What is the meaning of life? It’s a question everyone has wondered about at some point in their life. Is there even an answer?
Each of us has somehow found our way into this world. But for what purpose or reason are we here? What’s the point of it all? Is there inherent significance or value to life and existence?
In today's episode we will review the answers and use the best available evidence in an attempt to settle this timeless question. An answer to this question will enable us to better understand each other, to know the direction and aim of humanity and technology, and to know what is truly valuable so we can get the most out of life.
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You're listening to the always asking.com podcast. This is episode number eight. Today's question is, what is the meaning of life? since we were children, we've asked why we were here. And we wonder what is the purpose, reason, value or significance of life and existence? In today's episode, we will review the answers and use the best available evidence in an attempt to settle this timeless question. Enjoy.Brian:
What is the meaning of life? It's a question everyone has wondered about at some point in their life? Is there even an answer? Each of us has somehow found our way into this world? But for what purpose or reason? Are we here? What's the point of it all? Is there inherent significance or value to life and existence? Among the many philosophies and religions we find no shortage of answers offered? But which answer is right? Does science suggest an answer to this mystery? If so, what does it tell us? As we will see, science does give an answer to this question, and one that is both remarkably simple, yet comprehensive, and all encompassing. Having an answer to this question enables us to better understand each other to know the direction and aim of humanity and technology and to know what is truly valuable so we can get the most out of life. Reviewing answers, the question What is the meaning of life that has a long and rich history? Let's see what answers have been given by ancient civilizations, religions of the world, and philosophical traditions and answers from ancient peoples in every time and place have considered this question. A few have left records of their thoughts that have survived to this day. Let's review the oldest of humanity's answers to this ageless question of ancient Egyptians. Perhaps the oldest of these records are the Pyramid Texts inscribed in the tombs of ancient Egyptians kings some 4400 years ago. According to these texts, after death, one's life is judged in a trial by Osiris and 42. Judges in the hall of two truths. During this trial, one's heart is weighed against a feather of truth. If one letter virtuous life, their heart will be found lighter than the feather of truth, and their soul is free to pass to the field of reeds where it will live forever in paradise. If the heart is heavier, it is eaten by the demon SM it making the soul forever restless. In the view of ancient Egyptians, the meaning of life is to live a life worthy of passing to the eternal joy of paradise. This requires a life of truth, justice, and harmony, avoiding chaos, violence, and evil in ancient Sumerians. Summa was the first human civilization and it is also the first to develop written language and humankind's oldest surviving work of literature is The Epic of Gilgamesh, written in Sumerian cuneiform 4100 years ago. The story centers on the life of Gilgamesh, the king of Urk. This epic offers an answer to the question of the meaning of life. Quote, when the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping. As for you, Gilgamesh, fill your belly with good things day and night, night and day. Damson, be merry feast and rejoice. Let your clothes be fresh, bathe yourself in water. cherish the little child that holds your hand and make your wife happy in your embrace. For this too, is the lot of man and quote, today, an epic of Gilgamesh, 2100 BC. In summary, life is short, so live it to the fullest. We find this advice echoed almost verbatim in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, his quote is, go eat your food with gladness and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be closed in white. And always mind your head with oil and enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun, all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your title, some labor under the sun and quote, Book of Ecclesiastes chapter nine verses seven to nine. 450 to 200 BC. Ancient Persians the first monotheistic religion originated in ancient Persia 3000 years ago. It is called Zoroastrianism and it's still practiced to this day. Zoroastrianism was the official religion of the first Persian Empire by the fraction of people living in it. The Persian Empire was the largest in human history, containing 30 to 50% of the world's population, and it had a significant influence on civilizations and religions that followed. According to Zoroastrianism, each person participates in the battle between Nasha good truth, order and true evil, falsehood, decay. One's irvan, or soul is sent to the material world to collect experiences, which are considered useful in the battle between good and evil. answers from religion. Nearly every religion offers answers to the question of life's meaning. The few that don't at least provide a prescription for how to live. Next review answers found in some of the world's religions, Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic religions are those formed by descendants of Abraham. They include the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and Judaism. According to Judaism, the meaning of life is to heal, repair and improve the state of the world through good deeds. The final goal is a perfected world to come to Christianity. According to Jesus, the most important law in life is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. Mormonism an offshoot of Christianity teaches that the purpose of life is to gain experience, develop and receive a fullness of joy in Islam. According to Islam, life on earth is a test that determines one's closeness to God and devotion is demonstrated in five ways profession, prayer, fasting, charity, and pilgrimage. One will either inherit a final home close to God and His love in a paradise or distant in a hell. The Prophet Mohammed also expressed a form of the golden rule saying none of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself. dharmic religions and the dharmic religions are those originating in the Indian subcontinent and include Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism and Hinduism. According to Hinduism, there are four aims in life. One Kama, desire, sensual pleasure, emotional fulfillment is static arts, dance, music, nature, appreciation, enjoyment, love, affection, to otter means of living Korea, financial security, prosperity, three, Dharma duties virtue, moral values, ethics, non violence order for Moksha liberation, freeing oneself from the cycle of reincarnation through enlightenment, self knowledge, and self realization. Pursuing each is considered essential so long as no aim is sacrificed. Hindus believe spiritual development occurs across lifetimes, with the final goal being Moksha, or liberation from the cycle of reincarnation known as samsara. This is considered the final aim of all souls in Buddhism. According to Buddhism, everything is a product of the mind. Therefore, resolving one's state of mind is the highest goal. Quote, mind proceeds or phenomena, mind matters most everything is mind made. And, quote, Gautam Buddha in the dhammapada circa 500 BC, the aim of