EXISTENTIAL HOPE AND EXISTENTIAL DESPAIR IN AI APOCALYPTICISM AND TRANSHUMANISM
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Singler, B. (2019). EXISTENTIAL HOPE AND EXISTENTIAL DESPAIR IN AI APOCALYPTICISM AND TRANSHUMANISM. ZYGON, 54 (1), 156-176. https://doi.org/10.1111/zygo.12494
Drawing on observations from on and offline fieldwork among Transhumanists and Artificial Superintelligence/Singularity focussed groups, this article will explore an anthropology of anxiety around the hoped for, or feared, post-human future. It will lay out some of the varieties of existential hope and existential distress found in these discussions about predicted events such as the ‘end of the world’, and place them within an anthropological theoretical framework. First, this article will draw on participant observations of events where aspirations for the future include the elimination of suffering through the alteration of the hedonic set point of the human brain, the greatest good decided on a macro-ethical level by a theorised Artificial Superintelligence, and/or a post-Terran, and possibly post-human, future once immortality has impacted on the Earth’s population. This optimism in the face of what amounts to the end of the world, and humanity, as we know it will be examined to emphasize the positive affective aspects of certain apocalypse scenarios, especially those with an implicit eschatological direction. Further, discussion of an underlying anxiety about the world as it is now will show that existential distress is in symbiosis with this form of existential hope. Existential distress will then be explored further through examples of the anxiety that can occur in response to certain Superintelligence/Singularity thought experiments, such as Roko’s Basilisk. This comparison will demonstrate that predestination can temper Transhumanist optimism as well as illustrate the psychological impact of apocalyptic memes; replicating the described power of the Basilisk itself and demonstrating the intrinsic role of anxiety present in ideas about a future AI apocalypse.
apocalypse, artificial intelligence, transhumanism
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/zygo.12494
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/288677