By JOE ALLEN
â€œBelief in salvation was once the province of religion,â€ Brooke Gladstone said on air last Saturday, â€œbut computer science has transferred faith toÂ the godÂ in theÂ machine.â€
Without warning, NPRâ€™sÂ On the MediaÂ went from the usual condescension toward red state Americans to dreams of a superhuman Computer God. Listening to Gladstoneâ€™s soothing timbre, youâ€™d think she was informing schoolkids about a new flavor of ice cream.
â€œThe idea is that weâ€™ll possibly be able to upload our minds to some sort of computational substrate,â€Â her guest hissed, â€œso that our minds will be able to exist there after we die.â€
I nearly ran off the road. Has NPR gone fromÂ normalizingÂ transgender kids to boostingÂ transhumanism?
The episode featured Meghan Oâ€™Gieblyn, author ofÂ God, Human, Animal, Machine.Â Honestly, the book is an excellent history of transhumanist ideas, even if the voice lacks mammalian vigor. On air, though, her blithe tone was absolutely maddening.
She casually went over brain implants, digital immortality, and sincere speculation that the Internet is becoming a self-aware global brain. Gladstone seemed unconcerned. The two women’s only worry was that advanced artificial intelligence wonâ€™t be sufficiently liberal.
After describing her successive conversions fromÂ fundamentalist CalvinismÂ toÂ Kurzweilian transhumanismÂ to her current headspace in agnostic philosophy, Oâ€™Gieblyn ended the interview with a shrug:
â€œI think itâ€™s interesting we for centuries have hypothesized this form of higher intelligence that we call â€˜God,â€™ and now weâ€™re building a form of intelligence that itâ€™s possible will surpass us at some point in the near future. Thereâ€™s a reason why these theological metaphors are emerging at the moment that they are.â€
Nothing to see here. Move along.
No discussion of theÂ power dynamicsÂ behind this spiritual shift from tradition to technology. No mention of theÂ totalizing schemesÂ articulated at theÂ World Economic ForumÂ byÂ Klaus Schwab,Â Parag Khanna, orÂ Kai-Fu Lee. Basically, Gladstone and Oâ€™Gieblyn ignoredÂ Big Techâ€™s roleÂ in spreading this global techno-religion altogether.
That part wasnâ€™t surprising. NPR will keep their listeners in terror overÂ germs,Â global warming, andÂ Facebook â€œmisinformation,â€Â but when confronted with radical technocracy, these over-enunciating snakes will run cover for the Powers That Be.
The NPR Delusion
People say right-wing radio is designed to make you furious, but nothing gets my blood boiling like the half-truths on National Public Radio. Their broadcasters project so much self-satisfaction, you wanna smash through the speaker and slap the soy latte from their lips.
So far as I can tell, NPRâ€™s sole purpose is to lull smug liberals to sleep, where they dream of being rebellious intellectuals. Their heads are crammed so far up their espresso makers, all they can hear is the whirring of their own gears. That droning narrative is so vapid, youâ€™d thinkÂ Brooke GladstoneÂ was a China-made chatbot.
If a machine learning system was trained on nothing but NPR broadcasts, the hapless computer would think all white people areÂ violent racists, minorities areÂ sinless, illegal immigrants areÂ saints, crime statistics donâ€™t exist, men in dressesÂ belongÂ in girlsâ€™ bathrooms, and experimental mRNA vaccines are nothing but â€œsafe and effective.â€
If that AI system was used to determine job placement, steer criminal investigations, or justify demographic engineering, half the country would be sent to gulags to sew rainbow flags for the rest.
Were that to happen, NPR would probably call it â€œdigital justice.â€
Good Books and Bad Omens
If you can forget Meghan Oâ€™Gieblynâ€™s hissing radio voice, her bookÂ God, Human, Animal, MachineÂ has tremendous value. She traces the history of transhumanist ideas to their deepest roots. Shifting back and forth between traditional theology and spiritualized tech, she makes a strong case that techno-fetishism bears all the hallmarks of a religious system:
â€œAll the eternal questions have become engineering questions. … What makes transhumanism so compelling is that it promises to restore through science the transcendentâ€”and essentially religiousâ€”hopes that science itself obliterated.â€
In the end, transhumanism was too dogmatic for Oâ€™Gieblyn. Itâ€™s too similar to her fundamentalist upbringing. And yet her self-absorbed journey led her to write a remarkable book. To my knowledge, sheâ€™s the first scholar to locate the origin of the word â€œtranshumanâ€ in theÂ ParadisoÂ portion of theÂ Divine Comedy:
â€œDante strives to emphasize…the fact that the metamorphosis of his body is unlike anything a human has ever experienced. In the end he is forced to make up an entirely new word,Â transumanar,Â which means roughly â€˜beyond the human.â€™ When Henry Francis Cary translated the book in 1814, he rendered it â€˜transhumanâ€™: â€˜Words may not tell of that transhuman change.â€™â€
The term wouldnâ€™t reemerge until 1947, when it was employed byÂ Teilhard de Chardin, and thenÂ solidifiedÂ in a 1957 lecture by Julian Huxley. From then on, transhumanism became the eccentric sister ofÂ scientism.
At its heart, Oâ€™Gieblynâ€™s work is about finding meaning in a godless world. From philosophical gymnastics to lovable robots, she searches desperately for a soul in the glass eye of the Machine. Her yearning inspired scholarly forays intoÂ panpsychismâ€”the theory that consciousness pervades the universe to varying degrees, from atoms to amoebas.
READ FULL STORY at joebot.substack.com.