The Faith of an Atheist, Part 2

Zoltan Istvan is the New Atheist who is running for President of the United States.  Istvan’s extreme scientism leads him to embrace the crackpot notion that soon science will be able to make us all immortal.  We have already seen that Istvan’s views rely heavily on blind faith, where he actually thinks scientific discoveries and breakthroughs are just a matter of spending money.   Istvan’s faith is a dangerous form of faith in that he wants to take large amounts of money away from defense spending and redirect it toward life extension science because he believes we can actually purchase immortality.

But his faith does not end there.

For the mere sake of argument, let’s enter the delusional, scifi world of Zoltan Istvan and pretend we truly can purchase immortality with scientific discovery.  If that was the case, two obvious concerns rise to the forefront and to his credit, Zoltan mentions them and then tries to address them.

Zoltan spells out the objections:

There’s two questions I get asked all the time. The first is, “Well, great, you want to solve human mortality, but that leaves Earth with an even greater overpopulation problem, so how do you deal with that?” And the second one is, “So how can we keep the elite, the really rich people of the world, from taking advantage of these technologies and leaving the rest of us behind?” And I’ve written articles on both these topics, because I think they’re both so critical.

After spending many years thinking about this, and surely talking with like-minded atheists who also buy into the transhumanism cult, we can expect Zoltan to give us the best possible answers to these questions.  So let’s consider his response.

I’ll start with the elite. You know, the new generation elites, the Elon Musks, the Mark Zuckerbergs, the Bill Gates — they are not the kind of elite that I believe is going to allow a substantial discrepancy between the rich having access to some of these transhumanist technologies that come into play, and the poor not having any access. First of all, they’re all very liberal-leaning — same thing with Google — so I think they’re going to make sure that as a policy, everything is as widespread and as cost-effective, basically as free as possible in the digital age. I have more confidence in the future than other people do, who remember the barons of the 20th century — the steel people and stuff like that who were literally sort of Darwinian. I don’t see the future being Darwinian like that. I think the new crowd is going to make it so we stay stable, make sure we lift the poor out of poverty.

Huh?  Are you kidding me?  So we don’t have to worry the elite, the really rich people of the world, will take advantage of these technologies and leave the rest of us behind.  Why?  Because “the new generation” elites are different.  They’re nice and “liberal-leaning.”  This has to be the most stunning example of blind faith I have seen all year.  Istvan’s answer to a very serious question is nothing more than him having Faith in the Rich!

Of course, this Faith in the Rich in contradicted by the empirical evidence as life extension technology already exists today.  One such example is the heart transplant.  Is it true that there is no substantial discrepancy between the Elon Musks, the Mark Zuckerbergs,  and the Bill Gates  of the world and those who are poor when it comes to receiving a heart transplant?

A heart transplant costs around 1.2 million dollars. That figure is completely out of reach for someone living in poverty.  Even people in the middle class cannot afford that unless they have an excellent health care plan.  Yet this is not a problem for Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg,  and Bill Gates.  Together, these three men have over 100 billion dollars.

Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg,  and Bill Gates could do something about this inequality today.  Each man could agree to keep 10 million dollars to continue living a life of great comfort and then give away the remaining money to pay for transplants for the poor.  100 billion dollars buys you about 100,000 heart transplants (currently, there are about 3500 heart transplants a year, worldwide).

Of course, very few people expect the “liberal-leaning” new generation of rich people to give up most of their money to make such life extension technology more available and equally accessible for  it runs contrary to human nature.  The reason why Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg,  and Bill Gates won’t part with so much money is because money represents power and influence.  And it’s a rare human being who voluntarily relinquishes power.

So that brings us back to Zoltan’s faith.  Any group of people who developed the technology to make humans immortal would be a group of people who possess more power than ever before in history.  This is because it is highly unlikely any such technology would be some one-time fix, like some sort of immortality vaccine.  Instead, immortality is likely to be conditional and dependent on technology – to remain “immortal,” the enhanced humans would likely have to keep purchasing upgrades, maintenance, and new versions of their immortal states.   People like Bill Gates would thus have the power of life and death over his customers.   Given the man cannot make MS Word downloads freely available to all, why in the world would anyone believe he, or someone like him, would make life extension technology freely available to all?  Today, if you don’t like Windows 10, no big deal, as you can still find and use older operating systems.  But what if you needed to upgrade to Windows 10 to stay alive?

