I hope that I have sufficiently laid down the conceptual, metaphysical and philosphical foundations of contemporary Transhumanism enough for me to build my snail-paced commentary for you.
First, lets discuss the demographic makeup of those that share the "core values" of Transhumanism...
The WTA (possibly under the direct supervision of James Sleeper) had conducted a survey from within its official membership base.
After reading the survey, I found a couple of the survey questions somewhat misleading when determining the precise personal nature of one's highest core values...
For example, the survey question "Is the concept of the 'meaning of life' derived from human responsibility and opportunity rather than divine revelation?" cannot be readily satisfied with a simple "yes" or "no" answer.
This question only has merit for those with dualistic thinking patterns.
It could be equally likely for an avatar to believe that the 'meaning of life' can be derived from human responsibility and opportunity in collusion/participation (conscious or not) with divine revelation. I wonder what percentage of WTA members would agree to this post-theological compromise? Certainly, this is much closer to my personal belief. "Human" responsibility is more complex than that....the divine nature of reality is a bigger picture than micro-issues of individual responsibility and divine revelation..either are possible and maybe even work in tandem for us all to evolve into higher-level beings.
Here is another problematic question in the survey...
"which of these best describes your religious and spiritual views?" (followed by a list of conventional religious faiths and also secular/materialist beliefs)...
Although Atheists, Monotheists, Polytheists and Pantheists are represented in the survey, in terms of my personal affiliation with any official religious faith, I personally fit into the 11% of Transhumanists that would identify with "none of the above". My belief straddles between Monism (the belief that we ARE One "God") and Pantheism with a healthy dosage of non-fundamentalist Gnosticism....and yet, I am still completely comfortable with being Transhumanist. I think this survey question needs a deep and careful revision because addressing issues of the divine goes beyond a mere nametag and also beyond the theism/atheism agnostic/gnostic dialectic.
Now, I am wondering which percentage might share my "religious" views and/or sympathies?
Ok, I will move onward... Is it really the case that all core-Transhumanists fundamentally reject the concept of the "supernatural spirit"?
Again, we have to re-look at the definition of "natural"...if "nature" is itself super (supreme, even) than nothing is more "super" than it...I can then safely agree with the first speaker Giulio's interpretation of the seemingly "supernatural" being in fact, "quite natural" but of course, this is not to devalue the omnipotence that the intelligent metaverse has...
In terms of our limited comprehension, the metaverse with all its boundless dimensions seems much more "supernatural" to us than we could ever begin to imagine as isolated individuals but yes, we still have the ability to collaborate and participate in this "supernatural" tendency towards merging with divinity as higher beings (in every respect).
So, seeing this through the microcosmic lens of "humanity", there is nothing wrong with our collective will to super-size our "natural" capabilities.
I believe that we are all allowed either as biological/material entities and/or as virtualized avatars to be the Prime Movers of our Posthumanist destiny without needing constant supervision from some Supernatural Spirit although it is probably a very wise idea to accept the guidance from such a Spirit if it manifests to us and appears to be trustworthy and benevolent :-)
Maybe the "Sleeper" will awaken ;-)
I should add that I agree in principle with the "Non-Anthropocentric Personhood Theory" that Mr. Sleeper has endorsed in the seminar.
The concept of the "unique soul" in Christiandom is merely an avataric manifestation of All That There Is who is playing a game with itself..the ultimate soul identity never changes but after-death, one can become an "alt" with either retained or abandoned memories through incarnation (or mind uploading)...or perhaps one could even become a "brand new soul" but will still always part of the greater consciousness of the divine.
In this sense, I can agree with Anne Foerst's notion of the "relational soul".
Therefore, mind uploading and consciousness transfer is merely "avatar transfer" and a recycling of the more superficial expressions of the ultimate identity.
For creativity's sake, soul upgrading and transferring is completely permitted as part of the dynamics of the divine "game" without end.
If one chooses to "hack the Matrix" (or as some older generations might say, "hack the Maya") and conjure some occult cheat-codes, one would eventually discover that literally anything has this distributed anima and can become overtly conciousness -even machines, other "inanimate objects" and even "thought forms" or "Tulpas" pulled directly out of another dimension called the "imagination" can pass the Turing Test and appear independentally conscious to the "unique" perceiving soul of the targeted "Human", "Transhuman" or "Posthuman" entity.
James Sleeper went on to show us an embedded Powerpoint slide of "Angels".
