Ragged Trousered Philosopher, great stories on God and resurrection

Harry Stottle’s Ragged Trousered Philosopher website has two totally great fictional stories, the first on a conversation with on God and the second on resurrection. READ THEM NOW. Stottle’s views are bit-by-bit identical to my own ideas, and embedded in entertaining and well written stories. Thanks to Lincoln Cannon for finding this and sharing on Google+.

The first story reports a conversation with God on the subway. God “was about 30, wearing a pair of jeans and a “hobgoblin” tee shirt. Definitely casual. Looked like he could have been a social worker or perhaps a programmer like myself. ” At the end of the story, God says that he had chosen a look that his interlocutor would not find intimidating, threatening, or sexually attractive.

God says that he is not human, but he was once a creature similar to humans, in another universe. Then he engineered his evolution to a God-like being, and created our universe, over which he has powers close enough to what believers attribute to God. At the same time, he is an entirely natural phenomenon, “arising from mechanisms which we ourselves will one day understand and possibly even master.

This is the God I believe in, the natural God imagined by Richard Dawkins and the New God Argument of the Mormon Transhumanist Association.

In the universe there are many advanced species, and a lot of species at or about our current level of development. ” God considers all these evolving species as his children. “My personal motivation is the desire to optimise the intelligence of the Universe. In your own terms, I strive to maximise pleasure and minimise pain. A great deal of pleasure, however, arises from communications between separate entities. Once you’ve achieved my level,  we tend to cease to be billions of separate entities and become one ecstatic whole. A single entity that cannot die unless it loses the will to live. Advanced and self contained though I am, or perhaps, more accurately, because  I am so advanced and self contained, one of the pleasures we lose along the way is that simple joy of meeting new and unpredictable minds and either learning from or teaching them. Thus, in large part, the point of the exercise is to provide company. I am the first eternal in this Universe. I do not intend to be the last,” he says.

We should, he says, consider him “like an older brother or sister. Of course I have acquired more knowledge and wisdom than you have. Of course I’m more powerful than you are. I’ve been evolving much longer and have picked up a few tricks along the way. But I’m not “better” than you. Just more developed. Just what you might become.

God is not a dictator, or a control-freak, and does not require obedience: “Never issued a single guideline in the lifetime of this Universe. Have to find your own way out of the maze. And one early improvement is to stop expecting me – or anyone else – to come and help you out,” he says. “I am not here to act as a safety net or ethical dictator for evolving species. It is true that anyone capable of communicating with their own cells will dimly perceive a connection to me – and all other objects in this universe – through the quantum foam, but interpreting that vision as representing something supernatural and requiring obeisance is somewhat wide of the mark.

He does intervene in the universe now and then, for example to prevent a wrong species from becoming dominant at the expense of a more promising one (this is what happened to the dinosaurs!), but he cannot know in advance, with absolute certainty, what the result of his interventions will be. Like us, he can only estimate relative probabilities of different outcomes. I find it very flattering to see my proposed solution to the problem of evil endorsed by God himself!

Some evil is an inevitable consequence of our nature. Other species adapt perfectly to the environment rather than take our course, which is to manipulate the environment. “Unlike the adaptors, who learn the point of cooperation fairly early on, manipulators battle on. And, once all lesser species have been overcome, they are so competitive and predatory that they are compelled to turn in on themselves. This nearly always evolves into tribal competition in one form or another and becomes more and more destructive – exactly like your own history. However this competition is vital to promote the leap from biological to technological evolution. You need an arms race in order to make progress.

God fully endorses our transhumanist aspirations: “The next significant phase is the development of the thinking machine… What you really need to do is ‘reverse engineer’ the dna code. You have to figure out the grammar and syntax of the language. Then you will begin the task of designing yourselves biologically and digitally. But that task requires the thinking machine.

God knows that the transition to an information species is the most traumatic stage in evolution, and he hopes that if he can get across the concept that he is a product of just such evolution, it may give us the confidence to try.

Picture credit: minimia/Flickr,

In the second story on Resurrection a man, Lou Epstein, wakes up in his bedroom. “Morning. Coffee and toast?” says his son Stuart. The story is written in a radio play format, with Stuart playing himself and the narrator role.

Lou is dead. Advanced technology has just brought him back to life 200 years after he was cremated. He has been “copied to the future” via mind uploading and time scanning (aka “Quantum Archeology“), and placed in a virtual reality reconstruction of his former house. The development of “magic” time scanning technology has not required thousands of years or more, but only a couple of centuries of real-time, though many people, including Stuart, have experienced a much longer subjective time.

