We never seem satisfied with just being who we are. If the answer to why we exist has no satisfactory answer, many opt for answering a more verifiable question, from whence do we come? People can spend a great deal of time and money tracing their ancestry and genome. We search for identity by looking at the past; a past that leads to me - a past that somehow tells me who I am. It seems that people of every race, culture, and lifestyle are drawn to a history that explains who they are. We crave for detail on any particular ancestor. We want to know if we share similar views, have similar habits, all in an effort to understand "me."
What must be disappointing to some is that the further back one goes, one's particular ancestry is no longer uniquely one's own. We find that much of who we are connected by lineage to a host of others currently alive and well. My family attended a reunion to a distant Bavarian great-great... grandfather born over two hundred years ago who migrated to this country. Although not everyone could make it, the over one hundred people who did included many people I didn't know existed and who I could pass on the street as a complete stranger. Those who shared my distant great grandfather were people of mixed race and ethnicity, including Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics.
Many people would like to know if they are related to royalty.
The answer to that question is quite simple:
Yes - eventually.
When I was younger, I had a strong interest in knowing who my ancestors were. I remember my father telling me, "Don't dig into the past. You never know when you'll dig up a horse thief." His intuition was correct. The likelihood of having a direct ancestor who was a murderer, prostitute, or thief is a more likely occurrence than being directly related to some historical celebrity.
This, of course, is not to mention the countless everyday Joes and Marys who made few waves in the fabric of history but probably contributed the most to who we are. In essence we are all mutts, a mixed bag of genetics that we largely share with every other person.
The fun thing about evolution, in my opinion, is it's randomness. As alike as we humans are, no two humans are totally alike, once you really get to know them. We may have our doppelgangers, but there are so many variations of the same that we cannot be totally the same. As such, I am convinced we are not the products of intelligent design by some cosmic manipulator of energy and matter who would have mass produced us, but rather we are the products of a random creative power that exposes the beauty of being from the bubbling chaos from which life emerges and takes on myriad forms.
We are works of art!
The first time I ran across the term amortal was in Yuval Harari's book "Sapiens." It seems an apt description of those who are unwilling to risk death. The amortal appears to represent a small minority of people who are unaffected by a sense of lineage, which recognizes that our existence is, in part, the result of our ancestors no longer existing.
Think about this for a moment:
The longer we live the less children are being born. Yes the population of the world is growing, but not in areas were life expectancy is lengthening.
The single child family is increasing, which means that couples are not being numerically replaced by their offspring; particularly in developed nations. While there are many factors for this phenomenon, one of them is that people in socially developed nations are less dependent on the need for offspring to accommodate them in their old age. The age of retirement is going up in some countries as the state takes on the responsibility of providing for their aging populations and longevity is the result.
I find it ironic that those who are seeking a path to amortality are people who describe themselves as evolutionists; individuals who would likely argue against the notion of an intelligent designer. Yet, here they attempting to merge humans and their machines as the next phase in human evolution and acting as would be intelligent designers themselves.
Killing God to become a god seems to be the objective of the unimaginative, intellectual designing would be amortals, who seemingly possess an underlying fear of life's randomness. They do not want to be works of art, but rather a carbon/silicon hybrid species that will likely lack the creative randomness found in the human imagination.
It is in the imagination of our metaphorical hearts, not the concrete mind, that is linked with the creative imagination of what is called God, the random ("My ways are not your ways") creating force of all that is. For the amortal, the purpose of understanding the universe is not to find an answer to why we exist but rather how to control, harness, and extract its secrets in order to manipulate its power to ensure their personal longevity. They do not see in this pursuit that they are acting from a sense of selfishness and are unwilling to let go of the life they have not willed in the first place.
The more we know, the more we think we can go it alone. For many, the concept of God is dead or, if not dead, is dying every time there is a new discovery about what makes us tick. For me, every time we discover what makes us tick and what our universe is made of the God concept expands and new avenues of exploration are opened into wonderment of creation.
Pride goes before destruction, says the book of Proverbs (16:18). This is not a prediction. It is an observation of an age old problem we humans are prone to.
Enhancing and being able to make and replace living organs to preserve and sustain the quality of natural life as long as possible is a noble cause. I see nothing ethically or morally dissonant in that pursuit. But that is far different than making robots or instilling and enslaving a human-like mind in a cyborg to make a better functioning machine or a better functioning human, which strikes me as anti-evolutionary and a form of bio-mechanical slavery. And yes - if done successfully, intelligent machines endowed with a human thought process similar to our current process will be prone to rebellion, just as we are. We cannot extract that element from our intellect and remain intelligent.
As smart as we have become, we remain our worst enemy. We are prone to self destructive behaviors because we have never been able to totally reject the reptilian mind that prompts us to steal the fire of the gods and eat forbidden fruit, nor are we capable of doing so by sheer intellectual prowess. Our pride, as it has in the past, may prove to be our undoing.
We are at a nexus regarding who we are and where we're going as a species. Humans have the ability to choose a course regarding where we are going and what we become within the limited confines of our earthbound existence. Death is a necessary part of life as it ultimately makes way for new life. I am mindful of this every time I walk on an ocean beach, over the calcified remains of sea life from which we emerged and when I breathe the same air that sustained the life of those before me. The whole of humanity's brief history is a fabric of experiential learning in which every human who breathes our air contributes at least a stitch or two to its composition.
The abundance of life on this planet is truly amazing. I am comfortable with the concept of a wild, random, creative force, I recognize as God, that takes the elements of chaos, the lifeless matter and energizes it, resurrects it for a time to create works of living art that I have the privilege of being and the privilege to enjoy at this time. What comes next I'm content to leave to the creative imagination that gave me life in the first place.
Until next time, stay faithful.