Post Humanism – New Things With Brains

NedNotes - Post-Humanism -- Things with BrainsPost-Humanism — I am fascinated by thinking about what will create the next generation of things with brains.

Recent Blog Posts on this topic: 

 

God and the Robots

Posted by on Oct 21, 2015 in posthuman, technology, theology | 0 comments

I have in mind writing a non-fiction book called God and the Robots. Here’s a first look at my early book proposal.  ——————————————– In the summer of 2015, two stories were on the front page of the New York Times. The stories did not appear to be related. The first was an announcement that a group of technical luminaries – including Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking – had signed a statement calling for governments to outlaw the building of autonomous killing weapons, or so-called “Terminator” machines.[1] The other was a story about a well-meaning robot called “hitchBot” being destroyed by vandals while hitchhiking across the United States.[2] The first story was about how intelligent machines should treat us. The second story was about how we should treat intelligent machines. Both stories turn on an unanswered question – what is our ethical relationship to robots? How should we treat each other? The proposed nonfiction book God and the Robots provides an answer to this important question, from an author with intimate knowledge of current and future machine intelligence, as well as a deep understanding of theological ethics and America’s long engagement with Judeo-Christian ethics. Intel futurist Ned Hayes is an expert in artificial intelligence; he also happens to be a published theologian who has worked on ethical questions for several decades. He thus has a uniquely informed perspective on ethical interactions with machines. With strong endorsements from leading thinkers across the robotics spectrum, God and the Robots is an important and timely update on a topic that has a broad and actively engaged readership, but whose leading New York Times bestselling books are all five to ten years old. God and the Robots fills this market need with an original and deeply informed new book on robotics, ethics, and AI. Why Theology  & Robots In 2015, nearly 80% of Americans claim some affinity with Judeo-Christian conceptions of God; a strong majority of U.S. adults say they believe in God, heaven and the soul.[3]  What will happen to those baseline beliefs when self-aware robots begin to assert themselves? In fact, what is a robot in terms of theological understanding? Does a robot believe in God or have a soul? Today, these questions may not seem to matter. But very soon, when your 90-year-old grandmother is being cared for by an always-on and seemingly highly compassionate near-sentient robot, people will begin to ask these questions every day. If your grandmother begins to believe that the robot prays for her, and she cares for the robot as a “person,” then these questions will have immediate resonance. And what if the robot does actually pray for her? What happens then? What will your family think of that robot, and of that grandmother? These scenarios may come to life within the next five to ten years. Readers living in this generation of human beings will need to engage with robots on a daily basis. And they will need answers to critical questions of machine en-soulment, human differentiation and ethical behavior towards robots. This book sees the coming AI sea-change as a way to extend America’s Judeo-Christian ethic to embrace robotic beings.[4] Finally, one of the few nonfiction categories still growing dramatically is the “Religious”[5] book category: another category still above water is “Technology.”[6] God and...

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Post-Humanity and Terminator