Buddhists is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path and thereby eliminate suffering and achieve nirvana, the highest happiness. Sikhism is the word seek means student. The primary aim for seeks is continuous learning and development for the mind and body to flourish. In the words of the founder of Sikhism. Quote, your soul, breath of life, mind and body shall blossom forth in lush profusion. This is the true purpose of life and quote good ru Nanak in page 47, line 19 of Guru Granth Sahib 1604 seeks believe every soul is of divine origin and on a path to develop its divine attributes. And ultimately all souls will merge with the true one. Quote, we shall merge into the one from whom we came. The true one is pervading each and every heart and quote Guru Nanak in page 20, line five of Guru Granth Sahib 1604 East Asian religions East Asian religions include the traditional Chinese religions of Confucianism, and Taoism, as well as the Japanese religion of Shinto, Confucianism, and Confucianism teaches a code of ethics based on five constants, benevolence, justice, ritual, wisdom, integrity, and four virtues loyalty, devotion to family self control morality. Confucius believed these qualities create strong and content families, which in turn creates strong and content communities. The goal is a harmonious society where individuals make better choices, live prosperous and peaceful lives and minimize suffering. Quote, we can realize the ultimate meaning of life in ordinary human existence. And quote, to Ming in Confucian thought, 1985 Confucius is also known for the earliest telling of a form of the golden rule, saying what you do not wish for yourself do not do to others. Taoism quote, there was something formless and perfect before the universe was born. It is serene and empty, and solitary, unchanging, infinite, eternally present. It is the mother of the universe, for lack of a better name, I call it the Tao. And quote, Lao Jain, Chapter 25 of Tao Te Ching circa 600 400 BC. Taoism rejects the ritual and strict social hierarchy of Confucianism in favor of spontaneity, individualism, and going with the flow. The foundational text of Taoism is the Tao Te Ching, it teaches, see the world as yourself, have faith in the way things are, and love the world as yourself, then you can care for all things. Terrorists believe all things were originally tau, the natural order of the universe, and that ultimately, all beings returned to it. Quote, In the beginning was the Tao of all things issue from it, all things return to it, and quote, large giant chapter 52 of Tao Te Ching circa 600 400 BC. Shinto, the Japanese religion of Shinto has no dogmas scriptures, or founder. Shinto means the way of the Cammy Cammy. Our divine spirits present throughout the natural world. Practitioners seek harmony within blessings from the Cammy through offerings and prayers. According to the author J. wt Mason, in Shinto, the purpose of humanity is to be a self developing creative spirit on Earth. We are the agents by which divine spirits develop greater forms of quote, Shinto constantly implies through its influence on the Japanese people that the progress of mankind is the intent of Divine Spirit on Earth. Life his purpose is to Shinto, a purpose of activity of divine spirits seeking new expression in spirits and self created material world earthly life to Shinto is a desired satisfaction for divine spirit, and is a divine actuality in all of its manifestations Verdun bad, whereby spirit creates its objective expansion by its own earthly efforts to divine spirit ever seeking renewal of creation, ever trying to progress in its material environment, and striving to develop versatility of action, such as the emphasis Shinto gifts to life. And, quote, J wt Mason in the meaning of Shinto. 1935. answers from philosophy. Consideration of life's meaning has occupied the minds of history's greatest thinkers, from Plato to Einstein, Greek philosophers according to Plato's the Republic, 375 BC, the purpose of life is the pursuit of knowledge of the idea of the good. Plato considered this ideal to be the source of all good things knowledge, beauty, truth, justice. Plato's student, Aristotle believed the highest name for humans is eudaimonia, a Greek word embodying happiness and well being, quote, what is the highest good in all matters of action to the name, there is an almost complete agreement for an educated and educated alike call it happiness and make happiness identical with the good life and successful living. They disagree, however, about the meaning of happiness, and quote, Aristotle in nicomachean ethics anyone for 340 BC, Aristotle recognized that happiness means different things to different people, and even to the same person in different times. After sickness it is health and in poverty, it is wealth, while when they are impressed with the consciousness of their ignorance. they admire most those who say grand things that are above their comprehension. Epicurus believed that intrinsically, pleasure is the only good and pain the only evil. He taught that the best life is free of fear and free of pain, and, quote, when we say then, that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality, as we are understood to do by some through ignorance, prejudice, or willful misrepresentation. By pleasure, we mean the absence of pain in the body and have trouble in the soul. And quote, Epicurus in letter to miniseries circa 300 BC, Middle Ages, in the eighth century, Buddhist monk shantideva advocated an effort to stop all the present and future pain and suffering of all sentient beings, and to bring about all present and future pleasure and happiness. shantideva wrote to the body chi avatara, which is popular in Tibet To this day, the Dalai Lama called it his favorite religious work, quote, I should dispel the misery of others because it is suffering just like my own, and I should benefit others because they are sentient beings, just like myself, and quote shantideva in body chi avatara 894 circa 700 ad, and one of the great works of middle age philosophy is some of theologica, or summary of theology by the Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas. It remains a cornerstone of Catholic thought and in teaching, Aquinas wrote that perfect happiness cannot be found on earth, and only comes with a future union with God, the universal good quote, it is impossible for any created good to constitute man's happiness. for happiness is the perfect good, which allows the appetite all together, else, it would not be the last end, if something yet remains to be desired. Now the object of the will, if man's appetite is the universal good, just as the object of the intellect is the universal true hence it is evident that not come along man's will save the universal good. And quote, Thomas Aquinas in summer theologica 1485. Aquinas advocated that on earth man lead a life of virtue, which he defined as having a good habit, productive of good works. Enlightenment. The enlightenment was marked by the introduction of the scientific method and a rejection of absolute monarchies. In that place emerged constitutional governments with powers limited by law, supporting individual rights, liberty and religious freedom and liberalism. JOHN Locke was one of the greatest influences behind this transition. He is considered the father of classical liberalism, the idea that protecting individual liberty and balancing the rights of individuals across society is the highest aim and mission of government. Locke's writings influenced the founders of the United States. Thomas Jefferson considered Locke together with bacon and Newton to be the