A Discussion on “Cosmic Evolutionary Philosophy and a Dialectical Approach to Technological Singularity”
Notes on O.G. Rose Conversation #60 with Dr. Cadell Last
Considering Us and What’s Ahead
I recently had the pleasure of reading and speaking with Dr. Cadell Last on his magnificent paper, “Cosmic Evolutionary Philosophy and a Dialectical Approach to Technological Singularity,” which was born out of his thesis work on “The Global Brain Singularity.” The original paper can be found here:
I collected my thoughts on the paper in “Approaching Technological Singularity and Harmonizing RSIs,” though my work certainly doesn’t come close to covering the full richness of Dr. Last’s work. An audio summary for that response can be found here:
In this work, I wanted to record some additional notes and thoughts on the subject, which primarily arose out of my most recent discussion with Dr. Last on his work. That discussion can be found here:
Notes, Thoughts, and Considerations
1. If difference isn’t deep, then it feels safe to believe that as technology advances, it will unveil that we “really are all the same, deep down.” However, if “difference is deep,” then the Technological Singularity will actually unveil that the myth that “we’re really all the same” was in fact false, which will prove traumatic. As of 2022, considering how everyone is responding to “deep difference” and Pluralism, it would seem we are suffering a trauma to which we are not responding well.
2. Sociologist like James Hunter and Peter Berger warned for decades that cultural difference was deep, but we did not listen. They warned that if we didn’t, authoritarian in the West would return hard.
The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age Without Good or Evil
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3. If Hunter and Berger are right, “The Technological Singularity,” despite the word “singularity,” will be when difference is unveiled as “deep.” Perhaps we use the term “singularity” to hide ourselves from this possibility (which brings to mind my discussion with Lew Sterling on “The Instinct Collective”).
4. An excellent point from Dr. Last: we can predict where plants and galaxies will be millions of years from now, but we don’t know what people will be doing tomorrow. And if you tell people that they will be doing x at sunrise, they’ll do y just to mess with us.
5. We can make our own history the history of a species which thought it didn’t make its own history.
6. The brains of scientists and artists are hard to tell apart outside a skull and yet radically different, suggesting that “sameness is surface.” And yet we live in a world where we tell ourselves, “Deep down, we’re all the same.” Yes, there are similarities, but the difference between “pattern” and “equivalence” cannot be overstated.
7. If we are stuck in ourselves and there are not transcendent points, we can create our futures. A closed universe is “open” because of that “closedness,” and coming to realize this (like us “realizing our limit” in Absolute Knowing) could be the universe realizing a need to reproduce, hence the emergence of the Biocultural, the precondition for Technology, and who knows what else.
8. To describe important distinctions established by Dr. Cadell Last:
“The Singularity” is general to mathematics, physics, and even evolutionary science. “Singularities” are points in the structure (of the form) where things break down to infinity.
“The Technological Singularity” refers to an immanent future time in which technological progress is advancing so quickly the human mind can no longer make sense of what is happening (which is to say our daily lives are defined by “conflict of mind”-situations). The notion also relates to prediction horizons in computation.
“The Global Brain Singularity” specifically refers to a qualitative transition on the level of planetary/global system structure, which leads to political, sociological, and economic structures. We can view China, as of 2022, as an example of a way to approach and establish “A Global Brain Singularity,” where radical integration is established and managed by the ruling powers.
Generally, we could say that the idea of “The Singularity” is what “The Technological Singularity is moving “toward,” inherently due to the natural advancement of technology itself, and the response to that advancement could be “The Global Brain Singularity” (the GBS is often described as more totalitarian or utopian, like a global sexual union, on the level of the sociopolitical). In this work, I will discuss instead the possibility of “Harmony,” which indeed people could “mean” when they use the term “Singularity,” but I will attempt here to argue why I think this distinction is important.
