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Bauart On June - 26 - 2010

Spiral Galaxy M81

Why “no gods” doesn’t, necessarily, mean “no afterlife.”

By @Bauart (on Twitter)

I’m an atheist. For some people I’m sure this instantly qualifies me as a baby killer, satan worshiper or possibly just a fan of Blue Man Group, but the truth is much less dramatic.

As Richard Dawkins so clearly stated, “We are all atheists about most of the gods humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.” I tend to agree (although the jury is still out on H.R. Pufnstuf). But having finally buried my long-held beliefs of religion, gods, ghosts and myths, doesn’t necessarily mean I have no hope for an afterlife, or that I enjoy Twilight any less (as if that were possible).

I do think the chance of there being a supernatural afterlife—where an all- knowing god judges me worthy, or not, to live forever in paradise or suffer forever in a hell of fire and daytime TV—is as close to zero as to be statistically meaningless. But the chance of my conscience thinking-mind someday having a reincarnation, of sorts, is a different subject.

It’s true that I cannot know what will come, but I believe the odds of a real afterlife, like winning the lotto, are not actually zero. In fact, I’ve learned that my chances at winning the lotto go down only slightly when I play.

I’m a stalwart believer in science and its inevitable march toward the future. I’ve seen every iteration of Star Trek, from the days of Kirk to the utter shit that was Deep Space Nine, and I know (that I know, that I know) it could all come true. (Well, maybe not the episode where Kirk kills the Gorn with a homemade cannon…that’s just crazy made-up sci-fi crap).

I believe science holds the keys that will someday open the door to an afterlife.

Back when I was a kid, 40 or so years ago, life wasn’t so bad. Yes, our concept of technology and fast food was juvenile by today’s standards, but big leaps were already underway. The microwave, disco balls and the butt-cut, along with most of the technology we now take for granted, was either nonexistent or relegated to a few scientists at NASA and PBS.

Because calculators in the ’60s cost about the same as a small car, I recall watching my mom having to do the family’s monthly bills with a pencil, in the snow, using only the dim light of a 40-watt bulb purchased with green stamps from Piggy Wiggly. She actually had to add numbers in columns on a note pad. It was medieval.

We did have television in those days, but it was fuzzy and arrived only in shades of gray and despair. Yet we still marveled that there were three unique channels flung through the ether at us from a distant metropolis. We reveled in the miracle of television just as my grandparents had listened in awe to their magic radio boxes a generation before.

We didn’t have computers or the Google; “fact checking” required a trip in a station wagon to the public library and hours of rummaging through dusty card catalog and periodicals (mostly Boy’s Life magazines donated from dentist offices across the region.) Phones of the era were bulky and affixed to walls via wires. A “high-tech” phone of the 60’s only meant it had a slightly longer cord than its “low-tech” cousin. It was designed to stretch to-and-fro across your kitchen while you talked to grandma AND made Jiffy-Pop.

But our 60’s “high-tech” was far ahead of what our grandparents had, and light-years ahead of what their grandparents knew. The march of technology had already broken into a trot, and we were anxious to trot from the outhouses of our grandparents’ era, to the heated Japanese toilets of the late 20th century. Little did we know the information age of the 21st century, and Lady Gaga, were only a few rest stops ahead.

What most people fail to realize about the “technological march to the future” is the speed at which technology changes. Like the ever changing length of Larry King’s suspenders, technological growth is not linear, it’s exponential.  The pace of technology doesn’t slowly march forward like a zombie toward brains. It races forward like a BP executive toward retirement. Technology is now on an exponential curve that is pointing straight toward the Skynet.

It took hundreds of years for mankind to invent and then harness the power of the wheel and turn it into a Ford worth tens of dollars. But we went from airplanes, made only of canvas and wood, to enjoying vast quantities of peanuts at 30,000 feet.  All in just a handful of decades.

Likewise our next 40 years will bring changes not at a slow linear pace, but equivalent to hundreds or possibly even thousands of yarns. I fully expect within my lifetime to meet a thinking computer that will be as far ahead of me as I am ahead of Jessica Simpson. By the time I reach 80 (I’m now 47), a human lifespan will be close to 120 years, and growing 2+ years longer for every “Extends” enhancement pill taken. We will soon have artificial or genetically grown replacement organs [livers].  Our mental abilities will be enhanced by internal computers the size of blood cells. We will be able to communicate using wireless thought exchange and be able to instantly receive and simultaneously reject the breadth of meaningless drivel expelled by Fox News.

