Gregory Scott Paul (1954 – ) is a freelance researcher, author and illustrator who works in paleontology, sociology and theology. Earl D. Cox is the founder of Metus Systems Group and an independent researcher. Their book, Beyond Humanity: Cyberevolution and Future Minds, is an assault on the mindset of those who oppose their view of scientific progress.
Paul and Cox argue that the universe, as well as all life and mind within it, have evolved over time from the bottom up. However, genes now have little to do with our evolution—science and technology move the accelerating rate of evolution. In the course of that evolution a general pattern emerges—more change in less time. While it took nature a long time to produce a bio-brain, technology will produce a cyber-brain much faster.
Despite its promises people are ambivalent about science and technology (SciTech). They believe it will improve their lives, yet it has contributed to the death of millions. Its success has, in some sense, backfired. To be completely accepted SciTech must solve the problems of suffering and death which inevitably leads to questions about human nature. When taking a good look at human nature, the authors conclude that there is good news—we have brains that produce self-aware, conscious thought which is itself connected with wonderful auditory and visual systems. However, our bodies need sleep, demand exercise, lust for fatty foods, and have limited mobility and strength.
The bad news continues if we consider the limited memories and storage capacity of our brain. We upload information slowly; often cannot control our underdeveloped emotions; are easily conditioned by all sorts of irrationalities as children; have difficulty unlearning old falsehoods as adults; don’t know how our brains work; often cannot change unwanted behavioral patterns; and brain chemicals control our moods—suggesting that we are much less free than we admit. Moreover, when individual minds join they are particularly destructive, often killing each other at astonishing rates. We are also vulnerable to: brainwashing, pain, sun, insects, viruses, trauma, broken bones, disease, infection, organ failure, paralysis, miniscule DNA glitches, cancer, depression, and psychosis. We degrade and suffer pain as we age, and we die without a backup system since evolution perpetuates our DNA not our minds. On the whole, this is not a pretty picture.
Disease and aging can be thought of as a war which matches our brains and computers versus the RNA and DNA computers of microbes and diseased cells. What is the best way to win this war? Regeneration from our DNA would only regenerate the body—the mind would still have died—so it is not a wholly promising approach. The way around this limitation is to have a nanocomputer within your brain that receives downloads from your conscious mind. If the mind storage unit receives continuous downloads you can always be brought back after death—you would be immortal. But why stop there? Why not just make an indestructible cyber-body and cyber-brain? Why not become immortal cyber-beings?
This all leads to questions about us becoming gods. The authors argue that the existence of gods is a science and engineering project—we can create minds as powerful as those of our imaginary gods with sufficient technology. Of course supernaturalism opposes this project, but SciTech will win the struggle, just as it has historically dismantled other supernatural superstitions one by one. Science will defeat supernaturalism by explaining it, by providing in reality what religions supply only in the imagination. When science conquers death and suffering, religion will die; religions fundamental reason for being—comforting our fear of death—will become irrelevant. As for the custodians of religion, the theologians, the authors issue a stern warning:
Theologians are like a group of Homo erectus huddling around a fire, arguing over who should mate with whom, and which clan should live in the green valley, while paying no mind to the mind-boggling implications of the first Homo sapiens … Theologians of the world … the affairs you devote so much attention to are in danger of having as much meaning as the sacrifices offered to Athena … science and technology may be about to deliver … minds [that] will no longer be weak and vulnerable to suffering, and they will never die out. The gods will soon be dead, but they will be replaced with real minds that will assume the power of gods, gods that may take over the universe and even make new universes. It will be the final and greatest triumph of science and technology over superstition.[i]
Summary – We should proceed beyond humanity, overcoming the religious impulses which are the last vestige of superstition.
[i] Gregory Paul and Earl Cox, Beyond Humanity: CyberEvolution and Future Minds (Rockland, MA.: Charles River Media, 1996), 415.