The Importance of Existential Inquiry

In the context of Human Cyborgs, AI, Genetic editing, and other emergent technologies…

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Man’s search for meaning and purpose has been a contingent struggle of humanity since the emergence of culture and society.

Initially, our struggle as a species was born of chaos and strife, chasing survival and procreation, governed entirely by our instinctual basis as animals. That factor separating man and animal bore its roots from the establishment of organized society, and the emergent culture coming after it.

After the advent of organizational structures as a species, the individuals' perseverance toward continued existence began to lessen and disappear. No longer were we so stringently tied to the instinctual drives toward sustainable living.

We now could begin to shift our motivations toward external development — collective advancement. Technological innovations — however primitive — disseminate throughout the community, and the burden of survival can be shared collectively.

The prosperity of the individual could at this point begin to be outsourced to the collective, and the betterment of all begins.

Once the burden of existence was heightened by the attainment of relative autonomy, we could begin to focus further on innovation, development, and most importantly, existential purpose.

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Have you ever had a long day where you get home and go right to your bed without any concern for any other responsibilities, needs, or concerns?

This state of existence was likely a fairly consistent struggle in primitive humans. Food, Shelter, Water, and all other facets of survival must be provided and found individually every single day.

Imagine the American television show, Naked and Afraid where the objective is to survive in a provided ecosystem for 30 days. This is not just some game show scenario, this was the reality of human existence for millennia.

The ability to sit in your living room under the heat of a fireplace ruminating upon whatever comes to mind was not a situation that was occurrent. But the ability to finally sit down and introspect began to emerge sometime around the time when man began to develop advanced society and culture.

And thus, we see the birth of religion, superstition, and (sometimes irrational/illogical) beliefs. Each of these is an attempt to make sense of our existence, and our purpose — which is contingent on the establishment of origin.

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This essay is not an exploration of these systems of belief, but rather an analysis of existential exploration in the modern-day.

Our society is massively complex, involving multiple technologies — that have become integral to our existence — that had emerged within the past few decades. The integration of human existence with emergent technologies is progressing rapidly, and the ability of powerful individuals to effect change across expansive sectors of the population is relatively new. We can witness the development of human demi-gods whose capabilities and opportunities for affecting mass society surpass any generation before.

Here I begin an exploration of what man is capable of, and how that relates to conceptions of the duties and roles taken on by a higher being — God.

Elon Musk recently purchased 9% of Twitter, becoming the majority stakeholder in the process. He has also dipped his feet in automotive development, space exploration, online banking, underground boring, sustainable energy, and most alarming, cognitive enhancement through chips implanted in the mind.

This is a man who has single-handedly driven a distinct development of the world around us. That is not inherently good or bad, but this analysis is not of a specific individual, but an observation that the collective advancement of our race is being taken on by a shrinking group of people.

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The quality shared by Musk, and many other individuals directing the technological growth of our species, is influence. Musk is not a brilliant inventor who has produced these innovations on his own. He is simply an entrepreneur with vision and drive.

Nothing wrong with that!

What I see occurring is a system where the growth of our society is being approached through a utilitarian perspective. Where individuals are analysing a problem in society and seeking to solve that problem. The issue here is that different people, cultures, and dogmas have divergent conceptions of what the problems within society are.

The billionaire entrepreneurs alluded to here serve to illustrate how the absence of higher meaning and purpose provides a way of life where utility supersedes all else in terms of resource pooling. Development requires money, and powerful/influential individuals are the ones in charge of allocating those resources.

But I am not one of those individuals, and I doubt that you are either.

So I ask myself here, how am I to serve my community when my ability to allocate resources is but a drop in an ocean?

To desire to effect change on a mass scale — to improve the collective condition — is but an insecure perseverance.

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Let’s look at the problems emerging in society here.

We are chasing aesthetic virtues, we are seeking approval of anyone who will look, and we are abandoning any higher and long-term calling in place of hedonic pursuit.

The human race is realizing its individual insignificance. Climate change cannot be solved by the efforts of an individual so we do not recycle. We are all struggling with our own mental health so we cannot support the mental health of those around us. Poverty cannot possibly be solved on our own so we give in to the rat race and chase the next paycheck.