Zoltan has more to say:

So there is this kind of upward climb that’s happening all over the world, and it’s happening because of science and technology. And I believe that, under our capitalistic system, it’ll probably continue that people will get nicer. People will want to get the poor to have access to these technologies, more so than has been in the past. It’s in the best interest of a capitalistic society that everyone buys this stuff and everyone has access to it. So I’m definitely a believer that we’re going to end up in a place that has more equality than before, and it’s made that way because the nature of technology allows it. Things inevitably get cheaper — that’s why people have access to cell phones in mud hut villages in Africa. Everyone has access to this incredible technology, and will continue to do so.

This is childish, wishful thinking.  Apart from the faith that “people will get nicer” and ensure “that everyone buys this stuff and everyone has access to it,” does it really make sense to compare cell phones to life extension technology?  Have heart transplants, which have been around since the late 1960s, become easily available in the mud hut villages of Africa?  Of course not.

It’s rather amazing to see that Zoltan thinks his fanciful life extension technology will lead us to a place that “has more equality than before” when it’s just the opposite.  Right now, and throughout all of history, death has been the great equalizer.  For the one thing that unites Bill Gates and the man living in a mud hut villages of Africa is that they will both die.  Gates’ money can’t change that.  Yet that is the very thing Zoltan wants to change.  A world with immortality technology is a world where the elite, the really rich people of the world, can take advantage of these technologies, leaving the rest of us behind.  And to the degree that they share it is the degree to which they hold the ultimate power over us – the power of life and death.  Istvan’s replies to this objection are little more than babytalk, invoking faith in the niceness and altruism of those in power.  It’s clear to me Istvan, and the transhumanists, have no real, substantive response to this objection.

And it only gets worse when we consider the second objection.

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46 Responses to The Faith of an Atheist, Part 2

  1. TFBW says:

    Sounds like he’s bought into the “post-scarcity economy” model of the future, like the techno-magical replicator-based world of Star Trek, but without giving any basis for why scarcity would go away. It’s hard to classify this as anything but wishful thinking, particularly when it’s based on beliefs like, “it’ll probably continue that people will get nicer.” Mind you, he’s not alone in that Whiggish view of moral improvement: Dawkins promotes it when he talks about “being good without God”, and the “moral zeitgeist”.

  2. Dhay says:

    Ah, yes, these are the same super-wealthy philanthropists with super-yachts who are keen to ensure that everybody else has super-yachts … or are they so mean (by Zoltan Istvan’s standards) they want everyone to have just mere yachts, or perhaps dinghies …

    Or are these the people who don’t care, but actually approve of it, that shop-workers, cleaners, and everybody who struggles with two or even three jobs to make ends sort of meet, just — that these are paid as little as possible.

    Or are these the Sir Philip Greens of the world, who buy a company with a thriving pension fund, then sell it a few years later with the pension fund considerably poorer and themselves considerably richer.

    We all believe in the social conscience and philanthropy of the rich, don’t we.

    Do we?

  3. Ryan says:

    People will get nicer. This should be his campaign slogan. Or perhaps, Money makes people happy… and nice. Laughably dumb.

  4. Dhay says:

    > I don’t see the future being Darwinian like that.

    But I do, I envisage one of Richard Dawkins’ future books being The Selfish Sub-Routine.

  5. FZM says:

    Dhay,

    We all believe in the social conscience and philanthropy of the rich, don’t we.

    I think especially when it’s looked at in global terms as opposed to just the rich people in the most economically developed democracies in the world.

    Things inevitably get cheaper — that’s why people have access to cell phones in mud hut villages in Africa. Everyone has access to this incredible technology, and will continue to do so.

    This bit of Zoltan’s argument seems fairly ridiculous as Michael points out. People living in mud hut villages in Africa may have access to mobile phone technology, but leaving aside advanced healthcare technology they don’t yet seem to have good access to a lot of more basic 19th/20th century stuff (railways, paved roads, brick, concrete or stone built houses, water and sewage systems, reliable electricity and gas supplies etc.). So unless the future life extension technology turns out to be closely analogous to mobile phone technology there is a question mark over the idea that it will prove readily available to everyone.