three greatest men that have ever lived. In the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson quotes Locke almost verbatim when he wrote that men possess unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As Aristotle noticed, millennia before, people have different conceptions of happiness, by ensuring individual liberty, each person is free to pursue happiness in the manner they see most fit utilitarianism the Enlightenment witnessed other rediscoveries of old ideas of channeling Epicurus, the philosopher Jeremy Bentham wrote that, quote, nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand, the standard of right and wrong on the other the chain of causes and effects are fastened to their throne. And quote, Jeremy Bentham in the principles of morals and legislation 1780 Bentham referred to the inherent value of either promoting happiness or avoiding on happiness as utility, which he defined as, quote, by utility is meant that property in any object whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness, all this in the present case comes to the same thing, or what comes again to the same thing to prevent the happening of mischief, pain, evil on happiness to the party whose interest is considered if that party be the community in general, then the happiness of the community. If a particular individual, then the happiness of that individual, in this view is called utilitarianism. It is the idea that the motivation behind all rightful action is based on maximizing utility in modern times. Before Charles Darwin's 1859 publication of the origin of the species, the appearance of life and order in nature could only be explained by the existence of some divine plan or design. Modern philosophies seek meaning in life that arose naturally, some might say accidentally, without a divine purpose, reason or intention. nihilism, Friedrich Nietzsche believe that the idea that God is dead leads to nihilism, and denial that life has any meaning, purpose or value. Quote, a nihilist is a man who judges of the world as it is that it ought not to be and of the world as it ought to be that it does not exist. According to this view, our existence, action, suffering, willing feeling, has no meaning, and quote, Friedrich nature in the wilter power, published in 1910, while nihilism rejects the value of life, materialist and naturalist philosophers reject only a purpose to life, in Richard Dawkins is The God Delusion, James Watson, the COVID discoverer of DNA embodied this view when he said, I don't think we're for anything. We're just the products of evolution. Many biologists now believe that if life has any inherent meaning, it rests solely in terms of the propagation and survival of genes. Einstein, however, rejected the view that life is meaningless. Quote, what is the meaning of human life? Or for that matter of the life of any creature? To know an answer to this question means to be religious. You ask, does it make any sense then, to pose this question? I answer. The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly Fit for Life. And quote, Albert Einstein in mind wealth build my worldview 1934 humanism. Define Nietzsche's prediction, humanism is a non religious philosophy that recognizes value and purpose in human existence. Quote, humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that without supernaturalism affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and joy in the joys and beauties of human existence. And quote, The third Humanist Manifesto 2003, naturalistic pantheism rather than see no meaning in the natural world, naturalistic, pantheism finds meaning in all of it. It reveals all life everywhere, as well as the universe and environments that make life possible. naturalistic pantheism can be viewed as a broadening of humanism to bring respect for the rights and lives of all creatures. Paul Harrison, who launched the world pantheistic movement in 1997, advocates an active respect and care for the rights of all humans and other living beings. According to this view, the meaning of life is to care for and respect nature, the environment and all forms of life is a summary of answers. On the question of the meaning of life, we've reviewed answers from ancient civilizations, world religions, and philosophical traditions. We're left with a smattering of answers with no clear consensus. But despite a lack of consensus, we have noticed common themes. Live virtuously, the ancient Egyptians and Thomas Aquinas say we ought to live a virtuous life with the promise of a happy and eternal afterlife. And Confucianism says virtue leads to a happier and more peaceful life here on earth. Hinduism considers it a duty Dharma to enjoy life. The ancient Sumerians say we should eat, drink, and be merry. The Hindus call this karma. Aristotle called it happiness. Epicurus and shantideva called it pleasure. liberalism recognized self defined pursuits of happiness, utilitarianism advocates maximizing happiness, reduce suffering, this is the primary objective in Buddhism, and also advocated by shantideva, and utilitarians. It is implicit in humanism and naturalistic pantheism, whose ethics say we must respect life, develop and grow. The ancient Persians said the purpose of life is to collect experiences for the fight of good versus evil. Plato's said it is to gain knowledge of the good and the moments saved to gain experience and develop ourselves to experience the fullness of joy. Sikhism says life's purpose is to learn and for our soul to blossom fourth in lush profusion of Confucianism says we can find meaning in ordinary human experience and improve the world. Judaism says working to build a better world is the primary aim of life. Hinduism recognizes the importance of work arta The aim of Confucianism is to fashion a harmonious society. Shinto says humanity's purpose is to be a self developing creative spirit on Earth. Thomas Aquinas says on Earth, our purpose is to be productive of good works. naturalistic pantheism says to revere the natural environment, and love others. Christianity says to love thy neighbor as yourself, Islam advocates charity and wishing for your brother what you wish for yourself. Confucius says what you do not wish for yourself do not do to others. Taoism says to see and love the world as yourself. humanism preaches aspiring to the greater good of humanity and divine union. many religions say the final aim of life is to realize a oneness with God or to otherwise reunite or merge with God. Hindus call this Moksha Buddhists call it Nirvana. Taoists sale, things return to their source. Sikhs say we will merge into the one from whom we came. Thomas Aquinas says perfect happiness exists only in a union with God. And Islam says happiness in the afterlife depends on one's proximity to God. These purported meanings of life all sound like noble aims, but which, if any, is right. Could that be as the Hindus say, multiple answers. All these answers appear to dance around something more fundamental, a common theme. But what a unifying principle connects them to a unifying principle. That first glance, the many answers we found to the question of life's meaning seem quite different. But stepping back, a clear view comes into focus, and we can see the forest for the trees. across every answer there is broad agreement on favoring certain paths in choosing happiness over suffering, pleasure over pain, life over death, saving the world over destroying it, virtue over vise truth over lies, Justice over injustice, beauty over ugliness, border over chaos, proximity to God over distance from God. All these preferences embody pursuit of what is valued, what we call good, we could say