Infinite Frontier, Immutable Money, Eternal Life
Our purpose is to pursue transhumanism in the broadest sense: infinite frontier, immutable money, eternal life.
• 7 min read
All societies need a sense of purpose. In the absence of purpose there is only anomie, a vacuum, a god-sized hole that will soon be filled by something that gives an arrow of purpose, even if that purpose is wholly destructive.
Another way of talking about this is what it means to be socially responsible. In the US in the 1950s, what this meant for mainstream society was obvious: to be socially responsible you had to be Christian. That meant a certain set of scripts at the personal and societal level. Personally, you attended church, obeyed the Ten Commandments, and listened to your pastor for moral guidance. Societally, you refrained from getting involved in sinful activities, like gambling or communism. We recognize this kind of conservative Christianity as outmoded today among the elite. But say what you will about it man, at least it was an ethos! More than that, really. It deserves our respect, even if unpopular today, even if it airbrushed out quite a lot, even if it wasn't very inclusive in the modern sense, as it was certainly not the worst of moral regimes – and arguably among the better. The common purpose was: be a good Christian domestically, and fight for god and country against the godless Soviets abroad.
As a contrast, what does it mean to be socially responsible as a Chinese citizen in contemporary China? It means to build the Chinese nation after centuries of humiliation at the hands of the Western powers and Japan. It means filial piety, not talking too much of the atrocities of the Maoist past, and (nowadays) learning Xi Jinping Thought on your phone. It means to advance technology and do your part so that China can return to the international stature she once enjoyed. And it means to obey the Chinese state in all things, lest you be punished. This ideology gives a set of scripts at the personal and societal level based on Chinese nationalism. Like Christianity in the 1950s US, it's an aligning arrow for society, a vector that any action can be dot-producted against to determine whether it is beneficial for China. Now, whether any such action actually benefits China is another matter, but many millions of Chinese citizens do appear to be sincerely nationalist. Their common purpose is: make the sacrifices necessary to return China to its rightful place.
Now we come to the modern US. What does it mean to be socially responsible after the Great Awokening? It means diversity, equity, and inclusion. It means corporate social responsibility. It means what the New York Times Company and Twitter influencers say it means. It means something quite different in 2020 than what it meant in 2010 or even 2019. It means being inclusive in your language and behavior to make up for your membership in an oppressor class. It means a great deal of instruction on what not to do, but comparably less on what to do beyond neo-Calvinist self-abnegation. And so it means there really isn't a well-articulated common purpose in the newly woke America beyond making amends for your many sins, real or imagined.
Can we do better? Can we be explicit about a better common purpose, one that is consistent with Western values yet also globally appealing? Technology appears to be the most promising candidate, as it's the only thing in the West that still works. And it resembles something else that used to work to provide a common purpose. Because if we look closely, many of the inspirational pieces of past religions, Western and non-Western, have cognates in the technological present.
Satoshi Nakamoto as Jesus. We know that Satoshi Nakamoto existed, as we have cryptographic proof. We know that he had impeccable opsec, and left no trace of who he was. We know that he left written artifacts for us, and trained disciples. And we know that he built Bitcoin for us, and may become the richest man in the world, but that he hasn't moved a single coin from any of his addresses. Now, perhaps Satoshi has passed away, perhaps he was a group of people, or perhaps he is still among us. But as time passes his deed becomes ever greater in retrospect. Satoshi is the one that Peter Thiel foretold, when he said:
The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism.
Artificial general intelligence as God. People have confided in search engines for close to twenty years. They have become habituated to treating computers as confidants, in the same way they did with Catholic priests. But GPT-3 takes that to another level. It is already a superhuman intelligence in some ways. With GPT-X, it's starting to be possible to imagine a personal relationship with a superhuman artificial intelligence that runs offline (to preserve privacy) but has access to every digital event recorded prior to its birth. Combine this with Neuralink and you may be able to attain cognitive enhancement through a personal relationship with an all-seeing, all-knowing God.
Reversing aging as eternal life. What is the number one hit on Google for eternal life? It happens to be Christianity. Now, every religion talks about the afterlife, of course. But only technology is actually delivering credible progress towards reversing aging, bringing the recently dead back to life, and even ending death itself.
