[ weird things ] | the bizarre do-nothing religion of earth’s oligarchs

the bizarre do-nothing religion of earth’s oligarchs

Your conspiracy-addicted friends were right. The world is being run by a small group of elites. And some of them fell for an incredibly stupid sci-fi pseudo-religion…
sea level rise hourglass

When we last left Nick Bostrom, he was busy modeling human consciousness on paper based on purely hypothetical quantum computers after struggling to understand how a large quantity of random digitized facts doesn’t translate into intelligence. Outside of pop sci documentaries that offer his breathless quotes as fact, he’s effectively just a notorious peddler of technobabble as he fancied that his background in philosophy was more than sufficient to tackle both neurology and computer science. Basically, it seems that in his mind, he’s Foundation’s Harry Seldon, and his meandering papers are his treatise of psychohistory with which he’s been able to look into the future and see the shape of things to come.

Now, this would be almost comical if taken on its face value alone, but it appears that quite a few very wealthy and influential people have been giving him an awful lot of money after being converted to his theory of Longtermism, which is basically just a Ponzi scheme with humanity’s future over billions of years as the promised payoff. Under its monstrous auspices, the mounting human tolls from crises like COVID, climate change, or runaway automation and decay of once prosperous communities unable, or unwilling to adapt to change without a lot of support, are all acceptable because they won’t matter a billion years from now to septillions of uploaded minds scattered along our galactic cluster.

If you’re raising your brow and asking what the hell Bostrom is smoking and there you can find some of whatever he’s imbibing before his next absolutely bonkers treatise, I’m right there with you. Sadly, the fields of futurism and transhumanism are currently — and have been for a long time — dominated by know-nothing bloviators who produce literally millions of pages worth of half-baked nonsense, and much of that nonsense is very convenient and soothing for a certain class of rich, powerful person who thinks they can just buy their sci-fi dreams and overcome the limitations of reality with a big enough check. The end result is a mindset which may as well be alien to the rest of humanity.

If millions die of disease and war, or billions are dying of climate change, it doesn’t matter since, according to Bostrom’s musings, as long as the global GDP keeps growing and the planet is in one piece, the problem will be ultimately solved and humans along with human-based artificial intelligence will be free to dominate the universe. And if you’re a very wealthy sociopath, isn’t that a convenient idea? You don’t have to lift a finger to help anyone with anything barring an honest to goodness literal apocalypse. Just keep doing what you’re doing and someone else will fix it before making you immortal by overriding the laws of biology and uploading your mind to a chip so you can live forever. Arbitrary linear projections say so.

Longterminism, and its close ideological cousin Singularitarianism, are basically philosophies that can be summed up as “nothing is my problem, ever, as long as I have money.” Far from caring about saving democracy, the rise of fascism, tsunamis of misinformation undermining modern civilization, or corrosive effects of runaway wealth inequality and corruption, influential and consequential oligarchs on Earth are currently preparing to rule the galaxy, both physically and digitally. Those like Facebook board member Peter Thiel even prefer lunatics in power as agents of change, as if the planet is their personal Sims game. In short, regular humans and the global 0.1% may as well be living in different universes today. 

We’re struggling to keep a roof over our heads and the lights on while they worry about how to mine asteroids and colonize Proxima Centauri. Certainly, asteroid mining is a good idea and we should be doing it, as well as exploring space. But in doing so, we need to focus on the benefit to real, flesh and blood humans who exist today, otherwise all those countless intelligences we’re told will exist billions of years from now by Bostrom et al may never be born, or live much worse and shorter lives than predicted because we keep ignoring one disaster after another if it isn’t quite apocalyptic enough for those in charge. To sum it up, Longterminism is a long-winded, sci-fi cousin of the bystander effect, and we’re paying for its malicious optimism with our lives.

Basic human concerns and future are immaterial because to the oligarchs seduced by Bostom’s siren call we’re merely nameless, meaningless peons whose duty it is to exist in service of their glorious, multi-billion year dreams based on the navel-gazing of a philosopher with a penchant for space operas, numerology, and comp sci buzzwords, helping the wealthy and powerful build a world best described as Idiocracy meets Ghost in the Shell meets Warhammer 40K and sell it back to them as a grand utopia because something something GDP growth and manufacturing capacity. No wonder society seems to be breaking down while those with the ability to fix it sit around and twiddle their thumbs. That’s exactly what’s happening.

It really is difficult to overstate the sheer stupidity of letting the world today fall into chaos at the cost of billions of lives over the next few centuries because an eloquent crank with an accent and an over-enthusiastic programmer told you everything will be okay eons from now, and you may be around to see it thanks to the magic of nerds with computers. But there are parallels with Art Laffer and trickle down economics. Despite being widely discredited by studies, absurd on its face, and based on little more than a drawing cocktail napkin, it’s been embraced across the West because it tells the wealthy and powerful what they want to hear regardless of whether it’s true. Longternimism fills the same niche and may be just as difficult to shake off.

# tech // nick bostrom / technobabble / transhumanism

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