|Detail of Another World - M.C. Escher - woodcut - 1947|
Thursday, June 24, 2004
"My own reactions to the "afterlife" debate have changed significantly over the years. While I've always been agnostic, I've been generally inclined to view death as final and all-encompassing. For example, I was angry at Timothy Leary* when he opted not to have his brain cryonically preserved; I interpreted his sentiment that death was "the ultimate trip" as so much pseudo-religious bullshit.
My viewpoint is more flexible now. Perhaps it's possible for some form of consciousness to survive biological death. At this point it wouldn't surprise me. I suspect that aliens, if they're here, have probably refined consciousness into an actual technology -- and that we may be getting closer to the point where communication with the dead (assuming it's possible) is removed from the realm of wishful thinking."
-Mac Tonnies, via this PHB post
Thursday, September 23, 2004
"Maybe it's a yin-yang sort of thing. Life and death; the solace of the inanimate waging perpetual war against the sense of individuality and purpose (however ill-defined) taking place inside our skulls -- and, just possibly, elsewhere.
Like Shirley, I've wanted to cash it in. At times there's an almost palpable drop in what can only be called "life energy" -- a sort of subjective energy-level maintained by the subconscious. Think of it as one of those little glowing meters that accompany characters in video games. You take so many bullets, or lasers, or punches to the face, and the meter drops to zero and you "die."
To Freud, the psyche was ruled by the immutable laws of Sex. I suspect the mind cares less about actual sex than it does the perpetuation of DNA. Superficially, of course, they're one and the same, but the ensured output of viable genetic material is far more abstract and depersonalized. It's as if we share our bodies with mechanistic genies with their own purely selfish agendas -- and when our own agendas begin to conflict with the deoxyribonucleic overmind, our "life meters" start to plunge -- maybe just a little bit, enough to produce a bit of existential unease -- or maybe a considerable fraction all at once, like blowing a tire.
It's then that the genetic overmind plants its roots in the fertile soil that once housed your volition and identity. You become a husk, loping android-like from once task to another until effectively lobotomized. As G.I. Gurdjieff stressed, we are literal machines. And although he didn't specifically invoke biochemistry, he may as well have harped on Richard Dawkins' inspired notion of the "selfish gene," had the idea existed in his time.
The irony is that a being constructed (and in certain critical respects defined) by genes bent on self-preservation can be lured to (or actually programmed for) self-destruction. I wonder if other planetary ecologies have produced intelligent creatures to whom suicide is a physiological impossibility; such creatures may exist among us in coming decades, and we will know them as robots.
Maybe that's the answer. Perhaps we are larvae, subject to incurable neuroses that will cease to exist only when we ourselves cease to exist, supplanted by something new, and -- in strictly Darwinian terms, if nothing else -- fundamentally better. Maybe Shirley's "winnowing" -- seemingly psychotic from our narrow vantage on the evolutionary bridge -- is an essential instrument in the betterment of our species, or at least a lens through which to glimpse where we're headed."
- Mac Tonnies, via this PHB post
* Note: Cory Doctorow just posted this interesting link featuring correspondence between Timothy Leary and Carl Sagan.... via this Boing Boing post.
Now on Trans D... Remembering Mac III: One Day With Mr. Tone