My friend also wrote:
The Problem of Evil
by esotericist Mark Stavish
The problem of evil is a perennial one for students of esotericism. Various philosophies address the problem in different manners, but in synthesis, there seems to be several distinct areas of overlap and agreement.
While alchemy does not address the idea of evil directly, it speaks of purification, sublimation, and other acts that suggest that our emotions, physical matter, and thoughts can exist in an imperfect state and somehow brought to perfection, or at the very least, a more desirable condition. All matter is imperfect compared to its spiritual archetype that it incarnates, but it is not evil, that is, in active and conscious rebellion against the ‘Good.’
Gnosticism addresses evil in two ways: relative and absolute. Matter and material life are seen as undesirable, as they are prison houses of the spirit. Like various schools of yoga and Buddhism, material life is to be escaped from and is de facto ‘evil.’ Matter keeps us from being free, unhindered, and spiritual beings without temptations and passions. This is interesting in light of the idea that the early angels united ‘with the daughters of men’ and thereby created offspring of legend referred to as ‘giants’ in the Old Testament. Clearly being ‘spiritual’ or without a physical body isn’t enough when it comes to being ‘passionless,’ but this seems to escape most of the discussion in this area.
Qabala is among the most balanced of the approaches in that it sees evil as relative, and necessary. It is to be overcome without condemning the material world.
In fact, in Qabala and Alchemy material life is our life. It is where we are in the here and now. We can think of earth as a school, a prison, a blank slate, or as whatever we like. Even if we believe in life having an evolutionary purpose and the influence of astrological Signs and Ages to push humanity along, life has no meaning until we give it meaning. All the guiding and directing in the cosmos is worthless unless we commit ourselves to a cause, something greater than ourselves, and work to express it, even if we may not live to see it.
The great cathedrals of Europe, temples of the ancients, and other places of majesty and wonder were built by people who would never live to see them completed. While for many of them it was just a job same as any other, or forced labor as a slave or serf, many of the artisans and professional builders employed took great pride in their work and saw it for what it was – a monument to something greater than the limits of earthly human life. Even in anonymity, their lives had, and still do, great meaning as we worship, tour, or simply admire from a distance, their labor, centuries after it was completed.
If you see material existence as good or evil, this is a reflection of your inner life. We hear often of the power of positive thinking, and the more cynical among us, who are often the more intelligent as well, sneer and either disregard it or simply pay lip service to the idea.
In truth, “Positive Thinking” is in many ways a lie. However, the reason is not in the idea, or theory, but the language used to transmit it. When we conceptualize the idea of thinking, it is often relegated to the idea of problem solving, and as such, rational and logical processes. However, thinking is more than logic, or problem solving, it is our worldview. Our thinking is the filter we use to process the world, how it works, our place in it, and relationship to others.
The greatest power in our ‘thinking process’ is not our ability to reason and use logic, but our ability to feel. Our emotions are our greatest asset in this area. If we ‘feel’ positively about life, then life takes on a flavor, color, or experience that logic and reason cannot transmit. Emotions are the driving force, the energy of the psyche, of human consciousness. When talk of the “Power of Positive Thinking” what is really being said is the “Power of Positive Feeling.”
Studies have shown that ‘optimists’ are more successful than ‘realists.’ This fundamental fact explains why so many smart people are often so under-achieving, under-paid, and under-fulfilled with their lives.
Modern educational systems develop the rational and logical at the expense of the emotional. Cynicism is encouraged and rewarded by the media, and academia. Yet if we look closely at ‘realists’ we see that they are essentially looking for an excuse not to act. They are afraid of failure, of making a mistake, of essentially living, and also of dying.
If you come to accept your mortality, then fear drips away, and problems of success, failure, even good and evil take on a more manageable perspective. Accept this – you will die, so act, and act as if it is today, for someday it will be.
