Richard Ngo on posthuman freedom

Just under the surface, joyful humans are granted miraculous powers: to soar through air and sea, to play games on the scale of planets, to morph their bodies as they please. Beneath them, you see a society that’s explored further, morphing not just their bodies, but also their minds—belief and desire and identity become as malleable as clay. Beneath them, you lose sight of individuals: at those depths minds merge and split and reform like currents in the ocean. And beneath even that? It’s hard for you to make sense of the impressions you’re getting—whatever is down there can’t be described in human terms. In the farthest reaches there are only alien algorithms, churning away on computers that stretch across galaxies, calculating the output of some function far beyond your comprehension.

And now you see the trap. Each step down makes so much sense, from the vantage point of the previous stage. But after you take any step, the next will soon be just as tempting. And once you’re in the water, there’s no line you can draw, no fence that can save you. You’ll just keep sinking deeper and deeper, with more and more of your current self stripped away—until eventually you’ll become one of the creatures that you can glimpse only hazily, one of the deep-dwelling monsters that has forsaken anything recognizably human.

So this is the line you decided to draw: here, and no further. You’ll live out your lives in a mundane world of baseline humans, with only a touch of magic at the edges—just enough to satisfy the wondering child in you. You’ll hold on to yourself, because what else is there to hold onto?

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