Is There A Future For God?

A thought: Once man is god-like, what happens to God?

The whole God-thing has been millenia in the making, defining a being so beyond our comprehension that awe (or – depending on the God in question – a healthy dose of terror) is the only suitable response. But our comprehension and our abilities are advancing at an absurd rate [1]. At some point the awe-inspiring superpowers our ancestors dreamed up yonks back may seem a lot less impressive.

Hats off for human progress

Consider the Internet for a moment: a second reality that didn’t exist 20 years ago which is now at the forefront of every aspect of human interaction. It’s on my mobile, which is touchscreen and can read my eyes. A decade ago half of those concepts were meaningless.

Nowadays I get pissy when my magic telecommunication device starts running out of magic juice after 6 hours of hard use: yesterday’s wizardry is taken for granted the next day.

Technological innovation and discovery have been getting faster and faster for centuries, most notably once we hit the Industrial Revolution. That cycle is now absurdly short.

And within each new field the advances are coming thicker and faster than anyone could have imagined. The first computers were warehoused size and could do bugger all. Now the world runs on them, they’re tiny, and they’re everywhere. We’re even wearing ’em.

Imagine where we’ll be in 10 years. 50. One hundred.

With each leap we – humanity – become more capable, more empowered, more amazing. But we tend not to stay amazED.

What makes God?

How long until God – in his current incarnation – becomes old hat?

God’s superpowers come in three flavours: immortality, omniscience and omnipotence. While I can’t conceive of individual human beings fully approaching those abilities any time soon, we’re already working towards close approximations.

Absolute immortality might not be on the radar, but avoiding common causes of individual death is. So future-us most likely won’t survive being shot into the sun, but they probably won’t have to worry too much about old age, mortal illness or bodily wear-and-tear [2].

Perhaps they won’t know everything, but how do you define that anyway? Instant access to all human knowledge doesn’t seem too out-of-reach (Google 2.0?), and that covers most knowledge bases which concern me from day-to-day.

Power over all things is more of a stretch; manipulating unseen forces, however, is already happening. Telekenesis is a cool example; put a chip in everything, work out how to interact with chips via the mind and you’ve got the ability to manipulate unseen forces right there. And, of course, chip-ifying the world and mind-control are already works in progress.

Does understanding breed contempt?

Most of the religions I’m familiar with have been built around a hodge-podge figure of human inconceivability: the incomprehensible mega-enigma that is God. Therein lies his superiority: He’s on a different level altogether. He’s unchallengeable.

But once humanity reaches a point where godlike abilities become conceivable – without necessarily being readily achievable – what happens to the mythology of God? Star Trek was mind-blowing science-fiction back in the day, but now we’ve got half of the cool toys or can see them coming it all feels a bit silly.

Even without parity at stake, He’ll certainly be less awesome; while you can still be impressed by the magician’s skill having understood the trick, it’s a far cry from viewing him as a real-life Harry Potter.

Does He shift with the times, in the same way religions have changed to reflect modern societies? Can He, without the weight of millenia of history, gathered tradition and mythology? And even if He does, who decides, who has the imagination to re-find the awe-inspiring? How can you top the big-3 (everlasting, all-seeing, all-knowing)?

Faith and unquestioning belief are terrifyingly powerful things. I’ve always wanted them and never come close to understanding them. Even amidst the rise of atheism from the late Renaissance onwards (be that implied or explicit), believers have stood strong in the face of the naysayers. Can that belief stand against the onslaught of the coming century of human progress?

 

1. You should definitely read Physics of the Future. It’ll blow your mind.

2. What does what – for good and bad – is being revealed thanks to the sequencing of the human genome; splicing and nano-tech are helping us to target problem zones; stem cell research promises the ability to replace and remove. Technology is already helping us spot problems before they develop. Then there’s crazy cyborg stuff…

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