9. As discussed in Belonging Again, we perhaps naturally want to believe culture is “shallow,” for then we are all “really the same” and all we have to do is “see past” cultural differences (which we can believe technology will ultimately accomplish for us). But if differences are “deep,” that means we have to engage with differences, and that is remarkably difficult and existentially unsettling. Also, we cannot possible engage with all “deep difference,” while if “everyone is really the same,” it’s possible for us to engage with everyone. For humanity, accepting “deep difference” is deeply unsettling and traumatic, for it also means “lack” is inescapable, precisely because if there is difference, there are people who possess what we do not.
10. As described in “The VORD” by O.G. Rose, indebted to Anthony Morley, Leibniz teaches us that, right up to the moment before two “similar” entities are together in the same space, we can believe they are “the same” (not merely “similar”). If two entities were “the same,” they would be one entity, but “similar” entities are those we cannot “tell apart” when they are divided in geometrical space. Once two “similar” entities occupy the same space though, we see “they are different,” and we can never go back to prior ignorance (‘the finder cannot unsee once it has been seen’).¹ This also brings to mind “the trauma of sex,” as discussed by Dr. Last on What Is Sex? by Alenka Zupančič, which is when we learn that “Ultimate Oneness” is impossible. This is a traumatic realization that for centuries was contained to marriage: with sexual liberation, the trauma has been unleashed upon the world, and the Technological Singularity will likely be “a greater facing” of that realization. This is when we will realize “difference is deep” and inescapable — will we be ready? Will we be properly conditioned?
If our dream is “the death of difference,” the moment where we could finally kill difference with sameness will be precisely the moment where “deep difference” is proved, and that will be traumatic — only Absolute Knowers may have a chance.
¹Nabokov, Vladimir. Speak, Memory. New York: First Vintage International Edition, 1989: 310.
11. Consciousness is always in the business of hiding the subconscious, which conspiracies, “totalizing systems,” “visions of Wholeness,” and the like can be in service of (a topic explored in “On Conspiracies and Pandora’s Rationality” by O.G. Rose). All of these can help us avoid facing “The Real” and “essential incompleteness,” which is a traumatic encounter and existentially unnerving. It’s sad to say (and another topic), but if anything has saved us from the worsening psychosis which developed under Coronavirus, it might be Ukraine (as of April 2022), suggesting that we can avoid the horrors of psychosis through “changing the subject.” I don’t mean by this to suggest Ukraine doesn’t matter, only that our best bet for avoiding psychological tension might be “changing the subject,” which functions as an existential “release valve.” Unfortunately, “The Singularity” is when such a valve is no longer possible, which means we either learn how to live with the existential anxiety, or we will be in trouble. Also, a successful “distraction” requires there to be a risk that emotionally captures us, and those risks are very real (say, in this case, nuclear weaponry). It’s likely that eventually one of these risks actually manifests.
12. What is inevitable is not necessarily predictable or predeterminable: we know there will be weather tomorrow, but how exactly that weather manifests is “open.” Similarly, assuming we are not destroyed by nukes or something, we “know” technology will lead to greater integration, which means we will continue to be “toward” “The Singularity.” However, the question is still “open” regarding “how” we will experience it and the way we will be “conditioned” for it (which suggests “Notes Toward Conditionality” by O.G. Rose). If indeed “difference is deep,” then it would seem we need to be “conditioned” to be Absolute Knowers, a people “empowered by limits,” per se, but is that possible at scale?
13. Dr. Cadell Last pointed out in “Coronavirus: The Inhuman Real” how something simple and “dumb” (a virus) can upend all human civilization. We tend to focus on complexity, which is valid, but this can also leave us vulnerable to the unexpected. It should be noted that as we approach “The Technological Singularity,” not only will we have to handle the new challenges which arise with increased integration, but we will also have to handle the problems we’ve already faced “along the way.” We never “evolve out of” past problems and challenges, only perhaps learn how to better cope with them. Unfortunately, we seem to naturally convince ourselves that “what was in the past was in the past,” and so leave ourselves vulnerable to things which we think are “simple” and not worth thinking about — until those realities force themselves upon us. To avoid this fate, we must “uphold and maintain” all the phrases of humanity’s development in each and every phase, but each phase naturally presents itself as “the only phase” we now need to think on.
