The following article is a node in the ZS-ARG. If you want to know more, you can read about ZS (the Zero State) at http://zerostate.net, or in any number of Transhumanity.net articles with the tags “ZS” or “Zero State”. ZS is Transhumanist, Singularitarian, Social Futurist, and viewed by some of its participants as an Alternate Reality Game (ARG). If you are interested and yet a little mystified by all this, you may wish to check out this piece’s companion article, entitled “Escape To Reality!”. This article previously had a different title (“Demonstrate Your Knowledge”): To understand why, you should read the “Demonstrate Your Knowledge” section at the end of the article, below.
This piece is part 1 in a three-part series, which as a whole is concerned with showing connections between certain ideas buried deep in the Transhumanist (and ZS) “mythos” on the one hand, and possible courses of action (for Positive Social Change Through Technology) on the other. This first part looks into ideas surrounding the notion of Technological Singularity, and the ways that idea is incorporated into the ZS worldview. Part 2 explores those ideas further, and introduces the ZS notion of “worldlines”, or possible futures which lay before humanity. Part 3 then grounds these various musings in a prescription for effective, decentralised action.
The ouroboros-symbol is remarkably appropriate to the ZS mythos not only because of its allusions to cybernetic feedback loops and (Neo-)Gnostic mysteries, but because the temporal/causal loop at the heart of the ZS myth also involves a dragon or serpent of sorts.
The ZS Mythos takes the theme of cyclical patterns far beyond the general notion that “history repeats” (or indeed ‘rhymes’). At its heart is a story in which late-21st Century Artificial Intelligences – hive-mind governors of the Zero State and other advanced human societies of the time – use advanced technologies to manipulate the past (or simulations of it) to secure their position and protect the civilization they control. Thus a causal loop is formed – an allegorical ouroboros or dragon/serpent biting its own tail – in which both the past is influenced by the future, and the future only exists because of events in the past.
We will break the idea of the “ouroboros” loop down into three parts, to better understand them. Other divisions or categorizations are possible, but these are the most instructive for those new to the Mythos. The three parts include Blackstar and the Basilisk (also known as the Singularity and Array) as the two clearest “poles” of causal recursion, plus ideas regarding multiple parallel worlds or realities created by that recursive process, which thoroughly infuse ZS narratives.
101 ★ Blackstar (The Singularity)
Within ZS, “Blackstar” (★) is the name most commonly given to the Technological Singularity which transforms human civilization around the middle of the 21st Century, as is explained at http://zerostate.net. ★ is considered to be the founding event and principle of the Zero State. It represents the conquest of dumb matter by consciousness and intelligence, allowing those who choose life and growth to survive and push beyond all limits to fulfill their utmost potential.
The idea of a Technological Singularity has existed since at least the 11950s, and been popularised/developed in recent decades by the likes of Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil. We can think of this Singularity (which goes by a number of names within ZS, such as Asterion, ★, or Blackstar) as “The Future”, or the point in the causal loop which exists furthest in the future. As such, the Singularity is both an ambiguous point (there is no knowing when it exists, exactly, even if there is a constant date, which seems unlikely), but also a powerful symbol as the ‘northern’ or uppermost point on ZS’ ‘temporal compass’, so to speak. Blackstar only exists (in The Future) because of events happening now, but at the same time it is largely the author of those events.
As I have explained at length elsewhere, a true Technological Singularity would not only be analogous to a Gravitational Singularity as a point where “all the rules break down”, but it would also be opaque to humanity, shrouded by an ‘event horizon’ beyond which nothing can be reliably predicted by non-augmented minds, just as Gravitational Singularities are hidden within Black Holes.
From Event Horizons to Abstract Metaphysics
This idea of an event horizon surrounding a Technological Singularity – first articulated by mathematician and novelist Vernor Vinge – goes to the very heart of the “Zero State” (ZS) name. The first Social Futurist principle says that we find Clarity and Strength in Unity; and the truest unity – the truest singularity – is to be found in nothingness, or the universal absence of identity that the Buddhists call Śūnya. A lot could be said about this concept, but for now let’s just note that there cannot logically be two true nothings, or two complete unities, because there would be no features or characteristics to distinguish between them. There would, in other words, be nothing to tell us that there are two absences rather than one. Conversely, things (i.e. anything you care to name which has even so much as a single defining characteristic) automatically imply multiplicity; every “figure” implies a “ground”, or that-which-is-not-it. Certain theologians noticed this in centuries past when faced with superlative descriptions of God, and the notion of Apophatic or Negative Theology formed around the idea that any ultimate being, entity, principle or phenomenon can only be known in terms of what it is not. Less is more, in that the more we focus on the differentiating characteristics of things, the less unified we are.
Okay, that’s all very abstract and fine for the philosophers, but what does it have to do with a Technological Singularity?
The point of all this metaphysical musing is that it perfectly mirrors the idea that the closer we get to a Technological Singularity, the less we can reliably know, predict, or control about it (or more to the point, the more the illusion of knowledge and control, even the ability to define things collapses under the weight of torrential change). As you approach a Singularity, the sum of all human knowledge which is helpful in predicting what will happen after the Singularity drops to zero, at an exponential rate.