    I’ve been thinking that the transhumanism and its life extension/immortality claims may have something in common with some of the arguments for Communism in the last century. The ideal of Communism didn’t involve immortality but it could be interpreted as promising something like all things to all men; a kind of earthly Utopia that it was supposed to be possible to attain, provided the right things were put in place, in the near future. The promise of Communism, the moral idealism and wish fulfilment aspects of it, could appeal to people over and above the deficiencies in the theories that were supposed to demonstrate its feasibility and eventual inevitability, and the questions about practical implementation. Though in the context in which it arose Communism was probably more defensible and better worked out than the transhumanist stuff is at the moment.

  6. notabilia says:

    Excellent summation of Zoltan’s delusions, with no God-bothering commentary whatsoever, either in the post or comments.
    Wait, are you guys actually atheists? “Critical-thinking” types? Welcome aboard!

  7. Ilíon says:

    Sadly, I’m pretty sure that 100 billion dollars / 1.2 million dollars (per transplant) does not buy you about 100,000 heart transplants

  8. Kevin says:

    “Wait, are you guys actually atheists? “Critical-thinking” types? Welcome aboard!”

    Hmm, seems that Christians are actually the critical thinkers.

  9. Mechanar says:

    that People get nicer is a illusion. People have not changed one bit, human nature is the same as it ever was. The reason we have an age of Peace on this Planet is because of International Laws Put in Place after WW2.

    Transhumanits falsely assume we have fundamentally changed because of this but because you can take a walk in the Park and dont have to fear that a murderer will kill you that dosent mean all the murderers have gone away it means the Police is doing its job! Also nuclear weapons did help.

    One only needs to watch the movie Time to see how this will turn out.

  10. Ilíon says:

    Always have been. It was Christianity which taught the world to be rational, and to avoid irrationality in general and to shun superstition.

  11. TFBW says:

    Don’t over-reach, Ilíon.

  12. Ilíon says:

    I never over-reach. But I do (frequently) reach where (many) people do not want anyone to reach.

    The Classical world was *not* rational, it was highly irrational and fundamentally superstitious. We moderns tend to incorrectly imagine that the Classical world was fundamentally rational because —
    1) That part of classical culture which survived the collapse of civilization survived because Christians intentionally preserved it — and what Christians were interested in preserving was the rational part;
    2) Modern-day anti-Christians *need* the Classical world to have been fundamentally rational to serve as a foil to their (false) accusations that Christianity is irrational and that it “retarded ‘Science!‘ for centuries”

  13. TFBW says:

    We moderns tend to incorrectly imagine that we invented rationality and abolished superstition.

  14. Ilíon says:

    Much like some of us imagine that we (or they) invented either a) sex, or b) sexual perversion.

    But, if you will notice, I didn’t say either that we moderns *or* (early) Christians invented rationality or abolished superstition. I said, “It was [early] Christianity which taught/b> the world to be rational, and to avoid irrationality in general and to shun superstition.

  15. Ryan says:

    Ilion,

    I think you’re overstating things. You’re right that there is a fringe view that believes that Christianity somehow stunted the progress of human knowledge, and this is demonstrably false. But as far as the superstition of the general populace, there was much of it in the ancient world and there is much of it today: aliens, horoscopes, psychics, palm readers, tarot card readers, etc. Christianity did bring something new into the ancient world though: a worldview that asserts that all people have equal value: men, women, children, slaves, kings, etc. This was completely foreign to the ancient world, even the “democratic” Greeks. It’s not an accident that the concepts of freedom, civil rights, etc. arose in the heavily-Christian-influenced West and not elsewhere. It’s a natural conclusion of the teachings of Christ.

  16. notabilia says:

    Congratulations on your Christianity wining the “rationality” prize –
    only that was, what, 1500 years ago, and against vastly inferior competition, that you now face from the rear of the pack, where you and the other chicken-entrail readers practice as dyed-in-the-wool irrationalists.

  17. Ryan says:

    Notabilia,

    Please explain how Christianity is irrational, and why your worldview (whatever it is) is more rational.

  18. TFBW says:

    It’s not more rational. It entails superior mocking and scoffing skills, as you can see.

  19. Kevin says:

    Based entirely on his posting here, I would assume that notabilia is one of those atheists who loves the feeling of mocking Christians but, lacking anything resembling thinking skills, fails to do anything else.