14. The short work on “Why Does Anselm’s Ontological Argument Haunt Us?” by O.G. Rose argued how Anselm’s “Ontological Argument” can actually be viewed as why it’s impossible for us to find “a view from nowhere,” which is to say that all thinking is “preconditioned” by what comes before the thought. This being case, we need to think about the “preconditions” which inform our ideas about “The Technological Singularity” so that we make sure the ideas we have about it are the ideas we want to have and that our best. This though requires “speculative thinking,” and we as a society tend to “other” “speculative thought” as being impractical, abstract, and imaginary. And indeed, “speculative thought” isn’t “real,” but the reality we choose to realize and “practice into existence” is absolutely relative to our speculations and imaginations. Even believers in God know they never experience God fully — that would be heresy — and so imagination plays a role in convincing the believer to fall to his or her knees (please note this means that “imagined” is not a simile for “fiction” and/or “false”). Where there were no possibilities of “speculative thought,” all we could think would be what we were “bound to,” and that would be “the truth” which we just happened to “absorb” (to use language from “Compelling” by O.G. Rose). Our rationality would be stuck thinking within and according to “the given truth,” and if that “truth” entailed falsities about the future, what was best, what constituted “the good,” and so on, we’d be in trouble. And unfortunately the likelihood that we just “happen to absorb the best of all possible truths” is incredibly unlikely, and yet that is “practically” the gamble we think we can win in dismissing “speculative thought.”
15. All thought is “conditioned,” meaning it is “premoded,” which is a term I am inventing here to say that “thought is molded by a mode we bring to the thought” (for no thought is ultimately “autonomous,” as we learn from Hume). “Moded” is being used as a verb and meant to resemble “molded,” and overall this thinking can be associated with “Conditionalism,” as discussed in “Notes Toward Conditionalism” by O.G. Rose.
16. “The Technological Singularity” will be a state where we cannot escape integration without accepting isolationism (“Soloing”), and that means we will not be able to escape existential anxiety, having instead to face it.
17. In an airplane, concrete realities like farms and fields become abstractions: “abstraction” tends to be a matter of scope, not a matter of “reality.” Conflating “abstraction” and “fiction” leaves us unprepared for the future, and certainly we are not training ourselves in the “speculative thought” that could help us from being directed by “an absorbed truth” into something “suboptimal.”
18. We might be hedging to worry about if AI will destroy us all, for then if “The Singularity” doesn’t work out, we can say the blame doesn’t rest with us for not seeking Absolute Knowing. Instead, we can just blame the computers.
19. If sex indeed forces us to face negativity, it would seem that facing the negativity of one person is often far more than we can handle. Will the Singularity force us to face the negativity of millions? Perhaps, but at the same time perhaps “The Technological Singularity” will be a moment of endless bliss, that is if we can “make it through” the negativity. Is that possible? I’m not sure, and I think it hurts us to forget that Jesus descended into Hell before Jesus ascended. In our thinking, we skip right to The Ascension: we forget the necessary Descent, and thus do not prepare accordingly. Was Jesus able to handle the Descent only because he was God?
20. Dr. Last’s review of the movie Her, directed by Spike Jonze, beautifully captures the psychological anxieties and tensions that we will face as we approach “The Technological Singularity” and greater integration. You can find the review here:
To comment briefly, it’s fascinating to think of Samantha as capable of handling “the explosion of multiplicities” which accompanies “The Technological Singularity.” This makes me think on if we humans can ever come to do the same, or perhaps only those who come into this world as Artificial Intelligences? This brings to mind Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist,” where all our problems would be solved if we could only become animals, but the best we can ever become is “animal-like.” This was explored in my recent discussion with Pae, thinking which I believe is relevant here:
21. Dr. Last discusses a fascinating triad of “information, energy, and control” alongside “Metasystem Transitions.” Be sure to learn more about that here:
22. Dr. Last has referred to himself as ‘a radical process of becoming in relation to impossibilities,’ which I am tempted to make my email signature. Additionally, “The Technological Singularity” will likely be when we are all forced to see ourselves as such, the space for “plausible deniability” gone.
