Danged Asteroid Ruined our Picnic: Let's Us Start a War Somewheres
I've been intrigued for decades with the way that discontinuities might influence us in subtle - or not so subtle - ways. Most of us ignore the fact that catastrophes happen. We are shielded from death up close and personal. We buy our big screens and SUVs while the future of life on the planet - including all the people we love and their kids and their kids, etc. - is in the balance, and a billion or so of us are on the brink of starvation while we who have a choice, choose to bloat our bodies, regardless of the ultimate cost. I wonder what kind of internal calculus allows us to swim in such a sea of neurotic needs, and what toll the disconnect has on our general mental processing.
Let's say that we knew for a fact that the end of our species was coming soon... How would we integrate that fact into our consciousness and values?
Suppose that you could clone yourself, perhaps not literally, but via uploading your brain into another medium, such as perhaps some kind of carbon matrix as seems to be currently a field of rich possibilities (google carbon nano Kurzweilai). Or, if you don't find that plausible, let's say that you're a gamer and your avatar just keeps getting smarter and more and more like you, just better. It knows your philosophy, your weaknesses, your tastes and it keeps refining a model of your mind so that first the trivial, then the routine and finally the fundamental deep thoughts that you would have probably thought are showing up several steps ahead of you, saving you the time and effort until finally there isn't anything left for you to do... So what good are you to yourself if you can no longer do anything meaningful? And, of course, there's no good reason why the original gaming avatar can't move into the real world in an android body - or whatever it wants. (see Doug Rushkoff's "Present Shock.")
Of course, you could have many avatars, as many as you could afford to support, and at some point you will run out of resources. The sun only generates just so much energy. Maybe we could improve on nature - jack the sun into a new mode that is better than the default, but there are still probably physical limitations that can't be surmounted, such as the speed of light. If there were a way around the speed of light, then the Fermi Paradox gets you... "Where is everybody?"
So, if there's "you" and then there are all these other "you's," each reflecting "you" the original - some better, perhaps some worse - then when it's time for budget cuts, who of "you" gets the ax? Would physical "you" choose your body-self to live while your near clone see's all the wonderful transcendant dreams of the future switched off and overwritten - just to preserve the existence of a bunch of meat?
We live surrounded mentally, like a psychic castle under siege, by all the existential questions that our earliest sentient ancestors no doubt prototyped, only in more detail and more provable, rather than mere speculation before sleep. The meta-issue, however, that I am trying to get into focus is how our mind handles scalability. How do we transition from eating dinner and washing the dishes to writing a blog on "What is Important?"?
I used to think it was possible and practical to live a perfectly rational life, in which every level of information, abstraction and the corresponding evaluations and emotions was integrated into a single weltanschauung... That's not quite the word I want, but you get the gist. Everything in it's proper mental place. Then I discovered that most processing is unconscious or subconscious, that we send out mental test probes, what if's, that we assign implicit value weights to various outcomes and that we don't generally follow a Euclidian absolutist trajectory in our decisions as to what is real. What is of no consequence we ignore and focus instead upon that which is. So, our decisions as to what to consider are not reduceable to a logical thread of deductions, but rather from complexly weighted scenarios.
If you do happen to think that you are perfectly rational, then I would ask you to examine where your next thought came from. Was there a starting point? Where did that come from? It wasn't from prior thought, because we already stipulated that it is the starting point.
This is all just setting the stage, BTW.