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PrayToTheOmegaPoint

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plomlompom-Vortrag auf der SIGINT 2012 am 2012-05-18. Programm-Link. Video-Aufzeichnung.

Titel: Pray to the Omega Point
Untertitel: Religious ideas and techno-futurism. The Rapture for nerds, Teilhard de Chardin's "Noosphere" and Frank Tipler's "Omega Point Theory".

KurzZusammenfassung: A look at the resonance between certain religious and techno-futuristic concepts, with a strong focus on Teilhard de Chardin as a favorite of cyber-utopians and a sort of proto-Singularitarian, and on Frank Tipler's Omega Point Theory which sees God and Heaven as the result of the universe developing into one huge super computer.

Abstract:

Many techno-futuristic ideas of recent decades and years look a bit (or a lot) like religious concepts: the often postulated emergence of a global internet consciousness may sound rather esoteric; immortality by "mind upload" seems to recreate the promise of the soul's immortality; the prophecies of rapid world-shattering technological disruption labeled "Singularitarianism" (as promoted by authors such as Ray Kurzweil) have been called "the Rapture for nerds".

To technophiles who consider their visions to be grounded in materialistic science, modernity and rationality, this may a bit of an embarassment. Do such similarities uncover deep roots of irrationality, wishful or teleological thinking? Do they disqualify every concept they hit? Or might they actually elavate comparable religious ideas from "mystical nonsense" to "valid metaphor for what might be possible"?

In this talk, I want to at least scratch on the surface of such questions; with a short overview of the (alleged or real) religious nature of concepts like the above, but mostly with a focus on two authors with a very explicit religious context, but also a strong techno-futuristic appeal: Teilhard de Chardin and Frank J. Tipler.

Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a Jesuit priest, but also a paleontologist and philosopher on the Theory of Evolution. He tried to fit the latter into a Christian framework -- and thereby developed a teleology of the Universe as encouraging the development of ever higher life and intelligence, with current Man not as its end but only as an axis towards further progress. His language and ideas appeal strongly to modern-day Singularitarians and cyber-utopians; "Wired" credits him with "set[ting] down the philosophical framework for planetary, Net-based consciousness". He coined terms like "noosphere" -- an emerging web of cultural and technological intelligence covering the planet like a growing brain, and occasionally used as an utopian metaphor for the internet.

Another term coined by Chardin is "the Omega Point" -- the divine endpoint of such a development. In more recent years, it has been adopted by physicist Frank J. Tipler (* 1947), whose cosmology bends theories of physics to enable optimistic and openly theological prophecies about the further development of the universe. In his "Omega Point Theory", the universe may not be created by God, but is set up to progress in a direction that will lead to His birth -- with the help of technological civilization. In the coming millions of years, intelligent life will, according to this view, be driven to turn ever greater parts of space into a cosmic super computer that will finally develop all faculties ascribed in Christian theology to God -- including the resurrection of the dead in a blissful, immortal afterlife, that is, the computer re-simulation of every higher intelligence that ever lived up to that point.

In his primary text "The Phenomenon of Man", Teilhard tries hard to differentiate his Christian beliefs from his cosmological theory, which he deems scientific on its own. Tipler, on the other hand, in his book "The Physics of Immortality" openly admits his interest in connecting theology and science. Both endeavors produce questionable results -- but they're worth a look to see how ideas of teleology, spiritualism and divinity can resonate and converse with ideas of evolution, materialism and technological human self-empowerment.

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