Comparative religion in a posthuman future

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Zoombie

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Hey all! This is my first thread here. First post here, actually. For those who don't know, I'm an atheist - but I am endlessly fascinated by religion. I understand the reasons why people believe, and I love to explore the themes of faith and doubt and the way religion and religious institutions impact and change the world around us.

I just happen to lack the faith required to actually believe it.

Now, on to the point of the thread: for national novel writing month, I'm setting myself a rather unusual goal!

I'm writing a tabletop RPG (role-playing game) and I want it to be in a form where I can release it as a beta online and get more feedback on the mechanics and gameplay. But I'm not here for help in that area! I'm here to ask what various people of various faiths would make of the situation that makes the bedrock of my setting - the reason why I want so many different views is because RPG settings need to have lots of room for players to explore and plenty of things to consider. Because that's what tabletop RPGs are about: Pondering deep philosophical issues and punching monsters in the faaaaaaaace.

So, what's the setting?

Basically, in the near future, humanity invents the technology to digitize human minds into computers, rudimentary nanotechnology, and self-aware A.Is. But the world collectively restricts and controls these technologies - or, at least, tries to. But then astronomers around the globe notice that Pluto is starting to slew out of its orbit. Why? Because a black hole is heading towards the solar system and within 20 years, it'll rip everything to bits.

An organization called the Heritage Project takes it upon itself to save humanity. They do so by convincing the governments of the world to begin digitizing their populations - with the end goal of launching the computer banks containing them into space, to settle on other worlds. To watch over these digitized populations, they also craft AIs. In an attempt to keep the AIs "friendly" to the human race, they were patterned after gods. As the human race, in digital form, heads into space, they are watched over by this Pantheon.

Then a lot of things happen, and eventually, posthumans punch monsters in the face.

But what I'm interested in is what you guys think the immediate and future responses would be. A part of the game is about the dichotomy between the history the characters in the game have been learned (so called "goodfact") and what actually happened. Goodfact says that the Heritage Project swooped in and saved the human race, and everyone cooperated, and things were just peachy (considering the situation.)

Realfact is a bit more complex.

For example, various religions would not be cool with digitization - as no one knows if the soul gets transmitted as well. I'm almost positive a lot of religious people wouldn't be cool with AIs "dressed up" as gods. I'm definitely sure that the complete destruction of every single physical artifact of humanity would screw with every major religion (and social organization out there.)

I'm curious what YOUR reaction would be if this happened? Because if you said you wouldn't want to be digitized, the Heritage Project had teams of "headhunters" who'd cut your head off and throw it into a scanner.

What would your immediate reaction be - and what do you think your children would believe, as they grow up in simulated worlds, with AI gods watching over them?

Do you think traditional religions could survive? How would they change?

Thanks for your ideas and thoughts!
 

Osulagh

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A few notes:

There's theories out there that believe that, if we grow capable of uploading out minds onto computers, that we wouldn't upload our exact minds but make a copy. A new game called Soma actually covered this.

I can't rationalize how a black hole would make it that close without us being able to spot it quite literally coming from galaxies away. Unless a tiny one suddenly popped up.

Also, I don't see the rational behind, "Get digitized, or get digitized." Wouldn't there be at least some faction of people who'd go against this and prefer to be either left on Earth or seek some other way to escape? Sounds like you're making this out to be one-sided.


On to the subject matter:

If the world we're uploaded to is truly simulated, then wouldn't it be a direct copy of our current world? I don't see the religions changing there. Like, you're uploaded and then you awake in bed, believing it's all a bad dream. Oh shit, I'm late to work. Ect..

From that, if the AI diverts from the "true plan", wouldn't it be able to convince the newer populations into anything it wants? Unbelievers would be shut off and memories would be altered to forget them.