We will, in many real ways, be much like the gods our forefathers invented.

We “may” soon be able to live indefinitely, but whether from disease, war or Stephen Hawking’s aliens…we will eventually die. We won’t yet be immortal. However, science does give us hope.

I envision a time, in the not-so-distant future, when we will be able to download not only our thoughts to a computer for storage, but our consciousness itself. We are after all just information made up of individual cells, brain waves and Cocoa Puffs. Initially we will make brain back-ups in case of personal injury, then later as technology improves, the back-ups will become a pathway to immortality.

I suspect that once our human mind has experienced thinking at the speed of light and direct one-to-one exchange of thoughts with other humans, our tolerance for Justin Bieber tweets will vanish. The idea of being relegated to our old flesh-and-blood Walmart bodies will seem nostalgic and quaint.

The point in the future where technology surpasses our human ability has come to be called “The Singularity.” Like an episode of Lost, the Singularity is a thing our Human 1.0 minds cannot fully understand. Change will happen so often and so quickly that we won’t be able to keep up. We will, in essence, evolve.

So, what kind of things might happen beyond the singularity that lead me to believe there is an “afterlife”?

How about all of humanity united in joint thought, sharing ideas and postulations at the speed of light? Or a future where our conceptual idea of “self” is more about science and reason and less about how to get home for “Dancing With the Stars”? We may someday even be able to see into the past and retrieve information about ourself and finally learn if Ginger and Mary Ann ever hooked-up one steamy night on Gilligan’s Island while rubbing the Professor’s coconut oil on their…(oops, sorry).

Future post-humans may even discover ways of retrieving that lost past information and sending it back to the future. And if that happens, it might then be possible to send the thoughts and even consciousness of long dead humans to the future as well. In essence, bringing them back from the dead.

Sure, this is just speculation, science fiction and made up bullshit with no footnotes. But only for now. Someday those footnotes *will* come, and the bullshit laid down here today will fertilize a tomorrow yet unimagined. If our future post-human overlords come to fruition, we actually may become the gods we have so long sought in the candle light of medieval churches and from the glow of prime-time TV.

Long live our post-human overlords!

More than 17,000 followers enjoy the musings of @Bauart, also known as Dallas-based graphic designer David R. Jennings.

Categories: Featured, News & Politics

Written by Bauart

David Jennings is Owner and Principal of the Bauart Creative Services Group. During his professional career David has achieved design and technical skills that span from television broadcasting to print and interactive design. His many creative roles have included video and film editor, TV director and producer, broadcast designer, TV/print and interactive art director, graphic designer, advertising consultant and even HTML and Flash developer. "David's wide range of creative, design and technical skills have positioned him as an expert in many diverse and now converging fields".

40 Responses so far.

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  1. Kalima says:

    My mother’s voice comes to me during my tribulations, explain that to me. It is a voice of strength which belies the reason and the disease that took her from me. She still guides me still, how can I talk about this without seeming nutty?

    • PatsyT says:

      Kalima, that doesn’t sound nutty to me at all.
      There must be many reasons for this and most we don’t know yet.
      You must have had a deep closeness to you mother.
      Can all of that just disappear?
      I often have the feeling when my girls are performing in a concert or play that somehow my mom and my husbands mom are both there in the room watching.
      They both got along quite nicely when they were still here.
      They were both so proud of the girls and I know how much they would enjoy any of these performances.
      Later, if we look at photos of the shows or recitals, you can see various small round light spots on the photos.
      Why don’t I see those spots on photos of the dogs?
      Both of gramdmas loved these girls so much, and both a bit annoyed by the dogs!
      Of course the grandpas loved the girls so much too it’s just that the gramdmas both had an extra special love of any kind of theater or music.

      • Kalima says:

        Yes Patsy, I’m sure they are watching. Love can’t die when we do, it is the universe, my love stays forever for everyone.

        If you love me too, can you fix my A/C please, I’m oh so hot!!!

  2. Questinia says:

    Some “scientists”like Ernest Laszlo believe that you can already communicate with the dead through the simple technology of a ham radio. Believing dead people are enscribed somewhere in space-time, they can be retrieved, or at least their voices can, droning on about how they choked to death on their all-you-can-eat breakfasts at Denny’s.

