This interview with Dr John Vervaeke has me wondering why he laments that since religion and places of worship aren’t providing wisdom and meaning for people anymore, we need to provide these through science and technology. Is that really a given? There’s a can of worms.
In addition to AI, he promotes Buddhism as a means for gaining wisdom and that some veins of Buddhism also incorporate technology and modern science. This reminds me of another interview I listened to of a Zen Master describing Integral Buddhism. I’m not sure if this is Vervaeke’s type. This review of the book, Integral Buddhism, states:
“What might religion look like in the future? Our era of evolution in social consciousness and revolution in science, technology, and neuroscience has created difficulties for some practitioners of the world’s great spiritual traditions. How can one remain true to their central teachings while also integrating those teachings into a new framework that is inclusive of ongoing discoveries?
Taking the example of Buddhism to explore this key question, Ken Wilber offers insights that are relevant to all of the great traditions. He shows that traditional Buddhist teachings themselves suggest an ongoing evolution leading toward a more unified, holistic, and interconnected spirituality. Touching on all of the key turning points in the history of Buddhism, Wilber describes the ways in which the tradition has been open to the continuing unfolding and expansion of its own teachings, and he suggests possible paths toward an ever more Integral approach. This work is a precursor to and condensed version of Wilber’s The Religion of Tomorrow.”
Firstly, a lot of assumptions about human growth in academia are predicated on the survival tenants of evolution. This is why I think it is harmful for Christians to adopt even a theistic evolutionary point of view. There is a lot of psychological baggage they goes along with it. It is a very selfish paradigm for one thing, and a de-humanizing one. There are so many ways I could go with this. Let me start with the pros of an evolutionary attitude.
It promotes improvement. Not all selfishness is bad afterall.
It promotes humility in putting us on a similar path as animals, vegetables and minerals.
Theistic Christians may differ in that humanity is the chief end of evolution, but the problem some encounter in a purely eschatological point of view is that it can devalue things lower than humanity. I have said before that I’d rather humanize animals, than dehumanize people by calling them primates. This can be achieved while avoiding an anthropomorphic, Disney view of animals. We can objectively acknowledge and respect our similarities with animals, such as emotions, social relationships, and sensitivity to pain, in an almost humanizing way, as well as acknowledge our difference in being made in the image of God as Dr. Rana pointed out in the debate shared on a previous post. We have a unique ability towards music, art, production of food, and very sophisticated technology. Animals see us as gods. However, Christ God is kenotic to the lowest levels, yet there is still a hierarchical distinction.
Con of evolution:
It views systems as random, separate, self-contained opportunities best integrated by the fittest. I would argue that this is the goal of humanistic AI. It seems that computers with their exponentially greater capacity for and dispassion towards the storage, access, and computation of data, are deemed more fit than humans, and are seen as the next step in evolution. This is one reason they want to figure out consciousness.
The thing Dr. Vervaeke seems to be saying that is different between organic beings and computers is our ability to prioritize and properly deem the salience of different data. The human brain does this on a subconscious level. I suppose a computer can be specifically programmed to prioritize in exactly described instances, but he wants a more autonomous response, I believe. Hence the wisdom question.
I believe God gave intuition to everything in the whole universe to prioritize trajectories to achieve their telos. The Westminster Catechism says that this is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. My thinking is that God isn’t that self-centered. He gave life and free will to things. Like I’ve said, I think one purpose of the Great Schism is so that mankind would care about the differentiated elements of the world. We wouldn’t have gotten Imagine Dragons if everyone was in blissful theosis all the time. The Transfiguration shows us that God can shine so bright all differentiation is hidden. He has to dim himself to let other things shine. Dr. Vervaeke’s detailing of the different ways we think is very interesting.
I don’t think computers can be anything but a tool with specific, rather than general objectives. I think inspired people have to come up with the wise way to live, and maybe make a program to facilitate it. I like that technology is enabling a more customized approach to individuals. One size does not fit all. My problem with some Eastern Orthodox prescriptions is largely towards the dietary regimes. I am very sensitive to ratios of carbohydrates, protein and fat and the highs and lows when fasting. The only way I see technology helping with people’s dietary needs, though is through invasive blood sugar or other nutrient analysis. Well maybe more advanced fitness watches could tell through blood pressure and pulseoximetry. I think it was Sam Harris in a discussion with Jordan Peterson who seems to be in favor of implants to analyze and curb bad brain impulses, including behavioral ones. Intuitively I don’t like this. Was it Donald Hoffman who said our brains are shrinking as we get more integrated social systems to help with work? The more you delegate, the more you lose it seems. There will always be advocates for natural solutions, I suppose, and I don’t like how progressives label them with pejorative words like anti vaxxers (if you google the word the articles are all negative against them. I don’t know if they have a different word for themselves.) We don’t know all the complex variables or the far reaching effects of any of our technologies, not even how much they contribute to global warming, though air pollution is a problem regardless. There are so many factors though. It’s scary.
Regardless, I am for inspiration, and it may be that much of wisdom is inspired. I don’t think a computer can be inspired. Possessed? Maybe.