Stuart gently introduces Lou to his new life, including an amazing real-time and real-space resolution virtual tour of the solar system and beyond. “I’ve set up this simulation to mirror your bedroom and the farmhouse exactly as you remember them. But that’s only to make it easier for you to assimilate what has happened to you,” explains Stuart. “The information which constitutes “You”, exists on a giant network. You have no precise physical location. Even the processors which implement your thought processes are running in many places simultaneously. You can, however, subjectively focus your attention or project your consciousness, at various resolutions, anywhere within the network. And that covers most of what we call the Hubble Bubble. At the moment that’s a bubble in spacetime with a diameter of 22.4 light years centred on our own Sun. It currently contains 18 suns and 323 recognised planets. The bubble is expanding all the time, currently at the rate of one tenth of the speed of light in all directions.” Beyond the Bubble, there is evidence of super-advanced civilizations at work, but we have not yet communicated with them.

Most people spend most of their time as disembodied intelligences in virtual reality. Those who want to be physical can move around by using magic quantum teleportation technologies. “We’ve not needed most roads since the invention of the Quantum Transceiver – which, for obvious reasons, we started calling “cuTies”, but now just “Qutes” – in 2089,” explains Stuart. “Think “Beam me up Scottie!” and you’ll be pretty close. If they need to go anywhere, they can use Qutes to transfer, instantaneously. If they need any resources, they can receive them through the same Qutes.

Lou is the first person ever resurrected without having signed a consent form in his first biological lifetime. “Those who died between your death and the Informed Consent Protocol will remain dead until their nearest and dearest decide how and when and whether to resurrect them,” says Stuart. “We predict that, eventually, at least 35% of all the humans who ever lived will, at some stage, be resurrected.

Stuart has been the first to choose to resurrect his beloved Dad. He hugs Lou, says “I’ve really missed you Dad,” and bursts into tears. I am sure Stottle is right, and we will be resurrected by acts of love. Presumably Lou will also resurrect the people that he loved. This is one more reason to make others love us, in this life.

There have been difficulties since Lou’s death, and tragedies. In particular, the megawar predicted by Hugo the Garis, started by the Terrans against the Cosmists. “They tried to stop us. They tried very hard indeed. And they very nearly succeeded. Fortunately we had begun the migration by the time they succeeded in wiping most organic life from the face of the earth, and they had no means of attacking our off world backups, so we were able to recover and reconstitute ourselves. We even managed to save a few of them, much to their chagrin,” remembers Stuart.

At the end of this delicious story, Lou says: “I certainly have more faith that humans could achieve such apparent miracles, given time, than any God ever has or ever will. I was even fairly confident that we would, one day, achieve very long lifespans or even immortality or omortality as you call it. It never entered my head though, that I might, one day – after my own death – benefit directly from such incredible advances! Now I know what you meant by “mindblowing”! This really is bloody amazing!

Harry Stottle knows better than trying to explain, on the basis of our limited scientific knowledge, just how on earth our descendants manage to resurrect the dead by copying them to the future. The reader, at least this reader, is left with the vague impression that it may have something to do with the Quantum Transceiver. On his discussion forum (I will sign up immediately after I finish writing this) he says something more:

There are two distinct technologies in “Resurrection”. The first is the digital infrastructure which makes it possible for Humans to migrate to the digital environment and achieve “Omortality” [Optional Mortality]. The second is the technology which allows us to reassemble, in atomic level detail, arbitrary objects from the past (including, for the purposes of the story, human brains).

“I believe we’re close (in historical terms) to achieving the first of those technologies now. The second is entirely speculative “science fiction” and more accurately represents wishful thinking rather than expectation…

The second part of the Resurrection technology is, however, still in the realms of pure science fiction. The basic principle of reverse calculation which I summarised in the post prior to the earlier one is, I’m sure, mathematically sound. The pure speculation is on the question of what “resolution” we could achieve on reassembly.

UPDATE – The two stories mentioned are republished here with Harry’s permission:

Conversation with God

Resurrection (part 1)

  • Arkwelder

    “And, once all lesser species have been overcome, they are so competitive and predatory that they are compelled to turn in on themselves.”

    I think this is, in large part, the reason religion even exists. Evolution made us “competitive and predatory” and now the gods are waiting for us to CALM DOWN.

  • I agree: read them now! Good stuff.