancestors, why can't I count on it to save my own generation, or whatever generation barely missed the Singularity boat? Whenever the Singularity happens, whoever just missed it will be caught on the rebound by their descendants using whatever crazy quantum voodoo whatnot that they come up with. And if I believe this is what humanity will achieve, I would also believe that I can count on their achievements to resurrect me whenever I die, and my main focus is less a matter of technological awakening, and more a matter of moral and social awakening. Because the main obstacle to cosmist resurrection is that future generations, despite having all the technology to resurrect us, are not inclined to do so because they lack compassion/empathy toward their own ancestors. So instead of lobbying governments to make me immortal, I should be raising my children to spread love and compassion toward their fellowmen throughout past and future generations....which is exactly what Mormonism is all about.

    TL: DR, Singularitarians are focused on making sure that humans achieve immortality ASAP. Cosmists are focused on making sure that humans are worthy of immortality regardless of when they achieve it.

    Well, you can probably see there's some New God stuff sprinkled throughout my summary of Cosmism, but I've only skimmed the actual New God Argument by Lincoln Cannon. I think that's why I'm not a more active transhumanist, because the more they get into the details and the specifics, the less I see the point. If God is the end result of humankind's techno-transcendence, that's good to know...but I don't see how it changes what I need to do, today.
     
    #8 DeepShadow, Jan 15, 2017
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  9. DeepShadow

    DeepShadow White Crow

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    Orontes, as I say above, I'm no raving fan of the New God Argument, but I'm not sure where the problem lies in many of these objections:

    The mind is identical to states or functions of mere matter...therefore there's no free will or moral obligation. How does that follow? Didn't Joseph Smith say that all spirit is matter?

    The idea that God has to be either the product of the universe or the creator is an either-or fallacy. God, once created, is outside of time, and thus able to exist at all times at once, including being present to organize/create the universe at the beginning. This means that He is able to tweak the settings of the universe to ensure His own temporal creation later on, meaning that the universe itself is both creation and creator, a la panpsychism. As Carl Sagan said, "We are the universe contemplating itself," so God was/is/will be the universe coming into full embodiment of contemplation.

    "By Him, and through Him, and of Him, the worlds are and were created."

    Actually, the model does explicitly account for superior goodness of the New Gods. It posits that as the power of a species accelerates, the greatest obstacle to "godhood" is self-extermination. Thus, it posits that only the most benevolent species will achieve godhood.

    Wait, is the New God Argument even saying this?!

    I'm not sure how you are invoking Occam's razor here. There's no problem with Abraham's deification. It's Cosmism 101: We will go to the stars and find Gods, build Gods, become Gods, and resurrect the dead from the past...

    The fact that Abraham was selected for deification due to his devotion does not contradict this at all.
     
  10. Orontes

    Orontes Master of the Horse

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    1) I will explain. In simple terms, the physical world is informed by cause and effect. This means for any event X, there is a necessary antecedent event. If mind is simply a function of matter, then that functionality is always already informed by a prior material event. This leaves little room to establish space for a coherent model of free will or moral obligation.

    Smith did say all spirit is matter, but it does not follow that all matter is then spirit. In the position Smith put forward, spirit is a distinct kind of materiality that at it's most fundamental (intelligence) includes: plurality, self existence and awareness as base ontic conditions.

    2) The above is problematic. I'll note some of the issues:

    -God cannot be a product of the universe and the creator of the universe. They are mutually exclusive.
    -A temporal process to create an atemporal being runs afoul of having a temporal origin, therefore atemporality is impossible as there is always an origin timestamp (T) where with a (T-1) the thing wasn't. It is temporally fixed by the claim itself.
    -An atemporal being cannot organize, create or tweak anything as all such are time laden. What is atemporal is by definition outside of time and therefore unable to act in time.
    -Panpsychism, like pantheism, is antithetical to Mormonism. The Father is a resurrected being of flesh and bone. A pinecone is not God.


    3) The above claim is simply a bald assertion. Moreover, if power is defined by technology then the position rests on a category mistake as technology is distinct from moral standing. There are multiple examples in history of technological advances occurring along side moral bankruptcy, if not evil. Being technologically advanced is not the same as being moral. In other words "is" is not the same as "ought'.

    Not self-exterminating does not equate to moral anything. It simply means a thing or species continues. Thus, the base problem persists, there is nothing to guarantee the moral trustworthiness of any super species.


    4) I'm not sure what the pronoun 'this' is referring to. If it is focused on the DNA reference: I don't know if that is part of the New God Argument, but I've heard MTA advocates speak on such. Regardless, the pursuit of immortality is basic to MTA as I understand it, whether the path is through DNA, or regeneration, or some other means, the base criticism remains: there is no salvation in such immortality. It is a hubris: trusting in the arm of the flesh and thereby rejects the necessity of Christ and His atonement.


    5) The model for Abraham's deification is tied to his moral standing vis-à-vis the Lord. MTA looks to intellect and technology for deification. These are not the same. Ockham's Razor is the principle that "plurality should not be posited without necessity". The model of Abraham and found throughout the Scriptures is of a broken heart and contrite spirit, trusting in the Lord. MTA seeks to add to or replace that model. If it is an addition, then Ockham's Razor applies as there is no necessity. If it is a replacement, then it must deal with the contradiction found in the deification of Abraham. Either way it fails.

    MTA borders on science fiction: a Borg fetishism run amok. However, the core issue that should disturb is the erasure of Christ and grace.
     
    #10 Orontes, Jan 17, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2017
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