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Century 22 Welcomes You

David Cowles

Jan 2, 2024

“…May I present for your entertainment and consideration…The 22nd Century.”

If you are an Aletheia Today frequent flyer, you already know that I came of age in the ‘60s, steeped in the culture of incense, tie-dye, and Futurism, - “the insatiable urge to make a fool of oneself by predicting future events about which one knows nothing and over which one has no control.” - OED 

I always promised myself that I would never partake in such nonsense, but one of the few perks of superannuation is that you’re allowed some latitude when it comes to honoring ancient resolutions.

So I’m about to do what I swore I’d never do: describe the future! But not war and pestilence or even technology, but its philosophy, theology, and cosmology. And so, without further ado, may I present for your entertainment and consideration…(drum roll please)…The 22nd Century:

We now recognize that ‘the matrix formerly known as spacetime’ (ST) is an ingenious mathematical construct performing several vital functions, none of which has to do with spatial intervals or temporal durations:  

  • ST is the ‘phase space’ sufficient for what-is to have a probability > 50%. 

  • ST is a logos (or scaffolding) for ordering events ‘aesthetically’ (e.g., according to relevance), like ornaments hung on an ontological Christmas tree.

  • ST is a hologram. The whole is embodied, encoded, or reflected in each of its parts. Patterns are fractals; extension is a matter of scale. 

To a mechanic, a whole is equal to the sum of its parts (A + B = AB); to a biologist, a whole is greater than the sum of its parts (AB > A + B); but we realize now that the whole is immanent in each of its parts (A’ = Ʃ A). This is actually a rediscovery of the cosmology underlying the Christian Doctrine of Incarnation and the RCC Sacrament of Eucharist. 

Like any good Stalinist splinter party, we have purged a pandemonium of bourgeoise parrots from their lofty academic perches, while restoring some disgraced comrades to key party posts:

  • Anaximander - because Being is Mutuality.

  • Parmenides - because Thinking is Being.

  • Zeno - because Arithmetic (including calculus) is incompatible with motion.

  • Nicolas of Cusa - because Knowledge is a negative quantity, its upper limit = 0. 

  • Leibniz - because this is the best of all possible worlds.

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  • We recognize that DNA-based lifeforms constitute a biological continuum. Speciation notwithstanding, there are no bright lines between a paramecium and Uncle Phinneas.  

  • We accept that all terrestrial life is sentient, self-aware, and capable of mental functions. As a result, we find ourselves in the midst of an ethical dilemma that boils down to the question a scribe posed to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) 

One way to understand Western intellectual history is as a gloss on Luke. Our definition of ‘neighbor’, always somewhat fluid, has gradually widened from extended family to tribe to nation to race to species, and now…to biome. 

Jesus cited the ‘care’ demonstrated by a Samaritan merchant for a Jewish crime victim. No doubt, Jesus and Luke intended this parable to cast a wide net…but how wide? Torah tells us that we do have a ‘duty of care’ toward non-human species…but what care with what limits?

We’ve made considerable progress in our efforts to dialog with non-human species, but I can’t say whether we’ll be counting crows among the guests at next year’s Christmas party.

And speaking of non-human species, we must not forget our silicon siblings. We’re still struggling to understand the degree of self-awareness achievable in an inorganic environment. We have newer and better Turing Tests, but we can’t agree on how to interpret the results. Do we classify entities by their functionality or by their substance?

This is not a new argument; it goes back at least to Thomas and the Scholastics. Imagine you had an identical twin. You grew up together; you’re often mistaken for one another. Then, one day, your twin decides that you are not ‘real’ after all, that you are some sort of Bot. How do you convince him he’s wrong; Turing won’t get you there! 

We’ve either ‘discovered’ extraterrestrial ‘life’, or we’ve radically revised our thinking about its likelihood. This does not seem like much of a prediction, but it is. Back in the 2020s, a majority agreed with the statement, “We have not found extraterrestrial life yet, but it is almost certain that we will.” Very few people still hold this view!

We understand at last that ‘consciousness’ is not a function of physiology but a fundamental feature of Universe, albeit manifested only in the context of certain loosely defined physical structures. Einstein et al. demonstrated the co-dependence of matter, energy, space, and time; we’ve added consciousness. 

We’ve not resolved the ‘existence of God’ debate. We’re still hunkered down in our ideological trenches…but we understand the ‘question’ of God much differently now. The image of God as a sort of ‘Central Intelligence Agency’ has evaporated, replaced by a concept of God as universal presence – not pantheism but panentheism. After all, God (YHWH) told us who he was 3500 years ago: “I am what am”. But it took us a while to listen.

Finally, science continues to ask, “What is, how did it come to be, and how did it come to be what is?” Philosophy still asks, “How is it that anything could be or come to be?” Theology asks, “How is it that there is such a thing as ‘being’ or ‘coming to be’?”

Well, this was fun! I wonder why I swore I’d never play the Futures Game. Oh yeah, now I do remember: Futurism only tells us what we already know! The future is now.   

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