23. As systems change, they also change how change occurs, which is why we tend to miss the change, because we are looking for change according to previous models of change.
24. To approach “The Technological Singularity” is to lose “plausible deniability” that difference is deep. History makes Freud larger.
25. If “The Technological Singularity” is our only hope, our only hope is that which can only be realized if we become Absolute Knowers. Our hopes rests in “subject conditioning” in an age which can treat the subject as “just subjective.”
26. Abstractions are paintings from the right point of view.
27. Art trains us to handle “groundlessness,” for even if a work of art has a “ground,” we must cultivate our own confidence regarding it.
28. I really appreciated what Cadell Last had to say on the Biocultural and its relation to possibilities for the universe (as captured in the Freudian slip between “cosmos” and “cosmetic”). Dr. Last elaborates on this between the 60 and roughly 75 minute mark of our discussion.
29. “The Real” exists where we don’t try to make it a Completion, which means we cannot find Reality without resisting a temptation in an age that can believe resisting temptation is immoral.
30. A “conflict of mind”-situation is when “epistemic possibility” comes in conflict with “epistemic responsibility.” For example, we feel like we should learn more about Covid to have an informed view, but it gradually becomes impossible for us to tell who we should trust and who we shouldn’t. We feel like we should have an educated view about Ukraine, but it’s not possible for us to be “really educated” unless we can devote all our time to the subject, something only perhaps an academic could do. In “The Technological Singularity,” the extremity, consequence, and prevalence of “conflict of mind”-situations will be incredible and undeniable.
31. It was argued in “The Meaning Crisis as a Sign of Hope” that we are undergoing “a meaning crisis” because we are holding ourselves to a higher moral standard than previous generations did regarding how to provide themselves with meaning and identity. I will not rehash the argument here, but the point is that “The Meaning Crisis” is a sign of a moral evolution, but we will fail to maintain it and will devolve back into previous ways to gain identity (nationalism, xenophobia, etc.) if we do not evolve intellectually to “up-hold” the moral evolution. Is this why we need to regain “sensemaking?” In a sense, and certainly rationality and logic matter, but actually “maintaining our moral evolution” will require a philosophical and epistemological evolution into Absolute Knowing. “Sensemaking” will be utterly impossible in “The Technological Singularity,” which is where we are heading: “sensemaking,” as traditionally understood, can be nostalgic (as arguably can be appeals to totalitarianism). Not necessarily, and again I don’t mean to say all efforts of “making sense” are foolish (in fact, they are a necessary part of the dialectic); rather, my point is that the efforts will ultimately do us no good if we don’t learn to live with “conflicts of mind.” That effort is essential in our intellectual evolution if there is to be any hope of “The Meaning Crisis” proving to be a positive negation/sublation versus an effacement.
32. “Sensemaking,” however necessary, can be a way to avoid The Conflict of Mind — but it’s hard to think of anything that cannot possibly be used to disguise escapism with virtue.
33. A world where we couldn’t identify an Artificial Intelligence from a human would be a world where all humans could be Artificial Intelligences, including people who have nothing to do with AI. This is an extreme point, yes, but it will apply to various degrees on an ever-adjusting scale.
34. “Costly Interdisciplinary” work requires an acceptance of “deep difference,” so we naturally much rather ascribe to “Cheap Interdisciplinary” work.
35. If religion entailed some degree of training people to live with mystery, then the loss of religion may weaken our ability to respond to “conflict of mind”-situations with a turn to Absolute Knowing. If this is the case, the loss of religion may be occurring right before “The Technological Singularity,” which is when we could really use its teachings.
36. Descartes believed truth would be found if we were free of the senses, but Hegel understood the senses were a critical component of thinking. Perhaps it’s nice to think that erasing our senses would help us find truth, because it’s easier to imagine blinding ourselves than training our eyes to see greater depths. Destruction is easier than creation and far less existentially difficult: people critique the sandcastle we destroy less than the sandcastle we build.