This doesn’t mean that we throw away our resources, or ignore reason and logic, but instead, that after considering them, we still pick something and dedicate ourselves to its realization.
If you would like to be successful, and find meaning in your life, you must first decide what is the single thing you want to accomplish. What do you want to dedicate your limited, and numbered human days to promoting, building, and embodying even if you do not live to see its fruition?
Second, turn off your television. Get rig of cable, satellite TV, [Katia inserts: Pokemon Go, Facebook, Cellphone addiction] or whatever it is that you plug into that drains your life force.
Third, meet and collaborate with others who are seeking to build and promote their lives, even if their projects are not esoteric or spiritual in nature, so long as they are developing, encouraging, and demonstrating the effectiveness of an ‘optimistic’ attitude.
Fourth, do not discuss your plans with anyone who cannot directly assist you in their fruition. Avoid nay sayers and similar ‘realists’ who will tell you from their position of superiority, built upon a mountain of failure and self-imposed fears and limitations, that what ever ‘It’ is, ‘it can’t be done.’
Fifth, read biographies about the great men and women who have overcome all obstacles to achieve their dreams. Even if the books are older, and the stories slightly romanticized, read them anyhow. It is inspiration and example that you are seeking to internalize and emulate, not a ‘tell-all’ expose. A wonderful example of this kind of inspirational biographical writing is Twelve Against the Gods by William Bolitho.
Sixth, and finally, give back, here and now. Generosity is a form of confidence in the future, as well as gratitude for what you have. Give of your time, knowledge, and material wealth. All three must be given for this to work, because in doing so, you create a chain of events and habits, that will cascade back onto you and reward you with opportunities otherwise outside your reach. In your acts of generosity of time, talent, and treasure, your true inner attitude, deepest held feelings, are revealed. However, the time is now, and without concern for your ‘personal reward’ that might come as a result of your actions. Give, give generously, give wisely, give regularly, and give impersonally.
In doing this, you create a better life for yourself, and a better world for others in which evil has no place to hide or to grow.
This document may be cross-posted as long as the authorship and copyright attribution remains intact.
For more information on how to use the power of belief and emotions to create a better life for yourself and others, see [Mark Stavish’s awesome new book] :
Please watch this short, awesome video…and read my reaction below
Light of the World
This image says it all: whether we are Atheist, Religious, White, Black, Straight, Gay, – Our skeletons are all the same! The Pirates with wooden legs are the only “minorities” when ashes come to ashes and dust comes to dust.
This image is like a political cartoon that makes you stop and think during all the controversy today regarding race relations and gay marriage, not to mention the religious wars all over the planet.
One of our seminary students is writing a paper for her Women in Religion class and wants to interview us by email as follows. Please answer and take part!
1. What is your definition of feminism?
2. What is your definition of patriarchy?
3. What do you think of the stereotype “women are from Venus, men are from Mars?” Put another way, do you think it’s true that women are more emotional and men are more logical? Do you think that men and women are compatible?
4. What do you think America would be like if the main religion was centered on a goddess?
5. Do you think that religion in America has positive role models and messages for women?
6. Do you think that modern America is a healthy environment for women? What about men?
Watching the news and one of the commentators (Neil Cavuto) just said, “I don’t care about the color of your skin, just its thickness…”
Now that is a good rule. Thin-skinned vs. thick-skinned is what really matters.
Neil Cavuto’s exact words on television today were:
“I have no issue with the color of anyone’s skin, more often than not, just the thickness of it.”
Atheists are trying to stop clergy from being sent to crime scenes and accidents where they do grief counseling and help the victims deal with the tragedy or loss they’ve just endured. The authorities, police, etc. send the minister, rabbi or chaplain to the scene. But now the atheists say these dedicated ordained professionals are not doing anything, they are actually doing harm.
This article describes the atheist campaign to stop clergy.
