The Semantic Apocalypse

  • 3 Replies
  • 3744 Views

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

What Came Before

  • *
  • Administrator
  • Emwama
  • *****
  • Posts: 0
    • View Profile
    • First Second Apocalypse
« on: April 24, 2013, 05:57:43 pm »
Quote from: Jorge
One of Bakker's recurring ideas is that we are living in an era that heralds the 'death of meaning'. The important features of this 'semantic apocalypse' (SA) are as follows:

1. The SA of a process of secularization that began during the enlightenment, where the basic operational framework of human knowledge is increasingly founded upon materialistic and reductionist principles.

2. The slow 'takeover' of traditionally humanistic disciplines by scientific and technological methods. In the past, if we studied music, we might talk about tones, harmony, emotions, motifs. In the future we will talk about how different recursive fractal auditory stimuli are processed by the amygdala and hypothalamus to create 'sticky memories' so that people can be more effectively marketed to.

3. A shift from governments interested in enforcing moral values, to governments willing to delegate 'values' to specific interest groups. In other words, the markets will dictate what is valued and defended by the government. Many might argue this happened a long time ago in the US.

4. Due to poorly regulated neural augmentation and modification technologies, groups will be able to completely splinter and condemn each other on absolute terms. Furthermore, many groups may engage in behaviors and modalities no longer clearly recognizable as human or moral. (I joke that maybe some part of humanity will come to resemble the Inchoroi. We too are a race of lovers...)

Many people, even those of us who are Bakker fanboys have objections to this framework. The argument hinges on several assumptions which I feel can be attacked or outright refuted, listed below. Also listed are some potential objections and, parenthetically, my feelings on how strong those objections are.

1. That neuroscience can reduce all human cognition to the cellular level where 'values' are no longer recognizable.
Possible Objections:
a. Neuroscience will not be able to completely reduce all human values. (Highly unlikely)
b. 'Reducing' values to the cellular level will not render them 'meaningless' (Maybe valid, will need to philosowank on this)
c. Even if it becomes academically possible to reduce human mental states to 'meaningless' cellular level, it will have no effect on technology and/or general pop-psychology perceptions. (Highly unlikely)

2. Society will allow neuromodification.
Possible Objections:
a. Many societies will prohibit neural tampering (Possible, albeit seemingly unenforceable in the long term, much like sports doping)
b. Neuromodification will be outlawed if the effects are seen as detrimental by the general populace (Possible, again, enforcement may be an issue. It's also possible the general populace will be manipulated into ignoring it.)

3. Neuroscience will be applied to all fields.
Possible Objections:
a. Fields like arts and philosophy involve 'irreducibles' (Possible, maybe even a strong objection. My own personal bias is to think of consciousness as irreducible, but many readings have given me pause.)
b. Neuroscience will enhance and actually ADD meaningful depth to those fields (Valid and strong objection. It's possible that discoveries made by neuroscience will simply make the labyrinth that is 'meaning' and 'philosophy' even wider than we ever suspected. It is currently, obviously, unclear how this would be so...)

4. Once Neuromodifications become widely available, value systems will bifurcate drastically and humanity's only true common underpinning will be destroyed.
Possible Objections:
a. Neuromodifications will be allowed but regulated in a way so that core moral functions are preserved. (Highly likely. Just as there was an empathy test in Blade Runner, society may have people that track down those who have modified themselves in ways we deem unacceptable. See "SEMANTICA" subforum.)
b. Morality is derived from reason, Aquinas-style, so no amount of neuromodification will turn someone into something we cannot morally recognize as human. (Highly unlikely, several believable clinical accounts of brain-damage turning people into criminals exist. Although most cases involved deterioration in future planning and 'intelligence', its plausible morality can be 'tuned down' without affecting general intelligence too much.)

5. The Semantic Apocalypse is 'negative'.
Possible Objections:
a. No, it's not. My brain chip told me so.


Side note:
Bakker's vision was echoed a bit in Accelerando by British author Charles Stross. In this book, which is weird beyond words, many people modify themselves to the point where "self" becomes wholly unrecognizable. One of the most memorable chapters includes a character named Macx having a substantial portion of his externally stored memory stolen, and therefore he literally loses a piece of his 'self' and personal identity. I highly recommend it for those that enjoyed the philosophical aspects of Neuropath.

What Came Before

  • *
  • Administrator
  • Emwama
  • *****
  • Posts: 0
    • View Profile
    • First Second Apocalypse
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2013, 05:57:53 pm »
Quote from: Madness
Let me highlight some social fictions. Inspired by the Objections 2 and 4.

Firstly, I feel like there is pretty clear evidence that human curiosity is a shoot first, ask questions later type animal. One of Bakker's many admonitions, I think, would be to pause... give uncertainty the roost for any time and try - as much as its possible - not to act in ignorance. Though I'm sure we'd agreed there are big differences between mediating cognitive biases and showing a little restraint.

