nasaoldgalaxies

Transhumanist Spirituality — A New Religion for the Modern Age?

Martin Higgins, author of Human+, interviewed me for his The Eternities podcast and published a review on Disinfo | Transhumanist Spirituality — A New Religion for the Modern Age?

I am in very good company: previous guests at The Eternities include Ramez Naam and Dean Radin, and I look forward to the next episodes, “interviews with writers and thinkers on such subjects as consciousness, technology and human potential.”

“For the transhumanist thinker, Giulio Prisco, if god doesn’t exist, he believes we will create him. Or her. Or, more accurately, perhaps — them,” says Martin. “His uncompromising and ultra-optimistic “third way” philosophy combines the traditional aims of religion — existential meaning, eternal life, transcendence — with the ever-advancing means of science.” Read more at Disinfo, and join the interesting discussion.

Some notes that I sent to Martin in preparation for the talk:

Our grandfathers found meaning, hope and happiness in religion and spirituality. They lived in a vast universe full of mystery, with benevolent gods, and hoped to continue to live after death and be reunited with loved ones in an afterlife. The hope in an afterlife helped them to cope with fear of death and grief for the loss of loved ones.

We have lost religion, because we know too much science. But future science may achieve all the promises of religion, including benevolent gods and resurrection.

A related loss is that of a sense of the frontier. The frontier is that place beyond the borders of mundane everyday life. In this sense, religion itself is a frontier, but we also had earthly frontiers where the restless could hope to go. Many of our ancestors, including many of the best and brightest, went from Europe to America in search of something new and better. Once in America, they “went West” with a powerful, religious sense of “manifest destiny,” following the ever receding frontier until the Pacific coast. It is no wonder, then, that the West Coast culture is so innovative, because there is where the best and brightest restless souls went. The fundamental importance of the frontier for our mental health cannot be overstated.

Today, there is no frontier, and the result is a mental “rats in a cage” syndrome that is beginning to show its very harmful effects.

A few decades ago we briefly thought of space as a new frontier, and those who watched on TV Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon remember that powerful sense of cosmic destiny. Now, space seems a failed dream.

But space is still a new frontier. Only, it is not a frontier for us, but for future generations. Looking at today’s world, there is no way we can start space colonization anytime soon. We are, instead, in the same position of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the Russian pioneer of space exploration, who dedicated his life to a dream that only future generations could achieve. But also a frontier remote in the future can give us a cosmic sense of purpose, and the drive to move a little closer one little step at a time, if we can hope to be part of that future.

Science is advancing, very fast, but not fast enough for us. Future generations will live very long, perhaps thousands of years and more, indefinite lifespans, and colonize the stars. They will be able to upload their minds to more powerful and durable substrates, leave biology behind, and merge with sentient, super-human artificial intelligences. Among the stars, they will meet super-advanced civilizations with God-like powers, and merge with them in an explosion of intelligence that will drive the future evolution of the universe.

But *they* is not good enough for *us*. We must think that we, ourselves, can be part of the wonderful cosmic adventure of intelligent life in the universe.

And perhaps we can. Perhaps inconceivably advanced intelligences using “magic” technologies based on extremely advanced science are, or will be, able to reach across space-time and resurrect the dead by copying them to their reality. Perhaps our reality is really a “simulation” computed in a reality of higher order, and we can be copied elsewhere after death with our loved ones. Perhaps our consciousness and self really live in the fabric of quantum space-time, and can be retrieved after physical death. Mysticism and spirituality may be based on vague intuitions of a reality beyond reality. These are not certainties, but possibilities compatible with our scientific knowledge and worldview. Contemplating these possibilities may play a role equivalent to religion and offer us meaning, hope and happiness compatible with science.

nasaoldgalaxies

  • “if god doesn’t exist, he believes we will create him” It seems that this is a lapse in logic. To fit the criteria of Godhood a created God must be able to transcend space-time, even create using the medium of space-time. The real God exists in the eternal now.

  • Giulio Prisco

    James, perhaps future Gods will be able to transcend space-time, and create using the medium of space-time. Like fish that learns how to fly, future Gods will learn how to move above space-time, and know/influence events in remote places and times.

    My only non-negotiable point is that everything in physical reality can be explained by the appropriate laws of physics (perhaps laws different from those we know at this moment). There is no supernatural, but we don’t need it, because the universe of science is mysterious enough and has room for many more things in heaven and earth.

    You know that “I Am that I Am” is an imperfect translation of an original that should really be translated as “I Shall Be that I Shall Be.”

  • spud100

    Very good interview, Professor, along with some interesting insights. On the “already exists” side of the ledger of possibilities, Is an older paper done 7 years ago by Professor, Michael B. Menasky, at the Ledbedev Institute, Russian Federated Republic.

    Menasky called his hypothesis, the Extended Everett Concept, where as, consciousness appears to get transferred from one Hubble Volume to another-or he comes dangerously, close, to stating this.

    http://arxiv.org/pdf/0712.3609.pdf

    I am not sure this provides ‘tidings of comfort and joy, as the song lyric goes, but it seem to be another viable possibility, though I have no idea, how I’d Falsify Menasky’s conjecture, with an experiment. Again, a very good interview, Dr. Prisco.

    Mitch

    • Giulio Prisco

      Thanks Mitch for the interesting paper!

      Since consciousness is a subjective experience (THE subjective experience) by definition, there is just no way to prove to others that “X is what happens to consciousness after death,” whatever is X.

      The only way to know, is to experience it first hand.

      Well, I am in no hurry, I will cross that bridge when I get there, and of course I hope to get there later rather than sooner.

      But I do find tidings of comfort and joy in my conviction that the concept of afterlife can be formulated in ways that are perfectly compatible with science. This is no proof, but it is reason for hope.