Our online Seminary ordains ministers, chaplains and rabbis as alternative clergy…
…several of which have done crime scene counseling, terrorist scene counseling, etc. Alabama is one of the places in the country that will still send a priest, ordained minister, as a counselor. What a shame this practice is under attack now. I remember reading after the Boston bombing how clergy were kept back from the scene, even a Catholic priest who could have read the last rites to the Catholic little boy that died. Humans have three natures, the physical, mental and spiritual. It seems completely wrong to take every vestige of the spiritual out of public life and force it into private life only. They are forcing spirituality into the closet. Suppressing spirituality is just as dangerous as suppressing sexuality.
Tonight I helped my 13-year-old daughter compare the Aztecs to the Mayans. She is studying for a test in our homeschooling curriculum. Both the Aztecs and Mayans, though centuries apart were in Central America, had large cities, wealth, and accurate 365-day calendars. Both had nobles, warriors and priests. And both had slaves — lots of them. The Aztecs had human sacrifice.
Daily human sacrifices were made in major Aztec cities “to make the sun rise” each day. My daughter’s 8th grade history book says 10,000 people per year were sacrificed. I had no idea that many native Central American people had their hearts cut out by their own people, to be held aloft still beating at the top of one of those stone Temples. This was done in what is now Mexico from the 1300’s until the 1500’s when the Spanish conquerors put a stop to it (by killing and/or enslaving the killers). The Spanish killed the priestly class, or most of it, and any nobles who resisted them, and took control of the vast slave population. Ten or more surrounding tribes had helped the Spanish take over, so sick they were of their family members being collected by the Aztec theocracy government to feed the blood-thirsty savage gods of Tenochtitlan. The blood bath had been going on for centuries before the Spanish arrived.
Some writers today bemoan that 50,000 Aztecs were killed by the Spanish during the takeover. Those deaths were largely the Aztec army, priests and nobles who were benefiting from this perverse demented human-eating religion-government. We always here how evil those Spanish were, those white men from dastardly Europe, to “invade” and kill all those sweet, wise and noble natives. Yeah, right. Tens of thousands of native Central Americans fought under the Spanish officers’ leadership. There were only so many Spanish present. It was an overthrow of something evil and sick which had persisted for centuries. Yes, the Spanish wanted gold and glory out of it, and their own priests came in the wake of the take-over with the ultimate religion of human sacrifice: Christianity. The rest is history – Central and South America are earth’s current strongholds of Christianity, far more fanatically devoted to the Faith from Jerusalem than Europe, Greece and Turkey, the cradles of Christianity. They say the next Pope will probably be a South American.
Tangent: The news says 50,000 descendants of the Aztecs still living in the homeland (Mexico, in other words) have died very bloody deaths in the past few years in the drug wars. It’s almost as tho that ground down there is thirsty for blood. Gives one a creepy feeling that something supernatural is down there…somethin’ blood-thirsty and not-so-human. There have been positive supernatural events in Mexico and South America, too, as we know – Our Lady showed herself in Guadalupe and millions make pilgrimages across that ancient blood-thirsty land to see Her.
Some Catholic missionary-priests in the 1500s wrote that the native Mexicans (Aztecs who survived the takeover) embraced Christianity with unbridled zeal, almost a desperate grabbing on to it. The reason? Because they would be killed if they didn’t? Were the brown-frocked and black-frocked holy men from Europe converting them by the sword out in their sun-fried extremely remote villages? No. The people willingly, hurriedly, desperately converted because for ONCE, for once, they could embrace a religion that did not daily demand their children, their youth, to die meaningless deaths. The ultimate human sacrifice was paid when a god came to earth and was sacrificed instead of just a human. It happened in the land across the sea in the center of the earth, taught this Christianity. This sounded GREAT. Yes, they thought, we can get into this! And women even have souls. The women probably realized they were finally considered almost equal to men, which although they wouldn’t probably know it, is unlike every other religion on the planet. How cool is that?