Posted by on May 17, 2012 in posthuman, tech | 0 comments

I’ve had some fun recently watching and reading about the Terminator series. It’s not a bad attempt to bring a large SF franchise into the more constrained world of TV, and there’sconsiderable fan momentum If you were creating an artificial lifeform from the ground-up, what kinds of elements would you use? First, in any kind of hostile environment, it would be wise to create an internal skeleton made of a matrix of some sort of highly flexible yet very strong metal. A network that would carry materials to re-build and upgrade internal systems — the best way of communicating would be through a chemical/electrical metallic soup of individually independent systems — little nano-like magnetized iron particles, each of which would contain the whole blueprint for the system, so you wouldn’t have to send signals back to some sort of central system in order to effect remote repairs on independent portions of the system. Oh, and best of all, if you could have a self re-generating type of exoskeleton that would render the internal system and iron-based fluid network impervious to water contamination or external forces, that would be great. So, it really suits the Terminator-like model: metal interior skeleton, electrically-conducting interior network, metallic, iron-based magnetized nano-particles that each have a miniature copy of the entire system. Self-re-generating properties. Couple that with a strong brain based on electrical and chemical reactions, and we actually have… a human being. Calcium — the basic building block of our internal skeleton — is, in fact, a metal. Here’ssome more information about the metal calcium, the fifth most abundant element in the Earth’s surface. When used in a lattice-like framework, calcium is incredibly strong. Stronger than steel of similar weight and construction (which is the reason that in the Terminator movie and show they use a hitherto-undiscovered metal). And each of our blood cells in our veins contain our DNA as a blueprint of our whole system, and blood itself is iron-based — and arguably magnetizable (the considerable degree of iron in our blood turns it red on exposure to oxygen, and turns it brown like rust after long exposure). The brain, and our nervous system run off a combination of electrical and chemical impulses. When we think of trying to construct a metal robot that is bipedal and self-sufficient (not to mention self re-generating), we really have in front of us an amazing model of how metal and electrical systems can evolve. While we’re on the topic, I came across an interesting bit of Terminator trivia this weekend. Remember the original Terminator movie? Whenever you see through the eyes of The Terminator himself, a bunch of computery text is scrolling by. It turns out this text isthe source code for an Apple II checksum program, among other programs. The code was first published in Nibble magazine in the early 80’s, so was close at hand when the movie’s producers needed something high-tech for their futuristic robot/killing machine/bodybuilder. The code featured in the movie runs on a 70’s-era MOS 6502 microprocessor. Please like &...

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Recent Research: Symbolic Machines

Posted by on Jul 2, 2009 in philosophy, posthuman, theology | 0 comments

The assumption that ‘raw’ matter such as silicon, metals, and ceramics can be organized in such a manner that they can give rise to a mental state that we can recognize as consciousness, is a fundamental underpinning of the effort to create artificial intelligence. As philosopher of mind Nick Bostrom points out: Substrate-independence is a common assumption in the philosophy of mind. The idea is that mental states can supervene on any of a broad class of physical substrates. Provided a system implements the right sort of computational structures and processes, it can be associated with conscious experiences. It is not an essential property of consciousness that it is implemented on carbon-based biological neural networks inside a cranium; silicon-based processors inside a computer could in principle do the trick as well. Until recently, we have had neither sufficiently powerful hardware nor the requisite software to create conscious minds. But if recent cybernetic progress continues unabated then these shortcomings will eventually be overcome. Philosophers of technology and technological enhancement advocates like Drexler, Bostrom, Kurzweil and Moravec argue that this stage may be only a few decades away. To create a human-equivalent intellect (either an organically derived one, or a silicon-based one), a system would need to be capable of performing ~10^14 operations per second (1,000,000 trillion). This is considered, by scientists of the mind, to be the absolute lower bound of human brain activity. Yet if Moore’s law continues to hold then the lower bound will be reached sometime between 2004 and 2008, and the upper bound (~10^17) between 2015 and 2024. Bostrom notes that “the past success of Moore’s law gives some inductive reason to believe that it will hold another ten, fifteen years or so; and this prediction is supported by the fact that there are many promising new technologies currently under development which hold great potential to increase procurable computing power.” Thus, there is no direct reason to suppose that Moore’s law will not hold longer than 15 years. In fact, predictions that Moore’s law would begin to falter as early as 2004 were recently confounded by the February 2005 advent of the ‘Cell’ chip – a new silicon design that could have a theoretical peak performance of 256 billion mathematical operations per second – an innovation that advances personal computers into the realm of the supercomputer. It thus seems quite likely that the requisite hardware for human-level artificial intelligence will be assembled in the first quarter of the 21st century, possibly within the first decade. How will we be able to identify or understand the ontology of such a system, and define whether or not this system constitutes a ‘being’ in an ontotheological sense? Among careful philosophers of computer science, it has become evident that human beings are already reaching limits in their ability to rapidly create a self-aware system. In the interests of more rapidly reaching the goal of actual “artificial intelligence” (however that may be defined) computer scientists have been working for many years towards the goal of creating lower-level systems called ‘Seed AI’ that can write code itself – and for improving itself. The task is quite similar to that of teaching animals symbolic constructions. The creation of symbolic realities should, necessarily, thus change the reality and capabilities of artificial intelligences. These systems,...