the meaning of life rests in maximizing Good, good for oneself, good for others, and good for the world. But from where does goodness originate? What makes one thing good and another bad as it happens, there is an object in reality from which all goodness and badness derives. It is also the source of all meaning to all creatures. Without it There would be no meaning at all. The origin of good, the good is anything useful, valuable or worthwhile to someone. Under this definition, we can find some good in any technology considered useful in any item of value people spend money to acquire, or in any human endeavor considered worth doing. For example, we can say a life saving medicine is useful, houses are valuable, and making art is worthwhile. Why are these things good? is a supreme good 2360 years ago, Aristotle noticed something strange. If you repeatedly ask, why is that thing good? It leads to a chain of questions and answers. And, oddly, this chain does not continue forever. It always ends at the same place in something that just as good, a thing good for its own sake. Quote, every art and every investigation, and likewise, every practical pursuit or undertaking seems to aim at some good answer. It has been well said that the good is that had which all things aim, but as there are numerous pursuits and arts and sciences, it follows that their ends are correspondingly numerous. For instance, the end of the science of medicine is health, that of the art of shipbuilding, a vessel, that of strategy victory, that of domestic economy wealth, if therefore, among the ends of which our actions aim there be one which we will for its own sake, while we will the others only for the sake of this, and if we do not choose everything for the sake of something else, which would obviously result in a process ad infinitum. So that whole desire would be futile and vain, it is clear that this one ultimate end must be the good and indeed the supreme good. End quote. Aristotle in nicomachean, ethics 340 BC. What form does this supreme good take on tracking down the supreme good? Let's try some examples. We can use the previous examples of medicine, houses, and art, but if Aristotle is right, it works starting from anything good. Try some of your own examples and see example one medicine Why is life saving medicine good? because it saves people's lives? Why are you saving people's lives good? Because it allows them to live longer? Why is living longer good? Because it allows them to have more experiences. Why is having more experiences good? Ah justice, example to housing. Why are houses good? Because they protect people from the elements. Why is protection from the elements good? because it keeps people comfortable and prevents sickness? Why is being comfortable and healthy good? because it provides for better experiences and why is having better experiences good? Ah justice. Example three, art. Why is making art good? because it leads to more art. Why is more art good? Because it gives people novel perspectives, feelings and thoughts. Why are novel perspectives feelings and thoughts good because it creates more variety of experiences. Why is more variety of experiences good. It's Justice of the Supreme good found in the dictionary defines good as a benefit or advantage to someone or something. According to this definition, a good thing must not only provide some benefit, it must also provide a benefit to someone. We confirm this in our examples. Regardless of where we began, each case ends and adjust is at the point of augmenting experience thoughts feelings, perceptions, in other words, consciousness. Without conscious beings, there would be no someone's to receive any benefit. No one would notice nevermind appreciate any good thing. If not for consciousness, there could be no good. But if conscious experience is the source of value, what does that say of the Supreme good. My conscious experience be the foundation of all value is improving states of consciousness the source of all good and rightful action is harming consciousness. of evil and immoral action. Over the centuries, some philosophers have suspected that mind sensations or consciousness are the basis of all good and evil quotes for these words of good, evil and contemptible, ever used with relation to the person that uses them, there being nothing simply and absolutely so, nor any common rule of good and evil, to be taken from the nature of the objects themselves, but from the person of the man or from the person that represented it. And quote, Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan, 1651. Quote, we have already observed that moral distinctions depend entirely on certain peculiar sentiments of pain and pleasure, and that whatever mental quality in ourselves or others gives us a satisfaction by the survey or reflection is of course, virtuous, as everything of this nature that gives uneasiness is vicious. And quote, David Hume in a treatise of human nature 1739 quote, it there appeared that we could not on reflection, maintain anything to be intrinsically and ultimately good, except insofar as it entered into relation to consciousness of some kind and rendered good and desirable, and thus that the only ultimate good or end in itself must be goodness or excellence of conscious life. End quote. Henry Sidgwick in the methods of ethics 1874. Ultimately, all value derives from conscious experience for nothing can be felt enjoyed, appreciated, thought or known outside of it. All good things. If all good is based on conscious experience, then improving and perfecting states of consciousness and seeking desirable experiences constitute the meaning, purpose and value of all conscious life. But what does it mean to improve conscious experience? If we discover how to best approach this supreme good, it would serve as a focus for all rightful action? quote, will not then a knowledge of this supreme could be also of great practical importance for the conduct of life. Will it not better enable us to attain our proper object like archers having a target to aim at, and quote, Aristotle in nicomachean ethics 340 bc it's hard to imagine any knowledge that could be more valuable dimensions of experience. Quote, the purpose of life is to live it to taste experience to the utmost to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience. And quote, Eleanor Roosevelt. How many ways are there to improve conscious experience? In our examples, we encountered three, life saving medicine improved consciousness by extending life and allowing for more experiences. Having shelter increased the quality of experience, creating art improve the variety of experiences. Thus, there are at least three ways consciousness can improve the quantity to live it. One way to improve experience is to create more of them. And that is to increase the number of experiences have more of them live longer, save lives, continue and propagate life, create and support the next and future generations. As long as the experiences are positive, more is better than fewer. And thus, working to save and preserve life and to protect the planet that sustains us are seen as universal goals in service to a universal good, quality, taste experience to the utmost. A second way to improve experience is to simply have better ones, that is to increase happiness, pleasure, satisfaction, and contentment or to reduce suffering, pain, displeasure and anguish. Quote, the creed which accepts as the foundation of morals utility, or the greatest happiness principle holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. And quote, john Stuart Mill in utilitarianism 1863 increasing happiness and reducing suffering