The last human sacrifice took place in South America in 1974 and some wonder if that’s just the last one we know about. The victim was slain and his blood allowed to gush onto the ground in order to feed some angry god, said the village. They believed like their ancestors that the god would feed them back by blessing their crops that year. Ugh. We can’t get this out of our system. Think of India sacrificing wives, every single wife on her husband’s funeral pyre up until the British conquest.
Think of Perseus in Greek legend saving a human sacrifice victim – about to be “fed” to a monster-son of a god. Princess Andromeda was chosen as the offering after thousands of other virgins had failed to appease the monster. Human sacrifice was so very common to our ancestors.
There is evidence of human sacrifice in Northern Europe, even among the Druids where we just wish we didn’t have to talk about it. Bogs have been uncovered with the victims ceremonially bound. Ick. Freedom from the practice of human sacrifice is another reason why Christianity may have caught on so well. We are often told it caught on because women were treated equally at least spiritually, since just like the men, they would be eligible for “salvation”, “theosis”* – and souls. (*Theosis means the process of becoming divine and is practiced today in the Eastern Orthodox Churches of Greece, Russia, etc)
The ancient world of the Bible gives us angry gods like Molech who demanded babies and toddlers daily be thrown into their furnaces. Hebrew scholars teach a fascinating theory that because it gave up human sacrifice early, Judaism was different from all the other religions of the ancient Middle East. This is why Judaism survived, and the other nasty children-killing virgin-killing religions became history. The people GLADLY embrace “decent” life-friendly religions. Okay, Judaism has its flaws, oppressive patriarchy, sexism, misogyny, lack of the Sacred Feminine, etc., but those are social products of the ancient dog-eat-dog illiterate world and are far more palatable than giving up your kid to the sacrifice collectors! This is why Judaism became the Religion of the Book, changing the world forever and spawning the other two world religions, Christianity and Islam (the Koran has Jewish and Christian bible characters all thru it. Mohammed got his inspiration from both Judaism and Christianity, and all three are collectively called the Desert Religions.) The proof of Judaism changing the ancient practice once and for all is right in the Old Testament. The Hebrew god finally got sick of this human sacrifice crap and decided to send a message, a special message. The spot where the message was delivered is the current Temple Mount so fought over by Muslims and Jews. He told Abraham to offer his boy as a human sacrifice as was his “right” as a god to ask. But the whole exercise was to teach a substitution practice – I PREFER RAMS! said God. Just like the Cain and Abel story taught – give me roast beast, not vegetables, and don’t kill your brother, just give me an animal. Satisfy your blood lust by offering animals to me. It’s worth mentioning that the priests and their families would eat the sacrifices at the Temple and earlier at the Tabernacle – these animals were not just wasted as in Rome and Greece when bulls and large animals were slaughtered, although even in those places the meat was not always wasted. Animal sacrifice could be thought of as religious slaughtering of livestock for food. Butchers who were priests.
God’s instruction to offer him only animals and not humans is kind of esoteric, and even though the great Temples were built on the spot, people today, and possibly in Jesus’ time didn’t quite get that message. But Jesus’ story really spelled it out. This time a god was sacrificed. So no more humans necessary – no more animals either for that matter, since shortly after Jesus’ lifetime the animal sacrifices at the Jerusalem Temple ended once and for all. The kosher slaughterers still follow the rules for killing animals today, and they say certain ancient-sounding prayers when they kill the animals, but the large scale showy sacrifice to “appease” hungry gods and “pay” for sins/mistakes/offenses is no more.
We forget why our ancestors glommed on to the religion of the dying god. That whole “paid the price with his life for all of us” sounds like such a cliché to our ears. That’s ‘cause we weren’t there caught up in a world of blood-lusty perverted “clergy” coming into our towns and stealing our people on a regular basis. It was like paying a tax for the people in the Aztec cities and towns right up until the Spanish conquest.
