“The ecological crisis may be the result of a recent and collective perceptual disorder in our species, a unique form of myopia which it now forces us to correct. ”
- David Abram
Futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil “predicts that in the 2030s, human brains will be able to connect to the cloud, allowing us to send emails and photos directly to the brain and to back up our thoughts and memories. This will be possible, he says, via nanobots — tiny robots from DNA strands — swimming around in the capillaries of our brain. He sees the extension of our brain into predominantly nonbiological thinking as the next step in the evolution of humans — just as learning to use tools was for our ancestors.” 1
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It’s fascinating to consider the implications implicit in Kurzweil’s confidence about the efficacy of “nonbiological thinking.” It would seem that we humans have already been practicing nonbiological thinking for centuries, with admittedly mixed results. Our faith in technology at the expense of personal and collective disconnection from nature and the wisdom operative in her synergistic harmony has proven to be fundamentally disruptive. This makes it easy to identify a risk. Could what Kurzweil is proposing produce more of the same results, and worse? Or, is he really onto something important?
“In The Voice of the Earth, Theodore Roszak presents a provocative theory that the roots of our collective misbehavior can be found in the historic and conceptual split between “in-here” and “out-there.” This dichotomy manifests as the large and despairing gap we feel between ourselves and nonhuman nature.” 2
The psychological assumption of “maturation is individuation” which prescribes this separation may be due for a healthy challenge. What about our concepts of self as separate from nature? What about this gap between in-here and out-there? Would increasing separation improve the human condition, given that it’s accomplished exactly the opposite so far?
Kurzweil expands on his vision: “People will be able to very deeply explore some particular type of music in far greater degree than we can today. It’ll lead to far greater individuality, not less.” 3 That’s a fascinating possibility. And, I wonder, what kind of exploration? I’m hopeful that this would include increased emotional experience, for instance. Isn’t that what music, just to name one field of potentially deepened experience, is all about?
Perhaps a truly deepening experience that includes an expansion of the “heart-field” could coax us into an expanded sense of self, one that is connected, not disconnected, from each other and life forms of all kinds.
Past President of Earth Island Institute, Carl Anthony, wrote, “People who believe, as I do, that the ecological threat is real, believe we have to construct a self capable of harboring the voices of many different people and cultures, not just so–called white people. This is what I mean by a genuinely multicultural self. The truth of the matter is: we have an official story about who we are as a people, who is really important, who’s in the mainstream and who isn’t. This story is like refined sugar. It’s not a real story about real people. It’s been packaged and processed beyond recognition. I don’t believe it includes stories of most people in this country; but in particular history is deficient for dealing with the reality of people of color.” 4
The very notion of “people of color,” exposes our fragmented thinking. When I think of God, the primary quality that arises in my awareness relates to oneness, not separation. Racism takes many forms and targets many distinctions but it always sits on a conceptual throne of exceptionalism. Thus, the conceptual separation between God and humans reflects as separation between types of humans. There seems to be little reason to champion a remedy that increases separation by propelling humans on a course of duplication and replacement. Who needs God… who needs to merge with God, if we can be that on our own?
Kurzweil believes that being connected to computers will make us more human, more unique and even godlike.
“Evolution creates structures and patterns that over time are more complicated, more knowledgeable, more creative, more capable of expressing higher sentiments, like being loving,” he said. “It’s moving in the direction of qualities that God is described as having without limit.” 5
My own list of God-like qualities starts with oneness, not as a provocative (or banal) theory but as a vivid experience. I consider the possible future merging of biology and technology as the evolutionary progression of consciousness itself, based on its primary intention to evermore fully be itself… to be whole. The measurement is expanding developmental self-awareness, which means that this illusion of separation will dissolve, via an ongoing selection process. Biology has been dominantly egocentric but, combined with technology, can evolve into a trans-egocentric state and further actualize wholeness as oneness.
This would also succeed in shifting human experience - which has been habitually polarized in negativity dominance - towards the positive, which would realign our emotional expression from fear to love. Humanity 2.0 would be more inclusive than exclusive, and this would certainly include a deepening connection with the natural world as well as the whole of cosmic consciousness.
Kurzweil continues, “So as we evolve, we become closer to God. Evolution is a spiritual process. There is beauty and love and creativity and intelligence in the world — it all comes from the neocortex. So we’re going to expand the brain’s neocortex and become more God-like.” 6
I don’t believe he is suggesting that the human brain is God; he’s seeking to explain how we experience God, and certainly the human brain is involved. So far, given what we have created in what we might call our “semi-God-like state,” it’s clear that a brighter future will require something different than more of the same. As grand as our accomplishments have been as we evolve towards increased oneness with God, or Source, or whatever you choose to call it, perhaps the key to unlock a treasure house of solutions as yet undreamt of has a one word description on it: humility.
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2. The Skill of Ecological Perception, Laura Sewall, from Ecopsychology, page 202
4. Ecopsychology and the Deconstruction of Whiteness, by Carl Anthony from Ecopsychology, page 265