Sunday, December 31, 2006

I have the feeling George Dvorsky doesn't realize just how right he is.

Here's a smart guy who's comfortable talking about existential risks, genetic uplift and ubiquitous surveillance -- but seems unwilling to consider that we might be engaged in a symbolic dialogue with an intelligence that purposefully camouflages itself using the belief system as its disposal. Or that we might be dealing with something so profoundly alien that our minds utilize familiar concepts in order to make sense of it.

5 comments:

Steve said...

"... an intelligence that purposefully camouflages itself using the belief system as its disposal. Or ... so profoundly alien that our minds utilize familiar concepts in order to make sense of it."

You mean angels?

Steve

W.M. Bear said...

Steve -- You may be speaking truer than YOU know!

Here are some nonrandom thoughts on "ancient astronauts" (prompted in part by the Gary Larson cartoon that Dvorsky posted). Here is a notion I've posted on PB before, copped basically from both Arthur Clarke (in "2001" and "Childhood's End") and Carl Sagan (in "Contact," who likely copped it from Clarke!)

Suppose long, long ago in a galaxy very, very close (to wit, the Milky Way we all know and love), a race of sentient beings passed through that stage of evolution which we are calling the Singularity and in the process became effectively godlike. If any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguisable from magic, then I'd posit that the weilders of that technology are indistinguishable from GODS. And if they're indistinguishable from gods then, in effect, they ARE gods.

And so it became the "project" of this race of godlike beings (aka "gods") to "cultivate" other sentient species in the galaxy and to "bring them along" to the point at which, well, they also pass the Singularity and become godlike beings themselves (hence also indistinguishable from gods).

Is this notion "profoundly alien"? I don't think so, since first gods and later angels have been interacting with humanity since recorded history began. (Indeed, most of the records of archaic civilizations -- that is, pre-classical ones -- deal with exactly these interactions.) At any rate, as our civilization has developed, the forms under which our "cultivators" (the "gods") manifest themselves changes also. Hence now we get UFOnauts instead of angels or, earlier, just plain gods (some with very weird forms).

Anonymous said...

For people who like to fancy themselves the intellectual vanguard, certain Transhumanists can be as dogmatic and narrow-minded as any religious zealot.

Morgaine said...

"Or ... so profoundly alien that our minds utilize familiar concepts in order to make sense of it."

That's what the human brain is wired to do - when it confronts something unfamiliar, it searches for a familiar label to describe it. People don't look at shadows and see monsters - they look at monsters and see shadows. This is the primary reason we shouldn't be so quick to discount eyewitness testimony to strange phenomena from reliable sources. People just aren't that creative.

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