Our DNA was there, even if “we” weren’t, so perhaps we can “know’ this (know with gnosis) liberating teaching and make it part of our ancestral heritage to be proud of. They were a violent perverted blood-lusty rapacious marauding sexist woman-abusing, child-abusing bunch of pigs, our ancestors, but by god they were the first to see the light and stop daily killing the weak for religious “sport”.
Wars still rage in battlefields and inner cities, but no blood-soaked stench-oozing altars sit in OUR town-squares. I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like to walk by the funeral burning grounds in India as a young woman, knowing that was where you would die someday. And die a very unpleasant manner, being burned alive. What the hell is the matter with some people/cultures? Don’t get me started on the Chinese and what they did to THEIR women. Heck, they kill their female babies today even before they are born. Sonograms to tell the sex of the child are illegal now in China in order to stop the crazy population imbalance where men and boys outnumber girls almost THREE to one. Most Chinese men will never marry now, due to their culture’s stupid hatred of females. At least they are no longer sacrificing girl-babies as much as they used to. And it was never done to feed angry gods, so China’s story shouldn’t probably be in this discussion. They weren’t feeding their gods or blood-lust, killing daughters is done merely to feed egos who think “a son” is the only kind of child capable of “fulfilling” honor (aka the human ego). Dishonoring themselves by killing innocents all to obtain family honor by having a son…
Christianity had a lot to offer thru history. It came with war and pestilence. The pestilence being European illnesses that wiped out American native peoples like the Chinese-born Bubonic Plague wiped out one third of Europe a hundred years previously. Christianity didn’t cause those wars and pestilences to spread – – human greed did. Priests came in the aftermath of conquest to spread Christianity with their fanatical zeal, but good for them. They saved thousands more natives and gave them something to believe in that was at least mildly fulfilling to the beleaguered short-life-spanned souls, and more than mildly (yes, wildly) liberating from the vile sacrifice practices of the ancestors.
I grow weary of the propaganda that European people once had slaves. YES. They sure did. Romans had millions of slaves, Greeks, even the Norse had a few. But the Western Humans were the first to free slaves. The 2% that owned them were finally overruled by the rest of the population and made to give up the vile practice. But it is still going on in Africa, Eastern Europe and India. Sex slavery and hard labor slavery are alive and well. So if you are ticked at European slave-owners, at George Washington and Thom Jefferson for owning slaves, go scream at their graves, disturb their rest. But they are dead people. Nobody owns slaves in this part of the world any more. Better to go and rail at the slave owners who are STILL buying and selling humans TODAY. Do something about slavery instead of guilt-tripping our teenagers with social studies textbooks that imply the west was the only segment of humanity to own slaves. Puh-leese. The practice came from the East and from Africa where TO THIS DAY they still sell their own people into slavery. Yes, in 2011 it is happening. And not just for sex slaves (the worse kind, imo) but for hard labor. Google it. See the faces of those forlorn African girls sold by their own fathers, uncles, aunts, into slavery to harsh masters and mistresses hundreds of miles away from their hometowns. They have to live in closets or dirt huts on their master’s property and work 18 hour days with not ONE day of school, not ONE kind word, and only one meal a day. Shut up about people 200 years, 300 years ago owning slaves. My ancestors were Europeans but none of them owned slaves. Slaveowners were only 2% of the population in the USA and Europe and they are ALL DEAD. it ended in the 1800’s. If you really hate slavery and are out to help free some, go on a crusade, on a mission, to help those crying out for your help. Africa , Pakistan and India are calling your name. Begging for you to give a damn and go and help. Don’t forget the sex brothels of Eastern Europe and the Far East, while you’re at it.
