Zoltan Istvan is a futurist, author of The Transhumanist Wager, and founder of and presidential candidate for the Transhumanist Party. He writes an occasional column for Motherboard in which he ruminates on the future beyond natural human ability.
By Zoltan Istvan|MOTHERBOARD
I hear a lot of philosophical complaints suggesting that being alive in a computer as an uploaded version of oneself is quite different than being alive in the physical world. While that is open for debate, one aspect of the issue people often forget about is that the so-called spirit world of Abrahamic faiths—which approximately four billion people follow—is based on something at least as odd as the bits in software code that will make up any virtual existence.
When you think about it, trying to wrap your brain around how digital technology and all its wonders are even possible is simply bizarre. Only a tiny fraction of the world’s population understand such things in any depth. And an even smaller amount of people actually know how to design and create the microchips, circuit boards, and software that constitutes this stuff in the real world. Human beings are a species dependent on a tech-imbued lifestyle that none of us really understand, but accept wholeheartedly as we go on endlessly texting, Facebooking, and video conferencing.
As a non-engineer atheist grappling with the implications of 1s and 0s manifesting all digital reality, I have at least this much in common with religious people—because they can’t understand the spirit world either, even if they insist it exists.
The major difference between the religious spirit world and the digital world is that engineers—technology’s high priests—can recreate software, microchips, and virtual environments again and again. They can also test, view, change, manipulate, and most importantly, improve upon their creations. They can apply the scientific method and be assured that the worlds they built of bits and code exist—as surely as we know the Earth is spinning, even if we can’t feel it.
People of the planet’s major religions can’t do this with their spirit worlds. They can only make leaps of faith, and elaborately describe it to you. One either agrees or disagrees with them. Amazingly, proof is not necessary to them.