are not only goals held by all but are considered by some to be the very definition of good variety to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer richer experience. A third way to improve experiences to have new kinds of them. And that is to have a wide breadth of experiences. Try new things, explore new states of consciousness, learn, develop, grow, increase the ways of thinking, perceiving and being, to promote a diversity of forms of conscious life, language, arts, culture, and expression of, quote, varieties, the very spice of life that gives it all its flavor. And quote, William Cooper in the task 1785, a few desire lives of monotony or stagnation. Instead, we seek lives of learning and growth in rich by a diversity of experiences. Knowing the meaning of life, all good comes from increasing the quantity, quality and variety of life's experiences. It is the source of all value and motive for all action. It is the meaning of life, and great power comes from knowing this ultimate source of value. Since all value derives from this, this knowledge tells us what things are truly valuable and worthy of pursuit, and which are not. Since this universal value is the motivation behind all human action, this knowledge helps to better understand and relate to others. Since it is the source of value behind every useful technology, this knowledge enables us to predict where technology's headed, since it is the goal of conscious life. This knowledge tells us of the ultimate destiny of humanity, or for that matter, any intelligent race. Since it is the supreme purpose. This knowledge enables us to live in a manner to get the most and make the most out of our time here. What things are valuable. To know what is valuable is to know what is worthy of pursuing, protecting or fighting for, it tells us how to best spend our limited time, money, and energy to achieve what's most important in life is a field called axiology is dedicated to the study of value. It seeks to answer where it comes from, and what makes anything valuable. One of its lessons is that value comes in two forms. One is intrinsic value, things that are valuable for their own sake, to instrumental value, ways to achieve things with intrinsic value, intrinsic value. In his 1973 work ethics, the philosopher William Franken tried to list everything that has intrinsic value. The following is his list of life, consciousness and activity, and health and strength and pleasures and satisfactions of all or certain kinds of happiness, the attitude, contentment, etc. Truth, knowledge and true opinion of various kinds, understanding, wisdom, beauty, harmony, proportion and objects contemplated, aesthetic experience, morally good dispositions or virtues of mutual affection, love, friendship, cooperation, and just distribution of goods and evils of harmony and proportion in one's own life, power and experiences of achievement, self expression, freedom, peace, security, adventure and novelty, good reputation, honor, esteem, etc. All of these serve to improve one or more dimensions of experience. But intrinsic values, and improvements to consciousness are not the only things we value. We also value the means to reach these ends. Quote, all desirable things are desirable either for the pleasure inherent in themselves, or as means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain. End quote, john Stuart Mill in utilitarianism 1863 such means are called instrumentally valuable for they are instrumental to reaching some end goal which is valuable for itself. instrumental value, things like food, water, medicine, shelter, and fuel are not the ends but a means they serve the purpose of maintaining and supporting conscious life. And so are indirectly valuable to consciousness. In fact, anything we spend money on is by definition valuable. Most money is spent to meet the basic needs of life, food, clothing, shelter, health care, and living another day adds to the quantity of experience. When money's leftover after meeting basic needs, it can be spent to improve the quality of experience and variety of experience on travel, art, education, entertainment, conveniences, dining, and electronics. The value of life, consciousness may be the ultimate source of value, but it is by no means the only thing of value. Some things contain either a future potential for consciousness, or play a supporting role for it. For example, a planet harboring only unconscious single celled life, or even just the necessary chemicals to later develop life as value. It is valuable for its potential to develop and host conscious life. If some misfortune prevented the rise of life on Earth, it would represent an incalculable loss of value, for it would have prevented all the life and consciousness that otherwise would have emerged. unconscious life on earth is also valuable for its role in the greater ecosystem and food chain on which all conscious life depends on common values. And, quote, whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life, and quote, The 14th Dalai Lama in the art of happiness 1998 it sometimes seems no one can agree on anything. But if there is a universal goal, improving conscious experience, and if this goal is shared by all conscious life, why do people ever disagree on anything? As we will see, disagreement stems not from disagreement on this universal value, but comes from different assumptions or priorities, different assumptions. Knowing that all people fundamentally want the same thing can lead to a greater understanding of and compassion for others. The none and the reveler it's hard to imagine a greater contrast than that between an ascetic nun and a hedonistic reveler, they seem to differ in their core values. Here, the appearance of a difference in values is only an illusion. Both the nun and rebel ultimately want the same thing out of life. Both seek to have maximum joy to improve their quality of experience, where the nun and reveler differ is in their assumptions and strategies. The reveler operates according to the assumption this may be the only life he gets his strategy is to maximize pleasure in the here and now. The nun believes if she lives a life of virtue and devotion to God on earth, she will be rewarded with eternal joy in the next life. Both strategies are rational given their assumptions. Everyone desires better experiences, and we disagree only on the best way to get them. Planetary survival. Everyone believes a planet full of life beats a dead or desolate world. The more conscious life there is, and the longest such life survives in the universe, the greater total quantity of experiences created, experience equals population multiplied by time, and presently, we share one home on Earth. maximizing the quantity of conscious experience requires a balance between maximizing the population and sustaining the environment over time, the population of conscious beings and the time conscious life and habits Earth contribute equally to total experience. While everyone agrees with the value of maximizing quantity of experience, people disagree on the best strategy for getting there. Some think the best course is to plan for the long haul and maximize the time component of the equation while keeping the population at a size that minimizes environmental or other catastrophic risks. Others argue maximizing population is better, as we cannot know how future technologies will alter the situation. nor can we know if or when a global catastrophe might wipe out human civilization. Life on Earth faces an array of threats including nuclear war, impact events, environmental destruction, overpopulation, crop failure, climate change, cyber