My daughter’s history book says yes, the Aztecs had slaves but the victims were mostly — it uses the apologetic vague weasel word “mostly” — criminals and prisoners of war. I have to say criminals make sucky slaves. They kill you and or your family in your sleep, kill other slaves, fight, batter, burn crops and barns, cause mayhem, dissension in the ranks, are impossible to keep a lid on, impossible to get quality work out of. The criminal mind cannot be governed, ruled, it’s in its genetics from childhood to be first oppositional, and then to be criminal. Just ask the kindergarten teachers of future criminals. It’s in the DNA, sadly. So nope, criminals were not slaves, unless you mean a few one-time offenders who should not be called criminals in the first place. Maybe a few hardened “real” criminals have worked successfully for a short time in chain-gangs, but only in chains can you get a criminal to work. Chain-gangs are short-lived – it’s hard on the body – with high turnover due to death and not much profit possible. The slave-minders are so worn out from flogging and chaining and getting them to work, that they say to hell with this and get me some docile obedient personalities to enslave or I will do this work myself. It’s easier on the overseer. Most slaves were (and still are) normal people stolen or sold from other villages and tribes. Prisoners of War says the textbook – as if that makes it okay. Yeah, they fought a war with their neighbors those Aztecs during the 200 years of their empire, so making slaves of the POWs and their entire families/villages is acceptable.
Man am I glad to be born in the West. The West is definitely Best, as the saying goes. Or at least we can say the West is the luckiest. Sheesh. Christianity has its failings, its many sins, and its lackings such as God-the-Mother and the Bride of Christ, but it kinda beats the competition hands down. I follow the esoteric versions of the Faith, but I am glad for the existence over the years of our exoteric Christian cousins. Even if you are a misogynist lot we’re hoping to reform, you are no longer a violent lot.
Back to my original reason for writing/blogging tonight. It came to me while helping Tia with her Aztec assignment that maybe Yeshua had one more reason to submit to death. He allowed his death to be turned into a public “human sacrifice” because he knew it could turn into an excuse to stop human sacrifice (and animal sacrifice was stopped by early Christians) the world over. He could have died of old age after coming to earth as a human to deliver the amazing news, the awesome message that we are all part of a Plan for Freedom. He knew when he was born of a woman he would die like everyone else, because bodies do that. He could have insisted on a calm private death. But he went along with Satan’s plan and turned his arrest and execution into a good thing. I bet the Evil One hates how the Good does that, turns such a victory for the Darkside into a liberating doctrine for millions of humans. Not only did Yeshua offer up himself in exchange for letting his students and family go free – and to keep them all from being killed while authorities searched for him – but he gave the world a story, an excuse, to free millions and millions of people from the horrors of the culture of human sacrifice. His death was 1500 years before the Aztecs (modern Mexicans) would grab onto Christianity in a desperate attempt (which turned out to be successful) to escape the vengeful daily murdering state religion of their ancestors. Others before the Aztecs found liberation in Christianity, even some of those supposedly converted by the sword.
I am reminded of the book What’s So Great About Christianity, but its author Dinesh D’Souza didn’t ponder Yeshua’s possible inner decision-making process on what might become of his life, what religion might be founded out of his decision to be viciously executed. Yeshua decided to be like Isaac on the Temple Mount, or rather be like the ram in the thicket. His story (or Paul’s interpretation and spread of it!) created an excuse to stop ritual murder. It created a rather gruesome-themed religion, true. All those life-sized and neck pendant blood-dripping crucifixes adorned with his corpse creep me out. Children are not fond of them either. Christianity is “blood-thirsty” when the people eat the god daily, and drink his blood during the eucharist. We eat god instead of the god eating the people.
Hey, this dying-god cannibalistic religion put an end to human sacrifice and offers more than a little satisfaction to a billion people. Even the Chinese are grabbing onto Christianity with a fervor not seen since Roman times. Chinese pastors are this very decade, this very year, being beheaded for passing out Bibles in China or simply for having “unauthorized” churches meet in their houses.
There must be something to Christianity that satisfies so much among persecuted populations. Something is there at the heart of it, a mystery…
So there, say I, to the Christian-bashers, and don’t get me started on the Jew-bashers. Y’all need to go find the real enemy.