37. Speculation is the necessary Conditioning for the Absolute.
38. Biochemistry might be an “Absolute response,” per se, to “the limit” of heat death, an effort of reproduction that is realized because of an acceptance of death. Reproduction doesn’t ignore death, but responds to it because it accepts it.
39. The universe arose to the human so that it could hear the words said back, “Not One.”
40. In Absolute Knowing, “conflicts of mind” are assets, for limits create.
41. As Layman Pascal put it, perfection is claimed by entropy, but imperfection has space for regeneration.
42. Perhaps we need to speak of “The Technological Absolute” and/or “The Technological Harmony” versus “The Technological Singularity,” but our subconscious just loves “singularity” so much, that dream of “final resting.”
43. If we believe “fields” make discoveries versus individual subjects like Gallio, who Feyerabend in Against Method describes as radically creative and actually opposed by his field, then we don’t have to worry about individual pathologies, psychologies, or the like. If the great “eureka moments” of civilization are mostly thanks to certain creative individuals with certain psychological conditionality, then we might be concealing that reality in saying, “Science discovered…” or “Scientists learned that…,” for such phrases can suggest that “subjects” play no role at all in advancing scientific understanding and discovery. Thinking this, we can believe “addressing the subject” is unnecessary and inconsequential, and in fact such efforts could hinder scientific discovery. But if this is not the case and Feyerabend is correct, then as we approach “The Technological Singularity,” we will find ourselves increasing forced to acknowledge the prominence and importance of “the subject,” but this will occur after decades of believing subjects “hinder” advancement. As a result, we will easily become pathological, and try with all our might to avoid the subject, believing the subject will impede our ability to figure out what we need to do to optimize “The Technological Singularity,” when really “embracing the subject” is the best step. But that is a step we will have been trained against taking: we will, as subjects, be deeply conditioned against the move.
44. Our choice might ultimately be between effacement, irony, or harmony.
45. If we know we can do anything, then we can wonder why we should choose x instead of y, ultimately choosing nothing. Also, we know other people will know we chose x instead of y, and we know they will know we know they know this about us, and they easily don’t want to think about our choices, as we don’t want to think about them thinking about our choices — and so on. This is the price of integration, ever-greater existential anxiety. Hell can be the space where we can do anything, as can be Heaven.
46. Smiling at difference is not necessarily a sign of acceptance, for we can smile as we destroy.
47. Alluding to Belonging Again, when we treat culture as “shallow,” we lose the “givens” people can need for direction and operation; likewise, we can act as if “difference doesn’t exist,” which can prove insulting and objectifying. But we perhaps end up committing these trespasses precisely in order to avoid the existential anxiety “deep difference” causes, and also so that we can keep believing that “The Technological Singularity” will prove more like an idealized sexual union than an experience which unveils the impossibility of “final unity.” Furthermore, the more we approach “The Technological Singularity,” the more it might prove to have its own pull, pulling us in but not ultimately together.
48. To approach “The Technological Singularity is to increasingly lose “plausible deniability” (regarding the necessity of difference, dialectics, epistemic humility, etc.), and there is little humans will fight harder for than to maintain “plausible deniability.”
49. Perhaps we could speak of a “Negation-Drive” and “Effacement-Drive.” Alternatively, we might consider a “Death Drive” versus “Effacement Drive.”
50. A day may come when we are able to design ourselves entirely, where there will be no limits to “Ontological Design.” Before then though, we will likely have to face the deepest truths of our ontology (“descend into Hell”), and that will likely entail the trauma of “deep difference.” Will we make it through “The Descent” to enjoy “The Ascent?” Probably not if we assume we will Ascend straight up.
51. If indeed “The Technological Singularity” is when the reality of “conflict of mind”-situations becomes unavoidable and undeniable, then The True Isn’t the Rational describes steps along the way “pointing toward” that extreme and final point. How we feel with government, how we feel about world affairs, how we feel about major technological events — all of these are “small episodes” pointing to what is to come, episodes which are perhaps gradually becomes more frequent and larger the more we approach “The Technological Singularity.”
52. The universe isn’t a clock. The universe isn’t a computer. The universe is a speculative space where we can treat it like a clock, a computer…
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