Sunday, May 13, 2007


Humans are obsessed with reaching a state of never ending bliss. Religions promise heaven or nirvana and we search for gurus who claim to have achieved enlightenment and try do what they recommend.

A while back I came across this "letter from utopia" written by Nick Bostrom (or his future self). This utopia is not supernatural, it is a result of constant improvements to our condition. We can plausibly find ways of enhancing ourselves cognitively and emotionally. It's also plausible that one day humans will have very long lifespans. If we could do these things consistently over a long period of time we would end up living in a very different state to what we're used to. If the improvements are in a direction we could all agree are good, enough of them will get us to utopia (depending on what we decide qualifies).

I can't see any problem with this reasoning, but nobody I've spoken to has shown much enthusiasm for this potential utopia. Why not? Is it because it seems so soulless?


Tracy-Leigh said...

Perhaps it's because it doesn't seem like a likely reality for the near future. The improvement of the global society does not improve in leaps and bounds with technology. There are many social & logistical challenges to implementing a technology so that it works for all the people in the world. This compounds the fear, that perhaps this technology will not be shared with all but only used by an elite few, leaving the rest of humanity to suffer.

Or maybe people feel disturbed by the fact that we seem to be rejecting our natural selves. I know humans have done and do terrible things, but it's still a big step to change ourselves into something different and reject our original humanity. As terrible as humanity is, our range of emotions and experiences is what inspires artists and thrills us.

these are possible suggestions why people are uneasy about the idea. But why don't you ask them?

stuart said...

I should have phrased my complaint differently. The lack of enthusiasm meant lack of interest not unease.

I know it all seems far away, but I think it's likely that we already underestimate the difference between how we experience life and how people did 500 years ago.

it's possible that we'll look back on this period as the most significant in our history, we should try get things right.

of course we can be concerned by the points that you raise, but I think that things are moving in the opposite direction; average IQ's are rising, but top IQ's are not. even people living in shacks have TV's. Stuff is getting cheaper in real terms but the poor are getting richer.