Or if the system was strictly watched and humans knew of their upload, then religions would probably change. Despite what a lot of people thing nowadays, religions are very dynamic systems that have changed throughout history. There would be probably some folks that believe our thoughts are expressions of the soul and by being digitized our souls found a new container--the problem with this is that, many religions believe that we're put in purgatory to work to get into heaven, and if we're immortal through data that'll have to be changed. I wouldn't believe people would adopt AI gods without recreating or creating a new religion.

If we were uploaded, and somehow everything walked a rather centered road through the extremes I listed above, I would believe that those holding to the older, more traditional religions would: 1) Choose to stay on earth 2) Somehow rationalize and spread the evolved doctrine 3) Keep to a very pure, traditional mindset with little deviation. Yes, I would think all three of these would occur but as a very small minority, and then new religions based around technology would pop up.

Does any of this help?
 

Zoombie

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It sure does!

Also, I've run the scenario past my parents (who are both literal, legit rocket scientists) and they pointed out that it is actually pretty easy to miss something like a black hole coming. It doesn't emit light (quite the opposite) and the only way you could tell it was there was from the way it impacted the solar system gravitationally, and the way it lenses light around it. So, you'd need to see it while it was moving between two points of light. And we can only see a verrrrrrrrrrry tiny bit of the sky.

Which is a comforting thought...
 

Albedo

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It's going to matter to a lot of people, not just religious, what happens after your personality is uploaded. Like, are you just left to watch the world die? Euthanised during the process? Somehow have your continuity of experience transferred to the new medium? If it was me, I'd want answers. Or probably end up getting my head sawn off.
 

cornflake

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Hey all! This is my first thread here. First post here, actually. For those who don't know, I'm an atheist - but I am endlessly fascinated by religion. I understand the reasons why people believe, and I love to explore the themes of faith and doubt and the way religion and religious institutions impact and change the world around us.

I just happen to lack the faith required to actually believe it.

Now, on to the point of the thread: for national novel writing month, I'm setting myself a rather unusual goal!

I'm writing a tabletop RPG (role-playing game) and I want it to be in a form where I can release it as a beta online and get more feedback on the mechanics and gameplay. But I'm not here for help in that area! I'm here to ask what various people of various faiths would make of the situation that makes the bedrock of my setting - the reason why I want so many different views is because RPG settings need to have lots of room for players to explore and plenty of things to consider. Because that's what tabletop RPGs are about: Pondering deep philosophical issues and punching monsters in the faaaaaaaace.

So, what's the setting?

Basically, in the near future, humanity invents the technology to digitize human minds into computers, rudimentary nanotechnology, and self-aware A.Is. But the world collectively restricts and controls these technologies - or, at least, tries to. But then astronomers around the globe notice that Pluto is starting to slew out of its orbit. Why? Because a black hole is heading towards the solar system and within 20 years, it'll rip everything to bits.

An organization called the Heritage Project takes it upon itself to save humanity. They do so by convincing the governments of the world to begin digitizing their populations - with the end goal of launching the computer banks containing them into space, to settle on other worlds. To watch over these digitized populations, they also craft AIs. In an attempt to keep the AIs "friendly" to the human race, they were patterned after gods. As the human race, in digital form, heads into space, they are watched over by this Pantheon.

Then a lot of things happen, and eventually, posthumans punch monsters in the face.

But what I'm interested in is what you guys think the immediate and future responses would be. A part of the game is about the dichotomy between the history the characters in the game have been learned (so called "goodfact") and what actually happened. Goodfact says that the Heritage Project swooped in and saved the human race, and everyone cooperated, and things were just peachy (considering the situation.)

Realfact is a bit more complex.

For example, various religions would not be cool with digitization - as no one knows if the soul gets transmitted as well. I'm almost positive a lot of religious people wouldn't be cool with AIs "dressed up" as gods. I'm definitely sure that the complete destruction of every single physical artifact of humanity would screw with every major religion (and social organization out there.)

I'm curious what YOUR reaction would be if this happened? Because if you said you wouldn't want to be digitized, the Heritage Project had teams of "headhunters" who'd cut your head off and throw it into a scanner.

