Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Mass Minds

John C. Wright, The Golden Age (New York, 2003), Chapter 13, The Mass Mind, section 2, pp. 203-204.

Whereas Poul Anderson imagines human minds interacting and merging with artificial intelligences, Wright extrapolates such imaginings to a seemingly infinite extent.

"To enter a mass-mind might be painless, and might satisfy all his wants and needs, and surround him with eternal, endless brotherhood and peace and love; but it was suicide nonetheless, an abolition of self-hood too horrible to imagine."

What does this mean? Let us imagine -

there are several individual human minds: a, b, c, d, e;
each of these minds can suffer pain, has wants and needs that are not always satisfied and does not experience endless brotherhood, peace or love;
there is also a single mass-mind, M;
M came into existence when a number of individual minds - f, g, h, i, j - ceased to exist;
this means that instead of f remembering f's past, g remembering g's past etc, a single new mind, M, now remembered f's, g's etc's pasts;
M suffers no pain, has wants and needs that are fully satisfied and experiences endless peace although maybe not also endless brotherhood and love because it is a single mind;
a enters M;
this means that the individual a ceases to exist while at the same time M acquires a's memories?

Is it advantageous or advisable for a to enter M? If a has committed suicide and no longer exists as an individual self (by which I mean a subject of consciousness), then a is not having his wants or needs satisfied or experiencing peace.

"...here was an icon leading to the Zen Hedonist thought virus, which promised to resculpt his brain to accept a self-consistent philosophy of total passivity, total pleasure, total renunciation."

Are pleasure and renunciation consistent? Yes, the optimum state might be the enjoyment of pleasure combined with nonattachment to/the ability to renounce pleasure. But we would want to approach this state through practice and understanding, not by allowing a virus to resculpt our brains. "Zen," in the present meaning of the term, is a middle way between hedonism and asceticism: enjoy and appreciate pleasures when they come your way but accept that, like all experiences, they pass.

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    As tho Poul Anderson's cutting edge HARVEST OF STARS were not tough enough for me to grasp, John Wright has managed to such things even harder to grasp! But, this is a compliment, not a complaint. I admire and respect what Anderson and Wright has done.