  20. Dhay says:

    Notabilia > … other chicken-entrail readers practice as dyed-in-the-wool irrationalists …

    Implicit in that claim to the high ground is that you are not yourself an irrationalist. Perhaps you will provide the supporting evidence for that “chicken-entrail readers” claim, which otherwise rather makes you an irrationalist.

    I had a peep at your own blog again, and found these snippets:

    You are not going to win over the practicioners of boring, unreflective personal idea-mongering with fully informed prosecutions of their lies and dumb formulations, so why try?

    https://mjosefw.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/why-bait-believers/

    I duly note that you have indeed not tried to provide fully informed rational responses.

    A small case could be made for the social benefits of ridicule – “God” infected malingers do come off their show ponies when subject to open, strong mockery, but then they block the comment, or try to find some illusory “middle ground” that will gain them support, in their mostly immovable minds, for Godding it up with specious casuistry.

    You complain that ““God” infected malingers” block your comments when you use “open, strong mockery” — perhaps, like a delinquent child, you are now deliberately testing the limits here, why not be open and post an explicit request to be banned — yet I note that my comment on your May 17 Reason Rally blog post remains absent.

    https://mjosefw.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/the-reason-rally-format/

    That is, you silent-banned me from your blog on the basis of one inoffensive comment. Your complaint about being blocked or banned for deliberate bad behaviour looks very hypocritical.

    I see that only a “small case” can be made for ridicule: you said it yourself. I wonder then, that you so much as bother to come here to bird-shit, especially as it makes no difference whatsoever to whether the oppressive socio-politio-economic system trundles on its juggernaut path:

    There is no middle ground – believers can go their own way to eternal futility, but still we have a listing, misperforming supersystem guarantees more guns, searing heat, and unheedings birds on a wire.

    However, I see there is a reason why you have come here to ridicule without rationality; we have stirred you up, you who declares you have “transhumanized genes” — as you obviously have not had gene surgery, I can make sense of this only as declaring that you have a strong attachment to the ideas embodied in transhumanism.

    Finding something better to do than adding to the cacophony is imperative, but it’s in our transhumanized genes now – to descend into the chaos of social media and trill out a few bars. For the people, for us, for love and laughter, and against all varieties of class-based corruption!

    Odd, really, that a Fun Social Nihilist should suppose that a Zoltan Istvan could deliver you a better life; you are valueless to him unless you can contribute to his goals; should he ever achieve his goals you will be unable to contribute further and will be valueless to him.

    *

    To you, Christianity may seem part of an oppressive system; but it is perfectly possible to interpret Jesus and his message and practice as being “For the people, for us, for love and laughter, and against all varieties of class-based corruption!”

  21. Dhay says:

    They say a camel is a horse designed by committee: I wonder what a transhuman design committee might come up with.

  22. notabilia says:

    Hey, thanks for reading, Dhay!
    1. I have no idea what “silent banning” may be. I’ve never blocked anyone’s comment, and never will. Maybe there’s a wordpress feature I don’t know about? To reiterate, blocking comments is cowardly.
    2. Yes, each one of us has brains that have unconscious workings that are based on biases and other unsupportable “irrationalisms.” None of us can live on pure rationality alone, as great science/journalism books like Lawrence Gonzales’s have pointed out. However, we humans routinely abandon irrational pursuits when they are proven to be such fakes, as with haruspicy, as with your Christianity that is derived from it.
    3. The only way to get to your believer blogs is through your tagging of your work as “atheist.” In service of the clarifying effects of debate, I have come to have some, yes, fun, by defending this growing, wonderful opposition to religiosity.
    4. My use of “transhumanist” refers to the fact that all of us in America have absorbed immense amounts of petro-chemicals. Steroids in chickens, anti-depressants in the water, that kind of thing – nanoparticles. Or do you imagine yourself, your collection of genes, fully impervious?
    5. Zoltan Istvan is one of the founders of an atheist, science-based orphanage in Africa. You should contribute to it – it’s a wonderful example of actual humanism, without the oppression that you seem to understand goes with Christianity.
    Again, much appreciation for reading so closely, and for quoting my words. I’m humbled.

  23. Michael says:

    2. Yes, each one of us has brains that have unconscious workings that are based on biases and other unsupportable “irrationalisms.” None of us can live on pure rationality alone, as great science/journalism books like Lawrence Gonzales’s have pointed out. However, we humans routinely abandon irrational pursuits when they are proven to be such fakes, as with haruspicy, as with your Christianity that is derived from it.