Our society is sick, infected by the temptress that is selfishness and self-interest.

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I now return to the initial objective of this essay — to illustrate my own conception of meaning and purpose in our emergent society.

I’ll begin by stating that I am agnostic, recognizing that it is impossible for us to know if there is a higher being or essence, if we’re simply products of a futuristic simulation, if we’re the lasting memory of a monkey who took magic mushrooms, or if there is no explanation at all.

I reject the pursuit of an answer too, Philosophical suicide as Camus called it. Our very existence is a rebellion from predetermined purpose and meaning.

It is our duty as a species to discover what should drive us into the future.

I do not believe that this objective should stand in the way of any organized religious or belief system either. The word of God, in its many iterations, carries core principles that are beautiful and aspirational. I find it antagonistic to our collective objective to involve an externality — God — in our pursuit though.

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To be happy seems to be the common consensus of the modern-day. To maximize the individual experience individually at the present moment. To live as a drug addict, chasing ecstasy to ecstasy under the hope that persistent presence is derived.

This is ignoring the religious conception of meaning and purpose as my proposed solution is already amenable to those that I am aware of.

The aim of those following the aforementioned method of existence is close but misses a crucial incorporation.

That no man is an island, that each individual exists as a part of a greater whole. That the prosperity and happiness of your neighbours and associates — and even the strangers — play an essential part in your pursuit of inner positivity.

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If you own a mansion on the beach with a cool car collection you might be pretty damned happy. But when one day a homeless man wanders up to your doorstep and shits on your fancy doormat, you might be a little upset.

How dare that bum to use my esteemed property as a toilet?

A man content with the amassment of wealth and material possession is either ignorant or evil. He must not see the suffering around him, or he chooses to ignore it.

The projects related to the colonization of mars are indicative of this as well. The world's wealthiest intend to blast off of this rock in search of another, leaving us in their wake to bear the brunt of their actions.

The ultimate triumph of capitalism had nothing to do with the innovation and development that it produced but with its strangling of higher meaning. Humanity killed God not by its own accord and direction, but because God could not exist next to the invisible hand of the market. Altruism — the selfless actions that communities are built from — is antagonistic to the pursuit of profit and material accumulation.

And so we killed God and anything that resembled him.

Spirituality was condemned only to those who were cast away from society. Community was replaced by the workplace. Family became a burden that is to stand in the way of success.

And we see now the resurgence of some of these same practices under a new guise meant to patch up the failings of modern society.

Spirituality — Yoga, Meditation (prayer), and mental/physical health — have been commoditized and repackaged as a privilege experienced only by the highest members of society. The collapse of meaning remains in its vacancy but the former practices are being reincorporated as another way to expand consumerism to all.

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It is in the lie that the only route to fulfilment and joy is through material accumulation that the human will is subjugated further. We are taught to give in, to conform, and to follow the path most taken to suck us further into the cycle of addiction that is Capitalism.

Enjoyment and fulfilment are not black and white, though. Experience is about as divergent as anything else known to man, and ascribing a one size fits all approach for existential purpose is bound to fail.

The pervasiveness of mental illness, socio-cultural divisions, and disunity are clear markers of an ailing society.

Disagreements over where responsibilities for these trends belong exist but their existence at all displays that something is wrong.

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Ask yourself why you are here.

Ask yourself what you will be most proud of in 5, 10, or 25 years given your current trajectory, and ask yourself if that's what you want for yourself.

To forge your own path does not mean abandoning the society that we have laid out but it does require a reassessment of value and desire.

When labour does not know who it toils for, and why it is toiling at all, a clear problem emerges.

The conception of separateness is a lie sold to the public in order to divide and conquer.

“We are called to be the architects of the future, not its victims.” -Buckminster Fuller

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The struggle of your neighbour is your own struggle, the pain felt by your coworker is a pain that is inflicted on you. To realize that human life is a piece of a greater whole is to realize the interconnectedness of our world.

A rising tide raises all ships. The success of those around you is circular — finding its way back to you.

If you cannot identify what you are doing to advance those around you, and to advance the experience of our greater whole, then reconsideration of trajectory must be undertaken.

Ignorance and evil cannot be escaped without an observational approach.

We just need to awaken from our stupor.

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