In short, in the face of an impending Technological Singularity, all knowledge is ultimately partial, and of rapidly diminishing value in terms of prediction or control. Surviving and thriving amid the massive phase shift represented by a Technological Singularity requires relinquishing all claims to control, prediction, or deep understanding of what the future will hold. Once the Singularitarian “moment” has passed, and some radically new civilizational paradigm is in place, then it will be time for a new understanding of what will come next (assuming there is anyone left alive to understand anything).
One Step Beyond: A Note on Singularities and Asian Religions
My intent here was to reflect on the unknowable and yet all-consuming nature of a Technological Singularity, and to draw attention to parallel lines of thought from the world of Western theology. Although we do not have space for any kind of extended inquiry here, these musings would be inexcusably incomplete if we did not mention similar ideas from Eastern theology. The most obvious parallel is to the idea of the Tao, which is an undefinable flow of things which younger Westerners can probably best intuit by thinking about The Force from Star Wars. We could easily fill a book talking about Taoism and its relevance to Transhumanism, but for now it is best to simply note that the unknowable nature of the Tao is the key defining feature of the thing itself. It is said that you simply cannot know what the Tao is like, in much the same way that if you could predict the details of a Technological Singularity then it wouldn’t really be an event worthy of the name.
There is another Asian religion which walks in similar territory, and really should be mentioned before moving on to the next topic. That religion is of course Hinduism, or perhaps more accurately the memetic network which sprawls across the Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist traditions. Within that network, we find the idea of Brahman, which is to say an ultimate cosmic principle, or level of reality at which there is no meaningful distinction between self-and-world, or concious mind and the environment it is conscious of. Brahman itself is also said to be unknowable in a number of ways, and it transcends all notions of individuality or multiplicity. For us Transhumanists, the most interesting aspect of this idea is that it perfectly reflects the relationship between Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality technologies that we would expect to see emerging as a Singularity draws near. Indeed, if we already live in some kind of post-Singularity simulation, then it would make perfect sense to say there is no deep distinction between our AI-minds and the VR-world they take for reality!
Demonstrate Your Knowledge The following text was the original introduction to this article, when it was initially posted as “Demonstrate Your Knowledge”. The text above is the finalised article, and further below you can see the responses/entries that were received. How this works: Below you can see a series of twelve headings. Over the next few days, those headings will be edited to include short explanatory paragraphs, which are being withheld for the time being. Why? Because The Future wants you to pay attention, and if you’ve been paying attention you should already know about some of the things this article will explain, and you might even be able to make pro-active / pronoiac guesses as to their meaning. In terms of the ZS Mythos, this is not so much a case of “guessing” as “remembering” (what the author Philip K Dick would have called anamnesia). Finally, let’s talk remuneration. ZS’ ‘coin of the realm’ is a currency called Dharma. Dharma determines everything you can do or be within the world of ZS. As a (very) general rule, Dharma is earned by helping make ZS a richer, deeper, more “solid” or persistent place to be. Significant Dharma will be awarded to those who make any kind of attempt to fill in the blanks below, with bonus points for particularly insightful answers, or those which match the pre-written entries; but frankly any attempt at filling the blanks will be rewarded. That shows engagement, and we need engagement. Any entry that causes significant modification of an entry will be rewarded with substantial Dharma. Responses received: Navigator Prime [ð+25] "The ouroboros-symbol is remarkably appropriate to the ZS mythos not only because of its allusions to cybernetic feedback loops and (Neo-)Gnostic mysteries, but because the temporal/causal loop at the heart of the ZS myth also involves a dragon or serpent of sorts" https://sites.google.com/view/zero-state/events/sessions-weekly/12017/3-3-0007-the-end “BLACKSTAR Within ZS, "Blackstar" (★) is the name most commonly given to the Technological Singularity which transforms human civilization around the middle of the 21st Century, as is explained at http://zerostate.net. ★ is considered to be the founding event and principle of the Zero State. It represents the conquest of dumb matter by consciousness and intelligence, allowing those who choose life and growth to survive and push beyond all limits to fulfill their utmost potential.” https://sites.google.com/view/zero-state/events/sessions-weekly/12018/3-3-0021-feb12018/799-dialectic-synthesis-unity-sections-5-7 Venus / Galactic Colonist [ð+25] 100 OUROBOROS The idea that history rhymes. There is similarity of events due to human nature and recurrent behavior over time. 101 Blackstar (The Singularity) Which is entirely opaque as we cannot see beyond the time when computers eclipse our ability to understand or predict anything from that point. Blackstar and Singularity also refer to the intense gravitational centers throughout the universe commonly referred to as black holes. 102 Midgard & the Nine Worlds A reference to Norse mythology. Midgard is the realm of Earth or that plane which we inhabit. As the name implies it occupies a central place among the nine worlds which are situated in different parts if Ygdrassil, the world tree. The other eight worlds are fantastic places inhabited by a variety of creatures with various relationships to both mankind and each other. 103 Basilisk (The Array) An information gathering system based around distributed information acquisition points. This functions in many ways like an array of radio telescopes such as might be seen in the VLA in New Mexico. It is less centrally controlled however and the information being pieced together is also more fractured. http://transhumanity.net/demonstrate-your-knowledge/#comment-172359