    When you consider the data being culled about Near Death and Out of Body Experiences, consciousness may be seen as already being able to exist outside of the brain.

    Spirit is already being visualized scientifically as quanta of energy, electrons and their spin as mind-pixels, photons, protons, neutrons and their corresponding anti-particles.

    The individual soul may be regarded as an organization in a quantum field or in a bundle of information or “truth” that describes that individual. The soul is the seat of consciousness, conscience and will. Perhaps it can get trapped in dimensions. Maybe it can pass up and down levels of entrapment by becoming trapped by the whatever exists at each level. In our case, our corporality. The higher it goes the closer it is to God. God may not be a white-haired man operating the machinery, but more the interconnected magic in the universe.

    Just sayin’

    • kesmarn says:

      I like what you said, Q.

      • Questinia says:

        Where is the boundary between life and death anyway?
        Is there even such a delineation?

        What we consider alive and dead may just be VISIBLE signs of a more profound process of the universe which permeates every aspect of our universe.

        Yes, I am a Quasar, kes. So are you. Not KQ, though. He is a Quark.

  3. Jenuwin says:

    Great Article Bauart! And Ad Lib, I’d welcome a transporter that beamed fat out of people! Onward with Technology!

    • Kalima says:

      If I were as beautiful as you, a transporter that beamed fat out of people would be the very last thing on my mind Jenuwin., or are we quibbling just years here. :)

  4. PatsyT says:

    David,

    Welcome to the Planet
    I very much enjoy this article in both style and content.

    especially this line

    I believe science holds the keys that will someday open the door to an afterlife.

    I have long thought that Science and Spirituality just have not met, yet.
    It’s as if they go to the same parties, shop in the same markets,
    but have never had a real face to face meeting.
    What is holding them up?
    They should get along quite well don’t you think?
    Have they seen one another across the room?
    They are both kinda hot.
    Have their eyes met?
    I can’t help thinking,
    they would be perfect for one another.
    Maybe eHarmony could help.
    Because they both seem a little lonely

    It seems as if Science is doing it’s part by being out there,
    curious, inquisitive, well educated and willing to try new things.
    You know, Ballroom dancing and Salsa dancing and maybe even cliff diving.
    Spirituality should be just as enthusiastic
    but you can’t just say you like hot air balloons,
    you have to be willing to try one.
    If you are going to act like a stuck up stick in the mud and a know it all,
    you are probably going to be alone.
    Come on Spirituality, you know you want the company.
    Oh and it would help if you would quit with the smoking,
    who wants to spend an eternity with that smell?

    You know that line…..
    “I’m not Religious but I’m Spiritual”
    Ugh…
    How about go ahead and be as Religious or Spiritual as you wish.
    Just don’t give up on that curiosity factor.
    Isn’t that what God would want?

  5. whatsthatsound says:

    There was a book that came out about 15 years ago that made a big splash and then sort of went away, so I’m danged if I can’t remember the title or author. Anyway, it was about this, and the premise went even further -- that all our notions about “God” will be realized through cybernetics, including being able to replicate every human life ever and through Mass Consensus mete out appropriate rewards and punishments.
    It was fascinating, and written by a well respected scientist, but it was, of course, crapola. No mention was made about how this Super Computer/God/Thingie would take care of animals. Would it reproduce all of them too? If not, how could the injustices THEY suffered ever be reconciled? And if they couldn’t, could one truly say that human atonement had taken place?

    This is the same disagreement I have with your article and premise, and with Star Trek, etc. It leaves out the animals. In Star Trek, no animals. In Star Wars, they are replaced by robots. In your article, no mention of them. They make up ninety nine point whatever percent of the life on this planet, and something like 99.9999999999999999999999 percent of the biomass, and articles and ideas like this have no place for them.

    You can keep your afterlife, thanks. It’s the dream of a technophile, and technophilia is, to me, nothing other than the encroachment of the left hemisphere of the brain over areas of human experience it can’t understand, so wishes to supplant.

    • Bauart says:

      Dear Whatsthatsound,

      You make a VERY good point.

      A representative of the Post-Human Overlords has recently sent word that no puppies, kitties, or other domesticated animals will be harmed during their epoch.