    Ah, nothing like the smell of smug Gnu arrogance in the morning. The problem is that I have not seen anyone prove that Christianity is a fake.

    Staying on topic, atheist Zoltan Istvan is a clear-cut example of irrationalism. Maybe he is a digital chicken-entrail reader?

  24. Kevin says:

    Being told by an atheist that Christianity is irrational is like being told that orange juice is unhealthy and I should really switch to Coke. There’s just nothing there to take seriously.

    Even if Christianity were to be proven false to me, I still wouldn’t be an atheist. Atheism has to be shown to be rational in its own right, it’s not some default position that a thinking person would fall into automatically.

  25. notabilia says:

    Oh, no, not that “smug arrogance” charge, again! To be arrogant is one thing, oh boy, but to be both “smug” and “arrogant,” that is beyond the bloggo pale.
    To be fair, I have made a sticker that displays “Smug Atheist” for my old Kindle.
    Meek Christian irrationalist, that’s you, eh? Meek, making no claims, not standing up for anything, letting the advances of knowledge and science just ride by, covering your eyes?
    Zoltan’s BiZoHa orphanage is a pure example of humanist rationality, and again your money would be most welcome there.
    Transhumanism, whatever the hell it is, does have some chicken-entrail-y aspects, agreed.

  26. Dhay says:

    Notabilia > Hey, thanks for reading, Dhay!

    1. I can’t remember re-sending my comment (or getting back any “duplicate message” message) so I’ll put it down as a glitch. I’ll try again sometime, when there’s something that particularly strikes my interest and where I can step into your mindframe.

    2. I can agree with your initial thrust; I would hate to have to live by rationality alone, which I suspect would exclude many or even most of the best things in life.
    But note that Christianity is certainly not derived from haruspicy; nor was Christianity’s parent, Judaism, which explicitly prohibited “anyone who practises divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer”.

    3. I came to S2L so long ago that I forget how it happened — except no “atheist” tag was involved. This is in practice an anti-anti-theist blog, so I suppose your aims make you an anti-anti-anti-theist; and make me an anti-anti-anti-anti-theist … but enough of that.

    4. Now understood. Seemed odd you would be a “vote for President Istvan” type.

    5. “BiZoHa Orphanage intends to be economically self-sufficient within one year of opening its doors,” the project’s co-coordinator, Hank Pellissier, of the Brighter Brain’s Institute, told me. “This goal will be achieved by selling corn, beans, cassava, peanuts, and lettuce grown on its 7-acre crop farm, which is part of the proposed orphanage.”
    http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-worlds-first-atheist-orphanage-just-launched-a-crowdfunding-campaign

    Well, it’s gone a year, so it’s now self-sufficient, and the start-up was more or less instantly fully funded — “FULLY FUNDED! BiZoHa Orphanage reached it’s campaign goal in 29 Hours.”
    https://www.gofundme.com/atheismOrphanage — and as it now blocks further donations I suppose I have permanently missed my opportunity to be accorded the reward title (on rhs of webpage) of “Skeptic” ($10), “Humanist”, “FreeThinker” or “Heretic Saint” ($100), and to say I’d done it and got the T-shirt.

    More seriously, I see they were seeking “start-up funds of approximately $4,500—that amount will fund the construction of a home for 15-20 orphans, provide it with furniture, and feed the orphans for one year.” This raises the obvious rather rhetorical question: wouldn’t Istvan’s desired trillion dollars be better spent on people like these orphans than on people like Istvan.

  27. Dhay says:

    Notabilia > 2. Yes, each one of us has brains that have unconscious workings that are based on biases and other unsupportable “irrationalisms.” None of us can live on pure rationality alone, as great science/journalism books like Lawrence Gonzales’s have pointed out.

    This first part merely describes what Daniel Kahneman calls “System 1”, which is probably the main system used by all of us — Christians and anti-theists alike — most of the time. It is uncontentious.

    > However, we humans routinely abandon irrational pursuits when they are proven to be such fakes, as with haruspicy, as with your Christianity that is derived from it.

    Michael prefers “smug arrogance”, I prefer “pig-ignorance”.

  28. Dhay says:

    Notabilia > 3. … In service of the clarifying effects of debate, …

    2. … we humans routinely abandon irrational pursuits when they are proven to be such fakes, as with haruspicy, as with your Christianity that is derived from it.

