Now here’s something different: what if we all killed ourselves? We agree: after all we’ve been through as a species, mass suicide would be a ridiculous way to go. But oddly, suicide could also be the inevitable, most logical outcome of evolution...
Mass suicide. Oh, come on! What on Earth would we do that for?
Well: somewhere in the distant future, we might come to the conclusion that it’s the best thing to do. The only thing that makes sense. We would decide to kill ourselves -- and do it. We'd kill ourselves collectively, to the last man. We wouldn’t even leave a suicide note. After all, who would read it?
Of course, it won’t happen tomorrow. First, a lot of dramatic changes will take place to our species. Right now, we’re not too keen on dying. In fact, we hate it when we die!
But most scientists expect that over time, this will change. Slowly, we will defy death. We will beat disease after disease, and live longer and longer. We will fool the Grim Reaper with anti-ageing chemicals and fantastic, new cures.
And in the end, we will beat Death. We will need all our technological know-how to do it. In the long run, we will replace our entire bodies by technology. Already, we replace our teeth and the occasional limb that has gone missing with artificial stuff. In the near future, science expects to invent replacements for our organs. A little later, and we will be able to replace our brain by computer technology. Really! Already, some futures researchers expect that by the year 2050, we will be able to upload our mind into a computer! We will become machines -- and be immortal.
Trust us: it’s gonna be fun. When our minds have become pieces of software, we will be able to copy ourselves! We will be able to upload ourselves to... well, whatever we like. We will go out in space, in the shape of a conscious space ship. Or in the form of a purple cloud of thinking smoke particles. No, seriously! Respected scientists like Freeman Dyson and Carl Sagan already wrote about this in the 1970s.
And we will interact with each other, big time. With our biological bodies gone, we will no longer need MSN, Hyves or Myspace to get in touch with each other. Rather, our minds will start to... well, blend, actually. We will become one consciousness. Some researchers have dubbed this The Singularity, as we detail elsewhere on this site.
Ok, that sounds pretty vague -- but hey, it’s no reason to kill yourself! Well: there is this one crucial detail. Once we’re immortal, we’ll be booooooored!
To us simple, mortal humans this may be a bit hard to grasp. But once we’ve reached Perfection and Singularity and Oneness and all that blah blah, we will have no goal in life. Yes, we will go out and discover the Universe. But after a while, we will have seen it all. With our mortal bodies gone, we will have all the time of the Universe. We will know every corner of the Universe and say: so what? Why search any further? To an intelligent cloud of smoke particles, searching every corner of the Universe will make as much sense as examining every blade of grass on Earth makes to us.
So there you have it. You’ve become a God-like purple space cloud, but now you find that it is soooooo depressing.
And in fact, it’s even worse than that. Once we will become machines, our processing speed will increase hugely. Simply put, we will think bloody fast. Within a split second, we will realize that our existence, literally, has become useless. A split second later, we will realize it’s best if we didn’t exist.
Brothers, Kill Thyself - In the Japanese cult movie Suicide Club (2002), people commit mass suicide. In reality, mass suicide could be the natural outcome of evolution.
To a Purple God Cloud suicide will be as self-evident as tossing away a used scrap of paper. As logical as getting off a train that has reached its final destination. And the final destination is what we will have reached: the endpoint of evolution.
Even harder to comprehend, the God Cloud won’t have any special feelings about it. When we think of suicide, we immediately think of terrible things with high buildings and shotguns. But when you're a Purple Cloud, it’s all very different. Conscious clouds don’t feel pain and have no reason to be afraid, least of all of death.
If you’re immortal, dying might seem like a fun thing to do! It will be as challenging as it is for us not to die.
So, there we go. After a long period of contemplation -- say, an entire millisecond -- we will realize we have become useless. Right there on the spot, we will kill ourselves.
And hey, you’re doing it again! You picture a purple cloud, desperately weeping, throwing itself in front of a speeding train. But it won’t be like that at all. Rather, we will terminate ourselves in some way yet beyond our imagination. We will step out of the Universe, fold ourselves up, switch ourselves off -- something like that. In a split second after we’ve reached immortality and Oneness and all that, we will be gone. Click. Puff. Exit.
The Games Alternative?
So -- is that it? Is suicide the inevitable outcome of evolution? Well, actually: there is at least one other way out. But this route is so strange and so disturbing, that it will blow your mind. For your own sake, we ask you: if you’re mentally unstable or if you have a history of psychiatric disorders, please don’t read any further. It’s at your own risk.
For what else is there to do if you’re a Super Bored Super Human? What do you do when you’re bored? Indeed: you distract yourself. You play a video game, go out, or watch TV.
Exactly this is what a superhuman intelligence may do as well. But of course, it will seek distraction in a superhuman way: it will create a new Universe, break down its intelligence into bits, and seed the new Universe with the spores of its Presence. Basically, such a ‘game’ will be a Universe that is destined to bring forth life and intelligence.
But wait a minute... Isn’t that exactly the kind of Universe we’re living in?
As we outline elsewhere on this site, it is. Scientists have noticed for long that our Universe looks chillingly artificial. The way its parameters are set, and the way it is functioning suggest that something or someone has tinkered with it. Everything we see and feel and experience - it could be an illusion! We may be part of a kind of Sims Game, played by some kind of Superhuman intelligence...
It would get weird when we reach Superhumanity again. We’d ask ourselves: "Ok, what’s it gonna be? Another game of Universe? Or should we kill ourselves now?"
David Smith: "2050 -- and immortality is within our grasp" (The Observer, 22 May 2005)
Freeman Dyson forecasts the future (New Scientist, 16 November 2006)
Ray Kurzweill, The Singularity is Near (New York, 2005)
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