Science and spirituality at Global Future 2045

The 2nd International Global Future 2045 congress will cover global challenges and science mega-projects to address them, as well as insights on these matters from various spiritual traditions. The premise is that humanity needs a scientific revolution and significant spiritual changes that will be inseparably linked, supporting and supplementing each other.

Visionaries and world-class practitioners in science, technology and ethics will join educators, futurists, philosophers and spiritual leaders at the 2nd International Global Future 2045 congress at the Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, June 15-16, 2013.

The roster of speakers is really stellar, with world class scientists who will cover super science and highly imaginative technologies, the development of anthropomorphic robots, telepresence systems, brain-computer interfaces (BCI), life-support systems for the brain, neuroprostheses, whole brain modeling, consciousness theory, and roadmaps for non-biological mind substrates, with a focus similar to the Singularity Summit and other futurist science events.

What is unique and intriguing, however, is the emphasis given to a new synthesis of science and spiritual traditions: “Humanity is in need of new guidelines for its development which match the challenges of our times, and which reflect the achievements of leading technologies and the spiritual experience of civilization. Representatives of faiths and spiritual practices are the traditional keepers of this experience, which has been accumulated over millennia. However, modern society only accepts things that have passed the inspection of science. Therefore, in order to form a new evolutionary strategy for humanity, it is necessary to ensure a dialogue between science and spiritual traditions. Creating a constructive environment for this dialogue is one of the most important tasks of the congress.

Science writer Maria Konovalenko doesn’t seem to like this approach. She writes on Transhumanity and her own blog: “Credible researchers, like Dr. George Church, Dr. Marvin Minsky, Dr. Ed Boyden, Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro and Dr. Peter Diamandis, are mixed with self-realized Siddha masters, Jewish mystical meditators and mahatmandaleshwars of the Juna Akhara Order of Hindu monks. This is beyond unacceptable.

This combination of researchers and religious activists will allow the organizers to promote their religious ideas whatever those may be. Substrate-Independent Minds has nothing to do with religion and faith. It is crucial not to transform [Substrate]-Indipendent Minds in some sectarian idea of finding a soul,” continues Konovalenko. “Combining religious leaders and credible researchers discredits both the work of those scientists and transhumanist ideas.

I often agree with Konovalenko, who is a smart person and a good writer, but I totally disagree on this point. Re-using her words, I find her critique beyond unacceptable, and an example of that rabid “militant atheist” bigotry which builds walls instead of bridges between people.

1. First, there are many interpretations of transhumanism, including spiritual interpretations. I think the world is an interesting place because there are many people with very different ideas, priorities, and values, and the world would be a very boring place otherwise.

Live and let live, and let a thousand flowers bloom! I am sure many participants will listen to the scientific talks and ignore the spiritual talks, and vice versa. But for me, the fusion of science and spirituality is what makes this conference interesting.

Many persons have spiritual inclinations and sensibilities, and this is a fact. Spiritually-oriented persons and religious believers are a majority, and this is another fact. Denying the facts, ignoring the people, and closing the doors, is never a good growth strategy for a social movement. The organizers of Global Future 2045 have, wisely, chosen an open door strategy.

2. Second, science and technology are tools. They can help us to achieve our goals, but they cannot tell us what our goals should be. Science and technology live in the land of “is” but goals and values live in the land of “ought,” and we cannot derive “ought” from “is.” But we can derive “is” from “ought” — we can use science and technology to turn our visions into reality.

We are getting close to a point where we can use science and technology to remake our species, transcend biology, and move to the stars. The great spiritual traditions have been a source of visionary wisdom in our history, a guide for scientists and philosophers as well as believers, and with suitable adaptations (see next point) they can continue to guide us in the future.

3. Third, all indicates that someday we may get to the point where we can use science and technology to do really momentous things, “magic” feats in the sense of Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law, large-scale space-time engineering, master Time, re-write the laws of nature themselves, steer the evolution of the universe, build synthetic realities containing conscious observers like ourselves, resurrect the dead by copying them to the future, and build/become Gods. See the Ten Cosmist Convictions for more, and note that even Sir Richard Dawkins agrees.

Our super-human descendants may use their God-like powers to turn the promises of religions into reality, and perhaps some alien civilizations out there have done all that already. In this sense, the teachings of the great spiritual traditions are true — for they are realized by science. The new (actually old) Cosmist spiritual transhumanism can bridge the gap between transhumanists and billions of believers and New-Age spiritual seekers, and give us hope, happiness, energy, and drive.


  • kathy wilson

    Thanks Giulio for this post. Reading through the list of presenters scheduled for Global Future 2045 I am impressed with the list and the depth of understanding our reality that they represent. Dr Amit Goswami, in addition to being one of the most respected physicists in quantum mechanics, is also one of the greatest advocates of relating the spiritual or subjective realm to the manifest or objective realm. I am glad you are there to see a bigger picture.

  • Giulio Prisco

    Hi Kathy, I hope I will be there (not sure yet). Here is an interesting interview with Goswami:
    Scientific Proof of the Existence of God

  • An idea I have mused with (very slightly) is to double-down on Skeptic, Michael Shermer’s rejoinder to Arthur C. Clarke and religious believers which was:

    “Any sufficiently advanced ETI is indistinguishable from God.” Well, if this is the case, and that ETI created the Universe (Hubble Volume is sufficient) and still exists, then perhaps we should someday undertake a physical search for this mind? It it turns out to be friendly, and somewhat, interested, in our species, then perhaps it is worth worshiping or honoring? Since we’re primates, perhaps its good for our amygdala’s to do so? Or perhaps not?

    So following Clarke and Shermer, maybe any sufficiently advanced search for ETI might be indistinguishable for a search for God. Please note, that I define God, not as a perfect being (I ain’t Anselm or Aquinas) but the mind that created the Universe, or found a part of the cosmos and made it good for biochemicals.

    I am now reading Jim Holt’s book on Why The World Exists, and Holt interviews all these physicists and philosophers, like Vilenkin, Penrose, and Weinberg, and a theologian or two. So I guess that is what is contributing to (or warping) my comment here. One psychologist I know believes that what is occurring to our species, is that science and philosophy is “informing” religion and theology, on the basic questions.

  • Giulio Prisco

    @Spud100 – Dawkins also thinks that very advanced ETs may be practically indistinguishable from Gods:

    These natural Gods would share the most important attributes of the Gods of religion. “Supernatural” and “omnipotent” are abstract concepts (I think both are a contradiction in terms). In philosophy and mathematics there are definitions of infinity, but in physics and engineering, and in practical life, infinite just means very big (much bigger than other factors). I think some civilizations out there may be Godlike in this sense, and powerful beyond our understanding and even imagination. Seen from our current point of view, these civilization would be like Gods.

    re “what is occurring to our species, is that science and philosophy is “informing” religion and theology, on the basic questions.”

    I would make this more symmetric: science, philosophy, religion, and theology, are each informing the others on the basic questions.

  • Alan Brooks

    “infinite just means very big (much bigger than other factors).”

    Which could include time travel. Someone (perhaps a Roswell conspiracy-nut) could perceive ETs in Earth’s atmosphere as time traveling ETs/ future-Earthlings.

  • Hugh Bristic

    Are you going?

    • Giulio Prisco

      @Hugh – no, I wanted to, but I will not be able to be there. I am sure GF2045 will be a great conference, and I am sorry to miss it.

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