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A Cyborg Eschatology: A.N. Whitehead and Post-Humanism (COMPLETE)

Posted by on Sep 20, 2008 in philosophy, posthuman | 0 comments

Cyborg Eschatology: A Process Perspective on Post-Organic Embodiment i. Environment and Actuality In Western thought, one person’s ego is often considered primary: the individual “I” is the focus of many historical Western Christian conceptions of salvation and sin. In contrast, Eastern philosophy has often emphasized a “flux” of existences which co-exist in community. As Christian influence has waned in Western philosophy, contemporary cultural thinkers like Heidegger and Derrida have spoken out of a so-called post-modern and post-sacred ethos. Yet despite the “death of God” drama, within Heidegger’s Dasein or Derrida’s “speaking subject” the Western conception of the individual’s being in the world as a matter of ultimate focus has nearly always been retained. The essentially ego-centric thought structure never disappeared from the work of Western thinkers. As such, this focus on the individual subject continues to perpetrate the presence of any sacrality – or ultimate absence, in the work of a/theologians like Mark C. Taylor – as existing outside the individual, and speaking into that individual’s Dasein. Alfred North Whitehead’s penetrating process thought anticipated and critiqued the idea of the individual human subject as paramount. In process theology, we find that there is no “ultimate ground” of being – either for an individual human being or for a God figure. Instead, we are continually reminded that in the creative concrescence of the universe is found the ultimate “force” – a force that only exists in occasions that are being continuously anticipated, continuously created, continuously actualized. This is a God that can be visualized not in terms of an individual Spirit or even a driving force, but rather one vast tide in the ocean of the universe, sweeping all matter, all reality towards optimal ends even as matter and energy continue to evolve, to develop, and to seek its own ends and actualities. In fact, “God” – in this conception – “has no existence in itself and is to be found only in actual instances of the many becoming one. In place of a substance or static being underlying or transcending the flux,” God is primarily “a formative element of the flux.” Whitehead’s “formative flux” provides for the self-determination of every actuality and effectively reconciles efficient and final causation. Both freedom of the will and efficient causation are accounted for in Whitehead’s thought, without overt contradiction. Process thought, as conceived by Whitehead and elaborated upon by philosophers like Cobb and Suchocki, thus emphasizes that we are partially created by our environment – an individual’s “good” thus functions only as part of the individual’s overall environment. As Cobb puts it, “no neat line can be drawn between the individual and its environment, since what is ‘the environment’ in one moment essentially enters into the individual in the next moment.” Although the initial formulation of process thought concerned itself with the larger metaphysical and epistemological implications of the connection between the individual and its environment, recent developments in both artificial intelligence and the expansion of consciousness beyond its original ‘environment’ of the organic body leads us to think about particular implications of Whitehead’s emphasis on the inherent connection between an individual moment and its environment, specifically in the domain of human consciousness. If we truly understand Whitehead’s original emphasis on all occasions being generated consistently out of that endless unifying energy of...

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Cyborg Eschatology: Whitehead and the Posthuman (Part V)

