Fitting for this site, let’s talk about belief – my belief.
At times, I am convinced there is a will of the universe. Call it a type of fatalism. I believe when people talk of God, they are in fact talking about this will by thinking of it as a person, although I can’t believe the will could come from a supernatural “person”. It is too impersonal, too stretched across vast lengths of time.
I didn’t arrive at the view there is a will of the universe by reading religious texts but by reading futurist texts, from major commentators in science and technology, as well as the works of historians. History and civilization conform to a design. Events transpire in such a way that show something wants humans to survive, wills it, or at least has done so up until this point in time. This is why humans have not annihilated themselves with their nuclear weapons, however close they have come and however reckless they have proven themselves at other junctures in history. When new technologies are developed, I reject arguments that they should be approached with caution. They should be embraced as part of this design.
From one standpoint, it is silly to talk of a will to impersonal events. This type of talk should be exorcised more carefully from the disciplines of history and science. Teleology (the idea that objects in nature have a purpose rather than simply exist) is a type of reasoning that lies discredited, and scientists still struggle to remove fragments of teleological statements from their works with great difficulty, continuing to speak of purpose behind life and cosmology where they in fact will testify that no such purpose exists. In my belief, their hatred of teleology is too severe.
According to a strict scientific view of the world (a view that is a great ally to those who make great strides in physical sciences), everything is in fact just a fog of particles. Scientific naturalists like Richard Dawkins don’t merely assert that the “personal god” of Christianity doesn’t exist. They assert that no “person” can exist at all, based on a religious person’s definition of “person”. People aren’t really people at all – these are your illusions when you see the same jumble of particles again. Similarly, the universe has not a will, but exists. “Shit happens” has been one expression to demonstrate that view.
According to a more fundamentally social account of the universe rather than a natural one, people are people, and the universe has a will. Talking of the will of the universe is helpful. The belief in progress, the design of history, the design of the future, is not as pointless as it might seem. It is an assurance that your life and death are not in vain. Something good does come of it all, and only a glimpse into history will prove that to be true.
I’d like to draw your attention to my full review of Visions of the Future, published to h+ Magazine on 31 March 2016.
My review of Prospects for Human Survival, also a Lifeboat Foundation book I got a review copy of from the think tank itself, will appear at The clubof.info Blog on Tuesday 5 April (I hope). Of course, I’m somewhat more critical of Prospects than I am of Visions, just because I really don’t like to be a personality who addresses the politics of “existential risk” of the kind the Lifeboat Foundation was established to look at scientifically. Visions of the Future is more about visions of a sustainable, friendlier future, of the kind I prefer to focus on.
I also avoid the fiction stories cataloged in Visions because my fiction career is basically at an end. A person gets to be the expert at one thing in life, and I had my try at fiction. I don’t say I am bad at fiction. I must be okay, as my readers tend to say they enjoy my stories. I give them away for free when I can, and they can be downloaded for almost nothing at Amazon if you care.
It is just that from a business perspective, I probably made less than £50.00 in profit from all the hours I ever put into writing indie science fiction. I just never had the salesmen or billboards behind me to help sell my fiction, and I realized it is more rewarding to promote others than myself. Maybe this blog can be a billboard for someone else, such as the authors of this Lifeboat Foundation book (or such as Zoltan Istvan, as it is with this post).
Yes, I certainly like to review other people’s works and reward the hours they put into their writing. It is something I will do more of, in time. I want to focus, however, on nonfiction that really draws my attention and aligns with my own writing and interests. At this point in time, I probably read ten nonfiction books for every fiction book I read, if I read any of the latter at all these days.
When understanding things to come, one must first master the past.
Will you make history? Maybe history is just too big, too impersonal, too unwieldy, to be made by you at all. Rather, history has made you.
In my view, the landscape of history is like a mountain. Although the origins of life and humanity are disparate, geographically scattered, filled with conflict, pain, confusion, wandering, and purposelessness, it is for a pinnacle of perfection and purpose that history has refined us all. If one is to understand the nature of that summit awaiting us, one must comprehend the past.
For example, is the world shaped by great individuals? Or by nameless, vast impersonal forces and conditions affecting the world? Or to ask the question differently, will you make history, or will history make you?
I believe in the latter. Pressures of technology, culture, economics and society give rise to world events. Our insignificant personal wills count for very little. It is only by rallying behind those vast impersonal forces that one can ever be the “victor”, at least in the sensational ways history is written. If this is consistently true of the past, it holds that it must also be true of the future.
Along with all my readings of futurist books and works by experts in fields of emerging technologies, I have read books that look at the vast influences shaping history. They add an interesting perspective, one about the demise of the current profit-driven social system spanning the globe. I didn’t just read these, however. I published my reviews of these books, so everyone can see and challenge the interpretations I made. Ask me “will you make history?” and I will only say that I will author my small part of it, but I will be satisfied with the rest no matter how it turns out.
A borderless world, a human nation, a global patria*, a world government.
These terms will attract you either fervent supporters or legions of enemies, but they are part of the steamroller of history. There is an inevitability to them.
Zoltan Istvan predicts, in an essay I recently reviewed, that non-invasive “brainwave headsets” could allow people to communicate meanings by thought, forming a new kind of dialogue crossing all language barriers. Today, the closest thing to this is the translation apps and services used via our phones and our computers.
While privacy proponents, usually counting me among them, would see the idea of brainwave headsets as threatening and a potential aid to tyranny, I make an exception here. The only reason surveillance is bad is that it is myopic, tied to narrow national security thinking. A technology that destroy barriers and dissolves states would change society so dramatically for the better, creating the global human patria history has driven us towards, that the menace of surveillance would subside with such change in itself.
The Abrahamic religious texts, most notably the Bible’s Book of Genesis, state that humans were once a common community with a common language. God, namely the intellect behind the course of the universe and history, is reported to have subverted this common language in punishment of the insulting act of trying to reach heaven using the physical means of the Tower of Babel. The immense tower had been possible by all humanity cooperating, so God divided humans to end this work.
Science would concur that humans sprang from the same ancestral, common community. Historical forces explain why different languages exist, rather than the work of God. Even the most devout know languages evolved over time and all eventually die out. The very need to translate the Bible from ancient languages and create multiple versions is proof enough for them that English didn’t always exist, therefore the Tower story of why different languages exist must be metaphor.
If one accepts that God’s will simply refers to the will of history, as it does in the parables in Genesis – and God’s will has no end in mind except what you see before you, then God wants humans to return to a common language or at least a common understanding. If God had a hand in creating the world religions, this is even more evidence of a will to unify the human nation, as each world religion set about trying to unite the world spiritually.
* Patria refers to a homeland where you enjoy your maximum available rights and liberties