Deus in machina

By Mathias Maurer, May 2020

The philosopher Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) wrote in his famous Oration on the Dignity of Man: “You yourself shall determine your [nature] without any restriction and limitation as you see fit. [...] We have created you neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, so that you by yourself, as your own creative fashioner, may give yourself the form you desire by your free and honourable choice. You may degenerate into brute bestiality; but you may also be reborn to something higher, to the divine if your soul thus resolves.”

This basic thought since the Renaissance, that human beings should shape themselves in freedom, retains its validity to the present day. But there is a catch: what do people understand by freedom? Because this is a thought that also drives the transhumanists. The human being is seen as imperfect and flawed. Their goal is to optimise and extend the body, emotions and spirit (brain) through genetic, neurological, prosthetic and pharmacological interventions, overcome aging and death, and ultimately abolish them.

Google chief engineer Ray Kurzweil predicts that by 2030 human beings and machines will have fused. Human and technical creative power is thus intended to be infinitely enhanced and the limitations of the brain and body will be overcome. Such artificial super intelligence will then develop a kind of consciousness and an age will start which “comes pretty close to God”, Kurzweil says.

This vision is not some kind of crazy idea but is supported by scientists, companies and governments worldwide. In the USA, China, India and Europe billions are being invested in a gigantic research project which aims “to prepare for the day on which humanity passes the baton of consciousness to its inorganic descendants”. A second technological act of creation is announcing its presence.

The transhumanist reality has not just arrived in science but also in politics and religion. There are meanwhile transhumanist parties and religious organisation which are developing a divinity based on artificial intelligence. The first “robot god” stands in the 400-year-old Buddhist Kodaiji Temple in Kyoto and preaches to the congregation.

Through the machines to which the transhumanists want to transfer all thinking, memory, even emotions and action, human beings are being alienated not just from themselves and withdrawn from other human beings, they are also released from individual responsibility. They will no longer be able to shape anything out of themselves when they are being fed by quantities of data produced for them by AI. They will become puppets of the machine living in an illusion of freedom.

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