The Essence of Being Human

as revealed by practically infinite physical resources and practically eternal youth & life


1. All Imaginable ‘Lifestyle’ Related Excesses Could be Managed with Very Few Resources

Being human is closely tied to survival- physical body, its needs, vulnerabilities, limited resources, unfair access to them, resulting misery/successes etc. It may be possible - even with foreseeable technology- to almost get rid of resource limits & almost eliminate the unfairness associated with body characteristics, parental background etc. Perhaps all the imaginable excesses of humans could be managed with very, very few ‘real resources’?

Lets split human existence into survival + lifestyle. Soon survival could be managed in a totally sustainable manner - nutrients fed into the body, excretion recycled by special microbes using solar energy. Water and oxygen have their natural sustainable cycles as long they are not disturbed by overuse, pollution. Lifestyle is the cause of those disturbances and for the need of huge amount of resources from land, mines: desire for varied food, grooming, big houses with all the comforts, fancy cars, travel for vacations, entertainment etc. &  factories, farms, airports, offices etc. needed to support that

Lifestyle = varied sensations - sights, sounds, touch, taste, smell and related thoughts, emotions. It should be possible to decouple those from the physical world/resources: by connecting nerves to/fro the brain to a huge computer system that creates a virtual world. The computer sends patterns of sensory signals to the brain - simulating all sensory input (the virtual world) and it changes/moves a 'virtual body' in response to motor signals from the brain. So we have biological bodies enclosed in ‘self contained stations’ - connected to the computer system (made up of organic material - sustainable). The computer not only creates a virtual world but also detects and heals its own faults, upgrades its capacity - memory, processing, bandwidth - as needed and monitors and supports biological bodies as long as they live. Once the basic functions for all this are in place - the computer systems runs on its own. No need of new SW or HW features i.e. no need of non capacity upgrades!

Note: so all biological bodies remain in ‘farms of self-contained stations’ but people experience and interact in the computer created virtual world - all senses! That the virtual bodies are not damaged by any happenings in the virtual world (although sense pain!) is obvious but they (i.e. the underlying biological bodies) also don’t fall sick! Biological bodies born after complete transition to the virtual world are created by the underlying computer system - generating a ‘random human cell corrected for illness propensities’, gradually connected to the computer system as the embryo grows in its ‘stations’. Given this and the absence of all environmental factors - chemicals, infections, wear & tear, accidents, calamities,...- bodies don’t fall sick and live very long. It is only the uncorrectable degeneration of cells - old age - that finally kills. The underlying computer system ensures birth rate = death rate i.e. a stable, sustainable population

2. Virtual Existence

The transition generations would experience the physical as well as the virtual bodies & worlds but the subsequent generations would only know the virtual bodies/world (some event leads to loss of memory related to its origin from the physical world!). The virtual world has two parts- private and shared, the later further split into social & natural. The natural world appears just like this one but does not supply any raw material for the virtual existence. It can neither be affected by humans, nor do its storms, earthquakes etc.- damage humans & their private or social worlds. Its just to be observed/experienced’- part of the lifestyle

When virtual couples attempt to conceive a child, the underlying computer system creates a random human cell (not always but at sustainable birth rate!) which starts to grow in a station. A corresponding virtual body starts to grow in the woman’s ‘womb’. All the girls are delivered with standard features & so are all the boys - all with unique IDs. Parents can set the features using ‘consoles’ all are born with. All girls & boys grow to the same maximum height, volume, strength by 18, except boy’s shape differs from that of girls. Each person can then change their features as many times as they like (using the console) - but the size (height, volume), strength can only be reduced. Some features may take time to be effective as the underlying biological brain may need time to adapt. The virtual bodies are hollow except for a ‘virtual brain’ that lights up in different patterns related to happenings around

As a person reaches a certain age, she has the right to create her private world - others can’t see it (and the person within it) unless they are granted access. The contents of private world are created & changed using consoles on the back of palms that all are born with. Things ‘pop into existence’ in the private world as per desired properties selected from the consoles - sight, sound etc. Everybody can see everyone else when they are in the social world. Any changes to its appearance require majority setting their consoles accordingly. Community worlds could be created within the social world - access granted by some criterion e.g. family, shared interests. There’s almost no ‘resource limit’ for the private/social worlds!