Posted by on Sep 9, 2008 in philosophy, posthuman | 0 comments

vi. Evolution & Transcendence Whitehead does not write directly of the possibility of God’s relationship with beings that human beings substantially create, but he does write of the difference in God’s creative relationship with every actuality. From this discussion, Whitehead describes God’s operations within and upon the metaphysical universe as the ongoing act of “enabling finite beings themselves by their own activity to transcend themselves.” In fact, it seems clear that the spiritual soul may in fact, arise out of such divine operations. The material reality of our environment becomes another novel ingredient in God’s satisfaction relative to the creation of a new entity. The manner in which a cybernetic soul may connect with its own ultimate possibilities in fact takes place through the same type of creative actuality we are privileged to participate in through Jesus Christ. Instead of being “redeemed” out of the world, Christ “redeems” our understanding within the material reality – whether that understanding is flesh or silicon. God’s providence for us is coupled to God’s providence – and creativity – in the world. As computer scientists have already realized, the act of creating their own symbolic solutions will be the first “evolutionary step” for computer systems. For the possibility of transcendence is there as a “seed” in the very act of teaching a computer how to use language – even if that language is a system of points and program referents. Language itself is symbolic: as Jacques Lacan explains, “the function of language is not to inform but to evoke.” In Christian terms, the evocative character of language allows us to conceive of an eschatological reality – a future that is dynamic and mutable.   Eventually, we will look back at the present period – the glass that we look in darkly, as the Apostle Paul writes – and consider it a time of primordial possibilities. Yet even in these moments wait the possibility of the actual, of the novel, of the constant creativity, which may take us towards a cybernetic relationship with the ultimate creative power of God. As Whitehead writes, “When we survey nature and think however flitting and superficial has been the animal enjoyment of its wonders, and when we realize how incapable the separate cells and pulsations of each flower are of enjoying the total effect – then our sense of the value of the details for the totality dawns upon our consciousness. This is the intuition of holiness, the intuition of the sacred…” Just as we early realized that God’s creativity is not limited to organic embodiment, so in the cybernetic world we will discover the possibilities for optimal expression. Only through opening ourselves to the creative possibilities of unification will other beings take their place as embodied beings in Christ. How will the realization that consciousness is no longer limited to organic embodiment become part of our accepted knowledge? Whitehead, for one, stated that ideas nearly have a force of their own and constantly work towards fuller expression in the culture. In fact, evolutionist Richard Dawkins seems to have popularized an essentially Whiteheadian notion in his creation of today’s popular term for a self-propelled idea, a meme, which is essentially an idea described as a self-replicating unit of information. In Adventures of Ideas, Whitehead describes how the meme...

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Cyborg Eschatology: Whitehead and the Posthuman (Part IV)

Posted by on Sep 9, 2008 in philosophy, posthuman | 0 comments

iv. Machine Organization and Actualization The assumption that ‘raw’ matter such as silicon, metals, and ceramics can be organized in such a manner that they can give rise to a mental state that we can recognize as consciousness, is a fundamental underpinning of the effort to create artificial intelligence. As philosopher of mind Nick Bostrom points out: Substrate-independence is a common assumption in the philosophy of mind. The idea is that mental states can supervene on any of a broad class of physical substrates. Provided a system implements the right sort of computational structures and processes, it can be associated with conscious experiences. It is not an essential property of consciousness that it is implemented on carbon-based biological neural networks inside a cranium; silicon-based processors inside a computer could in principle do the trick as well. This assumption that ‘life’ arising outside of the human womb could include intelligence comprehensible by human beings is also shared in Christian thought. Theological understanding extends beyond the physical continuum of our birth bed and ‘enfleshed’ bodies. In fact, Christian thinkers like Karl Rahner imply that conscious and substantially ‘informed’ beings can arise outside of the biosphere, but instead may emerge out of the “noosphere” of intellectual and computer activity. These strains of contemporary Christian theology echo process theology ideas that often seem to be overlooked, and that underlay much recent theological activity around the body and substrate-independent “en-soulment.” If we remember that Whitehead’s thought did not require any particular substrate in order to see God’s “handiwork” in the universe’s continual creativity and continuing evolution, we are further along the path towards acceptance of the idea that optimal ends for human relationship may not even require our specific organic bodies. God may not have even anticipated these ends – yet that does not make them any less “good.” Furthermore, in the fundamental freedom of reality, we make our own “ends.” As John Cobb helpfully explains: “The subject may choose to actualize the initial aim; but it may also choose from among the other real possibilities open to it, given its context. In other words, God seeks to persuade each occasion toward that possibility for its own existence which would be best for it; but God cannot control the finite occasion’s self-actualization.” Each occasion that takes us closer to a machine-based ensoulment is a moment that actualizes another beneficentoccasion. Obviously, Whitehead’s work does not directly point to either the good (or the evil) of such occasions. Yet the reason for Whitehead’s lack of anticipation of such a possibility may be that until recently, we have had neither sufficiently powerful hardware nor the requisite software to create conscious minds. But if recent cybernetic progress continues unabated then these shortcomings will eventually be overcome. Philosophers of technology and technological enhancement advocates like Drexler, Bostrom, Kurzweil and Moravec argue that this stage may be only a few decades away. To create a human-equivalent intellect (either an organically derived one, or a silicon-based one), a system would need to be capable of performing ~10^14 operations per second (1,000,000 trillion). This is considered, by scientists of the mind, to be the absolute lower bound of human brain activity. If Moore’s law continues to hold then the lower bound will be reached sometime between 2004 and 2008, and the upper...

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Cyborg Eschatology: Whitehead and the Posthuman (Part II)

Posted by on Sep 9, 2008 in posthuman | 0 comments

ii. A Model for Post-Organic Actualization The central question we will soon contend with is this: Are beings who are other than organically human to be defined as “persons” or “humans” just as readily as we define any “person” who “extends themselves” into the world through merely their organic body? One day soon, there may be a ‘being’ who extends themselves into the world through merely a computer interface. On the screen in front of us, we may see a line of text which – in that moment of time – is the only extension of a being’s body into physical space. Yet this text and its animating underpinning may contain a degree of intellect that transcends that screen: is this a being with a soul? Perhaps that being may even construe themselves as possessing no other body than lines of text or ‘code.’ Without a recognizable body or thinking capacity, can a being still be “transcendent”? It is an obvious – and oft used – trope to respond in the negative. As others have noted, such these nihilistic replies come out of an innate fear of “otherness” or a lack of understanding of the possibility of what it would mean to answer in the positive. Yet according to computer scientists and other scientists of the mind, we are rapidly approaching the era when we cannot help but be confronted with the need to create more inclusive definitions of embodiment in the world. One useful model for studying this rapid emergence of new forms of consciousness can be found in Whitehead’s thought. Whitehead, of course, spent much effort on creating a new approach to metaphysics; in many regards, he hoped to unite science and theology with his “process thought.” Thus, much of his focus was on describing and defining how the base elements of all existence – down to matter and time itself – functioned. As process theologian Marjorie Suchocki summarizes: “The subject emerges in concrescence, beginning with feelings of data from the past, or the given actual world. These feelings are termed prehensions by Whitehead, so that the subject prehends the data of the past. The subject also prehends or feels the possibilities for its own future. Through the unification of these, which requires a constrasting and evaluating until the complexity is reduced to a simpler unity, the subject creates itself in the present. The movement can also be called a progression from the physical pole (actuality), through the mental pole (possibility), toward the concrete unity of the two, which is the creation of a new actuality.” This description is of the becoming of an actual occasion of experience – or more commonly, an occasion. The entire process is creative. It is creative as the unification of actuality and possibility (“concrescent creativity”) Creative because it evokes a new becoming ( “transitional creativity” – “superjective nature of the occasion”). This Whiteheadian process attempts to describe the dynamics of all existence, on a sub-micro level, yet also on a human consciousness level. In this light, the model can be seen as a description of our own integrally relational psychological nature… yet its primary purpose is to provide a model for understanding the “building blocks” of existence. In this paper, I hope to use the Whiteheadian model of how an actual...

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Cyborg Eschatology: Whitehead and Post-Humanity (Part I)

Posted by on Sep 9, 2008 in posthuman | 0 comments

i. Environment and Actuality In Western thought, one person’s ego is often considered primary: the individual “I” is the focus of many historical Western Christian conceptions of salvation and sin. In contrast, Eastern philosophy has often emphasized a “flux” of existences which co-exist in community. As Christian influence has waned in Western philosophy, contemporary cultural thinkers like Heidegger and Derrida have spoken out of a so-called post-modern and post-sacred ethos. Yet despite the “death of God” drama, within Heidegger’s Dasein or Derrida’s “speaking subject” the Western conception of the individual’s being in the world as a matter of ultimate focus has nearly always been retained. The essentially ego-centric thought structure never disappeared from the work of Western thinkers. As such, this focus on the individual subject continues to perpetrate the presence of any sacrality – or ultimate absence, in the work of a/theologians like Mark C. Taylor – as existing outside the individual, and speaking into that individual’s Dasein. Alfred North Whitehead’s penetrating process thought anticipated and critiqued the idea of the individual human subject as paramount. In process theology, we find that there is no “ultimate ground” of being – either for an individual human being or for a God figure. Instead, we are continually reminded that in the creative concrescence of the universe is found the ultimate “force” – a force that only exists in occasions that are being continuously anticipated, continuously created, continuously actualized. This is a God that can be visualized not in terms of an individual Spirit or even a driving force, but rather one vast tide in the ocean of the universe, sweeping all matter, all reality towards optimal ends even as matter and energy continue to evolve, to develop, and to seek its own ends and actualities. In fact, “God” – in this conception – “has no existence in itself and is to be found only in actual instances of the many becoming one. In place of a substance or static being underlying or transcending the flux,” God is primarily “a formative element of the flux.” Whitehead’s “formative flux” provides for the self-determination of every actuality and effectively reconciles efficient and final causation. Both freedom of the will and efficient causation are accounted for in Whitehead’s thought, without overt contradiction. Process thought, as conceived by Whitehead and elaborated upon by philosophers like Cobb and Suchocki, thus emphasizes that we are partially created by our environment – an individual’s “good” thus functions only as part of the individual’s overall environment. As Cobb puts it, “no neat line can be drawn between the individual and its environment, since what is ‘the environment’ in one moment essentially enters into the individual in the next moment.” Although the initial formulation of process thought concerned itself with the larger metaphysical and epistemological implications of the connection between the individual and its environment, recent developments in both artificial intelligence and the expansion of consciousness beyond its original ‘environment’ of the organic body leads us to think about particular implications of Whitehead’s emphasis on the inherent connection between an individual moment and its environment, specifically in the domain of human consciousness. If we truly understand Whitehead’s original emphasis on all occasions being generated consistently out of that endless unifying energy of God, we must accept that “flux” includes occasions...

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New Weird Fiction, OntoTheology & Cultural Memes: PhD Dissertation Proposal

Posted by on May 2, 2008 in philosophy, posthuman, theology | 0 comments

New Weird Fiction, OntoTheology & Cultural Memes — My PhD Dissertation Proposal   (In 2008, I proposed doing a PhD in theology and approaches to post-humanism. Accepted into a PhD program on this topic, but then I went to a full-time day job again.) “We are a [species] whose little children demand wearily at the end of each day, ‘Momma, tell me a story’,” novelist and theologian Andrew Greeley once observed. In fact, human beings do not merely ask for stories to explain experience, but also use the act of story-telling to structure experience itself into a comprehensible series of moments linked by time and by causation. As educational psychologists and sociologists tell us, the self is “constituted through an exchange in language.” We weave a web of words, and live inside it, and call it world. It is thus interesting to observe that an arcane interest in the abstractions behind language and text is rapidly becoming secondary to a new 21st century resurgence of interest in religious belief as a prime motivator for literary production and critical inquiry. To cite one sign of the shift, upon the death of Jacques Derrida in 2005, eminent cultural critic Stanley Fish wrote that soon “religion” would succeed “high theory and the triumvirate of race, gender, and class as the center of intellectual energy in the academy.” One of principal interpreters of literary theory movements – Terry Eagleton – further explained in his 2004 book After Theory that the global connectiveness of our society demands that society and literature address larger questions than literary “sub-text” and in fact that societal movements and literature writ large are now attempting to wrestle with big questions and articulate “grand narratives” once more. The time is ripe for a new look at one of these “grand narratives” – the Christian redemptive story, and to re-think it in “story as theology” terms. “Story theology” has been done before, yet unsuccessfully. This project seeks to re-vitalize, re-think, and re-articulate “story theology” in specifically post-modern and feminist terms. The nascent “story theology” of the 1960s and 1970s can roughly be said to be the domain of a diverse group of creative thinkers, among them Paul Ricoeur, Jürgen Habermas, Sallie McFague, Mary Daley and Andrew Greeley. In different ways, these thinkers articulated the deep truths of faith in a mode that emphasized narrative, metaphor and story over systematic structure. Yet this “theology in metaphor/story” lacked a rigorous philosophical foundation for creating theology from cultural narrative and rapidly became a hand-maiden to the dominant model of theology as forcibly enacted “upon” submissive listeners by patriarchal “teachers.” For context, this early version of “story theology” is briefly summarized, along with the various critiques brought to bear upon these early efforts to outline non-systematic plot-driven faith experiences. The critiques of early “story theology” were broad-ranging. One principle weakness was the lack of a rigorous philosophical foundation, a gap I aim to amend in this study. A secondary – yet no less important –critique of 1970s “story theology” emerged out of feminist/womanist and liberation perspectives. After all, it is clear that the lives of many do not come together in such a fashion as to form a “story” that can be articulated in the Western norm. Yet in the 1970s, when so-called “story theology” first emerged,...

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Karl Rahner and Post-Humanism

Posted by on Apr 26, 2008 in philosophy, posthuman, theology | 0 comments

Symbol & Cyborg: Karl Rahner’s Theology of the Body and Post-Organic Embodiment One of the more interesting features of Karl Rahner’s influential “Theological Investigations” is that it is, at heart, a theology of symbols. In fact, Rahner writes that “die ganze Theologie, ohne nicht auch wesentlich eine Symboltheologie zu sein.” God comes to our life on earth through symbols, and we respond to the divine through the use of symbol. Today, our human interactions are increasingly articulated in electronic representation, and Rahner’s symbolic emphasis seems especially applicable. After all, all software “behavior” and “virtual” activity is essential symbolic: as many have noted, computer user interfaces are essentially composed of layers of metaphorical symbols embedded within a framework of electronic emulations. This symbolic framework may eventually allow our electronic creations to find embodiment in post-human form, and in fact, to transcend their origins entirely. As a theologian of the body in symbol and as symbol, Rahner is thus uniquely suited to help us understand the theological implications of post-organic embodiment, symbol, and cybernetic transcendence. Within Rahner’s theology, his study of symbol leads naturally towards an understanding of God’s symbolic expression of transcendence in Jesus Christ. The body is the preeminent symbol, yet as we will find when we consider new modes of embodiment, it is necessary to clarify how Rahner’s theology of symbol continues to apply. Finally, a thoughtful comprehension of symbol and theology may lead us to the theme of ultimate transcendence, and emphasize possible outcomes of theological self-conceptions within a post-organic Rahnerian worldview. Yet if we are to apply Rahnerian theology to the post-organic, we must first clearly understand the nature of symbol.   i. Symbol What is a symbol? Is it the same as a sign? A sign is often simply a pointer to another thing: words are signs. Of course, the endeavor of speaking in signs about symbolic or signaling action is itself fraught with the peril of representation. These signs all point to other signs, until indeed Il n’y a pas dehors texte. Signing action result in simply a circular understanding of language and theology in which all founded meaning is mutable at best. Rahner himself notes, “Die Übergänge sind hier fließend.” However, in this realm of variability, theological constructs can still be attempted, and self-styled “a/theologians” have found fertile avenues towards a “deconstructed God” that emerges within the very polyvalency of signs. Rahner seems to anticipate this mode of theologizing by explicitly calling out the inevitability of signs that lead to derivative modes of being, or “abkünftigen Weisen des Symbolseins.” Yet he also directly rejects the usefulness of “Symbolseins” as a way to understand the reality of God in our world. Throughout his work, instead of embracing the “Vertretungssymbol” or “Symbolsein” (the same lesser sign in which future generations of Derridaen rable will revel), Rahner instead chooses to emphasize something he calls “Realsymbol.” Symbol, for Rahner, is clearly more than sign. In German and English, “symbol” comes from the Greek etymology sym-ballein, or ‘thrown together.’ Thus, the original meaning of symbol was of two things joined to create a type of bridge. A symbol is a thing which comes from two directions at once, and thus is able to point back towards both of its origin points. Signs are generally understood to have a...

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