Oh Scientist of the mind, neuroscientists and cognitionists. Praised be ye for your new psychology. [The Buddha was out of his Mind]
This post is inspired by yesterday’s article in The NY Times The Neuroscience of Immortality, its latest installment on the interesting topic of how the tech titans or tech elite (the name given by many journalists to the billionaires of the computer and digital industries) are funding research and experiments on “life-extension”, the “cure for death”. Now would be a good moment to re-watch Vanilla Sky.
Without a Heart
One can grasp the intensity and the depth of the hatred of death, and how personally offensive these tech titans consider it from this quote:
Death is the “greatest enemy” of human kind. Peter Thiesl, co-founder of PayPal.
Of course, the Buddhist science of the mind would say that our ignorance of how the mind functions is the biggest problem of humanity because it leads us into attitudes and behaviors that bring personal and social suffering
. In other words, our lucky tech elite don’t see the suffering, only the dying part of human existence, mostly because they don’t have ‘sufferings’ like the rest of us. They are so happy enjoying their lives that the want to live forever to continue enjoying this life, not the next one.
Modern scientists of the mind, according to that article, are investing their mental labor and the funds provided by the tech elite to mapping, literally, the human mind; not the brain, but the mind. And for what purpose?
Some neuroscientists believe it may be possible, within a century or so, for our minds to continue to function after death — in a computer or some other kind of simulation…the version of “mind uploading”.
The tech titans take for granted that their minds are OK. For them, the mind just needs to be transplanted as is into some computer or robot or anything without a heart when their body dies.
Uploading mental attitudes
One would think that, with that public expression of profound antipathy towards death, these people would want to invest in and publicly support those things that prevent the unnecessary acceleration of death: in anti-war efforts, gun control laws or affordable medical services for everybody.
The reason why they don’t fund, for example, anti-war groups, which would be consistent with their attitude towards eliminating death, is because this tech elite is NOT talking about transplanting a changed mind, not even about a change in ATTITUDE towards life. They are merely talking about transplanting, UPLOADING a mind as is, with all its prejudice, greed, hatred, etc. What gains for society would that technology achieve? Oh, the tech elite’s mind is clean of those mental taints, baby. No need to worry about it.
Nowhere, in any of the many articles about the new science of immortality, I find these tech titans talking about how that transplanted or “uploaded” mind would THINK, what its attitude towards life would be in its new metallic body. Would it be in a better ‘position’ to promote peace? Would it sabotage other peer computers in the Pentagon for the sake of peace and saving people from the clutches of death in wars, like in the movies? Would it advocate immortality for all sentient beings, independently of the size of their bank account, or if they have none?
MI casa is not your casa
The reason for that lack of discussion is simple: it is THEIR minds they have in mind when they talk about “uploading” into a computer, not yours. There is nothing to be CHANGED about their minds. Their minds are supposed to preserve (in their New Brave World) its personality name and ability to continue making the judgments about the best hedge fund to invest in while they are in the computer. By living in the computer you can make stock investments just seconds before the market closes!
Also, you can’t talk about how that mind will change (if at all) in its new form if you don’t know what is mind nor what is life. They can’t have a serious conversation about those topics because those are UNDEFINABLE terms, mere abstract ideas.
Today, at the beginning of the new millennium, with all its fanfare about progress and technological innovation, there is NO agreement among scientists on the definition of ‘life’ or ‘mind’. And our fearful-of-death tech elite are not known to be scientists nor philosophers who could clarify those topics.
Business people just want to have fun.
They are merely BUSINESS people who don’t want to die, they want to continue living to enjoy their fortunes and position of privilege in society. Which is fine with me; go ahead, lock yourselves in a computer. See if I care. If I see you in my system pitching your next iPhone, I’ll just click on that ‘go back’ button and move on to other things. (Sorry for the rant.)
There is no Soul in the computer. Are they Buddhist?
And given that they talk only about life-extension, they have a scary similarity with Buddhism: the denial of the soul. None of them talk about the soul. I know why the Buddhists don’t talk about the soul. They believe that everything is impermanent and only our senses give us ‘reality’ (sort of), the rest is illusory. They do believe in the soul but deny that it is PERMANENT, it is only a product of the mind for this type of human existence. But why, you may ask, is there no mention by our tech elite of the soul in the machine?
The scary thing about this is that for Buddhists, even though they deny the permanency of the soul, their science is geared towards developing an attitude of compassion towards EVERY living thing on this planet. It repudiates war and promotes peace. Our tech elite, however, has no problem with inequality and wars. Only with their own death. Why should THEY die, such productive minds? It’s so unfair. That is what moves them to invest their fortune in the pursue of immortality.
Of pigs and scientists
And this is the kicker: the article states that to map the human mind they use pigs and other non-human “mammals”. The Buddha developed a most comprehensive science of the mind and cognition without having to torture any animal or humans. In fact, Buddhists refuse to use animals to study the mind because, HELLO, the animal mind is not discursive like ours. You can’t know human mind through a pig’s mind…unless you are a pig.
But this so-called science of immortality is built on animal suffering, and on human too. Just wait to the day we discover that the tech elite is using mentally ill people in hospitals to do their tests.
There is much more to be said about these tech elite’s effort to live permanently. The conversation will continue, there is no way out of it. Suffice it for the moment to say that, whatever they are doing, it is NOT in the best interest of humanity. This is not where our resources should be diverted to. It is only for the benefit of an elite that can’t find humane ways to spend all the money they have ‘earned’ from us, and have no problems with suffering. This is their hobby.
The only thought torturing them is the indignity of having to die, just like the rest of us poor slobs in a T-shirt, and that they may find any one of us on the way ‘out’.
Death is the great equalizer. I see no problem with it.