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Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

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Viewpoints on Modern Cosmism

Giulio Prisco

Turing Church

November 18, 2015

In the pictures I am with George Carey, Ben Goertzel, and Vlad Bowen, the day before the Modern Cosmism conference last month in New York. Here I try to summarize some interrelated and compatible but slightly different viewpoints on modern Cosmism.

Of course I must start with the Russian Cosmists. I am unable to produce a picture with Nikolai Fedorov (I definitely look forward to taking a picture with him someday in the unknown elsewhere), but a picture with George will do. George is the creator of the BBC documentary “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” which provides an excellent introduction to Russian Cosmism and shows how Fedorov’s ideas inspired Russian scientists and provided a powerful mystique for the Russian space program. George has been filming at the conference, and I look forward to seeing his new documentary on modern Cosmism.

Ben wrote the Bible of modern Cosmism: “A Cosmist Manifesto,” a practical philosophy primer that blends science and spirituality, established science and awesome speculative ideas, futurism and compassion, technology and art, life strategies and cosmic visions – a must-read book where every reader will find snippets of spiritual wisdom and practical advice.

Modern Cosmism has been beautifully summarized by Ben, legendary cyberculture icon (and iconoclast) R.U. Sirius, and Jay Cornell, in “Transcendence – The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity.”

“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 quoted this compact and accurate definition in one of the opening slides of my talk. See the video and slides of my talk. The talks of BenVlad, and all the other speakers,  are available in the Cosmism Foundation YouTube channel.

Jeremiah P. OstrikerWendell WallachRandal A. KoeneJay Friedenberg, and James Hughes, presented related ideas on science, technology, and philosophy. My favorite recollection of the conference: a brief talk with a 14-years old who came with his father and found Randal’s talk on mind uploading especially interesting. Perhaps the boy will become a scientist and play an important role to develop mind uploading.

My viewpoint on Cosmism is totally compatible with Ben’s – I really agree with everything he says in the book – but I emphasize the technological resurrection aspect of Cosmism.  “[Not only] achieving immortality, but restoring all the people who have ever walked the Earth to life so that they may share the gift as well, making the heaven of the afterlife a physical reality” (Nader Elhefnawy).

See my essay “Technological resurrection concepts from Fedorov to Quantum Archaeology” for Fedorov’s ideas on technological resurrection and more modern formulations compatible with and informed by contemporary physics. I think the concept of technological resurrection is a bridge between science and religion, which can offer hope and happiness to everyone in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

Therefore, when thinking, talking, or writing about Cosmism vs. traditional religions, I emphasize the parallels and continuity rather than the differences. In particular, I emphasize the continuity between modern Cosmism and Russian Cosmism (an explicitly religious viewpoint): the technological resurrection concept is central to both.

To me, it’s intuitively evident that:

  • We will go to the stars and find Gods, build Gods, become Gods, and resurrect the dead from the past with advanced science, space-time engineering and “time magic.”
  • God is emerging from the community of advanced forms of life and civilizations in the universe, and able to influence space-time events anywhere, anytime, including here and now.
  • God elevates love and compassion to the status of fundamental forces, key drivers for the evolution of the universe.

I think this Cosmist Vision could and should play for our grandchildren the same positive role – sense of wonder, sense of meaning, hope to be reunited with loved ones in an afterlife, and calm happiness – that traditional religions played for our grandfather.

Eric Steinhart, professor in the Department of Philosophy at William Paterson University, and author of “Your Digital Afterlives: Computational Theories of Life after Death,” will present his thoughts on technological resurrection at the 2016 Conference of the Mormon Transhumanist Association (MTA).

Mormon Transhumanism is essentially Cosmist, with a special focus on Mormonism. Other essentially Cosmist groups at the intersection of transhumanist science and spirituality, unfortunately not very active at the moment, are the Society for Universal Immortalism, with a special focus on cryonics, and Martine Rothblatt’s Terasem, with special focus on “mindfiles” – the Bainbridge-Rothblatt soft-copy uploading method. See also the awesome essays “Religion for a Galactic Civilization,” by William Sims Bainbridge (1982 and 2009 versions).

Vlad Bowen, the organizer of the Modern Cosmism conference, proposes that future post-biological uploaded humans will build an artificial synthetic reality where “super-intelligent life can flourish and fulfill its mission as an important part of overall cosmic evolution.” Back to here and now, Vlad wants to get modern Cosmism organized, and make it popular and influential. I wish all the best to Vlad’s Cosmism Foundation and will will do my best to support it.

All these viewpoints that emphasize a special focus are compatible with the high level definition in Transcendence. Let a thousand Cosmist flowers bloom!

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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