Last Saturday, September 21, I went to London to participate in a meeting on Futurism, Spirituality, and Faith, organized by London Futurists.
This was my second London Futurists meeting, after my talk of last year, and I am always happy to go there. I wish I lived in London just to go to all London Futurists meeting. Most talks and discussions are great, and followed by beer and good conversations on interesting things (my idea of a good time) in the nearby pub. Kudos to the main organizer David Wood.
It was a great pleasure to meet face to face Martin Higgins, the author of Human+, who recently interviewed me on Transhumanist Spirituality — A New Religion for the Modern Age?
A complete audio recording of the event and the slides used by the speakers are available here. There is a good discussion here. My own slides are embedded below.
Watch the video presentation of the meeting by David Wood:
I argued that future science may achieve all the promises of religion, including benevolent gods and resurrection, and that a worldview informed by this possibility offers the same mental benefits of religion, while at the same time being based on and fully compatible with science.
My talk followed an interesting and passionate presentation by Gennaro Giannini, who argued strongly against religion and mysticism. He said that we must use science to find the truth, and that we must accept the truth revealed by science. I totally agree on the first part, but I don’t like to meekly accept reality. I prefer to try changing reality, which is the transhumanist way.
My unicorns slide (see all my slides below) sums up my presentation, and much of my worldview. If we wish to live in a world with unicorns, should we meekly accept the scientific truth, that unicorns don’t seem to exist on Earth? No, because very soon we will be able to make unicorns with biotech, and Second Life users know that we can make unicorns in virtual reality. Perhaps there are unicorns on other planets, in which case we just need to move to a planet with unicorns. So, no I don’t accept the scientific truth of non-existence of unicorns, because we can upgrade our reality to include unicorns.
Same with death. According to current scientific knowledge, death is final (there is no “supernatural” and no immortal soul). But our descendants in the far future (or some alien civilizations out there) may be able to extract our minds from remote regions of space-time and upload us to their world, by means of super-advanced science and technology. Perhaps each space-time pixel is connected to every other space-time pixel via micro-wormholes, and minds can be uploaded across time over wormhole links (Arthur Clarke and Stephen Baxter, The Light of Other Days), or minds can be retrieved from entangled quantum reality. The reality-as-simulation theory — the idea that our reality may be a simulation run by super-advanced beings in another universe, is totally equivalent to religion for all practical purposes.
This “Cosmist Third Way” is a synthesis of what is good in the old and new ways (religion and science). It is firmly based on science, and at the same time it offers all the important mental devices of religion, including hope in resurrection. Hoping in an afterlife has survival value for both individuals and societies, because it gives people the strength to continue to live instead of withdrawing (or worse) in despair. We hope that the transcendence promised by religions will be realized by future science. Instead of the certainty of blind faith, we have scientific imagination and hope.
A relevant quote (besides the quotes given in my slides below) is in Marx/Engels’ Theses On Feuerbach: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” This is the transhumanist stance: think positive, change what you don’t like, build a better reality, and fuck current reality if it stands in the way. Science permits not only to understand reality, but also to change it, which is what really matters.
The gentle and pensive maiden has the power to tame the unicorn, fresco, probably by Domenico Zampieri, c. 1602 (Palazzo Farnese, Rome) (Wikimedia Commons)