    Your rather incoherent looking — I make little sense of it, and wonder whether you are in the “ridicule without rationality” business of flinging shit and hoping other people think some of it has stuck — #2 serves neither to clarify nor to debate.

    Perhaps you would care to clarify and debate.

  29. Michael says:

    Oh, no, not that “smug arrogance” charge, again! To be arrogant is one thing, oh boy, but to be both “smug” and “arrogant,” that is beyond the bloggo pale.
    To be fair, I have made a sticker that displays “Smug Atheist” for my old Kindle.

    Don’t be so proud of your smug arrogance. It’s a dime-a-dozen trait among Gnus. If you were to get banned because your oh-so-threatening Chicken Entrails Argument got tiresome, no problem. You’re replaceable.

  30. Ilíon says:

    … no problem. You’re replaceable.

    With a bot.

  31. Ryan says:

    Notabilia, do you believe that Christianity was made up, that the people who wrote the New Testament knew they were lying?

  32. Ilíon says:

    Michael prefers “smug arrogance”, I prefer “pig-ignorance”.

    Combine the two descriptors — self-satisfied ignorance.

  33. Ilíon says:

    They say a camel is a horse designed by committee: I wonder what a transhuman design committee might come up with.

    Dead humans. By the windrow.

  34. notabilia says:

    Of course. Just aw with all chicken-entrail reading.
    You’d have to ask the great atheist scholars like Robert Price, though – they know that stuff backwards and forwards, whereas I have not the slightest interest.

  35. TFBW says:

    And thus notabilia removed all doubt that the nasty things people were saying about him (smug arrogance and pig-ignorance) are fair and accurate. He has one great advantage over Stardusty Psyche, though: brevity.

  36. notabilia says:

    Oh, this has been fun – what confirmation of the stupidity, the baseless confidence of the redundancy crowd here. It has been a wonderful education in how morons unite.

  37. Kevin says:

    Can we get Stardusty to comment on his opinion of notabilia? I’m curious if we can demonstrate that, regardless of worldview, the only person who thinks that notabilia is clever is notabilia.

  38. Dhay says:

    Notabilia > 1. I have no idea what “silent banning” may be. I’ve never blocked anyone’s comment, and never will. Maybe there’s a wordpress feature I don’t know about? To reiterate, blocking comments is cowardly.

    > Oh, this has been fun – what confirmation of the stupidity, the baseless confidence of the redundancy crowd here. It has been a wonderful education in how morons unite.

    I read between the lines that not only did you block me on your blog, you then lied about that, and you are now crowing at my gullibility in accepting your lie — and our gullibility in continuing to interact with you despite ample evidence that you have nothing to contribute here but your sneers.

    Actually, blocking a sneers-only troll is not cowardly, but common sense.

  39. Dhay says:

    > And it only gets worse when we consider the second objection.

    Uploading your mind to a computer raises some questions or problems:

    * If an uploaded mind is actually just a simulation, however complete and realistic that simulation might be from “outside”, a mere lifelike “zombie” and — as seems likely to me — the digital patterns have no consciousness, uploading your mind (or “mind”) would be both good news and bad news; the good news is, you wouldn’t even know you had lost consciousness.

    * When you upload your brain into a virtual reality, what do you do with the original wetware brain and body? Let it carry on an independent natural life, old age and possible dementia, then death; or let it carry on with an eternal transhuman life in the real world in addition to the uploaded virtual life; or kill it.

    * There’s that old aphorism that “Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”

    And it also has some potential advantages:

    * A social nihilist like Notabilia could upload his brain into a virtual world totally reconfigured to be just as he wants it to be; then … Bye, bye cruel world.

    * Jerry Coyne might like to be uploaded into a virtual reality, too: one full of cats, fancy boots and virtual LSD trips. “Let me take you up, where I’m going to, strawberry fields …”

    * A major advantage for Sam Harris and his followers is that once their minds have been uploaded to virtual reality they will – with the right software app – be able to twiddle a virtual knob to 11 and immediately experience complete and utter enlightenment. Beats a lifetime of meditating, I suppose, and obviates that need for special talent. Likewise the need for mind-altering drugs.

    (Harris has blogged that the practice of mindfulness is in no sense easy – it is a skill that requires special talent, and a lifetime of practice; that’s special talent, and – assuming a socially acceptable two half-hour meditations per day – it takes twenty seven years of practice to reach his 10,000 hours level competency, which means there’s nothing much to show for your efforts for a very, very long time, even for those few who have that “special” talent for meditation.)

