A searching debut treatise that offers alternatives to typical religious ideas of the afterlife.
Shirvington opens his short, intense discussion with a meditation on the ultimate destiny of humankind that gamely supersedes the usual strictures of organized religions: “The crowning achievement of life on earth so far,” he writes, “is the evolution of a human brain capable of providing a platform for mind and morality.”(Quibblers may point out that other contenders for “crowning achievement” could be whales communicating across hemispheres, but the author is likely talking about human evolution only.) In order to ground his later philosophical discussions, he takes readers on a short but very clear tour of the basic structures of human religious belief, detailing, for example, the differences between deism and theism. He concludes with a provocative question: “If you are disappointed in the gods of the major religions,” he writes, “why not imagine your own god?” Or, more accurately, why not imagine yourself as a god? The author intriguingly asks if the evolution of the human mind, combined with constant advances in interactive computer science, will culminate in a “perfect state of omniscience, omnipotence, and harmony.” Unlike traditional conceptions of God, he writes, this “Universal Algorithm” would exist outside of time and causation and be capable of creating perfect reality simulations, in which every human being could have a kind of holographic afterlife. Shirvington bases his ideas partly on the philosophy of early-20th-century French philosopher and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and he engagingly enhances those ideas with an overlay of modern computer science to produce a new kind of philosophy—one in which humans are the ghosts in the machine and candidates for digital immortality in a superscientific future. The overall case is deliberately far-fetched, but the author makes it with a very pleasing earnestness. Devoted believers of all faiths, as well as nonbelievers, will likely find it a compelling intellectual exercise.
An outlandish but exhaustively thought-out imagining of humanity’s ultimate destiny.