“A new religion has set out to store memories for centuries and deliver its believers into a world where our souls can outlive our selves.” So begins a Time Magazine article about Terasem. The end: “[T]echnology can do almost everything for us… but it can’t bring the people we love back from the beyond. At least, the Terasemians say, not yet.”
I like the article’s beginning and end. What I like less is the title, a tired and predictable “The Rapture of the Nerds.”
The article explains that the name Terasem comes from the Greek word for “Earthseed.” I knew that, but I didn’t know that “Earthseed” is also the name for the futuristic religion found in Octavia Butler‘s novels Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents. I am a big fan of Butler, the author of the science fiction masterpiece Lilith’s Brood, and I am now reading both Earthseed parables. “The destiny of Earthseed is to take root among the stars,” says Butler’s heroine Lauren Olamina.
Unfortunately a third book of the trilogy, Parable of the Trickster, was not completed before Butler’s death. See Terasem’s Octavia Butler Memorial Dedication.
“Bina and I were inspired to find a way for people to believe in God consistent with science and technology so people would have faith in the future,” Martine Rothblatt told Time.
“Terasem’s followers are dedicated to studying and raising awareness about what they call ‘personal cyberconciousness’ – the creation of mindfiles,” writes Jessica Roy in the Time article. “They believe that by ritualistically recording your thoughts and feelings with great detail, you can ultimately assemble a digital copy of yourself, available for future use.”
“A mindfile is the sum of saved digital reflections about you,” says Martine Rothblatt on the Terasem blog. “All of the stored emails, chats, texts, IMs and blogs that you write are part of your mindfile. All of the uploaded photos, slide shows and movies that involve you are part of your mindfile. Your search histories, clicked selections and online purchases, if saved, are part of your mindfile. Your digital life is your mindfile.” Martine believes that future AI technology will be able to merge the information stored in the mindfile with suitable “human firmware” (me-program) and bring it back to life as a valid continuation of the original person, who will feel the continuation of the original. Terasem runs two separate programs, CyBeRev and LifeNaut, to help people creating and storing their mindfiles.
A couple of months ago I had a long video chat with Jessica Roy. I told Jessica that I don’t think current technology permits creating mindfiles with enough depth and texture for future resurrection, and therefore we may have to wait for the very fast brain-computer interfaces that may be available by the end of the next decade. However, something is better than nothing (as Martine says), and incomplete mindfiles can be completed with information available in the cloud.
I also told Jessica about Terasem’s precursors, the beautiful vision of Nikolai Fedorov and the Russian Cosmists, and my own interpretation of Terasem: I am persuaded that we will go to the stars and find Gods, build Gods, become Gods, and resurrect the dead from the past with advanced science, space-time engineering and “time magic.” I see God emerging from the community of advanced forms of life and civilizations in the universe, and able to influence space-time events anywhere, anytime, perhaps even here and now. I also expect God to elevate love and compassion to the status of fundamental forces, key drivers for the evolution of the universe.
None of that is mentioned in the article, but that’s just how mainstream journalism works. The article is focused on the juicy bites: the exploits of Bina48, the robot who looks and talks like Bina Rothblatt (the robots are coming!!!), Johnny Depp’s Transcendence film just out in theaters (we will become machines!!!), and of course Gabriel Rothblatt’s political aspirations. Cultists who “worship computers” are taking over the U.S. Congress!!! Gabriel has transhumanist and transexual connections!!! Even worse, he is a Democrat and may even, God forbid, support Obamacare!!!
Even with the typical flaws and dumbing down of mainstream journalism, the article is not bad or unfriendly, and will provide a first introduction to Terasem and transhumanist spirituality to many readers.