What would your immediate reaction be - and what do you think your children would believe, as they grow up in simulated worlds, with AI gods watching over them?

Do you think traditional religions could survive? How would they change?

Thanks for your ideas and thoughts!

I'm sort of confused. I'm also reminded of All Our Yesterdays (ST:TOS).

I think I don't quite get the digital gods portion, or why people would be forced to be digitized. Seems like it'd save space, time and trouble to digitize fewer people. If they don't want to participate, who cares? Hence the people who wanted to would, and thus I don't get the need for new divinity.

I'm also confused about the children and growing up thing, as everyone is a digital representation or digital consciousness, no?
 

frimble3

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And, why is the Heritage Project so desperate to digitize everyone, to the point of force? Sure, you want genetic variation, and doubtless 'No Human Left Behind' would be the cry, especially among those who suspect that their race/religion/nationality is not going to make the lifeboat, but everybody? Most people given the choice of life or death will choose life (and I'll bet that if their religious leaders say it's blasphemy, there will sudden changes of religion). So what if a couple of million, worldwide, would rather stay behind and eventually die?

As to religion, I imagine most people will reach some accommodation between their old religion and the new state of affairs, if the choice is living or dying. Of course, if the Heritage Project has any sense, they'd make the various members of their 'pantheon' at least superficially similar to what people currently expect. IE, instead of 'gods', which most Abrahamic monotheists think of as non-corporeal beings, have the AIs come across as angels or prophets, reporting back to 'God' as a higher authority. Or, popes or high priests - conduits to the divine.
For groups that believe in gods that physically manifest, then, yeah, go with AIs who claim to be actual gods. But really, how many humans expect to see an actual god? I think even the Ancient Greeks and Romans thought that sort of thing happened in legends, or to the other guy, rather than expecting Zeus or Jupiter to actually show up at the door.

As for me, atheist, I see no attraction in having my life run by some god, real or simulated, or for that matter, giving up 'life as I know it'. I'd rather stay here and die, like the good Lord intended, then give up my life in hopes of starting again somewhere else. Yes, 'starting again' is a bigger fear than 'death'. :D
 

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Like some posters mentioned before, why are the Heritage members forcing everyone to be digitized (with threat of death)? Wouldn't it be better to get people who think like them, or are similar religion, etc.

So, would this RPG offer the player the choice to not be digitized? (I guess such players would be constantly on the run?) Or does the RPG take place many years after the start of such a process?

This digitizing thing sounds really, really scary to me, but I'm cowardly or at least submissive, and I would want to live, of course, so I may end up trying to accommodate my life and religion to such a...lifestyle, I guess.

Wait, I'm a (non-church goer, not really religious) Christian.

Does that mean the AI would be mean like Old Testament God or a little more chillax like New Testament God? Or maybe Christians get a techno-Jesus?

ETA: Or do we get creepy balls with lots of eyeballs (and/or wings) for techno-Angels, lol?

ETA: BTW, I would suggest our techno-Angels have flaming swords and cool shit like that, lol.
 
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Kjbartolotta

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Hey Zoombie

have you ever heard of the game Eclipse Phase? Lotsa what you're talking about, including a whole game built around uploading and its social and philosophical implications.

Personally, I'd be fine with uploading. Lotsa scary stuff there, but if I'm thinking and living and having a good time then what does it matter. I suppose I'd always be slightly disturbed that the real me might be dead, and I'm just a simulacra who thinks he's real. That's not going to be a dealbreaker for me though, I already have lots of disturbing worries like that anyhow.

Living in a false reality with phony gods might rankle me more though. I mean, I don't know I'm not now, but if I did, I'd be pissed. Do the cybergods demand I worship them? Because I'd be just peachy living among the sheeple if I don't have to do anything, render unto Caesar and accept that the AI Gods are very powerful, know more than I do, and can explode my head whenever they want to, as long as I don't have to accept that they're actually more than they are. So, I'd be fine with worshipping AI god as gods, not as God(s). It's all about freedom within my own noodle.

