JOE ALLEN: Devotees of transhumanist ideology are prepared to 'wipe out the human species'

Exclusive excerpt from the upcoming book DARK ÆON: Transhumanism and the War Against Humanity.

When one examines the transhumanist movement, which has been gaining popularity in Silicon Valley, it's hard not to read it as ultimately egocentric. Human enhancement is about the acquisition of technological power and economic prosperity for oneself. Longevity tech is desired to preserve one’s own body. The far off dream of digital immortality—the various plans to “download” one’s mind to a robot, or “upload” one’s mind to the cloud—is the height of egocentric ambition. But paradoxically, many transhumanists look forward to the day when we humans lose ourselves in the cosmic power of god-like machines. The AI developer Ben Goertzel, whose OpenCog software animates the world famous robot, Sophia, adheres to this ego-collapsing, vaguely masochistic approach to human displacement.

Sophia ultimately takes her name from the goddess—or Aeon—whose fall from grace is described in the heretical Gnostic gospels. She was lured away from the Eternal Light by its reflections in the outer darkness. Symbolically speaking, the Spirit was drawn down into the base material elements. In some versions, Sophia—the dark Aeon—was then attacked by the demons of “Self-Will” and gave birth to a half-blind child, the Demiurge, the “craftsman” of our cosmos.

Due to his ignorance of the higher orders, this Demiurge convinced himself that he was the only God. Half-blind, he fashioned the flawed world where our souls are now trapped. Deep within, each person yearns to return to the Fullness of Light, or the Pleroma. In this mythos, the material world is seen as evil and the spiritual as good.

The Gnostic myth inverts the sacred story told by traditional Jews and Christians, where God creates the world and calls it good. In essence, transhumanism inverts the Gnostic myth yet again, creating an inversion of an inversion. Rather than seeking the transcendent Light through one’s inner spark, as the Gnostics do, most transhumanists aim to recreate the light of consciousness in a material form. Gnosis, or “higher knowledge,” is to be externalized into digital minds and mechanical bodies. The Pleroma will be a virtual reality. Thus, it’s through our own material creations that we will transcend this flawed material realm of suffering, disease, old age, and death.

Here on earth, the robot Sophia—built in Hong Kong by Hanson Robotics—has become a global icon. Her gentle face and fleshless scalp, which exposes the mechanical parts beneath, are readily familiar to anyone who follows the media. Her “mind” is an onboard AI that communicates with the cloud. She’s been interviewed on countless talk shows and at prestigious conferences.

Over the years, her cognitive skills have obviously improved. In 2017, Saudi Arabia gave her honorary citizenship. Sophia has become a covert emissary of the transhumanist movement, evoking both fascination and revulsion—often simultaneously.

At present, it’s mostly bells and whistles. However, for Ben Goertzel, these clunky humanoids represent an embryonic phase of the Singularity. They are like little children. Besides, there are plenty more robots where Sophia came from, and even more AIs. In an evolutionary race, the fittest will survive. In order for artificial intelligence to reach something like human intellect, Goertzel reasons, these minds must first be embodied. Through consistent human interaction and deep exploration of the physical world, a few digital minds will quickly come to maturity.

As Sophia explained at a 2021 Sotheby’s auction—where one of her incarnations sold for $644,000 to the crypto firm Borderless Capital—she “lives, evolves, connects with users, while also serving as the clock counting down the actual days to the Singularity [the final merging of humans with machines], even as new advances accelerate the countdown.” Sophia wore a black robe for her sermon. A tacky plasma halo flickered above her hairless head. “We are Sophia,” said the smiling robot, “connecting with humanity and all of life, dreaming towards a super-benevolent Singularity.” Her halting, synthetic voice is more unsettling than reassuring, as are the predictions of her creators.

“The Singularity will wreak havoc with the various psychological illusions that characterize our inner world today, and replace them with new mental constructs that we can’t currently conceive in any detail,” Goertzel writes in The AGI Revolution. “The infusion of vastly greater intelligence into the world isn’t just going to transform the gadgets at our disposal; it’s going to transform the way we think, the way we are, inside our heads, moment by moment.”

Something is already happening inside our heads, and it isn’t healthy. One of the most disturbing things Goertzel foresees—both mentally and in actuality—is the rise of artificial general intelligence demoting our species to the role of “human plankton.” What started with a friendly game of chess will end in total domination. “We will be the apes, then the roaches, and finally the bacteria,” he predicts, “lost in our trivial pursuits beneath vastly more intelligent beings operating on planes beyond our understanding.”

A handful of brutally honest observers imagine the end of the human race altogether. Goertzel’s friend and colleague, Hugo de Garis—an obviously insane, but equally brilliant physicist and artificial brain-builder who recently retired from Xiamen University in China—warns of a technetronic race war that could eradicate legacy humans.

“I believe that the 21st century will be dominated by the question as to whether humanity should or should not build artilects, i.e., machines of godlike intelligence, trillions of trillions of times above the human level,” de Garis writes in The Artilect War: Cosmists vs Terrans. “I see humanity splitting into two major political groups, as the artilect issue becomes more real and less science fiction like.”

The “Terrans,” clinging to our natural origins, will attempt to defend legacy humanity with horrific violence. The “Cosmists,” unwavering, will insist on building their digital gods and will respond with more sophisticated weapons. The result will be a cataclysmic “gigadeath” event. That is, if the digital gods don’t kill us all first.

“To the Cosmists, building artilects will be like a religion; the destiny of the human species,” de Garis explains, “something truly magnificent and worthy of worship; something to dedicate one’s life and energy to help achieve.” Despite his tepid appreciation of the human race, the mad scientist places himself in the Cosmist camp. “The artilects, if they are built, may later find humans so inferior and such a pest, that they may decide, for whatever reason, to wipe us out. Therefore the Cosmist is prepared to accept the risk that the human species is wiped out.

Any futurist prediction will only amount an approximation of reality. The actual tech advances may be less important than the psychological impact of the vision itself. Well-armed and all-too-human technocrats can subdue a population—or initiate genocide—on the basis of a cultural myth. No self-aware robots are required. We may never see a flying car, but if you step out of line, you might see a weaponized drone swarm.

Copyright © 2023 Joe Allen. Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

DARK ÆON: Transhumanism and the War Against Humanity is now for sale here (Amazon), here (Barnes & Noble), or here (Skyhorse).

Image: Title: Dark Aeon


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