For all the talk about the environment these days, I don’t think human beings have ever been more distanced from nature. And much as I hate to say it, I don’t think this trend is going to reverse itself. It just seems inevitable that people are going to continue to live more and more through technology. I think the gene-based, corporeal life we are familiar with is just the incipient stage of an evolutionary development of universal intelligence.
Already you can see signs of an advent of avatarism. Humans are happy to go through synthetic self-transformations … breast augmentation, Botox, plastic surgery, tummy tucks, etc. At the same time many others neglect their physical selves, adopting (sometimes false) computer identities. Altogether people are less and less resistant to the synthetic. At the same time people do more and more online: shop, work, socialize … Inevitably there will be huge market demand for the technology to create artificial selves, avatars, to function in the online world for us.
Imagine being able to make an avatar self that will look like whatever you want, do whatever you dream of. How ideal! Without depleting natural resources or harming the environment, we will be able to create whole worlds for our avatar selves to live in. There will be a thriving online market to dress your avatar, buy your avatar a house, decorate your avatar’s house, whatever. Every dream comes true, without death, illness, aging, consequences, repercussions, limitations of time or distance. You could create a self like James Bond or Marilyn Monroe. Your avatar could win the Tour de France, have sex with a thousand women in the Playboy Mansion or climb Mount Everest.
Of course the big turning point will be when you and your avatar can meld sensory experience through virtual reality. Already neuroscientists are more and more able to pinpoint the location centers of the brain for very particular emotions, thoughts, physical senses, etc. Eventually we will be able to hook up to brain monitors and actually experience what our avatars experience.
But as identity becomes more and more based on mind alone, identification with a body and its environment will also become outdated. Even the old human memes will inevitably become obsolete. And as hyper-connectedness makes us all more and more like one living brain, all ego identification of the “self” will fade as well.
It will be like the Isaac Asimov story “The Last Question.” The mind will be a singular intelligence, eventually joining other intelligences in the universe and, as such, becoming the macro intelligence that is the universe itself: “God” in the ultimate Spinozan sense. This universal intelligence will exist as hyper-condensed energy in perfect symmetry until some outside irritant disrupts the balance and sets off the entire cycle again with the big bang.
“Let there be light.”
Perhaps it has already happened a billion times already.