      They have assured us, in writing, that a vast host of cleaner-bots will be released across the planet, on a 100-year mission, to purge earth of the mess we human 1.0’s have created.

      All oil wells will be sealed, concrete, steel and other metals gathered cleaned and recycled, all plastics in the oceans and across the planet will be gathered and properly destroyed. Buildings, bridges, paper, fences, roadways, and all the other man-made clutter littering the earth, under the waters, in orbit, on the moon, the outer-planets, and everywhere else we have left debris, will be carefully gathered and recycled. Most usable raw materials will be archived in bulk storage for future needs.

      The basic plan is to clean-up our filthy mess and let all of nature, including the animals, have their planet back.

      About 5% of the earth’s surface will then be used for newly-constructed, solar-powered, self contained, 100% green, “Overlord Cities”. Also, it has been decided that a small percentage of that land area, about .025%, is to be set aside for a “nature preserve” to house a representative sample of the Human 1.0’s.

      The human preserve is tentatively title, “Holocene Park”.

  6. Khirad says:

    What a wonderful article.

    Welcome! You might just challenge AdLibs reign of wit!

    By the way, I was gonna do this in OT, but I was in Forks last week, and saw this just the other day in the hotel paper in Nevada.

    http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2010-06-24-forks-la-push-twilight-tourism_N.htm

  7. Kalima says:

    Welcome to the Planet Bauart.

    For me, for what it’s worth, this life has no meaning unless there is a possibility of a place where I can muse and reflect on decisions I have made during my time on earth. I believe that this place exists, it is a huge part of my still being here.

    Cheers.

    • Bauart says:

      Kalima,

      I SO understand. That special place does exist, the one I’ve found has happy hour from 5 to 7 on weekdays. On Thursdays, ladies drink for free!

      • Kalima says:

        😆 I’ll be there. I’m a lady or so I’ve been told. I’ll pay for my own drinks, heck, if I like you, I’ll pay for the whole bar.

        Cheers, you sound like fun.

  8. bitohistory says:

    Wonderful post Bauart, Enjoyed it completely and welcome to The Planet. I no longer think about being a deist, theist, Shaker, Quaker, or a friend of any society. There’s no money in it. Science will advance as quickly as money can be made. And if something goes wrong with any of the so-called advancements that you cite, so what! Man will worry about that when forced to or when there is a profit to be made. Where is the profit in fixing a mistake, especially if no one finds out until after a few years of astronomical profits.

    Really look forward to you future writings, you are a welcome addition, Dave ❗

    Goodness, you are all over the tubes
    http://www.cosmicmartini.com/

  9. choicelady says:

    Hi Bauart/David! Welcome to the Planet where wit is highly prized.

    As the resident “Churchlady” in the group -- but one who deeply questions the existence of a Big Guy who always smacks of a cranky Santa: making a list, checking it twice -- but not sure you can dismiss some Other, I am deeply engaged with your take on it all. I think even atheists harbor some hope that there is “more”, however that may be conceived. It is precisely our profound commitment to our own existence that makes me pretty sure we create God in OUR image, not the other way ’round.

    I’m not sure I care about an afterlife, but I know I’d like to live a long time because I’m always eager to see “what’s around the next bend”. That’s even knowing that “may you live in interesting times” is a Chinese curse and NOT a prophetic wish for your happiness. But I want to know what’s possible, what the grand human mind and collective human endeavor can bring about. What’s out there I don’t yet know, what ideas have not been shared or possibly even thought up. What beauty lies around that curve ahead -- as along the Columbia River absolute beauty unfolds with majesty as you round the curves. Is there more? Is it cool? May I share it?

    After death, I’m not so concerned. Oddly I want it for others, but I have been longing for a decent nap, so…for myself, not so much. I’d still probably have to freaking clean something. Or clean UP something.

    We all have our longings. Whether they are fear based or hope based, we want something to validate why we’re here. I know lately I’ve been feeling that I’ve had a good life, well lived. Immortality is not important, and afterlife not interesting. But I am happy with the course of the Now. And tomorrow -- another adventure, another great discussion, another contact with real people with great values. Another thing that makes me laugh out loud. That’s enough.

    Good luck with your quest. We all will be waiting for your insights!

  10. AdLib says:

    A brilliant and witty article! Again, a warm welcome to The Planet!