2. We might suggest that things are trending towards control of human population, whether this be in the form of harnessing a workforce or managing consumption. I'm not suggesting conspiracies of any sort, simply that things are super-complex. Cartoons, dig?

So what is the one thing I feel Bakker fears most of all? That humanity might simply use neuroscience's advances to ingrain the "values of the day," what I think defines the Semantic Apocalypse. I think it might have more impact if you imagined it more in terms of Harrison Bergeron.

Imagining these developments in modern society might be a little far-fetched. Far more likely is some sort of monetary class division, something akin to Bakker's concept of Semantica. Depending on your income, you'll be able to afford a certain level of neuroenhancement - a basic cocktail for general consumption. Institutions, Coporations, anything that requires some above average specialized skill-set, will use and subsidize them so their employees can more - something in me rebels at this thought - reflect their ethic and principles. The Government and Military will use them to create super-human soldiers - accelerated reactions, total control of bodily function, augmented thresholds of sensation, possibly exceeding the BBT, if technological - compared to what everyone else is sold. For instance, soldiers already use versions of the Brain Port technology to see underwater or infrared, and have 360 degree vision on the battlefield. Religions and Cults will use them to sway together in Borg bliss.

The Super-Rich probably will become the Inchoroi, if only because they live but to taste the different "modalities of experience" and at the whims of their peers. There will be Tweakers, Rebels, and DIYers. And Normies, a very likely hopelessly outclassed artifact of humanity.

This, as I said, I think is Bakker's Semantic Apocalypse. That every and all social and cultural noospheres, all the World's in-groups, will just let their current values dictate and describe the experiences we create with neuroscience. That they'll all just become more in.

But yes... Monetary class division defines this.

4. I already touched on this slightly above. I feel like I could offer some points for both though.

4a. I talked about the monetary and economic preservation of a status-quo, though this becomes a shady blend of gray quickly because everyone involved is taking different nootropics for school, work, and social groups, so we can't be sure of sustained recognition. We don't know yet if there might be a combination or single neuroenhancement, which immediately crosses a chasm of mental states on the level of psychopaths and beyond. Or they all might do that.

4b. However, I like how you mentioned brain injury and neurodegeneration. There are many instances of people who suffer traumatic experiences, lose portions of cognitive function, and still resemble, even interact, with the rest of society. Yet for the most part, these people are clearly recognizable, require years of intensive skill building to even adapt to the world at large again, and extensive care. I mean there's the instances of tumors causing new-found interest in child porn in a happily married men or causing people to climb clock towers and indiscriminately start shooting people, or degenerative diseases causing compulsive behaviors. Hardly functional. I mean, I could literally take you through hundreds of cases. The point is changes in the brain, change subjective you. Usually irrevocably.

I'll definitely be a Normie. I'm having too much fun learning how to use this body and brain. I don't need upgrades.

Plus, I think, this is Bakker's point in Neuropath and in this schtick above all. We step into the dark, one innocent, ignorant, innocuous, step, and we never get to come back to this, the neurocommons we once shared, beyond museums and laboratories.

What Came Before

  • *
  • Administrator
  • Emwama
  • *****
  • Posts: 0
    • View Profile
    • First Second Apocalypse
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2013, 05:58:01 pm »
Quote from: Jorge
Quote
causing people to climb clock towers and indiscriminately start shooting people

For reference:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Whitman

To his credit, he almost figured out what was happening to him.

Quote
That they'll all just become more in.

This is persuasive, and very scary given how we are capable of mistreating each other despite our current shared neurobiology. How much more dangerous would a fundamentalist zealot be? For starters, they'd be more common. Second, they'd be willing to 'pretend' to a much greater degree. Gladly sacrifice 20 years of their lives pretending to be regular secular Westernized people until they are in the position to do as much damage as possible and then KABOOOM! Make 9/11 look like sparkler show.

Quote
We step into the dark, one innocent, ignorant, innocuous, step, and we never get to come back to this, the neurocommons we once shared, beyond museums and laboratories.

Yeah, it's funny. I always say to myself, "if you neuromod, you're stepping into some seriously Catertesian Evil Demon Inception Matrix 13th Floor Eternal Sunshine Blade-Runner Total Recall eXistenz* type scenarios. Once you start tweaking, your memories and sense of self identity can be twisted... what's left to be sure of?"





* I think I've seen too many movies with this trope...

What Came Before

  • *
  • Administrator
  • Emwama
  • *****
  • Posts: 0
    • View Profile
    • First Second Apocalypse
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2013, 06:00:18 pm »
It saddens me sometimes, the ebb and flow of life that leads me to abandon some conversations over others :(.

+1 to your last post, Jorge. Also, to maybe resume for others - recognition seems a motif.