From Echopraxia (note that “Bicamerals” are humans that have self-modified to network their brains and thus reach post-human levels of intelligence) –
“You could look into the eyes of any cat or dog and see a connection there, a legacy of common subroutines and shared emotions. The Bicamerals had cut away all that kinship in the name of something their stunted progenitors called Truth”
Those lines hit me right in the awe-sense. Yes. YES! I admire the HELL out of those people! That is true dedication to overcoming biases and gaining a correct model of reality. That is what a true love of Truth looks like. It is inspiring. It is amazing.
It is also scary, because it means cutting out parts of what makes us human. It is Peter Watts’ contention (if I read his book right) that it is even worse, akin to killing oneself, as you’d no longer be recognizable afterwards. If our species were to go down this path, it would be genocide, replacement by alien beings.
But it also seems to be his argument that such creatures would make humans obsolete. Never again would we be players on the stage of reality. We would become no better than pets, or chess pieces. The real players would be incomprehensible and unopposable. And that’s the true horror, for anyone who thinks such self-modification is inevitable. If you want to matter, you must leave behind your humanity. If you believe the change is radical enough to destroy your very self for all significant purposes, it means your choices are literally either meaninglessness or suicide.
On the one hand, I want to say “bring it on.” I’m very different from who I was ten years ago, and unrecognizably different from who I was twenty-five years ago. Evolution already killed (almost) all of us once, at puberty. It can do it again. I might as well beat it to the punch, and reincarnate in a form of my choosing.
On the other hand, I value myself a lot. The thought of killing myself, replacing myself with something not-me in order to affect the future, is fucking terrifying. Every practical concern in my body says “No. No. NO. NO!”
But… then that lure of the Truth comes out. Human brains can only know so much. These brains are better. All the hard-edged fiction I’ve ever read asks me “How much are you willing to sacrifice for your [loved one/planet/goal]?” I was raised to value the truth above all else, and to some extent I do. So when the heavens open up and the Lord asks me “How much does the Truth matter to you? How much are you willing to sacrifice for the Truth?” my lips reply “ALL OF IT.” and my soul cries “Yes, Yes, Yes!”
I don’t know if I’d make that decision IRL. And Peter Watts certainly is against it. But the emotions it stirs are awesome, and I hope the Noosphere deems this work to be worthy of remembrance.