Note on a Table

18 01 2014


Had to go to Nebraska for a couple of different reasons. Went to a coffee shop for breakfast and found a note lying on the table. This is what it said.


My Future’s Manifesto
by D. B. Wyatt


I can see it and hear it now: Computers so smart they can actually mimic spirituality, because we’ll find that that a sufficient amount of computing power actually leads to an innate exocentricity – the impulse to “go beyond” one’s capacities, and this inevitably leads to a belief in God. The replication of intelligence begets replication, which by law of finite extrapolation, always leads to a desire for more. So get smart enough and you’ll want more than you have, and need more than you are. It’s a natural urge, which means that religion would have been developed whether or not there was a God. This doesn’t disprove the existence of God, but it makes it much less likely that such a being exists.

I can see it and hear it now. Computers so smart they can out-write, out-rhyme, out-paint, and generally out-create us. Because we’ll find certain innate algorithms built into nature that are expressly designed to create, and we’ll be able to replicate (and even manipulate and perhaps even improve upon) those algorithms in computers, but given that their computing power is so much greater, they will be able to out-perform us in creative tasks. So a computer will be funnier, more charming, even more sexy, than its human counterpart.

So religion will become a relic of the past, a natural stage in the progression of human intelligence, as we find that computers themselves begin to get not only personalities, but faiths. And this will prove, convincingly to most people, the true provenance of religious belief.

We’ll also come to the conclusion that we actually aren’t moral animals, we humans, and that our instincts for goodness are actually adaptability strategies in order to get along. We’ll find that there is no right and wrong, technically speaking, and that such concepts are developed for the propagation of the species. We make this shit up in order to survive, in other words. And it usually works, except when it doesn’t. It backfires because nature backfires. Every natural cycle is incomplete. Nature isn’t perfect – if it were, it wouldn’t change. Evolution is the process of attempting to reach perfection, which would be homeostasis. Religions call it eternity.

Anyway, all these religious impulses, all this morality wrought out of guilt, all this inspiration that supposedly came from the gods – all of this will, in time, be understood for precisely what it is – mechanisms built into the process of change for the purpose of insuring the survival of the host. Morality has no actual moral content of its own. Things are what we make them to be, and we make things that reflect what we want to be.

Will this lead to chaos and a rupture in the social fabric? Hopefully not, as people begin to accept that to live is better than to die, and so we must do everything we can to insure not only our own survival, but the survival of our progeny. This instinct alone, the desire and will to survive, will be recognized as the ultimate impulse—the ultimate religious impulse, if you will—that must be protected. Living will become the God. Life will be the God. Life will be God. God will be Life. It will be reduced to that kind of simplicity. There will be no need for sufficient complexity. It will be a call for sufficient simplicity. The simpler, the better, the more elegant, the more economical, the more efficient. Nature is actually on course to becoming more simple. It’s just that the road to get there is pretty complex ~

“I’m sorry this letter is so long. I didn’t have time to write a shorter one.” Blaise Pascal


The Claw

26 02 2012

A really lovely story that just posted in that nascent cloud of non-news called social media got me thinking. It’s a story about a little 3 year-old Australian kid named Noah who somehow finds his way into one of those claw vending machines. You know the ones…. built for the sole purpose of frustrating any effort at nabbing the little plush toys that stare back hopelessly from their little plastic purgatory? Not to be deterred, little Noah found a clever work-around (Noahs are good at that sort of thing). He climbed up through the down-chute and, once inside, started handing out the plush little toys to all passers-by (mostly of the 10-and-under variety). It was a wonderful, non-Euclidean moment of cosmic divine pay-back.

So what’s the point of telling you all this? Well, it reminded me of atheism, naturally (clearly I need a new hobby). You see, it was much easier for Noah to get into the vending machine than to get back out. He had to be coaxed, prodded, pulled, cajoled, and begged back through the chute to his waiting, anxious mum. Atheism, too, is much easier to get into than out of (philosophically speaking, that is) since it requires nothing but a set of eyes, half a brain, and a working pulse. And once you’re in, the temptation and pressure to stick around rivals that of any religious institution or cult (except maybe the Mormons and a few other sects mainly ensconced in Oregon). And not unlike little Noah’s experience in the plastic box of plush toys, once the “toys” run out, atheism turns out to be nothing more than a really hot, oxygen deprived, see-through plastic box. With atheism, once the obvious arguments against religious belief have exhausted themselves by dint of their existential flimsiness, you’re left to stand on nothing but a false sense of courage and bravado for being able (supposedly) to stare into the abyss without blinking.

Atheism fetters itself by making life mean nothing and everything all at the same time. It makes complete sense and yet no sense at all; it is, as G.K. Chesterton once famously quipped, “a mean infinity, a base and slavish eternity” (from “The Maniac” in Orthodoxy).

The Eagles once sang about my lovely part of the world, “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” Well, you can leave atheism, of course, but like love and war and, well…. claw vending machines, it’s much easier to get into than to get out of, for the simple reason that getting out requires a healthy dose of common sense and not a small measure of humility, not exactly things in full supply over at Atheism Headquarters. True, the same could be said of many believers of the more conservative variety, but at least they’re right about God’s existence. They’re just wrong about almost everything else.

Needless to say, little Noah was the belle of the bowling alley, and his charming story can be found here: