Is the Singularity a Religious Eschaton?

November 20, 2006

“Live long and prosper” or “Be fruitful and multiply” that is the choice of our times.

Randall Parker argues that improvements in health and longevity technologies are changing the environment to select (darwinistically) for those humans most interested in reproduction. Simple exponential math tells you that relatively small differences in fertility lead to large differences in population over time.

Right now, the biggest apparent determinant of fertility is religion. So as technology improves, unless the “live long and prosper” folks are really good at converting “be fruitful and multiply folks” to their view, it will be the later who will rapidly come to dominate all aspects of society.

Wikipedia describes Jewish beliefs about the eschaton as follows:

Tumultuous events will overturn the old world order, creating a new order in which God is universally recognized as the ruler over everyone and everything. One of the sages of the Talmud says, “Let the end of days come, but may I not live to see them”, because they will be filled with so much conflict and suffering.

Sounds a lot like a technological singularity dominated by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. More wikipedia:

Islam teaches the bodily resurrection of the dead, the fulfillment of a divine plan for creation, and the immortality of the human soul; the righteous are rewarded with the pleasures of Jannah (Heaven), while the unrighteous are punished in Jahannam (Hell)

Immortality of the human soul is definitely something promised by the tech folks (backup your brain onto silicon etc.). The difficulty is that it will be very difficult (and perhaps immoral?) to keep the life extension technology out of the hands of the be-fruitful-and-multiply crowd.

All of these religions (and hindu as well) have some model in which evil people will be damned to hell and only the good will persist. In a world where the power to destroy all increases with Moore’s law, the need to restrain evil will become a top priority. Only the good will survive and history will come to an end.

Update: Spengler observes in the Asia Times that the confrontation with modernity is causing Iranians to give up, stop breeding, and start whoring. I’d never thought of prostitution as an institution that exists in opposition to reproduction but his argument makes sense. In any case, perhaps this is an argument that reproduction and modernity are inherently in conflict. Perhaps there is some natural law that cuts down reproduction naturally to match changes in potential longevity.