Curing deafness and restoring sight as miracles. You likely missed this, but it has become increasingly possible to cure the deaf and restore sight. The reason you've likely missed it is that many biomedical advances have happened outside the headlines. While media corporations are busy trying to find the next Theranos, technologists are busy building the next Moderna (which, of course, was also accused of being a Theranos). The speed of vaccine development and its slowdown by the FDA should be a wake-up call as to how fast biomedicine could theoretically move given social support. In other words, technology isn't just giving us miracles, it's giving us a religion-like ethical duty to tell others about them, to evangelize them, to actually see them in practice.
Space as heaven. While dozens of American cities were burning in the middle of 2020, we caught a glimpse of heaven in the middle of hell as the SpaceX rocket lifted off. It's no coincidence that soaring to the heavens is the one event that could spiritually compete with scenes of roaring infernos. The concept of space as a heavenly destination pulls our eyes upward to focus on the firmament, on transcendence. People have talked about space as our final frontier because it is an infinite frontier, one that serves as an endless supply of challenge and struggle for humanity to contend with, without conquering other human beings, without fighting them in fiery streets.
Genomics, chromosome synthesis, and digital karma as reincarnation. People have spoken about cryonics or mind uploading as ways to live forever in some form, or to be brought back. But genomics may be the most feasible of these. Because it is now possible to sequence your entire genome, and your other omes. And the technologies not just for reading DNA but for writing it have gotten much better as well. Specifically, it has been possible to create wholly synthetic bacterial genomes for more than a decade. And more recently, chromosomes for higher-order eukaryotes (like yeast) have also been synthesized in the lab. So it's easy to project a near-term future where we can sequence a human being, store their genome on a computer, and then synthesize their chromosomes by reading from disk and writing the DNA. You'd still need a few more technologies to reincarnate a person, but we can squint and see the roadmap. If we combine this with an on-chain version of Reddit's karma within a community, you can imagine a society where, if you behave well and have high karma with your peers, they will reincarnate you after you pass from the digital record of your genome. And it is thus that we have re-engineered the Hindu concept of reincarnation.
The ledger of record as the Akashic Record. Buddhism and Hinduism have the concept of the Akashic Record, the perfect record of all that has ever existed:
The akashic record is like an immense photographic film, registering all the desires and earth experiences of our planet. Those who perceive it will see pictured thereon: The life experiences of every human being since time began...
A v1 of the Akashic Record already exists, as many kinds of facts are online. The next step is to put these facts on-chain. Crypto price feeds are functional now, and the on-chain versions are more useful in smart contracts than their merely on-line Bloomberg or Reuters counterparts. But what's coming next is the use of crypto oracles to put all the other kinds of event feeds on-chain as well, like Twitter's public feed, sports scores, and IoT data.
Once this happens we start to see a world where we can be collecting event data on virtually everything and storing it on-chain in a permanent, undeletable, and cryptographically verifiable fashion. To get there we'd need blockchains to scale – we're essentially predicting the equivalent of blockchains from 2030-2040 to put this amount of data on-chain – but current block explorers show this is possible for financial facts, and one can get surprisingly far with Merkle trees and rollups.
The result is what we call the ledger of record, namely the combination of all cryptographically verified decentralized ledgers to produce an immutable digital record of history. All of this derives from the technologies invented by Satoshi Nakamoto, including Bitcoin itself, the original immutable money, whose existence depends upon the undeletable record furnished by the original blockchain.
Transhumanism takes us from theology to technology. One way to summarize this set of ideas is that it's the implicit set of beliefs of technological progressives. It hasn't been given a name, but the closest term is transhumanism. In the broadest sense, transhumanism is about overcoming human limitations and seeking higher truths. Like a religion, the things technological progressives believe in aren't yet true. But unlike a religion, they may eventually be! In this sense transhumanism requires faith, like the faith in an early stage startup, but faith tempered by the rationality and science of our modern age.
After all, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. And that is the common purpose of 1729: to create magical technology, to pursue transhumanism in the broadest sense, to seek an infinite frontier, immutable money, and eternal life.
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