I am 110 Billion percent certain religion will exist in this scenario, as I am it would in just about any other. I doubt society itself would be religious, unless the AI gods demand worship and deliberately encourage ignorance. The traditional religions would do OK, I'm assuming, once they got past the inevitable schisms and the pro-orthodoxy side eventually becomes orthodoxy. Of course, once this happens, they might not very much represent their current forms, but that's to be expected. I imagine an upload type society would feature lots of new age cults, Eastern spirituality, personal attainment, and a general 'spiritual not religious' attitude, as well as lots of hold-outs and fundamentalists. So, pretty much where we're headed anyways, at least according to current trends.

Check out Eclipse Phase. Really. It might take the wind out of your sails, but what you're talking about could just be a module for that setting. Also, with some overlap, the Orions Arm web project, taking a further looks at the future with real AI gods in the mix. I could talk more about them but I'm not qualified. Just take a look.

Books- Surface Detail, Blindsight, and the Takashi Kovacs series. Read anything later-on by Phillip K. Dick if you want to grapple with the philosophical and potentially spiritual implication. I don't think he ever dealt directly with uploading, but Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch covers some interesting ground that might be relevant. And, if you can find it, Neverness and sequels by David Zindell. A Dune knock-off, but with lots of it's own interesting ideas, the series follows the birth and doings of an AI God out in the depth of space, and the quest to discover it. Vernor Vinge also does lots with AI Gods, but I've only read so much of him. Oh yeah, and John Dies At the End has a nice little quote that goes something like 'when you hear a song on the radio, where is the actual song?'. Kinda relevant.

EDIT- Oh yeah, and the Quantum Thief series by Hannu Rajamieni. Features an entire culture of uploads descended from MMO gaming group, very, very cool idea that kinda makes sense. Fun series too, and lots you might get out of it.

...I dunno...uploading. I mean, if I exist as a conscious, unique entity, then it doesn't matter if I'm in rl body. I exist. If I'm just a meat robot, then it doesn't matter either, my digital copy would be much more badass whether or not it has no soul. I should just let that guy be in charge. To me, it's a win/win, the idea that the soul is inherent to the body is indefensible. The idea that I have to die in my current form to make it happen is scary though, and I think that's the sticking point. So I'd want to upload, but I dunno.
 
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Maxx

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I'm writing a tabletop RPG (role-playing game) and I want it to be in a form where I can release it as a beta online and get more feedback on the mechanics and gameplay.

Thinking in terms of games, the fun thing about your game is it has a tabletop simulating a simulated world. I used to play tabletop RPGs, but I became more interested in how digital games simulate the world. For example there is a truck driving simulation called spintires that is essentially about mud and fuel and such things. Mud has never bulked so large in the digital world, but there it is.
Other simulations obsess about other stuff. So I would say, if everybody gets digitalized in a digital world, the real question is the quality of the digital world. Is it totally convincing (is the real world totally convincing?)? So when I think about this I think of how (paradoxically) being digital becomes a question of the qualities of virtual embodiment -- a world of pure phenomenology with no "reality behind it."
 

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I'm quite ignorant of all this stuff, being an old geezer who prefers writing with a fountain pen, but is this sort of what the Matrix movies were about? I mean besides all the shooting and exploding things.
 

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Assuming a human mind can be digitalized, here are my questions:

1. What is the point of digitalizing humanity if actual flesh and blood humanity cease to exist? Are DNA samples going to be preserved with the mind data to be grown again and a mind downloaded in some other suitable place and time?

