Thursday, March 9, 2006

God isn't dead; he's us

Imagine making love to yourself.

No, not masturbation. I mean a clone of yourself. Imagine talking to yourself, touching yourself, going to concerts with yourself.

Imagine looking yourself in the eye.

It's creepy to think about, isn't it? Would he/she have the same personality as you, having grown up under different circumstances? What would be the same, besides looks?

This is all stuff I've been thinking about for a short story. Ray Bradbury-like, but with more sex.

But what got me on all this was that "Mediated" book I just finished by Thomas de Zengotita. In it, Zengotita talks about the "mediated" self, and how flattered we are in today's hyper-media culture. His conclusion is that we are so self-loving that someday, when cloning is possible, we won't hesitate at creating a copy of ourselves to perpetuate us forever. Imagine raising an exact copy of yourself from childhood. Imagine the soccer games, Zengotita says - you think parents are competitive now.

Today, an article on talked about nanotechnology, and how it will actually be living, chemically-controlled pseudo-organisms - not the little robots we think about, zipping through our bloodstream zapping cancer cells.

We'll have created living beings created from nothing but chemicals and matter - the same stuff we're made of (Carl Sagan called it, poetically, "starstuff").

We'll be godlike.

Alan Goldstein, the article's author, says that:
What this all means is that within a generation, biology will face its ultimate identity crisis. Researchers in the field of nanobiotechnology are racing to achieve the complete molecular integration of living and nonliving materials. We will hack into the CPU of life in order to insert new hardware and software. The purpose is to extend the capabilities of biology far beyond the limits imposed by evolution, to integrate the incredible biochemistry of life with the equally spectacular chemistry of nonliving systems like semiconductors and fiber optics. The idea is to hard-wire biology directly into any and every part of the nonliving world where it would be to our benefit. Optoelectronic splices for the vision impaired, micromechanical valves to restore heart function. But the moment we close that nano-switch and allow electron current to flow between living and nonliving matter, we open the nano-door to new forms of living chemistry -- shattering the 'carbon barrier.
Some, like Ray Kurzweil (whose book "The Age of Spiritual Machines" is next on my to-read list), say that all this will happen faster than we think.

And that got me thinking (I wrote about this earlier) about how, in the span of about 70-80 years, we went from horseless carriages to Apollo 11. Imagine what we can do in the next 80 or so years.

Well, we don't have to imagine. Others have done it for us.

Imagine, for instance, if nano-bots began replicating as bacteria do, consuming everything in their path and taking over the world. Not so out-of-this-world, considering some have already thought of it.

Since the Enlightenment we've given the stuff God has given us and totally remade our world in our own image without thinking about how far we should go.

So cloning, and nanotechnology that is actually living organisms made out of nonliving material, are just logical steps in the path we're already traveling. If we're told from childhood "you can be whatever you want to be" - well, why not just start over if we don't like what we've done so far? Why not create a self that is our idealized version of our own self? Why not create, from scratch, beings that will fix everything that's wrong with us from the inside?

I'm skeptical of any "forecasts" of the future. We don't know what could happen in May, let alone 2020. But the givens are there, right in front of us.

I think about "The Matrix" and "Jurrassic Park" when I start reading this stuff - how we've already dreamed up nightmare scenerios where machines (or artificially-created life) take over their masters, Frankenstein-like.

But the things that take over won't be lumbering, hyper-muscular Terminators. No, they might be beings we can't even see with the naked eye.

Who's ready for lunch?

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