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IEET > Vision > Directors > Giulio Prisco > Fellows > Ben Goertzel

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Book Review - A Cosmist Manifesto: Practical Philosophy for the Posthuman Age, by Ben Goertzel


Giulio Prisco
By Giulio Prisco
Giulio Prisco

Posted: Jul 22, 2010

A Cosmist Manifesto: Practical Philosophy for the Posthuman Age, by Ben Goertzel, published by Humanity+ Press, is now available on Amazon.

The term Cosmism was introduced by Tsiolokovsky and other Russian Cosmists around 1900. Goertzel’s “Cosmist Manifesto” gives it new life and a new twist for the 21st century. Cosmism, as Goertzel presents it, is a practical philosophy for the posthuman era. Rooted in Western and Eastern philosophy as well as modern technology and science, it is a way of understanding ourselves and our universe that makes sense now, and will keep on making sense as advanced technology exerts its transformative impact as the future unfolds. Among the many topics considered are AI, nanotechnology, uploading, immortality, psychedelics, meditation, future social structures, psi phenomena, alien and cetacean intelligence and the Singularity. The Cosmist perspective is shown to make plain old common sense of even the wildest future possibilities.

IEET Fellow Dr. Ben Goertzel, a research scientist working on various futuristic technologies including artificial general intelligence and life extension, is also CEO of tech consulting firms Novamente LLC and Biomind LLC. He lives in Maryland with multiple children and animals, and his doings are linked online via http://goertzel.org.

The book has been available online since the summer of 2009 on Ben’s Cosmist Manifesto blog. Many chapters have been republished online by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, so the Cosmist Manifesto has been frequently discussed online already.

I am sure this book will be a life-changer for many readers. It is a transhumanist book, full of mind boggling future options and possibilities enabled by science and technology: extreme life extension aka immortality, artificial intelligences of human and super-human level, brain-computer interfacing, mind uploading, synthetic realities, spreading to the galaxies and beyond, perhaps to other dimensions of existence, resurrection, building gods… this is the real, visionary, wonderful, space-opera like transhumanism that was discussed on the Extropy list in the 90s. Unfortunately, real transhumanism is difficult to find in the sedate, politically correct dullness of many contemporary ex-transhumanist discussion spaces, but the fire is still burning under the ashes and Ben’s book will put your mind on fire.

Though it is not meant as a scientific or technical book,  but rather as an impressionist painting of the sense of wonder and meaning inspired by science and technology, the Cosmist Manifesto is a pleasure to read for technology enthusiasts, especially those interested in very imaginative technologies and future possibilities. But it is also a book about consciousness, spirituality, and a practical guide to living our lives in this unique phase of the evolution of our species, which is preparing to leave biology behind and spread to the universe. In the Cosmist Manifesto, Ben writes also about meditation, mental health, relationships, sexuality, zen, joy, wisdom, joy, and, why not, religion. Ben’s book is a unique blend of science and spirituality, futurism and compassion, technology and art, practical life strategies and cosmic visions.

In his book, Ben outlines my own world-view: there is not one word that I disagree with, and there is not one important omission that I can criticize. I have often thought of writing a book, but Ben has written my book, and much better than I could have ever done. I am honored to have participated in some of the online discussions which have led to this book, and I am honored to be quoted in the Cosmist Manifesto.

Congratulations to Ben, and congratulations to Humanity+ for publishing this excellent book! I have already bought the book on Amazon. Of course I had already read the online and PDF versions cover to cover, but this book deserves its place in the physical bookshelves of all transhumanists.

In 2008 I resigned from the Board of Directors of Humanity+, called WTA at the time, in protest against what I considered as an excessively moderate stance and taking a distance from radical transhumanist visions. I am happy to see that the current Board, by publishing Ben’s Cosmist Manifesto, is re-affirming the commitment of Humanity+ to real, radical and visionary transhumanism.

In both the published book and private communications, Ben is careful not to propose Cosmism as a new religion. He writes: “Cosmism is not a religion. But it has the potential to deliver some of the benefits of religion in a manner more consilient with science.” I completely agree, but I am willing to go one little step further, and to propose Cosmism as a meta-religion: a loose framework of ideas, concepts, hopes, feelings and sensibilities at the intersection of science and religion, compatible with many existing and new frameworks, a magic place where where science and religion meet, science becomes religion, religion becomes science, and wanderers can find sense of wonder, sense of meaning, hope and happiness.


Giulio Prisco is a physicist and computer scientist, and former senior manager in the European space administration. Giulio works as a consultant and contributes to several science and technology magazines. In 2002-2008 he served on the Board of Directors of Humanity Plus, of which he was Executive Director, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Italian Transhumanist Association. He is often in Hungary, Italy and Spain. You can find more about Giulio at his Turing Church, RSS feed and skefi'a science/fiction, RSS feed.
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COMMENTS


Nice book, but next time use a standard layout, please; I printed out the thing at 9 pt and it’s 96 pages.





I have lost the habit of printing stuff on dead trees, I prefer to read electronic texts on screen. Tablet devices will, I hope, permit advancing toward the paperless society.

I have bought the printed version of this book on Amazon though, because it deserves a place on my (soon obsolete) bookshelf. Perhaps it has been the last printed book that I have bought.





Wonder & hope, yes. But as for meaning and happiness? no way of knowing what beings will be like, or what meaning will mean—if anything.





@postfuturist - future beings will find their own sources of meaning and happiness, but presently the important thing is what works for us, here and now. For me, wonder and hope create happiness, and wonder and happiness create meaning.





We haven’t stopped discovering new and often totally unexpected things. Hope is with us as long as discovery is with us. Discovery is inherently meaningful, and a source of true wonder and happiness, the highest possible joy, in fact:

“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success… Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.” -Nikola Tesla





“future beings will find their own sources of meaning and happiness”

But Giulio, point is: meaning & happiness are human terms, not posthuman. It is like saying “Italy in the year 2525…”, when Italy might very well might not be Italy in 2525.





@postfuturist: meaning and happiness are terms which can be applied to any thinking and feeling sentient being, be it biologically human or not.

Italy in 2525 is an interesting analogy. The political entity called Italy today may not exist anymore, but the geographical territory may still exist in a recognizable form. Or, the geographical entity may have changed beyond recognition (think of geo-engineering, land reclamation for the sea…) but the political entity may still exist, or Italians may be scattered in a diaspora of persons who consider themselves Italian and speak the language. The last scenarios are good illustrations of the preservation of important patterns in different substrates,





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