Monday, June 11, 2018

Immortality via the "New Transhumanism"

Joi Ito (WIRED); Pat Macpherson, Dhr. Seven, A. Larson, S. Auberon (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
H+: Blended, biohacked, melded "Transhuman Biologist" (Melell/
What is we hardwire the soft mushy brain with some hardware (WIRED/Getty Images).
The Responsibility of Immortality: Welcome to the New Transhumanism
Give us peace, love, understanding, and LSD!
In the summer of 1990, I was running a pretty weird nightclub in the Roppongi neighborhood of Buddhist Tokyo, Japan.

I was deeply immersed in the global cyberpunk scene and working to bring the Tokyo node of this fast-expanding, posthuman, science-fiction-and-psychedelic-drug-fueled movement online.
The Japanese scene was more centered around videogames and multimedia than around acid and other psychedelics.

And Harvard professor and psychedelics researcher Timothy Leary, a dean of 1960s’ counterculture and proponent of psychedelia, who was always fascinated with anything mind-expanding, was interested in learning more about it.

Fired Harvard Prof. Timothy Leary, LSD researcher, with John Lennon and Yoko Ono
AI is advancing, so transhumanists biohack.
Prof. Leary anointed the Japanese youth, including the 24-year-old me [Joi Ito], “The New Breed.”

He adopted me as a godson, and we started writing a book together about The New Breed, starting with “tune in, turn on, take over,” as a riff off his original and very famous “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”

We never finished the book, but we did end up spending a lot of time together. (I should dig out my old notes and finish the book.)
Leary introduced me to his friends in Los Angeles and San Francisco. They were a living menagerie of the counterculture in the United States since the ’60s.

There were the traditional New Age types: hippies, cyberpunks, and transhumanists, too.

In my early twenties, I was an eager and budding techno-utopian, dreaming of the day when I would become immortal and ascend to the stars into cryogenic slumber to awake on a distant planet.

Or perhaps I would have my brain uploaded into a computer network, to become part of some intergalactic superbrain.

    "Immortality"? No.
  • ["Intergalactic superbrain"? Sounds like Brahman (godhead, "GOD"), the Hindu/Mahayana Buddhist conception of the "higher self" or "luminous mind" they identify as our eternal "soul," atman, undying consciousness. Consciousness is dying all the time by it very nature, by virtue of how it works, which is segmented into three sub-phases of arising, turning, and passing away. In this way -- which can be observed directly in vipassana or insight-meditation -- all the contents of "mind" in the process of consciousness are impermanent, IMPERSONAL, and unsatisfactory. But never mind about that, call it a "self," worship it, strive for it, and call yourself "immortal." You shall be as Gods (devas, brahmas), right? Taking Molly/E/MDMA, Ecstasy, and going to raves talking about how desperate you are not to die because you don't understand what death is and isn't. Religion, not being good enough, forces you to worship Science as the new religion, the new thing that extends the promise of immortality, which in Buddhism is a mental defilement or asava called "craving for eternal existence." It is flawed and full of suffering, but we don't see that because we are driven by fear of dying and desperate attachment to things we don't understand are causing this suffering. It would be far better to wake up than to cling to notions of immortality, but trying telling that to the dying. Living beings (us and the gods) are the dying. We have no idea there is liberation, the deathless, through enlightenment and nirvana.]
Good times. Those were the days and, for some, still are.

Sumerian god driving out the evil spirit, the "Chaos Monster." Figures are repeated on opposite side of temple doorway. These bas-reliefs now in the British Museum. More
Sumerian kings of ancient Mesopotamia
Humans have been yearning for immortality at least since the Epic of Gilgamesh.

In Greek mythology, Zeus grants the Goddess Eos’s mortal lover Tithonus immortality -- but the goddess forgets to ask for eternal youth as well. Tithonus grows old and decrepit, begging for death.

Goddess Eos (Evelyn de Morgan)
When I hear about life extension today, I am often perplexed, even frustrated. Are we are talking about eternal youth, eternal old age, or having our cryogenically frozen brains thawed out 2,000 years from now to perform tricks in a future alien zoo?
The latest enthusiasm for eternal life largely stems not from any acid-soaked, tie-dyed counterculture but from the belief that technology will enhance humans and make them immortal.

Today’s transhumanist movement, sometimes called H+, encompasses a broad range of issues and diversity of belief.

But the notion of immortality -- or, more correctly, amortality [non-mortality] -- is the central tenet.

Transhumanists believe that technology will inevitably eliminate aging or disease as causes of death and instead turn death into the result of an accidental or voluntary [aka suicide and euthanasia] physical intervention. More

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