Think about this for a moment: If the human mind does not loom large in the coming history of the human race, then what is to become of us? The future is bound to be psychedelic, because the future belongs to the mind. We are just beginning to push the buttons on the mind. Once we take a serious engineering approach to this, we are going to discover the plasticity, the mutability, the eternal nature of the mind and, I believe, release it from the monkey. My vision of the final human future is an effort to exteriorize the soul and internalize the body, so that the exterior soul will exist as a superconducting lens of translinguistic matter generated out of the body of each of us at a critical juncture at our psychedelic bar mitzvah. From that point on, we will be eternal somewhere in the solid-state matrix of the translinguistic lens we have become. One's body image will exist as a holographic wave transform while one is at play in the fields of the lord and living in Elysium.
- Terence McKenna - _Tryptamine Hallucinogens And Consciousness_
The Big Picture
By Danny Hillis
Let's put all this hype about change and transformation in perspective. It's underhyped. A few billion years ago, the Earth was a big, sterile rock covered with puddles of chemical soup. Gradually, little drops of oil - random chemical combinations - formed in these puddles, and some happened to absorb nutrients from the outside, causing them to grow. They eventually split into smaller drops of roughly the same composition. The "cells" that did a better job of attracting chemicals and dividing survived and split into future generations. These cells evolved an information processing mechanism, a way of recording for posterity their recipes for success. The mechanism they evolved - the genetic code of DNA - is still in use today. With DNA came an evolutionary advantage: knowledge, as genetic recipes, could accumulate from generation to generation. As cells became more sophisticated, they started to communicate, exchanging chemical messages. Synergistic communities developed that survived or failed together; if the community was successful, all the individuals were favored by evolution. This step took another billion years - bringing life to the stage of multicellular communities, in which cells are no longer out for themselves: digestive cells depend on skin and muscle cells, and vice versa. These communities became so close that they collaborated in writing the whole recipe of the community on one string of DNA. The most interesting evolution shifted from the cellular level to the community level. Next, these communities of cells, these organisms, began to abstract information and build special structures - neural structures - that did nothing but process information within the community. After communities of cells built up a data processing apparatus (the neuron), they developed structures for sensing, recording, and understanding information - eyes, ears, and brains. With neurons, learning happened within the time span of a single organism. An organism could learn not to eat a fruit that repeatedly made it sick. Lessons no longer had to be absorbed through evolution, through the diminished fitness of millions of individuals over many millennia. Then these learning individuals started working out the quirks of communicating with each other. The most sophisticated version is human language, whereby complex ideas in one brain generate ideas in another. This lets us function as a community, and in some sense as a single organism. And so we - humanity - have repeated the process of connection, communication, and construction of specialized structures to process our communal information. We're replicating the levels of chemicals and multicellular organisms, abstracting out our methods of sensing, recording, and understanding information. Language was only the first step. Telephony, computers, and CD-ROMs are all specialized mechanisms
we've built to bind us together. Now evolution takes place in microseconds. The first steps in the story of evolution took a billion years. The next step - nervous systems and brains - took a few hundred million years. The next steps, including the development of language, took less than a million years. And the most recent steps seem to be taking only a few decades. The process is feeding on itself and becoming autocatalytic. And now we are beginning to depend on computers to help us evolve new computers that let us produce things of much greater complexity. Yet we don't quite understand the process - it's getting ahead of us. We're now using programs to make much faster computers so the process can run much faster. That's what's so confusing - technologies are feeding back on themselves; we're taking off. We're at that point analogous to when single-celled organisms were turning into multicelled organisms. We are amoebas and we can't figure out what the hell this thing is that we're creating. I cannot believe that we are at the end of this story - we are not evolution's ultimate product. There's something coming after us, and I imagine it is something wonderful. But we may never be able to comprehend it, any more than a caterpillar can comprehend turning into a butterfly.
"How human beings change themselves through technology, ideology, identity, sex, drugs, media and - of course - genital piercing. From cyborgization to memetics - from the spread of diseases to medical technology - from artificial life to extropian concerns like Nanotechnology, biotechnology, longevity, intelligence drugs, and space exploration - from transgenderism to neo-dadaism, MUTATE!"
film _2001: A Space Odyssey_ DVD directed by Stanley Kubrick
The underlying meanings of the entire "Jupiter
and Beyond the Infinite"
sequence relies heavily on our ideas of divinity and evolution.
Dave represents the "modern" man, as a highly proficient scientist, an
astronaut and adventurer, he is the ideal man in our day and age. Yet he
is totally unprepared for what he faces in the Monolith.
Thematically it's representative of both our fear of being alone (e.g.
the only race in the galaxy, the only real conscious being in the universe,
etc.) and ironically also of our fear of not being alone (of an incredibly
higher form of intelligence to which we are nothing more than an experiment).
Both of these ideas are portrayed in this sequence.
By linking Dave to the intelligence of the Monolith (as the Starchild) it becomes possible to imagine the Monolith as created by humans at a higher level of evolution than we humans are currently at; in this way, we could conceivably have engineered our own evolution.
Visually the film presents the otherworldly quality of outer space and links that to the idea of divinity and of a greater, almost omnipotent intelligence. The planets sitting quietly against their plains of stars are invaded by both the Monolith and the human starship in our quest to achieve higher and higher states. In a way it symbolically represents the destructive and creative aspects of this urge to push on always higher, more more more.
Dave is growing older, as if his body has out-lived its usefulness. This is exactly what is happening, for he has reached the limits of his Humanity. He is about to take the final step, the last transformation.
The shriveled figure on the bed lifts his arm. It is as though he is reaching out to touch something. We are shocked to see that he is repeating the gesture that has happened twice before in the film -- for suddenly, in the room at the foot of his bed, the Monolith has appeared once again...
...finally, as the ebon block stands a silent guard, the transformation is complete. On the bed there is a glowing, childlike figure. Dave Bowman has ceased to exist, but he has not died: The Star Child has been born.
Transhumanist Resources - Anders Sandberg
Transhumanism and Extropy at Future Multiplex, Kheper