10-23-2011 3:33 a.m.
Oh wow, this letter from Satan to Pat Robertson (below) is really a hoot. I was just reading (in Myth and Ritual of Christianity by Alan Watts) about the arena Lucifer aka Satan really works in. According to Watts, Satan doesn’t even engage in lesser forms of evil like violence and war, he is far too clever and subtle for that and commits the purest forms of evil. Lucifer-Satan is extraordinarily gifted as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, an expert on human nature, and moves with the light-workers, the peace-makers, the smiling do-gooders. Satan moves and works among the beautiful ones, fooling everyone, says famous author Alan Watts (back in the late 60s when he wrote this book).
Anyway, here’s the Screwtape Letters style note to Pat Robertson after Pat said the Haiti earthquake was caused by a deal Haiti made with the Devil.
SATAN TO PAT ROBERTSON: YOU’RE DOING GREAT WORK, PAT, BUT…
Dear Pat Robertson,
I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the
shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when
they are down, so I’m all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has
made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but
I’m no welcher.
The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and
impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with
people, they first get something here on earth — glamour, beauty, talent,
wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I
mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven’t you seen
“Crossroads”? Or “Damn Yankees”? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there’d
be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox — that
kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing
against it — I’m just saying: Not how I roll.
You’re doing great work, Pat, and I don’t want to clip your wings — just,
come on, you’re making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep
blaming God. That’s working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need
to renegotiate your own contract.
— Lily Coyle, Minneapolis – via the Star Tribune
This is really intriguing stuff — in ten years we will not stare at glowing screens on our computers or iPods or whatever because special glasses will beam the information/screen/images directly onto our retinas. It’ll be just like Star Trek where you see holographic worlds and it feels like you’re really living it. In just ten years! And then by 2030 they’ll be able to reprogram our genes like we reprogram our computers! No more fat cells, even cancer cells might be on their way out. — +Katia
TOP FUTURIST, RAY KURZWEIL, PREDICTS HOW TECHNOLOGY WILL CHANGE HUMANITY BY 2020
By Ray Kurzweil
New York Daily News
December 13, 2009
As we approach the end of the first decade of the new millennium, let’s consider what life will be like a decade hence. Changes in our lives from technology are moving faster and faster. The telephone took 50 years to reach a quarter of the U.S. population. Search engines, social networks and blogs have done that in just a few years time. Consider that Facebook started as a way for Harvard students to meet each other just six years ago; it now has 350 million users and counting.
Between now and 2020, the trend will continue, spreading cutting-edge technologies to every corner of the country and beginning to make innovations once consigned to the realm of science fiction real for millions of Americans. Specifically what can we expect? Solar power on steroids, longer lives, the chance to get rid of obesity once and for all, and portable computing devices that start becoming part of your body rather than being held in your hand.
What will drive all this accelerating change is precisely what has driven it this past half-century: the exponential growth in the power of information technology, which approximately doubles for the same cost every year. When I was an MIT undergraduate in 1965, we all shared a computer that took up half a building and cost tens of millions of dollars. The computer in my pocket today is a million times cheaper and a thousand times more powerful. That’s a billion-fold increase in the amount of computation per dollar since I was a student.
That incredible force — information technology that moves faster, then faster, then faster still — will power changes in every imaginable realm over the next decade.
Start with the basics. You’ve no doubt noticed that electronic gadgets are getting smaller and smaller; the iPod Shuffle holds 1,000 songs and weighs 0.38 ounces. Your phone is smaller than it was a few years ago and can do much more. By 2020, memory devices will be integrated into our clothing. And the very idea of a “smart phone” will begin to change. Rather than looking at a tiny screen, our glasses will beam images directly to our retinas, creating a high resolution virtual display that hovers in air.