    Of course, with eternal life (or eternal virtual life, which can presumably be run at whatever speed you want, it’s a simulation) there’s the bonus that you no longer need to be reincarnated in order to have enough total lifetime to achieve Nirvana.

    * Personally, taking at face value the view of Peter Boghossian (and others) that religion is a mind-virus, I intend to be uploaded as a religious computer virus which infects each and every uploaded virtual-reality mind, and also every computer-augmented mind.

    I shall haunt Boghossian; and be the stuff of Jerry Coyne’s nightmares, I shall turn Coyne into an accommodationist™.

  40. Ilíon says:

    There is another upside — power outages and hard-drive crashes.

  41. Dhay says:

    Notabilia > 5. Zoltan Istvan is one of the founders of an atheist, science-based orphanage in Africa.

    Odd that Notabilia should claim that. If you read Istvan’s article on the orphanage and its development and developers, nowhere do you find anything to indicate that Istvan was one of the founders.

    Istvan’s role was merely that of a journalist writing an article about what others had done and what those same others planned to move on with.

    http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-worlds-first-atheist-orphanage-just-launched-a-crowdfunding-campaign

    Wiki says: “In February 2015, he helped launch BiZoHa, the world’s first ‘free-thinker’ orphanage, in Mukhoya, Kasese district, western Uganda. Istvan’s promotional article on the topic in Vice’s Motherboard, helped a GoFundMe campaign to achieve success in raising $5,820 to provide funding for the orphanage.”

    Yep, he helped by writing a fundraising promotion article. “Founder”? No.

    That said, the choice is either that Notabilia has very poor reading comprehension, or was bullshitting.

    So goodbye to that image of Istvan as an orphanage-founding hero.

  42. Michael says:

    I like how they are so proud of the fact that “the world’s first atheist orphanage” was built in 2015. I guess it took the development of the internet and PR concerns for the atheism movement to finally get around to helping orphans.

    From the article:

    That’s why we need a declared atheist orphanage. We want to teach the kids there about science, secularism, and what it means to be an atheist. We also need to stand up for the values we believe in.

    Zoltan tends to agree with this, but wants to make it illegal to teach children what is means to be a Christian, even if that teaching comes from their parents.

  43. SteveK says:

    An atheist orphanage where they teach children what it means to not collect stamps (lack belief in God). That should take all of 30 seconds.

  44. Andreas says:

    But we are the people. We elect our representatives, and we can force them to make it available to everyone. Here in Europe, everybody has health insurance. And for the government, healthy people means a productive economy and that qualified people don’t have to go in retirement.

    Most of all, these technologies will be gene therapy. If you look at the actual cost of amplifying DNA or Adeno-Assocuated virusses, you could produce a one-time treatment for less than 200$ including quality control. Of course, developing technology and patent rights make things more expensive, but again we can vote and change patent laws

  45. Crude says:

    But we are the people. We elect our representatives, and we can force them to make it available to everyone.

    *snicker*

    Of course, developing technology and patent rights make things more expensive, but again we can vote and change patent laws

    *loud laughter*

  46. Dhay says:

    Andreas > But we are the people. We elect our representatives, and we can force them to make it available to everyone.

    Ah, one person, one vote, at election time; but one large donation to political party by moneyed interests, one policy swing, all the time. (I’m British — is it different on the European mainland?)

    > … gene therapy. If you look at the actual cost … less than 200$ including quality control.

    Actually, the thread’s not about the hopefully eventually low future cost of gene therapy treatments, but about the astronomical costs (and predictably slow development or failure to progress) of developing the full range of medical and technological enhancements that are required for transhumanism.

    Surveying Third World disease, death and misery, if I wanted to do my best to reduce the suffering of sentient (as per Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape) I would probably put that ($200 x ???) funding into developing eg cheap vaccines for the six or seven billion, rather than into developing relatively expensive gene therapy for the relatively few people of the First World. Only. And I certainly wouldn’t sink it into providing $200,000,000 — my ball-park wild guess — per patient human-transhuman-conversion treatments for the elite handful of billionaires able to afford it — what a waste of public money!

    Transhumanism looks very like a version of healthcare for the very rich elite. Only.

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