So let us pretend that the new Kant has already appeared and done his/her inevitable work. We can then say: The placement of one's circle of empathy is ultimately a matter of faith. We must accept the fact that we are forced to place the circle somewhere, and yet we cannot exclude extra-rational faith from our choice of where to place it.
My personal choice is to not place computers inside the circle. In this article I am stating some of my pragmatic, esthetic, and political reasons for this, though ultimately my decision rests on my particular faith. My position is unpopular and even resented in my professional and social environment.
Belief #4: That what Darwin described in biology, or something like it, is in fact also the singular, superior description of all possible creativity and culture.
Cybernetic totalists are obsessed with Darwin, for he described the closest thing we have to an algorithm for creativity. Darwin answers what would otherwise be a big hole in the Dogma: How will cybernetic systems be smart and creative enough to invent a post-human world? In order to embrace an eschatology in which the computers become smart as they become fast, some kind of Deus ex Machina must be invoked, and it has a beard.
Unfortunately, in the current climate I must take a moment to state that I am not a creationist. I am in this essay criticizing what I perceive to be intellectual laziness; a retreat from trying to understand problems and instead hope for software that evolves itself. I am not suggesting that Nature required some extra element beyond natural evolution to create people.
I also don't meant to imply that there is a completely unified block of people opposing me, all of whom think exactly the same thoughts. There are in fact numerous variations of Darwinian eschatology. Some of the most dramatic renditions have not come from scientists or engineers, but from writers such as Kevin Kelly and Robert Wright, who have become entranced with broadened interpretations of Darwin. In their works, reality is perceived as a big computer program running the Darwin algorithm, perhaps headed towards some sort of Destiny.
Many of my technical colleagues also see at least some form of a causal arrow in evolution pointing to an ever greater degree of a hard-to-characterize something as time passes. The words used to describe that something are themselves hard to define; It is said to include increased complexity, organization, and representation. To computer scientist Danny Hillis, people seem to have more of such a thing than, say, single cell organisms, and it is natural to wonder if perhaps there will someday be some new creatures with even more of it than is found in people. (And of course the future birth of the new "more so" species is usually said to be related to computers.) Contrast this perspective with that of Stephen Jay Gould who argues in Full House that if there's an arrow in evolution, it's towards greater diversity over time, and we unlikely creatures known as humans, having arisen as one tiny manifestation of a massive, blind exploration of possible creatures, only imagine that the whole process was designed to lead to us.
There is no harder idea to test than an anthropic one, or its refutation. I'll admit that I tend to side with Gould on this one, but it is more important to point out an epistemological conundrum that should be considered by Darwinian eshatologists. If mankind is the measure of evolution thus far, then we will also be the measure of successor species that might be purported to be "more evolved" than us. We'll have to anthropomorphize in order to perceive this "greater than human" form of life, especially if it exists inside an information space such as the internet.