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:

Sean M. Brooks said...

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.