terrorism, bioterrorism, pandemics, hostile artificial intelligence, supervolcanoes, and gamma rays. bursts. Whether we maintain a population of 1 billion humans that lasts another 1000 years or 10 billion humans that makes it only another 100 both yield a net gain of a trillion years of human experience. Given technological trends, it is likely that emerging technologies like mind uploading, space migration, and nanotechnology will append long term predictions and alter the calculus of the optimum strategy and see what are the limits for population growth, and can aging be cured? Much like the nonland reveler all agree on maximizing life and experience. The disagreement is only on what's the best strategy. different priorities. And other cases of disagreement occur not from a difference of assumptions or opinions on best strategies, but from a different prioritization of the three dimensions of experience. everyone finds value in greater quantity, quality and variety of experience. But what happens when one comes at the cost of another risk versus reward? different personality traits results from different priorities for the dimensions of experience, and risk takers and adrenaline junkies for example, prioritize quality of experience over quantity of experience. They risk life and limb for more intense and varied experiences. different priorities reveal themselves in perennial debates, freedom versus safety, quantity versus quality of life, the new versus the familiar, and others who prioritize quantity of experience we may call risk averse. They consider skydiving or mountain climbing too risky to ever try. And, of course, there is also risk in being too risk averse and it is grave, you could die without ever having truly lived. No pain, no gain. To have only pleasurable experiences comes at the cost of knowing the full richness and depth of possible experiences. It represents a prioritization of quality of experience of a variety of experience. For example, Vincent Van gock created the starry night amidst great emotional torment. The idea of tortured artists implies certain large requires suffering. If true, then their sacrifice trades quality of experience to yield a greater variety of experience for everyone who appreciates their art, quote, but perhaps it's good for one to suffer. Perhaps it's unavoidable and necessary. Perhaps I ought to thank you. Can an artist do anything? If he's happy? Would he ever want to do anything? What is art, after all, but a protest against the horrible inclemency of life and quote, Aldous Huxley, an antique hay 1923. Anytime we venture to try something new, we make this trade off. When we try a new food, we risk finding it distasteful, but it could also become our new favorite. This is the importance of trying new things. To know suffering is to have a basis of compassion for others. Could we know the plight of the hungry if we've never gone without? Could we understand how the sick feel if we've never ourselves been ill in the direction of technology? Where is technology headed? And where are we going as a species, it is impossible to predict future technologies without understanding the motivations that steer the direction of technological development. To know the universal source of value is to know what all sentient creatures want. To understand the technology serves the needs of conscious experience allows us to glean information about the future direction of technology and contemplate its ultimate end. While we can't predict the how of these future technologies, we can predict their why it will be the same way behind every technology to improve the quantity, quality and variety of conscious experience. Ultimately, technology is about gaining better control over our own experiences. Better technologies provide greater power over the kinds of conscious experiences we can create, enjoy and share. Mastering experience. The technology of painting was perhaps our first step to control the inputs to our senses, and thereby gain some mastery of consciousness. The cave of Altamira paintings are 36,000 years old, eight times the age of the pyramids of Giza Should you see it then across eons. The artists behind this painting is affecting the inputs to your senses and altering your present conscious experience. While artists endeavor to create new experiences for the perceiver inventors seek out more powerful methods for the artist. Early pigments provided some control over inputs to the eyes and primitive musical instruments enabled novel experiences for the ears is the ultimate end of technology to become masters of our own conscious experience. Our first technologies were pitiful, we had limited color palettes of only a few tones and instruments that played only a few notes. But with time, we developed techniques for universality projectors that could display any image and speakers that could emit any sound. Fidelity improved to the point of high definition where our senses can no longer perceive higher quality audio or higher pixel counts. And virtual reality technology can now achieve immersion where one senses are fooled so thoroughly the brain feels like it's somewhere else. state of the art virtual reality simulators manipulate visual, aural, tactile, and balance senses. prototype technologies are in development to control sensations of taste and smell. We're presently on the verge of mastering our senses. Complete mastery will allow us to perceive any imaginable experience Should we get there? What form might this technology take? Will we ever achieve something like the holodeck of science fiction technology able to simulate any imaginable environment compared to what's been imagined? Today's VR technology is limited. We have to put ourselves in harnesses and omnidirectional treadmills to simulate an experience as mundane as walking. To simulate g forces requires we toss and turn our bodies around. But there's a better way to quote the verta brain system installs shunts into every nerve pathway connecting to your brain that happens both with sensory nerve fibers heading toward the brain and with a muscle control fibers heading out, and then the vertebrae and system can disconnect your brain from your biological body and connected to an in game body in a completely natural and realistic way. Your virtual in game body is your body as far as your brain is concerned, and your immersion in the game is complete. And quote, Marshall brain in the day you discard your body 2005 back computer linked neural integration could generate any sensation. You could feel any acceleration, even weightlessness, you could in the virtual reality, jump in the ocean and feel both cold and wet. You could taste smell and have the experience of swallowing food in VR. And moreover, you could feel full and satisfied afterwards. Science has made some initial progress with this technology. For example, artificial retinas and bionic limbs can integrate with the nervous system allowing the blind to see and the lame to walk. Quote. As soon as I put my foot on, it took me about 10 minutes to get control of it. I could stand up and just walk away. I couldn't explain it. It was like I was moving it with my muscles. There was nobody else doing it. The force was not doing it. I was doing it. So it was really strange and overwhelming. And quote, Gumby olafson in interview 2015. Elon Musk's company neural link seeks to commercialize technologies of brain computer interfaces. Such interfaces will one day make it possible to have any sensory experience we want, in effect will have the power to create and enter any reality of our choosing. Such technology is as powerful as the holodeck of science fiction