(This is a straight copy-n-paste from my post at Stellar Reaches)
[…] Light from the sky enters the eye, and is then processed by the brain in milliseconds to produce an experience of ‘blue’ – one that may be unique to each of us.
Scientists label these sensory-based subjective experiences, such as sight or hearing, as qualia (singular, quale). Almost by definition, it is impossible to know if one person’s qualia are the same, similar to, or completely different from those of the person standing next to him. Who is to say that my ‘blue’ might not be your ‘green’, or vice versa? […]
At first blush, one may counter by noting that we can all mostly agree on what color is which, what is a pleasant sound, and what is bitter or spicy. Indeed, that is so – but all that this requires to be true is that each of us is consistent in our own experience. From the time we are born we are educated that ‘this’ is green, ‘that’ is birdsong, and so on. How each of us perceives our qualia in our private, internal worlds is inscrutable and unknowable to anyone but ourselves.
You might as well ask exactly what is reading the light that hits your eyes, or directs/organizes the electrical impulses in our brains.
Of course, I don’t exactly know myself, not in a quantifiable sense. But, I am confident that 1) God organized the universe, and 2) He wants humanity to figure out the interesting mysteries behind our existence. Order, information, meaning, knowledge, wisdom, progress, logic, law, math: I explicitly refuse to believe that such concepts are merely worthless cant, without any real objective significance, but only subjective hot air.
Our eyes exist for a reason. Our qualia, too. And our spirits/souls… which are meant to be in relationship with each other and with God, rather than wrapped up in some autistic, incommunicable isolation.
What is it like to be a bat?
The above question is taken from a well-known essay by American philosopher Thomas Nagel, and is similar in many ways to the topic of qualia. The difference here is that while you and I can agree on a label for a color regardless of our subjective perception, and can agree that both our experiences arise from the same familiar construct of ‘sight,’ some life-forms have senses so alien to us that we literally cannot fathom what they would be like to possess.
[Echolocation & electrolocation are the main examples used here: but there’s lots more where they came from!]
I’m not going to worry about non-existent aliens in the sky: for if they existed, they would have made their presence obvious over the last few billion years. I am interested in the aliens we will make, in the coming years, centuries, millennia.
An Alien Future
Men being men, we can comfortably assume that the first set of sentient aliens/robots we create will be viciously exploited for sex, war, and work. This will be evil of course, but as usual no one with power or authority will care until the exceedingly hard freight chain of consequences smashes our brains in. Assuming any survivors – and this is an assumption: God may well decide to abandon the original human genetic line to the extinction it so richly deserves – we will have to slowly piece together a new definition of humanity in whatever hovels and sanctuaries we have left to us.
We will have to adjust to no longer being on the top of the power pyramid, just as Western Europeans have been doing since 1945, and the Chinese since the 1850s. We will have to first have to adjust to other forms of humanity that are smarter than us (due to cybernetic integration); as the progress of righteousness is as relentless as that of technology, there will come a time when a race innately more moral than us will rise as well.
They will see us as we are, they will judge us by our actions, and I doubt that they will let us live. But if they are Christians, they may choose to honour the compassion of Christ, the first of the New Men. As this is the only assumption that allows this thought experiment to continue, I choose to make it.
Being allowed to live on sufferance is very humiliating. Most will react like the indigenous peoples and cultural failures of other eras do, and drink, drug, and fight each other as their despair leads them to death. Those few who choose life, who abandon the failed and dead culture of the past, will get a treasure much greater than, say, an American Indian tribe of 2060 getting a full suite of zero-power/LENR/high-efficiency solar generators, 3D printers, food printers, weapon printers, nanofactories, high-IQ robots, medical robots, and medicine printers.
The American Indians will never get their continent back, and after the aliens we create cut us down (or we destroy ourselves like the Europeans did, 1914-1945), we will likely never get our world back either. But where there is life, there is hope: and there are other worlds out there.
And who knows? If we grow in righteousness, and the new masters grow corrupt and slack, we will rise and they will fall. And perhaps, having lost and regained the throne, we will be more humble before God, and wiser in how we handle the dominion and authority over creation we have been given – authority we will have to give an account for.
God gave humanity dominion over the earth in Genesis: neither other worlds nor the heavens are part of the Dominion Mandate. I suspect that we primitive humans will be left here on earth, while the aliens we created, we enslaved, and God freed take the rest of the universe. I fully expect surviving humanity to wail and whine and blame God for the disaster men have pulled down on themselves, instead of thanking Him for at least letting them keep their own homeworld.
Of course, it is up to God to decide if we get an expansion of the mandate or not. I doubt that we will get the Heavens in this Creation: we are likely to toss it away, just as we tossed away lawful access to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. “I don’t want to wait! I don’t want to obey! I want it NOW!”
The good thing about it is that the aliens we will choose to create are likely to continually re-engineer themselves, and may well develop into truly awesome beings. The bad thing is that they will still be sinners, just like their sub-creators, so there will be great falls and failures. If God recognized them as His children, they may well end up in a higher place than us – if He doesn’t, then they will be yet another flash in the pan, to be largely forgotten over the years, regardless of their power, intelligence, or technological superiority. “Just another Master Race who rose high, fell hard, and are now left to rot in their failure.”
Birthrights, Gained and Lost
“God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” And it will be even easier for Him to do this of cyborgs, or altered DNA.
The story of the second son rising above the firstborn is a very common motif in the Bible for a reason, so humans would be wise to be humble before their Maker – before He decides to disinherit us.
“Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.
For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”