So consoles take care of ‘food’, shelter, clothing, create any environment, allow communication with anyone- 3 D, all senses; can take you anywhere in the shared world in a moment etc. Any new recipe that makes use consoles e.g. for the bodily features, look & feel of private world, apps, video games etc- becomes accessible on all consoles. So does all recording made using consoles, if granted shared access - music, dance, movies, sports, whatever. So what do people DO in such a world?

Human bonds- love, friendship, adversaries, jealousies, sacrifices. Raising children. Social sharing. Talk, talk, talk. Change the ‘look & feel” of their private worlds; groom- changing not just the clothing but also the bodies. Likes for new looks - of body/private world. Indulge in sensual pleasures - each with its natural cycle of craving, satisfaction, relaxation e.g. when hungry, create food of desired taste, smell, texture (and even impact on the ‘mind’!) by combining features available in consoles- ‘eat/drink it’. The underlying computer system would do the needful for the underlying biological body - insert nutrients in the biological body to satisfy hunger; chemicals, if any, for the ‘high’.Some may go out for ‘fresh air’, experience the beauty, vagaries of ‘natural world’, walk, climb - to feel alive !

But the above won’t take up a typical whole day for many. So they would read/write, play/listen to music, dance/watch, watch/make movies, create/watch/play games - ‘physical’ or mental (3 D multi sensory video!), create art with ‘hands’ using console generated material rather than creating the complete work using console setting, organize events related to the above, try to convince people - about changes to the social world, media about social happenings. Some would observe the natural world and try to guess laws of its behavior - although they would have no practical utility - and wonder about ‘appearance of it all’. Some would enjoy abstractions- mathematics. A few may study human behavior, detect patterns and develop techniques to increase mental skills and ‘well being’

Basic language, values, usage of consoles would come from parents. A lot of specialized teaching would come from the consoles but interactive human teachers/coaches would be required for the finer aspects of arts, sports, maths, science. Not because any of them have ‘use’, but for the joy - lifestyle. Children go to school - not to learn skills to ‘make a living’ or ‘to make it big’ but just to learn to interact, expres, think, develop talents and skills needed to ‘live a good human life’!

Virtual humans can only experience- passively feel, observe, measure - the natural world. Can’t actively change/manipulate it. But that should be enough to discover its laws/properties. They can’t leave the ‘earth’ but can see the cosmos, realize its very likely unending - and beyond a point ‘the more of the same- laws, behavior’. It would not offer any new ‘experience value’- lifestyle - given that they could create any experience in their private worlds. Even of high gravity and time slowing down relative to the shared world (except thoughts - they would continue to form on the time scale of the underlying biological brain(?))

In short, in a world of infinite resources, a body that can’t be harmed within its lifetime & consoles providing the means for getting whatever one wishes- life is mostly sensual, aesthetic pleasures & entertainment- emotional, intellectual. Only a few things matter: (a) imagination/intellect - writing, mathematics, theories about the natural world, human behavior, to use console features to create etc. (b) coordination skills for - playing music, dance, sports, art etc. (c) human bonds (d) interactive teaching to improve the above, beyond what console can provide (once new training techniques are developed by humans - they become part of the console, accessible to all) (e) finite human life!

Note: Bodies (features) don’t age, just coordination slows down as the underlying biological brain degenerates & one day stops responding = ‘looking truly young’ till the dying moment!

3. The Consequences of Virtual Existence - virtual existence has no room for virtues!

The world of infinite resources where bodies don’t get hurt or fall sick would be very different. What would remain and what would disappear compared to this world - given that all tangibles would lose their value?

