Saturday, February 22, 2014

Lifelogging, singularity, and immortality

Flesh fades. We all know this. We are given our allotted three score and then some, and that's it. Who we were - our experiences, faults, failures, hopes and dreams, secret wishes and brightest hopes - Pfftt! Just like that. Gone.

Which is why we have religion, to give hope of an afterlife, to give meaning and poignancy to our current life, and to explain that existential and elusive question, "Why are we here?"

I blog, journal and write, and, partly, became a parent, in my own futile grab at immortality. Because I know, once the curtain falls, all this talk of heaven and God and an afterlife, is pure speculation. I'm living today as if it all I've got. For that may be true.

I am a monotheist and church member not because I have abiding faith in eternal salvation. Nah! Truth be told, I'm just as unsure about the afterlife as an agnostic. My main reason for attending church is: Belief in something greater (or, at least perceived to be greater) than oneself is a good thing; I like being held morally accountable to a greater good, and that I don't have the strength or will to proclaim absolute right or wrong, so I subscribe and hold fast to moral tenets that have worked in western civilization for a couple thousand years; Jesus is cool, humble and exalted, yet a bad boy, iconoclast, table flipper, a questioner of authority (God in human form? I don't know. But I'd follow him anywhere); and I come from a tradition of faith. My heritage is tied to it and I respect the faith of my forebears.

Making peace with one's mortality helps make embracing the now all that much easier. It brings the miracle of existence to the forefront. And life truly is a miracle. There is more life visually evident in a square foot of land right outside your window than in all the vast reaches of the cosmos. Statistically, given the billions and billions (don your turtlenecks and insert Carl Sagan voice here) of galaxies, life on other planets does exist. But we just don't know. We don't have conclusive evidence.


Now, more than ever, we have the ability to record our lives in ever more meaningful and complex ways. I use my smart phone to take pictures, record distance, time, and a map location of running, do Facebook and Twitter updates, and to get on the Internet to look up meaningful topics.

These types of activities are called Lifelogs. And with the advent of Google glass and other App-based technologies, lifelogging is reaching more and more activity-centered niches. I imagine that within the next 10 to 20 years, data storage capabilities and our understanding of how the brain operates, along with nano-technology that will allow us to ingest and integrate robotics into our lives, every small bit of data about our lives will be recorded. I hope to live long enough to download my brain into a more permanent hardware system. I've even written a couple story treatments about reverse discrimination, wherein this type of technology takes over and robot bodies, in all their perfection, discriminate against "organics."

Any sci-fi and futurist thinker know about the singularity event, that consequential tilt in time when artificial intelligence supersedes human intelligence. This will have either utopian and/or dystopian consequences, and in many ways is already profoundly influencing human thoughts and behavior. The pace and efficiency of our world economy is dependent on computers. But think about it on a personal level. Ten years ago I used to have all of my friends and family member's phone numbers memorized. Now I depend on my phone's database for those numbers. Rarely do I ever dial a number. The term "dial" is an anachronism, a reference to an outmoded technology as alien to today's generation as party lines are to mine.

Check out the works of Ray Kurzweil, Google's director of engineering. He's written many books about humanity's relationship to technology, most popularly, The Singularity is Near. Huge technology companies will influence and profit from these profound new technologies, but I believe the technologies themselves will be the greatest bringers of change in the years to come.

And to think, all of this will happen (is happening! Now!) in my lifetime. How we adapt and relate to these new technologies will define what we are as a species and will forever change what it means to be a human. And, as predicted in Star Wars, as the lines between human and machine become blurred, it will be as important as ever to get in touch with a spiritual center that is uncorrupted by the machine.

For now, I'm just trying to solve level 139 on Candy Crush Saga. Each affirmative "Divine!" goads me on to higher achievements. It validates and vindicates my very 21st century existence. Someday the quest will be complete. And then what. Candy Crush Heaven? That will be the ultimate singularity event!

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