I know that my mind went from noise to a sentence, and that God had understood my prayer long before it made it to that point. He showed me a picture -did my eyes see it, or was it in my mind? How can you tell without waving your hands before your eyes? It was beautiful. I spoke to my dad a few days later, and as casually as one can mention such an unusual thing, I threw it into the conversation, as if it were an afterthought. He paused. He told me he had seen the same thing.
There's a guy named Ray Kurzweil who wrote a book called The Singularity is Near. He believes that within some 30 years, machines will become human. (Others view The Singularity as the moment in time when humans become machines; that if we eat our peas and map out the human genome and stream our consciences* onto microchips for safe-keeping, we'll live forever.) Kurzweil sells that side of the coin to an extent, but his forte is the theory that technology is advancing at such an amazing rate that the only gap left to fill is that which exists between us and them: the capacity to create, to weigh arguments, to joke, to have emotions, to distinguish right from wrong.
He doesn't say that the difference between a human and a robot is a soul, because his religious beliefs do not allow him the word. And because he substitutes the term soul with intelligence or self-awareness, he either has thoughts he does not think at all, or he has thoughts that are too hazy to recognize**.
I wonder what he would make of 1 Corinthians 2, or of Romans 8:14-27. There is a joy in having thoughts that are beyond your understanding set before you in print; you gasp at both their familiarity and their strangeness***.
I wish that C.S. Lewis were able to attend the Singularity Summit. I wish that he could set up a booth under a banner with the simple statement "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." I would love to hear a conversation between him and Kurzweil - even if I didn't have the vocabulary to understand it.
*I feel like this entire post is a clumsy religion/sci-fi version of Inception. Look at those passages, if you haven't yet. They're within a line of thought that's entirely different from what I've written about, and yet it stands: God has a mind and a Spirit, and they are distinct from each other. The Spirit helps us understand God's mind, and raises within us prayers that are ours but are not necessarily thoughts that we understand. But he also says we have the mind of Christ, and pursues this in a different direction in 1 Corinthians 14:14. And he writes about the inherent knowledge that this life isn't what we were intended for; there is much more in 1 Corinthians 15. But my point in all of this is simply to say that to see it written out in black and white -that if something about your very existence feels like a sham, if you know that a hope to live forever as you are is no hope at all- is nothing less than to see the unknowable tied down in words. A mystery is given form, and we are left marvelling at both how obvious it is and how perfectly beyond our grasp it remains.
**Like that a girl with severe autism or a boy with Down's Syndrome might not pass the Turing Test, but they bear the image of God; therein lies a dignity that cannot be added to or denied.
***Or is it consciousnesses? Ironic to not know which word to use.