Let’s define pleasure= ‘real time’ sensual/aesthetic or entertainment (emotional, intellectual); Pain = ‘real time’ bodily discomfort; Joy = getting what one wants; suffering - not getting or losing what one wants (or getting what one doesn’t want!). Mostly anticipation or memories of these - worries, fear, dissatisfaction, excitement, satisfaction/pride of achievement, sense of failure etc. A lot of joy/sorrow is closely tied to unequal distribution- of finite resources, of body abilities/vulnerabilities

Suffering would remain but will have very few modes i.e. most of today’s sources would disappear. What would remain? Hartbreaks/unmet expectations related to human bonds e.g. romance, or to performance/competition - art, sports, quiz, elections etc. And death- of loved one or anticipation of own. Consequently, sources of joy would also be few - when expectations are met in human bonds, in performances/competitions or arrival of a new baby

Most of the remaining modes of joy & suffering would be of far lower intensity than today - as very little would be at stake. Fear - almost non existent (only of old age death), worry - rare & mostly of low intensity. Pain would be practically absent. So pleasures- sensual, intellectual and emotional (from movies/dramas) would occupy considerable fraction of the time & ‘existential dissatisfaction’ would be the only source of chronic suffering. That and presence of death would ensure continuation of faith, myths, prayers, meditations, etc. Note- a lot of our joy/satisfaction of achievement is based on time it takes- desire, striving, choices within finite money/abilities, planning, trial/error, uncertainty- finally sweet taste of success. Instant gratification looks attractive relative to our present where getting things with less effort/time would be good. But if instant gratifications becomes a norm, it would suck out the ‘joy of getting’- become just short lived pleasure e.g. instant ‘building’ of a house!

When you have everything or can create what you want - there can be no ‘economy’. The only unequal things would be human bonds and ability to perform arts, create art, games, math/science knowledge etc. but that would be for the joy of it (or competitions), would have no economic value. Anything created using consoles becomes available to all - the only joy’d be in being the first one to do it. All recordings of music, movies etc. - would be accessible by all if shared access is granted. The only reason to restrict access - they contain something personal, not economic. Why would anyone restrict access when they know that everyone else is going to grant access to what they create - hence there’s nothing for one to “buy” (by restricting access to those who ‘pay’)?

The only tradable goods/service would be interactive teaching of skill/knowledge beyond what could be gained from consoles - the sole point of which would be ‘getting better at performance (e.g. dance) for own satisfaction’ or competitions. Not very high stakes? The only thing you can ‘buy’ if you sell teaching of skill/knowledge - learning of some other skill/knowledge (for yourself, or your loved ones). So one would teach because they enjoy it or trade ‘I teach x to your child, you teach y to mine’, or to compete with other teacher’s teams!

A few examples of what would be lost should clarify ‘how different’ that existence would be - how a lot of things we value today would not exist/have no role/value: physical characteristics - looks, strength, effort; intellectual ability (would have no economic value - only something admired or that can win competitions with nothing else at stake); suicides; ‘blood relatives’ (random cells ensure all are equidistant); almost all ideologies/isms - capitalism, communism, socialism; veganism, feminism, racism, animal rights, environmentalism; economy - hence finance, countries, wars, murders (their impossibility aside!), farms, factories, mines, offices, retail;  transportation, airport, telecom/electric utility; wealth based status, businessperson, successful executive, bosses, exploitation, employees; govt services- roads, defense, law & order, leaders/politicians (no economy, no infrastructure, no laws beyond the simple rules, no defense); physical medicine (mental health, yes - but that would be along the lines of teaching well being or spirituality not psychiatry); engineering, technology, science research for human benefit. In short, most present forms/modes/sources of joy & suffering!

No achievements with survival or big rewards at stake; no fighting for cause, getting support, finally getting one’s way; no holier than thou; no building a product by learning/designing tools, learning processes/techniques, collaborating with teams, satisfaction of being - the first, better quality, more features, market success; no joy of vacations - it has value because it’s rare, a change from working life which can’t be escaped except briefly; very few kinds of role models/legends - aspirations to emulate

The whole spectrum of emotions would remain and so would the range of behavior but most types would be as good as absent. Lets take a look at the virtues & vices. What would be courage when there is no bodily harm, achievement, property is at arisk i.e. no life or lifestyles is at risk? What is altruism, kindness, sacrifice (of your time, of present pleasures) for someone when they have everything, not receivers of raw deal from the destiny, can’t be sick? Sure you will have to sacrifice your time to teach children but you had them for your joy! You will support those suffering but suffering itself would be rare/of low intensity! Why would you be dishonest when there’s nothing to be gained nor punishment avoided - except as a child (to avoid restricted access because some criterion was not met) or because people ‘shouldn’t feel bad’/leave you as you didn’t meet their expectations? You can’t be cruel even if wanted to - everybody has equal strength & can vanish into private worlds when they want to, there’s nothing you can deprive anyone of (they are totally self sufficient)!