sharing experiences. Today, YouTube is seen as simply a site for hosting videos. But as our technology to record and control sensory experience advances, sites like YouTube will become libraries have experiences that people will have access not just to videos, but complete sensory experiences, Dream vacations, trips to the space station dining at top restaurants riding roller coasters flying in wingsuits anything. There are now an increasing number of 360 degree virtual reality videos now hosted on YouTube. If you don't have a VR headset, you can use your mouse to look around Wait until they are g forces and the feeling of wind in your ears. Today we carry around little recording devices that can capture the experiences of sight and sound and then share them to the world. In the future, we could use technologies that directly record our own brain activity and generate shareable files of our own experiences. It sounds far fetched, but scientists in Japan have already used brain scanning technology coupled with AI to read the content of dreams and extract visual information directly from a subjects brain, and the ability to record and share experiences will change everything. Today, 10s of millions of dollars are spent to make a Hollywood film, but anyone can see it for the price of a movie ticket. This model is economical precisely because the experience of seeing a movie can be copied and shared at a low cost. Imagine if the experience of a perfect vacation or a perfectly prepared meal could be as easily downloaded, enjoyed and shared. In such a future 10s of millions of dollars might be spent to create the perfect vacation experience. And moreover, anyone could access it from the comfort of their living room for the price of a movie ticket. And in such a future, we might spend a large fraction of our time creating, recording, searching for discovering, sharing and enjoying content, living in a virtual reality of ideas and experiences. Perhaps such a life is not so different from how people live today. explorers of consciousness when technology has rid the world of suffering, disease, and death, what then what will it all be for once the struggle to survive is gone? How will we spend our time when everyone has as much quantity of experiences they want, the remaining focus will be on the quality and variety of experience. Artists, storytellers and content creators of all kinds will design and share new sensory experiences. They will write and share compelling stories, and you will be able to live the lives of any of the characters. If technology cures mortality, we could live for millions of years, then downloading and experiencing a 70 year lifetime represents the same time investment as a 30 minute TV episode. For all you know, your life could be such an experience one found in a library of experiences to see are we living in a computer simulation. In the short story a conversation, a member of an advanced alien civilization explains what life is like where he comes from. Quote, we live in the realm of possibilities. Here anything is possible. Anything we can imagine, we can make real almost effortlessly. So in a sense, we are exploring a universe of imagination which is much more vast than any physical universe. And this is what we explore Most of all, we are exploring the potential reality of consciousness and quote, Douglas s Jones in a conversation 1996. Since all conscious life is motivated by pursuit of the Supreme good predictions for the future of technology apply as well to aliens or conscious artificial intelligences as it does to humans. When it comes to exploring the infinite potentiality of possibility, imagination and creativity become the chief commodity. Quote, I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. And quote, Albert Einstein in what life means to Einstein 1929. For such advanced civilizations, imagination rather than physical observation becomes the primary source of knowledge. For imagination enables creation of new conscious experiences representing new ways to know feel, realize perceive sense and be traveling across the physical universe takes time and there's also no guarantee you'll find anything of interest once you arrive. If we do travel through space, we may spend all of our time in holodecks just as travelers on planes occupy themselves with screens or books. Rather than explore outer space, our attention would turn inward to the infinitely richer possibilities that exist in inner space. We would become Psychonauts explorers of consciousness itself humanity's future Destiny, quote, as a working hypothesis to explain the riddle of our existence, I propose that our universe is the most interesting of all possible universes and our fate as human beings is to make it so. And quote, Freeman Dyson in infinite in all directions 1988 the field of eschatology is concerned with the final events of history and the last destiny of humankind. If we know the direction of future progress, can we guess where history might be when it ends at the Omega point in the 1930s, the Jesuit priest Pierre tr, the sharp down wrote in the phenomenon of man that humanity and the universe itself appears to be evolving towards a point of maximum consciousness and creativity. Quote, we have seen and admitted that evolution is an ascent towards consciousness that is no longer contested even by the most materialistic or at all events by the most agnostic of humanitarians. Therefore, it should culminate forwards in some sort of supreme consciousness and quote, Pierre tr Bashar Dong in the phenomenon of ma'am 1955 Tejada Shalgam call this supreme consciousness, this combination of evolution, the Omega point, similar conclusions have been reached by technologists and physicists. Quote, evolution moves toward greater complexity, greater elegance, greater knowledge, greater intelligence, greater beauty, greater creativity, greater love. And God has been called all these things only without any limitation, infinite knowledge, infinite intelligence, infinite beauty, infinite creativity and infinite love. Evolution does not achieve an infinite level. But as it explodes exponentially, it certainly moves in that direction. So evolution moves inexorably toward our conception of God, albeit never reaching this ideal. End quote. futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil in the Singularity is Near 2005 quotes. In the final anthropic principle, or if anything like an infinite amount of computation taking place is going to be true, which I think is highly plausible one way or another, then the universe is heading towards something that might be called omniscience. And quote, quantum physicist David Deutsch in the anthropic universe 2006 on earth is a system for turning sunlight into conscious experiences, albeit an inefficient one. In its present form, this system is extremely wasteful. Only two parts and a billion of the sun's light reaches Earth. of the light that gets here less than 2% is captured by plants, of the energy captured by plants. Even when eaten by humans, only a fifth goes to power the brain of future technologies could be much more efficient. They could recruit ever larger fractions of the matter and energy of the universe towards the production of conscious experience. What is now dead matter will become alive with meaning. Quote, competitive success will depend more and more on using already available matters and space in evermore refined and useful forms. The process analogous to the miniaturization that makes today's computers a trillion times more powerful than the mechanical calculators of the past will gradually transform all activity from grossly physical homesteading