That virtual display will be able to take over our entire visual field of view, putting us in a three-dimensional full immersion virtual reality environment. We’ll watch movies virtually and read virtual books. A lot of our personal and business meetings will take place in these 3D virtual worlds. The design of new virtual environments will be an art form. We’ll even have ways to touch one another virtually.
There are already beginning to be apps available for your iPhone or Android phone that allow you to look at a building and have the display superimpose what stores are inside it; Google Goggles, released last week, is the first free, widely-available version of such software. By 2020 we’ll routinely have pop ups in our visual field of view that give us background about the people and places that we’re looking at.
In other words, your memory will be constantly, instantaneously aided by the information available on the Internet. The two will begin to become indistinguishable.
How about energy? That doesn’t sound like an information technology. Fossil fuels, after all, are an early first industrial revolution, 19th century technology. But we are now applying nanotechnology — the science of essentially reprogramming matter at the level of molecules to create new materials and devices — to the design of renewable energy technologies such as solar energy. As a result, the cost per watt of solar energy is coming down rapidly and the total amount of solar energy is growing exponentially.
It has in fact been doubling every two years for the past 20 years and is now only eight doublings away from meeting all of the world’s energy needs.
When I shared this fact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a few weeks ago, he asked, “but is there enough sunlight to double solar energy eight more times?” I responded that we have 10,000 times more sunlight than we need to do this. The prime minister announced an Israeli energy initiative the next day at the Israeli Presidential Conference based on our conversation, setting a 10-year goal to create the technologies to completely replace fossil fuels.
It’s not just the gadgets we carry around and the power we use to fuel our lives that are subject to what I call “the law of accelerating returns.”
Health and medicine, which used to be a hit or miss process, has now become an information technology.
We now have the software of life (our genes) and the means of upgrading that software. How long do you go without updating the software on your cell phone? Not long: it does it itself every few days or weeks. Yet we are walking around with obsolete software in our bodies that evolved thousands of years ago. Within 10 years, that will change.
Already today, there are over a thousand projects to change our genes away from disease and toward health, not just in newborns but in mature individuals. The Human Genome Project, which has catalogued our genetic material, was itself a very good example of the law of accelerating returns; the amount of genetic data that is sequenced has doubled every year and the cost has come down by half every year. We can now design health interventions on computers and test them out on biological simulators. These technologies are doubling in power every year and will be a thousand times more powerful in a decade.
By 2020, we will have the means to program our biology away from disease and aging, and toward significant advances in our ability to treat major diseases such as heart disease and cancer — an approach that will be fully mature by 2030.
We won’t just be able to lengthen our lives; we’ll be able to improve our lifestyles. By 2020, we will be testing drugs that will turn off the fat insulin receptor gene that tells our fat cells to hold on to every calorie.
Holding on to every calorie was a good idea thousands of years ago when our genes evolved in the first place. Today it underlies an epidemic of obesity.
By 2030, we will have made major strides in our ability to remain alive and healthy — and young — for very long periods of time. At that time, we’ll be adding more than a year every year to our remaining life expectancy, so the sands of time will start running in instead of running out.
No, it’s not going to be an entirely brave new world. Some things will look pretty similar in 2020. We’ll still drive cars — although they will have the intelligence to avoid many accidents and self-driving cars will at least be experimented with. All-electric cars will be popular. And in cities, don’t expect subways or buses to go away.
But in more and more ways big and small, hang in there and we’ll all get to see the remarkable century ahead.
Kurzweil is former recipient of the MIT-Lemelson prize, the world’s largest for innovation, and in 1999 was awarded the National Medal of Technology. He is the author of the books “The Singularity is Near” and “The Age of Spiritual Machines.”
NHNE Singularity Resource Page:
NHNE Ray Kurzweil Resource Page:
Kurzweil New Book: “Transcend: Nine Steps To Living Well Forever”
Transcendent Man (movie):
The Singularity Is Near (movie):