You become friends with someone - not for looks, not for their virtues, not because they are 'related by blood', not because you can benefit from them in some tangible way but only because they have some skill (dance, math) you admire or are ‘interesting to talk to! What would people talk about in absence of striving, suffering, little (real value) to show off? Children (minus worries abou their health, future!), gossip, common interests- movies, maths, history,...

Joy & suffering would be rare/mostly of low intensity, of significantly less variety. Pleasures would dominate. No role for Darwin - nothing of ‘survival value’, just ‘lifestyle’!

4.Effectively Eternal Existence - through a minor extension to the virtual world

What is death? It is certainty that individual existence comes to an end. How does one come to know about it? By looking at (or hearing about) fellow forms who no longer respond. It is easy to get rid of the notion of death in a virtual world - hence also its fear/pain of loved one’s. The underlying computer system continues the virtual body even after the underlying biological dies. It uses record of life’s history to generate behavior that would make it appear ‘alive’ to the outsiders! Or it may also be possible to regenerate lost cells in the biological body - so the person continues till earth gets destroyed/badly damaged. In either case, it would be effective eternity i.e. nobody would know - fear/pain of death - would one day just die! But then we must keep the population constant - no births allowed in the virtual world (else the real earth would run out of resources before eventual destruction of earth!)

So in addition to unlimited resources and non vulnerable body, now we have eternal youth & life! But one source of suffering- death and one source of joy - new babies and raising them, gone. Not just that but also gone: novelty of learning & perfecting coordination skills- music, dance, sport, quiz etc. since everybody would eventually be perfect/equal; there would be no point in competitions, so joy/suffering associated with winning/losing (gone). Specialness of human bonds hence associated joy/suffering (gone) - no raising children together, you have formed/broken bonds many, many times with everyone and know you will form them again. In short, life becomes pleasure or emotional/intellectual entertainment’: creating or experiencing music, movies/dramas, mathematics and similar. Theoretical variations on these are unending but each must get longer and longer to find novelty!

Eventually (a few 100s of years?) ‘one would have had enough’ - so it would either be mechanical addictions to pleasures or ennui with no hope of escape, hence suffering. The only escape out of ‘eternal existence’- erasure of memories to ‘experience life afresh’. Given the finite memory of the underlying biological brain - that would be the case but the memory loss won't be at the rate required for 'exceitement'! So one might have to go to the extreme - start living in the moment. Born & die every moment! Death = loss of memory - is essential for ‘living’!

Note: infinities have many mathematical subtleties - have used infinities here just to make a point!

5. Being Human

Artificial limbs that  send signals to & receive signals from nerves connected to the brain; internet, mobile phones, social media, multiparty video games, web communities, virtual reality, online shopping, 3D printing paving the way for made to order stuff; plastic surgeries, gated communities etc.- are already steps in the direction of our ‘virtual world’. People already spend a lot of time in these activities- in related joy/sorrow. But all in the context of physical body’s limitations, unfair access to finite resources and the need to affect the environment to satisfy unending desires

Many modes of our joys & sorrows today are related to survival, safety; unfair/uneven access to resources, to abilities/physical characteristics. The virtual (but mortal) world removes all of these except some uneven distribution in abilities - hence keeps competition as a source of joy & sorrow, albeit of low intensity (as not much is at stake). Getting better at knowledge or skill for its own sake and human bonds- would remain a source of joy & sorrow even if all abilities are evenly distributed (no competitions!). But eternity robs even that- all skills/abilities reach perfection, all human bonds (in a stable population) are formed & broken many, many times - lose value. Novelty itself loses novelty, attachment to attachments is lost! ‘Getting better at’ is no more an option but ‘doing thing for its own sake’ = without regard for past/future - remains. Also called ‘living in the present’ - totally accepting whatever the moment brings. That state is neither joy, nor sorrow but bliss. Its one of the two options to escape the tyranny of eternity - the other: purging memory to start fresh!

