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Cosmism in “Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity”
Giulio Prisco   Jan 6, 2015   Giulio Prisco  

Legendary cyberculture icon (and iconoclast) R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell have written a delicious funcyclopedia of the Singularity, transhumanism, and radical futurism, just published on January 1. The book includes a short chapter dedicated to my favorite interpretation of these things – Cosmism – with a short and accurate high-level summary.

Read my review of “Transcendence – The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity” on Hacked. The book is a collection of alphabetically-ordered short chapters about artificial intelligence, cognitive science, genomics, information technology, nanotechnology, neuroscience, space exploration, synthetic biology, robotics, and virtual worlds.

This is an ideal book to give to your partner who insists on ignoring your geeky pursuits – they will get a quick overview of transhumanism and radical futurism, and they will probably find it at least entertaining. At the same time, the book is deep, informative and thought-provoking.

The authors cut through unnecessary preliminaries and detail, and go straight to the heart of Cosmism:

“Cosmism is a sort of philosophically laid-back version of transhumanism. In a culture that tends to be argumentative and filled with people who like to insist that their views are correct, cosmism doesn’t care if you’re viewing the universe as information or quantum information or hypercomputation or God stuff or whatever. Nor does it ask anyone to commit to AGI or mind uploading or brain-computer interfaces or fusion-powered toasters as the best way forward. Rather, it seeks to infuse the human universe with an attitude of joy, growth, choice, and open-mindedness. Cosmism believes that science in its current form, just like religion and philosophy in their current forms, may turn out to be overly limited for the task of understanding life, mind, society, and reality – but it teaches that, if so, by actively engaging with the world and studying and engineering things, and by reflecting on ourselves carefully and intelligently, we will likely be able to discover the next stage in the evolution of collective thinking.”

I totally agree, which is not surprising since R.U. Sirius, with Ben Goertzel and some others, is one of the few thinkers with whom I nearly always agree.


An Irreverent Singularity Funcyclopedia, by Mondo 2000’s R.U. Sirius
 
Legendary cyberculture icon (and iconoclast) R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell have written a delicious funcyclopedia of the Singularity, transhumanism, and radical futurism, just published on January 1.

The book, “Transcendence – The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity,” is a collection of alphabetically-ordered short chapters about artificial intelligence, cognitive science, genomics, information technology, nanotechnology, neuroscience, space exploration, synthetic biology, robotics, and virtual worlds. Entries range from Cloning and Cyborg Feminism to Designer Babies and Memory-Editing Drugs.

If you are young and don’t remember the 1980s you should know that, before Wired magazine, the cyberculture magazine Mondo 2000 edited by R.U. Sirius covered dangerous hacking, new media and cyberpunk topics such as virtual reality and smart drugs, with an anarchic and subversive slant. As it often happens the more sedate Wired, a watered-down later version of Mondo 2000, was much more successful and went mainstream.

You should also know about Timothy Leary. Now mostly known as an often jailed apostle of LSD and all sorts of psychedelic drugs, Leary was a precursor of modern radical futurism with a SMI2LE (Space Migration, Intelligence Increase and Life Extension), for which he is given due credit in a short chapter and many references. The book is inspired by Leary’s playful and irreverent spirit, described in R.U. Sirius’ previous book “Timothy Leary’s Trip Thru Time.”

“Leary may have something to tell us about keeping the goals of self-enhancement aimed at evolving a humane, playful, novelty-rich culture as opposed to just building up IQ points and biological years out of some unthinking Western goal oriented pursuit of quantity.”

Radical Futurism from A to Z

Former Current TV anchor Jason Silva, himself described by “A Timothy Leary of the Viral Video Age,” says about Transcendence:

“RU Sirius and Jay Cornell present us with their own psychedelic guide to the galaxy in this adventurous idea-rich book, bootstrapping on emerging technologies that beckon us to take control of our evolutionary destiny and lead humanity towards radical new landscapes of mind, of dream, of cosmos, of possibility.”

At the time of Mondo 2000 the technologies and the social trends covered by Transcendence were part of the counterculture, but today they are becoming part of the mainstream – scientists worry about the dangers of superintelligence, neurohackers upload worm minds to computers, and the robots are coming to take your job. The book is a roadmap for a sci-fi-like future that may become reality much faster than we think.

“Whether or not you believe the predictions, whether you fear all this or want to help it happen (and you can!), transhumanism is what some of today’s best minds are working on and arguing about. It’s big, and happening ever-faster. Welcome to the age of Tom Swift and His Homemade Biomedical Implant. (And, hopefully, not to the age of Tom Swift and His World-Devouring Nanobots.)”

The format and style – alphabetically arranged short entries written in a clear, simple and often fun way – make the book very easy to read, much more readable than most books that cover similar content. Forget the aseptic and over-intellectualized emphasis on arcane science and philosophy, and jump into a deceptively light treatment of mind-blowing technologies and their cultural, social and political impact. This book will put your mind on fire and may do more than previous books to put transhumanist ideas on the map.

Also read: Nicholas Negroponte on the Future of Learning: Nanobots Will Hack the Brain

Most chapters include snippets from articles written by various authors and experts for Acceler8or and H+ Magazine, of which the authors were editors. The snippets add depth, but without taking away the fun.

The authors, seasoned media professionals who know that readers are more interested in people than theories and gadgets, have filled the book with stories and why not some little (and big) juicy bits of gossip about the tens of people covered. Many of those are my friends, and I daresay that some of them will need to reload their sense of humor before reading what the book says about them.

This is an ideal book to give to your partner who insists on ignoring your geeky pursuits – they will get a quick overview of transhumanism and radical futurism, and they will probably find it at least entertaining. At the same time, the book is deep, informative and thought-provoking – the authors cut through unnecessary preliminaries and detail, and go straight to the heart of the many topics covered.

Images from Disinformation Books and Shutterstock.

Giulio Prisco is a writer, technology expert, futurist and transhumanist. A former manager in European science and technology centers, he writes and speaks on a wide range of topics, including science, information technology, emerging technologies, virtual worlds, space exploration and future studies. He serves as President of the Italian Transhumanist Association.



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