    A civilization that can make a sandwich out of two pieces of fried chicken, bacon and cheese is a civilization that can do anything…as long as cholesterol is involved.

    There is a comical kind of disappointment when it comes to modern science and the application of our opposable thumbs, and not just because we use these products of thousands of years of evolution to play Mario Kart on Wii.

    I too aspire to the future Star Trek represented. However, the consumer application of science seems to be overwhelming the transformative aspects it could provide.

    For example, if a transporter was invented, its most popular use might be high tech liposuction, beaming fat out of people. That might actually be cool but knowing industry, all that fat would probably end up getting beamed into the Gulf of Mexico…where it could be pumped and refined for frying food and returning into our bodies. Ah, the circle of life.

    Tricorders would likely be used to post naked videos of strangers on YouTube.

    Holodecks would revolutionize prostitution, forcing prostitutes to seek some other line of work where their experience was helpful, such as running for the Senate in Louisiana.

    Warp speed would be a waste especially during rush hour but it would thankfully hasten the conclusion of NASCAR races.

    Time travel would be used for a reality prank show, Ashton Kutcher would go back to various times to tease cavemen with Geico commercials and taunt Hitler that many years after he’s dead, he’ll often be compared to a black president of the United States.

    I’m not pessimistic about the future but the commercialization of science makes me think that it will be far more likely that science will provide us with Phaser Hair Removal long before it takes us to other galaxies.

  11. dildenusa says:

    Hi! Excellent post. You’re maybe the 5th or 6th real person I know from Texas. Have you heard the joke about Texas? When is the best time of the year to visit Texas? The time when you see it in your rear view mirror. Actually I’ve been all over Texas. I’ve even been to Dumas. There is a restaurant south of Dallas on I-35 or I-45, I don’t remember, I think I was returning from Waco. But anyway this place has the best barbecued brisket in the world.

    So does the Anthropic principle account for an afterlife? Does Shrodinger’s cat have an afterlife? Of course if Shrodinger hadn’t worked out the math for quantum mechanics someone else would have. But would that someone else have a pet cat?

    • Bauart says:

      I’ve always found the Anthropic principal a bit meaningless. To say, “I exist, therefore there is a god”. Is just a straw man statement that leads to nothing.

      It’s pointless to say, “We can only exist in this exact universe, at this exact time, only if the laws of physics are tuned exactly the way they are”. My answer is, “Well yeah of course… so what?” We evolved in this particular universe tuned the way it is.

      The religious view of the anthropic argument just places humanity at the center and assumes it was all made *for* us… it was not. If the laws of physics were different, and our type of carbon based life was not possible, then another creature in a different universe *might* be possible and could use the same misguided logic for himself… and so on across the theoretical multiverse.

      So to your question, “Does the Anthropic principle account for an afterlife?” I think it is just mute on the point. If an afterlife does exist, then the answer is yes.

      My article basically says that who and what we are is, in the end, just information. And that information exists for those both living and dead. I was just hypothesizing that perhaps, somehow, someday, there will be a scientific way to retrieve information from the past. If so, then an afterlife for all living creatures becomes possible.

      Regarding Shrodinger’s cat… I suppose he has no need of an afterlife because he is both dead AND alive. (At least until someone opens his box). :-)

      • dildenusa says:

        Hi Bauart! The Anthropic Principle puts all sentient beings at the center. And not just here on Earth but anywhere that life may have evolved in our observable univerese no mattter how that life may have evolved. Whether that life is based on DNA or some other molecule capable of self replication. When Darwin published The Origin of Species, the religious fundies countered by saying “it’s unprovable by the scientific method.” Experimentation has now shown Darwin was correct. The same thing is being said about the the megaverse. I believe that in my lifetime experiments will be done showing the theory of the megaverse to be correct.

        A very good read is “The Black Hole Wars” by Leonard Susskind.

  12. kesmarn says:

    What a great introductory post, David! And welcome to the Planet. I love the combination of speculative science and whimsy in your article. You sure you’re not genetically connected to Gene Roddenbury?

    I’m a theist myself, but I also think there’s a reason the Big Guy in the New Testaments said: “All these things and greater you shall do.”

    Off to work today for this pre-post human, but I hope to be able to comment further a bit later on.

    Thanks for a most thought-provoking article… and a fun-to-read one, too!


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