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Change the world, make unicorns! My London Futurists talk on Futurism, Spirituality, and Faith

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.

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The gentle and pensive maiden has the power to tame the unicorn, fresco, probably by Domenico Zampieri, c. 1602 (Palazzo Farnese, Rome) (Wikimedia Commons)

  • Spud100

    Thanks for providing the audio and slides of the London Futurist conference, Dr. Prisco. It was enlightening and the people involved, all of them, seemed extremely, informed. I have a question or two, as always, that maybe you might give your thoughts about?

    1) Does it concern you, that human civilization, our technology, even our species, may be destroyed before we can produce machinery, or evolve intellectually enough to perform mass resurrections? If we’re gone, or back to hunting, gathering, and using scratch plows for farming, then we all our gone for eternity, yes?

    2) What governs the ethics of these far-future beings, with their gigantically superior technology? What if somebody down the road in time, not our species, decided for biological experimentation, to resurrect human children, and slice them up like calamari? What, if, for these super beings, for entertainment purposes do the same thing? Because there is no ethics to govern them?

    1st Post question comment (as I was thinking about this): There is no way we can be sure this isn’t happening somewhere in the universe, already, with the super beings super technology.

    2nd Post Question comment: The only way to ensure this doesn’t happen would be to set up a policy of retaliation in kind, against the “Cruel Octopus People of the Sombrero galaxy.” But, maybe they wouldn’t care? “Go ahead you ugly, primates! Those are merely, copies, and so are the ones we resurrected, so, fongola, Earth monkies.”

    P.S. Imitaz Salam’s world view and my own seem, alike. If we get evidence of provide a scientific paper/study on resurrection, or an afterlife, then Islam that we viewed this weekend in Nairobi, will be changed. Why? No incentive to slaughter to get to paradise.

    Mitch

  • Giulio Prisco

    Hi Mitch, thanks for writing.

    1) Of course it concerns me, that human civilization may be destroyed before we can do all these things, but I don’t focus on that. Plenty of people write about existential risks, and I have nothing to add.

    2) The risk of life: some people have children to abuse them, but I still prefer life to nothingness.

    re “There is no way we can be sure this isn’t happening somewhere in the universe, already, with the super beings super technology.”

    Indeed, it may be happening elsewhere. Listen to the great words of my late lamented friend Dan Massey:
    http://turingchurch.com/2013/02/01/in-memory-of-dan-massey/

    re “If we get evidence of provide a scientific paper/study on resurrection, or an afterlife, then Islam that we viewed this weekend in Nairobi, will be changed. Why? No incentive to slaughter to get to paradise.”

    I am afraid we may have to wait a long time for scientific evidence of technological resurrection and afterlife. But perhaps the mere possibility is enough? Nothing in my talk is incompatible with science, so the possibility is there, it is up to everyone to choose if they will allow themselves to suspend disbelief. However, here and now, we must find other means to reduce hatred and terrorism.

  • spud100

    Dr. Prisco,

    I am wondering if you had a chance to view IEET yet, and read Dick Pelletier’s short article on the Higgs Singlet? Though this has been discussed since 2011, after a confirmation, of sorts, at CERN, it was completely new to me. If the physics is accurate (who knows?) then I am guessing you have another tool in your kit for your Religion. It was posted October 1st.

    Sincerely,

    Mitch

  • Giulio Prisco

    Hi Mitch. Nice article, like all of Dick’s. At CERN they have found tentative evidence for the Higgs boson a few months ago, but not (that I know of) evidence for Tom Weiler and Chui Man Ho claims that:

    “Higgs singlets have the ability to jump out of our three dimensions of space and one of time, and into a hidden dimension thought to exist by some advanced physics models. By traveling through this hidden dimension, these freaks of nature could move forward or backward in time and then reappear in the future or past.”

    However, the laws of physics do seem to permit time travel. We may find the possibility of time travel incompatible with our concept of causality, but perhaps the laws of physics are right and our intuition is wrong. Everett’s Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics provides a clear and simple way to look at the grandfather “paradox” without real paradoxes.

    In Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter “The Light of Other Days,” there are micro-wormholes connecting each pixel of space-time to every other pixel of space-time, which permits future scientists to upload people from the past to the future. Note that “simple” acquisition of information from the past does not even violate causality.