Life on this earth is practically eternal and it implements both these options. It’s one single life looking at itself through different vantages. Every breath, step, thought- part of the same unfolding from a hot, dense state 13 billion years ago. There’s no room for any individuality. Life lives in the moment as non humans (and as a few humans). It (via thoughts) creates illusory individuality as humans - unique memory of striving, joys & sorrows. Then it purges that memory by ending the illusion. Not just so that the next illusion can make a fresh beginning but also because there is no room on earth for all the forms life can become! Every fresh beginning is a new narrative - a new illusion. Each generation adds its layers. So each new incarnation starts higher on the mountain of facilities & knowledge than the earlier, can see farther

All the modes of joys/sorrow are present on our imperfect earth: survival/safety, unfair distribution of resources & body characteristics/abilities, human bonds, getting better for competition, getting better for its own sake, doing thing for its own sake - ‘being human’. All the joys & sorrows, vices & virtues are human but they need an imperfect world to manifest i.e. being human is to live in an imperfect world - limited in time, resources and their unfair distribution. One's quota - purely a matter of chance!

6. A Deeper Look- the world may be virtual but it’s the underlying biological being that wonders

Curiosity and/or suffering will finally lead a few towards the fundamental questions- whether in finite existence or eternal, whether with no ‘lifestyle’ limits or this one. Some would be satisfied with beliefs given by traditions, some may need empirical-rational answers

There would be no answer to how things in the private & social world come into existence (using the consoles)- that they just ‘pop up’ would be the only empirical answer, rest all unverifiable speculations. Natural world could be seen expanding- so humans would conclude that it either must have started out of a singularity (no space/time, infinite energy/temp) or has been part of some eternal process. No evidence to know which is the case- only speculations. But they would be sure-  it could not have ‘popped out of absolute nothing’. Because for ‘something to arise’, you need ‘whatever-it-is but with potential to create something’. No amount of math can obfuscate that!

But is this private/social/natural world - real i.e. ‘out there’- or ‘dreamlike’ (beings would have dreams about virtual world happenings, the only they know!)? No empirical way to know - as both ONLY contain sensations, thoughts- time, space, stuff, I/beings. Any claim regarding this matter would be a belief!

Finally, some would ask: who am I? Definitely not the body because all are born identical and each could be changed in whatever way one feels. Besides, they are hollow. So they are just like clothing with sensors- all replaceable. But what about the brain? It lights up in patterns related to happening around & within. Those patterns change with learning, experiences. So I= brain. But it runs on its own, follows rules - just like the natural world. So there’s no free ‘I’= Individuality is an illusion!

Some would go beyond. The brain is made up of ‘stuff’ that all can see. Although it lights up in patterns correlated with thoughts, brain’s ‘stuff’ properties can never derive the existence of ‘non stuff’- thoughts- that only I can see! So how can it be said to be directly aware of thought- ‘yesterday’- time? Also, there’s no way to know whether brain’s 'real' or dreamlike. Any claims regarding these issues would be pure speculations!

Some may go further: whether the brain is ‘real’ or ‘dreamlike’- awareness of thoughts about brain e.g. its patterns, its correlations, IS ‘appearance of a brain’. Same is true of the rest of existence, every questions & every answer. So the key question is - how do these thoughts arise? There’s no awareness of forming them, of weaving related sights, sounds, meanings = their content is known only when related words/symbols arise, not before. So thoughts too pop up- just like stuff in private and social worlds. Awareness of these thoughts is the sense of I, sense of time, claims regarding whether the world is real/dreamlike, sense of sleep, birth/death- the whole drama. No thoughts, no drama- not even these very words i.e. the drama of ‘I in time in a real world’ has no existence apart from awareness of thoughts, pop ups! Source of thoughts & their direct awareness is the only mystery - unknowable to thought. But without thoughts even the mystery- questions/speculations regarding it- doesn’t arise! So that too is part of the drama, the illusion. All springs up from and dissolves in - intimate silence!

No need to seek any further: silence is The Answer. Whether one remains silent or not, its enough to know that ‘not being silent IS the WHOLE human drama' - including every question/speculation about it i.e. not remaining silent IS the essence of being human! All this is neither a speculation/belief, nor 'The Truth' but the limit of empirical-reason!

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© 2015 Nikhil Tikekar (