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Excerpts from Nick Bostrum's "Letter from Utopia"

Date: 3-Jan-2009/0:23+3:00

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Note Nick Bostrom is an interesting futurist thinker who is best known on the internet for his "Simulation Argument", which is sort of an analog to things that I have said. While browsing his website I found a Letter from Utopia, in which he puts himself in the persona of a posthuman being trying to explain what it's like. I suggest reading it, but I picked a few quotes out that I found interesting...which I have tagged with "guest" and "essay" although that by no means implies Dr. Bostrum's approval of this blog or its content.

How can I tell you about Utopia and not leave you nonplussed? What words could convey the wonder? What inflections express our happiness? What points overcome your skepticism? My pen, I fear, is as unequal to the task as if I had tried to use it against a charging elephant."
But the goal of understanding is so important that that we must try even against long odds. Maybe you will see through the inadequacies of my exposition."

We do so easily forget how good life can be at its best -- and how bad at its worst. The most outstanding occasion: barely is it over before the sweepers move in to clean up the rice. Yellowing photos remain. And this is as should be. We are in the business of living, and the show must go on. Special moments are out-of-equilibrium experiences in which our puddles are stirred up and splashed about; yet when normalcy returns we are usually relieved. We are built for mundane functionality, not lasting bliss. So you allow the door that was ajar begins to close, disappearing hope's sliver behind an insensate scab. Quick, stop that door! Look again at your yellowing photos, search for a clue. Do you not see it? Do you not feel it, the touch of the possible? You have witnessed the potential for a higher life: you hold the fading proof in your hands. Don’t throw it away. In the attic of your mind, reserve a drawer for the notion of a higher state of being, and in the furnace of your heart keep at least one aspiring ember alive. I am summoning this memory of your best experience – to what end? In the hope of kindling in you a desire to share my happiness.

What I have is not merely more of what is available to you now. It isn’t just the particular things, the paintings and toothpaste-tube designs, the record covers and books, the epochs, lives, leaves, rivers, and random encounters, the satellite images and the collider data – it is also the complex relationships between these particulars that make up my mind. There are ideas that can be formed only on top of such a wide experience base. There are depths that can be fathomed only with such ideas. You could say I am happy, that I feel good. You could say that I feel surpassing bliss. But these are words invented to describe human experience. What I feel is as far beyond human feelings as my thoughts are beyond human thoughts. I wish I could show you what I have in mind. If only I could share one second of my conscious life with you! But you don’t have to understand what I think and feel. If only you bear in mind what is possible within the present human realm, you will have enough to get started in the right direction, one step at a time. At no point will you encounter a wall of blinding light. At no point will you have to jettison yourself over an end-of-the-world precipice. As you advance, the horizon will recede. The transformation is profound, but it can be as gradual as the growth that made the baby you were into the adult you think you are. You will not achieve this through any magic trick or hokum, nor by the power of wishful thinking, nor by semantic acrobatics, meditation, affirmation, or incantation. I do not presume to advise you on matters theological. I urge on you nothing more, nothing less, than reconfigured physical situation.

Utopia is the hope that the scattered fragments of good that we come across from time to time in our lives can be put together, one day, to reveal the shape of a new kind of life. The kind of life that yours should have been.

What is Death in Utopia? Death is the darkness that enshrouds all life, and our guilt for not having created Utopia as soon as we could have.
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The accounts written here are as true as I can manage. While the words are my own, they are not independent creative works of fiction —in any intentional way. Thus I do not consider the material to be protected by anything, other than that you'd have to be crazy to want to try and use it for genuine purposes (much less disingenuous ones!) But who's to say?