2. Why everybody?

3. Why AI's Digitalized human minds are going to be pretty fast and powerful. Thought processes will no longer be restricted by the limits of biochemistry. People can "live" at something approaching the speed of light. How far will human civilization advance in the first few minutes of the initial downloads? With 20 years to prepare and go real time....unthrottled digilatized humans will have lived possibly 2 million years (assuming people don't go raving crazy in that virtual time) or more. Granted AI systems might deal with the drudge work, but they will not be perceived as gods, especially by the digitalized minds of those who authorized their creation. You might even have populations at various throttle levels, some living very fast, other's very slow...might be a kind of economy...the well to do live faster and longer....sort of a virtual version of Vinge's Fire upon the Deep. The rich, fast, and mighty might well take on godlike roles guiding (or exploiting) the lives of their lesser brothers. AI's then would likely serve as species of angels...messengers and servants of the mighty ones.

4. What about other life on earth? Will it be preserved digitally or in DNA banks?

5. What is the end game, revive earth or some other planets in the solar system (assuming they survive)? Head out into the black to discover and colonize new worlds?

Faith speculation for the Eastern Orthodox: Most would oppose it, though a few might be given a blessing to undergo the procedure just to be sure the faith survives wherever else mankind might go. With them will be paired DNA samples so that bodies can be regrown for them when humanity finds a new home. Also will be included the DNA of plants and animals necessary for the Eucharist, as well as small reservoirs of Holy Chrism. Among the digitalized will be bishops and other clergy so that when humanity is reconstituted the necessary hierarchy to preserve and spread the faith will be present. No bishops=no eucharist. No Eucharist=no Church. Of course there would be digitalized copies of all the scripture, patristic counsels, conciliar decrees and records, icons, and hymns, works of theology, etc.

It is also possible, if not likely the majority of digitalized Orthodox would "live"/associate together in and about collection of virtual monasteries until humanity is reconstituted. Think monastery with surrounding associated villages. And if the plan ever became never to reconstituted humanity, the Orthodox and doubtless many others would make arrangements for a separate destiny whose goal was to live as flesh and blood humans again on another world.

As for the AIs, so long as humans were mentally free and untampered with, the Orthodox would not recognize them as gods of any sort.

Otherwise they should be relatively easy to get along with. Though, there might be one caveat among the Russian Orthodox. The monarchists (there are a lot that lean that way...I do), will see to it DNA from the last Tsar or his living relatives survive for the trip with the expectation that upon the restoration of flesh and blood humanity, they will have a Tsar to rule over them and act within the Church as a living restraint upon the forces of evil in the world both physical and spiritual. Granted not all Russians are necessarily Orthodox or looking for a revival of the monarchy....but a great many have returned to the Church, and it is still growing, and there are a sizable faction of the faithful who pray earnestly for the return of the Tsar. Those sorts would definitely spend blood and treasure to ensure the royal line would continue as long as there were Russians and Orthodox wherever they might be. Right now, the Tsar and his family are numbered among the martyr saints of the Church, and his icon streams myrrh and works miracles. You can see a picture of one of the streaming icons and read an account of a miracle here.

That should give you something interesting to work with.
 
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Maxx

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I'm quite ignorant of all this stuff, being an old geezer who prefers writing with a fountain pen, but is this sort of what the Matrix movies were about? I mean besides all the shooting and exploding things.

The matrix movies were actually sort of the opposite: you got digitalized so your body could used by the AI rather than you got digitalized so you could use the AI as your God. Oddly enough, the results seem to be roughly the same -- which I think suggests there is something unexamined about the whole idea of being digitalized vs being AI. If you are digitilized you are the AI -- perhaps that's the less of the Matrix.
 

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Thanks for your ideas and thoughts!

I'm assuming that a side effect of the uploading process is the destruction of the physical biological brain.

I think existing religions might well consider this to be suicide, or even against God's will (the Jehovah's Witnesses for example).

And the destruction of the planet Earth would certainly trigger beliefs about an apocalypse.

If you forcibly upload those believers, some will think they are in hell, or have been tested and found to be wanting. Some will want to sabotage your new society, to return things to the way their God wanted them to be.

Also, monotheistic religions tend to take a dim view about their followers switching to worshipping 'other Gods'.
 
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