Discussion:
[OT] Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.
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Quadibloc
2020-03-22 12:30:41 UTC
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As my previous post, about a very unfortunate news item concerning Brazil, has not
received the kind of replies I've hoped for, I've decided that perhaps I should
try saying what I want to say, instead of just implying it with subtle sarcastic
humor.

Throughout the long ages of man's history, many people have ardently hoped for a
world without suffering and injustice. The words from the Lord's Prayer which form
the title to this post are an expression of that hope.

If, however, one does not have hope that a God will someday come and put
everything right, then one has to face the question of how we limited human beings
can achieve such a lofty and difficult goal. It has even been argued, not without
reason, that it is _inherently_ impossible for humanity to achieve the eschaton
itself (in the sense of a perfect order, not in the sense of self-annihilation
which is all too well within our abilities).

One of the most obvious problems is: some of the victims of injustice are already
dead. How can we wipe every tear from every eye, unless we can bring back lost
loved ones? How can we have universal justice if it doesn't include those for whom
justice would otherwise arrive only too late?

In the current utter absence of any scientific understanding of what it is that
allows us to see what we see, to hear what we hear, to be conscious, to be
genuinely present in the world - instead of the world being a hollow empty silent
place of dead machines following physical law... not knowing what a soul or spirit
_is_, or if there is an afterlife of any kind, how do we find the dead to awaken
them?

From a science-fiction point of view, we might attempt to fulfill certain
necessary conditions without at all knowing if we have managed to meet
sufficient conditions as follows:

Gather up the actual atoms that composed each person's brain, using some sort of
past viewer and teleporter, and put them back as they were a microsecond or so
(the time required would depend on the cause) after death, then, having the
actual, authentic, corpse of the individual before one (the body could, of
course, be a copy) resuscitate using super-advanced medical science.

Already, we've hit something too far-fetched to take very seriously.

But fundamentally, it's only a *technical* problem. We want to do something, but
we don't know how to do it. After we find out how, the problem is solved.

There are even _worse_ problems to overcome.

What about the case where what one wishes to do is _inherently_ impossible? On
the order of time travel into the past, of making something that has happened
instead not have happened?

Thus, take a woman who has, say, been the victim of a violent gang rape. Justice
demands that she is to be fully retored - to be caused to suffer no detrimental
psychological after-effects from this crime, but instead to be able to once
again fully enjoy life in all its aspects, yes, even her own sexuality, in a
manner completely unimpared and unclouded.

Imagine an omnipotent technology. Well, _sort_ of omnipotent. It can do anything
the laws of physics allow, but like Montgomery Scott, it cannot change the laws
of physics.

This is the sort of omnipotence attributed to angels. And this is why the
mediaeval debates about "how many angels could dance on the head of a pin" were
actually addressing a meaningful philosophical question.

So, we just shove the victim into a transporter, replace the pattern buffer with
a snapshot taken just before her assault, and out she comes with no memory of it
or indeed any subconscious traces of it. Problem solved?

Well, no. All you've succeeded in doing is _killing_ her, and using the matter
of which she is made to create a new person, who is a copy of her as she was at
a previous time.

Once this fact is firmly realized, the problem becomes clear.

Just because we might have the power to edit and reconstruct the human brain
however we like, that doesn't mean that such interventions, even if intended as
therapeutic, will be genuinely therapeutic.

Very roughly, I think the appropriate rule is: do not tamper with the conscious
mind and will, but the *subconscious* is fair game.

So if someone can't stand eating vegetables, we can't force him to eat them -
but if there's an aversion to their taste in the subconscious, of course we can
edit it out so that the individual is no longer limited by this, and can then,
if he wishes, try eating vegetables again.

This rule, of course, leads to our ability to help those who have been hurt and psychologically impacted as a result being limited, perhaps tragically so.

John Savard
Quadibloc
2020-03-22 12:59:37 UTC
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All right. In the first part, I set the stage:

- many of us would like to rid the world of injustice.

- undoing all past injustice is... rather difficult.

Given, therefore, that injustice is such a bad thing, that naturally leads into
the next question: how can we prevent any _more_ injustice from being perpetrated?

Two rather straightforward measures come to mind immediately.

1) Take away the nuclear weapons of Russia and China. Put the world firmly in
control of the enlightened democratic countries, and, while ensuring they remain
enlightened and democratic, and don't become police states, improve the
effectiveness of their police forces so that they eradicate crime completely.

2) Since insufficiency of material goods is a great source of human suffering,
and competition for scarce resources has been a driver for war, have advances in
nanotechnology or something provide everyone with every material thing he or she
might want.

Many works of science fiction have been written about how an attempt at (1) is
likely to fail catastrophically, and not a few have been written about problems
with (2) as well.

But for my purposes, I will handwave that all away. Some technology is invented
that achieves (2), and the risks of (1) are completely avoided by putting an
augmented *me* in charge of all law enforcement, including "ruling the nations
of the Earth with a rod of iron". Well, if you could trust me, that is.

The trouble is, even though addressing those two points would deal with a lot of
human suffering and injustice, there are still issues left.

If we do use nanotechnology to create material abundance, well, that's only re-
arranging the atoms that we have. If population tends to grow exponentially, and
this can't be curbed without making people unhappy, so we don't want to limit or
restrict it at all, ever... well, even space travel isn't going to help.

Of course, a technology that lets people move to parallel worlds, as many in
number as there are points on the real number line, would solve that. However,
as the laws of physics might not leave that possibility open to us, we must at
least consider the possibility that this is a deal-breaker, and we have to find
some way of restricting reproduction that is as little irksome as possible.

And even on more practical terms, in a more realistic scenario, competition over
resources being a major driver of war, and poverty a major cause of crime, it
should be clear that if one is to avoid people in desperation turning to
demagogic politicians who become dictators and start wars, we have to maintain
material well-being, and to make this possible, population must be controlled.

Along with apparently unbounded material production, of course, it goes without
saying we would also need advances in medical science to cure all illnesses and
free us from the tyranny of aging and inevitable death.

From this, though, comes another one of the theological objections to a human-
created eschaton: unless we are changed, so that our souls are freed of their
human nature, and take on a Divine nature by uniting with God, we are such
pathetic beings that we would inevitably be bored out of our skulls or otherwise
go crazy if we continued living for millions of years, let alone billions.

This is a serious issue. But there might be a solution. If we allowed people's
brains to grow gradually, then they could keep on learning new things and
finding new interests. Of course, we would eventually have to redesign their
neck muscles.

And it is only at this point where we get to vat-girls. I suspect that when you
remove the economic dependency of women on men - as well as the whole need to
work that gives people a reason to meet each other - since one can't just make a
man a success with women by throwing money at him any more, how does one manage
to manage things so as to ensure universal contentment?

And I keep seeing these advertisements describing George Gilder as America's
foremost futurist. But perhaps that opinion is not universally shared.

John Savard

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