Today I found by chance an important bit of personal history: my very first post to the Extropians list, on December 6, 1999. It is interesting to see many of the ideas which I have been thinking and writing about in these 13 years already covered in that first post.
I used to go by gammapi at newsguy.com at that time, in the stone age of the Internet. This is the post, with some uncorrected typos:
I am 42 years old and wish to think that some part of me will live forever. I have an even stronger wish to think that my loved ones will live forever.
This deep wish to believe in an afterlife is quite common if not even universal. It contributed to the origin of religion (ref. Max More’s essay “Transhumanism: towards a futurist philosophy”).
I am reasonably confident that the first uploading experiments will be performed during my lifetime. At the same time I do not think that uploading will be an operational technology in useful time (that is, in time to live forever or at least a very long time by having my “self” and memories transferred somewhere else).
Cryonics may be an answer: have yourself frozen up until uploading becomes an operational technology and that’s it. But some of my loved ones would not accept it as it would go against their beliefs, and even worse some are dead already. So at least from my point of view uploading and cryonics are not an answer to the deep wish to believe in an afterlife.
Why not considering afterlife as a goal? Imagine a future thanshuman civilisation, spread over the galaxy, with a mastery of space-time sufficient to reach “somehow” into the past and record “somehow” selves and memories of human beings. Back to the future, these could be uploaded to whatever physical structure is used those days as a vehicle for human consciousness.
So the basic concepts of religion would become: God exists, we will evolve into it; Heaven exists, it is where God lives, A concept of “Purgatorium” could also be formulated in this framework as some personalities might need re-engineering before “Heaven”. Even more interesting, the ethical/moral values of “God” are exactly the same that our own civilisation will develop.
I am sure these ideas have been explored by thinkers (Theilard?) and discussed on the Extropian list. Any good references? By the way this is my first posting to the list, I look forward to discussing interesting things.
Indeed, I have discussed very interesting things on the Extropians list (now ExI-Chat) since then. For me and many others the list has been one of the main sources, perhaps the main source, of food for thought and awesome sense of wonder. Even more important, I have made a lot of great friends on the list. I hope to stay in touch with them, well, forever.
I received some interesting replies to this first post. Anders Sandberg (thanks Anders for having been the first to welcome me to the list) mentioned Universal Immortalism and Frank Tipler’s Omega Point theory, and Charlie Stross mentioned Moravec’s simulation theory.
I was interpreting transhumanism in this sense in 1999, and I remember thinking of Extropy as a beautiful and powerful “new religion” for the new millennium (in the sense of an alternative / replacement for traditional faith-based religions, able to provide the same sense of wonder and meaning). Since then I have studied the writings of Tipler, Moravec and many others, refined my own thinking, and enjoyed the ongoing discussion with a small but growing group of like-minded “spiritually-oriented transhumanists.”
Image: Flock, by Sven Geier