I’ve been a fan of Douglas Adams’ writing for many years. He is mostly known for his humorous science fiction but he was actually an important thinker and philosopher. A year after his death in 2001 his friends published several miscellaneous stories and essays as the book The Salmon of Doubt. As with many posthumous collections these materials were spotty and often unfinished. But there was a hidden gem—a transcript of a talk he gave at a scientific conference in 1998 entitled Is There an Artificial God? I think it stands as a wonderful testament to his humanism and intellect.
We build meta-systems above ourselves to fill in the space that we previously populated with an entity that was supposed to be the intentional designer…because we as a species design and create one and then allow ourselves to behave as if there [is] one—all sorts of things begin to happen that otherwise wouldn’t happen.
He ends with the wonderful “Four Ages of Sand” analogy. From sand we make glass and from glass we created telescopes, microscopes, computers, and fiberoptic networks.
Transcript (from biota.org)
Audio File (marginal quality mp3)