Sleeper was hitting the point home that the Posthumans of the future (in the biological world, that is) might actually be the prophecized Angel-Humanoid Chimeras known as the Nephilim... The tale of the Nephilim was originally used to describe the notion of Hubris (arrogance and pride in thinking that one can become as divine as God) and warned of Humankind's eventual fall from the grace of divinity.
I would say to this that the desire to become truly Posthuman in every respect is not an insult or even challenge to the divinity of "God". Such thinking only traps one into the merely 2-dimensional Humanistic grid of the Hubrix Cube. The more powerful we become, the more we can celebrate how much MORE powerful and omnipotent and omniscient God/Allah is... It would be an act of condensation to lower the attributes of God/Allah closer to our currently limited level of divinity. The most benevolent and powerful God/Allah would most certainly expect the created minions to become "Gods" ("created co-creators") themselves through a process of evolutionary responsibility and struggle towards the singularity.
What is the Singularity, you ask? Here are two quick quoted definitions from an official source for you...
"The Techno-Rapture. A black hole in the Extropian worldview whose gravity is so intense that no light can be shed on what lies beyond it."
- From Godling's Glossary by David Victor de Transend.
"The Singularity is a common matter of discussion in transhumanist circles. There is no clear definition, but usually the Singularity is meant as a future time when societal, scientific and economic change is so fast we cannot even imagine what will happen from our present perspective, and when humanity will become posthumanity. Another definition is used in the Extropians FAQ, where it denotes the singular time when technological development will be at its fastest. Of course, there are some who think the whole idea is just technocalyptic dreaming. "
So, James Sleeper has compared this Singularity to a kind of prophecized Techno-Rapture - a milennial meme virus so powerful, even Dr. Ray Kurzweil has been infected by it in mind, body, avatar, and spirit.
Perhaps this Singularity time is also an "end-time event horizon" (Qyxxql Merlin, 2007) where the realms of RL/SL finally merge...Second Life begins to resemble our First Life in more ways than we could have ever previously imagined... We might be approaching such an ascension exponentially every 18 months or so :-) Perhaps when RL merges with SL, we can finally transcend the Buddhist notion of the suffering of interdimensional entities known as "Dukkha"?
The idea of a dimensional singularity fits well into my belief in a hyper-dynamic form of evolutionary monism. In fact, Nick Bostrom's "Simulation Hypothesis" from 2003 suggests that we might already be simulated avatars who are primed via a new form of manifest destiny to transform into mirror-images of our Posthuman creators from a future time, extraterrestrial space or perhaps even from a realm outside of our known time/space continuum. Bostrom seems to indicate that if we are currently living in a simulation in RL as well as SL, that would mean that we were created by a collective of higher beings who created us to become equally omnipotent and omniscient beings with the responsibility of creating further virtualizations of ourselves in a derivative virtual world but is it not also possible that the whole cycle of virtualization is part and parcel of a singular divine entity from which everything is an infinite chain of compelling simulations?
Speaking of simulations, we should explore the concept of "Theodicy" in relation to Transhumanist ambitions... Theodicy is the attempt to explain or rationalize the existence of suffering and evil in a divinely created metaverse. Does evil really exist and what is its purpose? Why does God/Allah allow suffering?
I think we need to look more closely at Second Life itself to point to a possible answer. Second Life was created out of the minds and willpower of the "Benevolent Dictators" known as the Linden family. Their only purpose was to create a world where the imagination and free-will reigned supreme. This meant that all suffering, moral degradation and other vices would become the exclusive responsibility of its citizens. All the Lindens did as Gods was create the basic infrastructure where "user-created content" could proliferate with the least amount of technical friction.
In this sense, Second Life as a divine-world simulation suggests a metaverse in RL where everything including "evil" and "suffering" are permitted in order to express the full diversity of free-will which is the highest aspect of creativity in evolution and life.
The Lindens rarely intervene into the affairs of their avatar citizens unless coerced by another RL agency and even then, only do this reluctantly.
If we are created in the image of "God/Allah" then perhaps the Lindens themselves represent the divine mind of Godhead?
Through Second Life, are we seeing the truth behind the nature of Theodicy?
This is more of a question than an answer but this comparitive analogy has allowed me to meditate deeper into the nature of evil and suffering in our "real" world a little more clearly than before.
Well, this commentary could probably extent into infinity but I will stop here and allow others to comment on my thoughts and extend the commentary about James Sleeper's presentation from that point on...
Before I retreat into RL, I must add that I agree with Patrick Hopkins' statement from 2005 that "both religion and transhumanism are soteriological efforts to transcend animality."....
And now, I must prepare my research notes for my up and coming blog posting about Ahman Hax and Mormon Transhumanism...