of raw nature to minimum energy quantum transactions of computation, the final frontier will be urbanized, ultimately into an arena where every bit of activity is a meaningful computation, the inhabited portion of the universe will be transformed into a cyberspace and quote, hands more of x in pigs in cyberspace 1992. At the physical limits of computation, one kilogram of matter appropriately arranged can perform 10 to the power of 50 operations per second. The human brain is estimated to be capable of 10 to the power of 18 operations per second. This means a one kilogram mass arranged into the perfect computer could in one second, simulate 10 to the power of 32 seconds, or a trillion trillion years of human brain activity. This vastly exceeds the total of all experiences had by all humans who have ever lived to see how good can technology get shipped technology Ever approach these physical limits of computation we could imagine a single entity that could possess in its memory, trillions of planetary civilizations worth of experience. Creating such an entity may be the destiny of mankind, or more generally, that of any evolutionary process allowed to master and expand consciousness towards its ultimate limits. Quote, any cosmology with progress to infinity will necessarily end in God. And quote, physicist Frank tipler in the physics of immortality 1994 Salvador Dali was fascinated by tr Bashar dons omega point theory, which partly inspired his 1960 masterpiece the Ecumenical Council which shows souls returning to God. The idea of a final supreme consciousness, perhaps containing the lives, memories and experiences of all beings is reminiscent of the concept of returning to or merging with God as described in Taoism and Sikhism, as well as the writings of Thomas Aquinas. Quote, now we're trying to figure out a way to reconverge science and spirituality into this realization that there's something about life, there's something about this universe that is taking us to higher more sublime levels. And quote, john m smart in AI in a space and accelerating change 2013 to the end of the universe. Quote, when the first living thing existed, I was there waiting. When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished. I'll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me when I leave. And quote, Neil Gaiman in the Sandman, Dream country 1991 should the universe one day and or the last living thing die? Does that mean it was all for nothing? doesn't end render all good meaningless? Someday 10 to the power of 100 years from now, the last black hole will evaporate in a shower of subatomic particles, will all of existence have been for naught? A common refrain in nihilism is that existence is meaningless because one day the universe will end and see how will the world and but this reasoning doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Such logic would lead one to say there's no point in taking a good job because one day you will quit. The value of the job rests in the pleasures and paychecks along the way, not in the final end. Similarly, the value of conscious life rests in the experiences enjoyed, felt and created along the way, whether or not they may one day be forgotten. In the moment, the dinner you enjoyed 1493 days ago, was in no way diminished by the fact you would eventually Forget it. Likewise, the value of your life is not diminished by the final fate of the universe, whatever it might be, quote, these events will take 10s of billions of years or more human beings or our descendants, whoever they might be, can do a great deal of good in 10s of billions of years before the cosmos dies. And quote, Carl Sagan in Cosmos Episode 10, the edge of forever 1980 Moreover, the idea that time passes in the past moments cease to exist is only an illusion according to the physical understanding of time given by Einstein's relativity, to see what is time. There are even some reasons to believe that life can survive the end of the universe and see, can life survive beyond the end of the universe? making the most of life? What good is knowledge if it cannot be applied to what good is knowing the meaning of life if it doesn't tell us how to live? quote, all our philosophy is dryers just if it is not immediately translated into some active living service. And quote, Mahatma Gandhi in the diary of Mahadev desigh 1932. If conscious experience is the source of value, then the purpose of life lies in maximizing that value in maximizing conscious experience. But how are we direct ourselves to maximize this value? And how do we have the greatest impact on improving conscious experience the path to happiness? In 1854, the economist Herman Heinrich klaasen, developed the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility. It is the idea that one yet incremental value from something the more of that thing someone has. For example, if someone has no car, gaining one makes a big difference to them. But if someone has 10 cars getting an 11th won't add as much value to their life. Though gossin formulated it in mathematical terms, this basic idea has long been understood. Quote, anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none. And anyone who has food should do the same. And quote, john the baptist in Luke 311 85 ad, while value diminishes as one person accumulates in excess, the reverse is also true when someone with an excess shares with those who have less than total value increases. This is because sharing an extra shirt with a person who had none helps them more than the person giving up an extra shirt loses. In the art of happiness, the Dalai Lama said, I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. While happiness is the goal, he concluded the best way to achieve it was through helping others. Quote, I believe that the proper utilization of time is this if you can serve other people, other sentient beings, if not, at least refrain from harming them, and quote, The 14th Dalai Lama in the art of happiness 1998. The search for the most effective and efficient manners of helping others has recently become a science called effective altruism. It aims to find interventions with the greatest return in terms of benefit to others. Love, quote, when both myself and others are similar, in that we wish to be happy, what is so special about me? And why do I strive for my happiness alone, and quote, shantideva in body chi avatara 895 circa 700 ad, we identified the meaning of life with the pursuit of the Supreme good, the value of the Supreme good comes from consciousness itself. All positive value derives from benefits to conscious experience, either in having more experiences, better quality experiences, or a greater variety of experiences, but good is not limited to helping oneself, quote, happiness cannot be pursued, it must ensue. And it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the byproduct of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. And quote, Viktor Frankl in Man's Search for Meaning 1946 from this we can conclude that ultimate meaning and purpose can be found in selfless acts of service that benefit another. pursuing the supreme good is seeking good for other all conscious beings. Moreover, experiences are most meaningful when they are shared. Love is helping others enjoy the full richness of life to make the most of life. Seek the good for all good for oneself, good for others, and good for the world. Seek to benefit all conscious beings and attempt to maximize the richness of life boils down to one word, the meaning of life is love.Amy:
This has been another episode presented by always asking.com where we ask the big questions thanks for listening