Cosmists on rooftop

Viewpoints on Modern Cosmism

In the pictures I am with George Carey, Ben Goertzel, and Vlad Bowen, the day before the Modern Cosmism conference last month in New York. Here I try to summarize some interrelated and compatible but slightly different viewpoints on modern Cosmism.

Of course I must start with the Russian Cosmists. I am unable to produce a picture with Nikolai Fedorov (I definitely look forward to taking a picture with him someday in the unknown elsewhere), but a picture with George will do. George is the creator of the BBC documentary “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” which provides an excellent introduction to Russian Cosmism and shows how Fedorov’s ideas inspired Russian scientists and provided a powerful mystique for the Russian space program. George has been filming at the conference, and I look forward to seeing his new documentary on modern Cosmism.

George Carey filming

Ben wrote the Bible of modern Cosmism: “A Cosmist Manifesto,” a practical philosophy primer that blends science and spirituality, established science and awesome speculative ideas, futurism and compassion, technology and art, life strategies and cosmic visions – a must-read book where every reader will find snippets of spiritual wisdom and practical advice.

Cosmists in NYC

Modern Cosmism has been beautifully summarized by Ben, legendary cyberculture icon (and iconoclast) R.U. Sirius, and Jay Cornell, in “Transcendence – The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity.”

“Cosmism is a sort of philosophically laid-back version of transhumanism. In a culture that tends to be argumentative and filled with people who like to insist that their views are correct, cosmism doesn’t care if you’re viewing the universe as information or quantum information or hypercomputation or God stuff or whatever. Nor does it ask anyone to commit to AGI or mind uploading or brain-computer interfaces or fusion-powered toasters as the best way forward. Rather, it seeks to infuse the human universe with an attitude of joy, growth, choice, and open-mindedness. Cosmism believes that science in its current form, just like religion and philosophy in their current forms, may turn out to be overly limited for the task of understanding life, mind, society, and reality – but it teaches that, if so, by actively engaging with the world and studying and engineering things, and by reflecting on ourselves carefully and intelligently, we will likely be able to discover the next stage in the evolution of collective thinking.”

I quoted this compact and accurate definition in one of the opening slides of my talk. See the video and slides of my talk. The talks of Ben, Vlad, and all the other speakers,  are available in the Cosmism Foundation YouTube channel.

Jeremiah P. Ostriker, Wendell Wallach, Randal A. Koene, Jay Friedenberg, and James Hughes, presented related ideas on science, technology, and philosophy. My favorite recollection of the conference: a brief talk with a 14-years old who came with his father and found Randal’s talk on mind uploading especially interesting. Perhaps the boy will become a scientist and play an important role to develop mind uploading.

My viewpoint on Cosmism is totally compatible with Ben’s – I really agree with everything he says in the book – but I emphasize the technological resurrection aspect of Cosmism.  “[Not only] achieving immortality, but restoring all the people who have ever walked the Earth to life so that they may share the gift as well, making the heaven of the afterlife a physical reality” (Nader Elhefnawy).

See my essay “Technological resurrection concepts from Fedorov to Quantum Archaeology” for Fedorov’s ideas on technological resurrection and more modern formulations compatible with and informed by contemporary physics. I think the concept of technological resurrection is a bridge between science and religion, which can offer hope and happiness to everyone in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

Therefore, when thinking, talking, or writing about Cosmism vs. traditional religions, I emphasize the parallels and continuity rather than the differences. In particular, I emphasize the continuity between modern Cosmism and Russian Cosmism (an explicitly religious viewpoint): the technological resurrection concept is central to both.

To me, it’s intuitively evident 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.”
– God is emerging from the community of advanced forms of life and civilizations in the universe, and able to influence space-time events anywhere, anytime, including here and now.
– God elevates love and compassion to the status of fundamental forces, key drivers for the evolution of the universe.

Turing Church Vision

I think this Cosmist Vision could and should play for our grandchildren the same positive role – sense of wonder, sense of meaning, hope to be reunited with loved ones in an afterlife, and calm happiness – that traditional religions played for our grandfather.

Eric Steinhart, professor in the Department of Philosophy at William Paterson University, and author of “Your Digital Afterlives: Computational Theories of Life after Death,” will present his thoughts on technological resurrection at the 2016 Conference of the Mormon Transhumanist Association (MTA).

Mormon Transhumanism is essentially Cosmist, with a special focus on Mormonism. Other essentially Cosmist groups at the intersection of transhumanist science and spirituality, unfortunately not very active at the moment, are the Society for Universal Immortalism, with a special focus on cryonics, and Martine Rothblatt’s  Terasem, with special focus on “mindfiles” – the Bainbridge-Rothblatt soft-copy uploading method. See also the awesome essays “Religion for a Galactic Civilization,” by William Sims Bainbridge (1982 and 2009 versions).

Rootfop Cosmism

Vlad Bowen, the organizer of the Modern Cosmism conference, proposes that future post-biological uploaded humans will build an artificial synthetic reality where “super-intelligent life can flourish and fulfill its mission as an important part of overall cosmic evolution.” Back to here and now, Vlad wants to get modern Cosmism organized, and make it popular and influential. I wish all the best to Vlad’s Cosmism Foundation and will will do my best to support it.

All these viewpoints that emphasize a special focus are compatible with the high level definition in Transcendence. Let a thousand Cosmist flowers bloom!

  • Tim Gross

    Bravo!

    • spud100

      Bravo is a good comment. I will expound on why this was a Bravo article, by Guilio Prisco. Here is an ancient public service announcement that got played at the end of the broadcast day, at television stations in Iowa, of all places! This advertisement would actually be played, instead of the US national anthem, which was unusual but understandable, even back then. I think of this ad as a Cosmist Carol. Have a look and listen. Hope this link works!

      https://youtu.be/IoL-KCFbIpA
      Dr. Prisco, and maybe, Dr. Goertzel also, have something that beats mere, Transhumanism, for rather, two related things. One is a reason for plausible hope, and the second thing is the knowledge that that Cosmism’s ideals are greater than oneself. In essence, its a tomorrow that will arrive, and if we are not there, then, as likely is true, then tomorrow will come for us.

      • spud100

        http://io9.com/this-short-film-about-love-after-death-is-pretty-heartb-1741548046
        The above is a link that I just viewed regarding a futurist resurrection, in a short (15 min.) film. It seems to have much to do with one of Guilio’s favorite science fiction novel, The Light of Other Days, written by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter. It is, as we will see in the film, Cosmist-related in its view point, but adds the human touch to it all.

        • kt

          Nice find, spud. Interesting little clip.

          • spud100

            Thanks. KT. It was from IO9, a web site focused on movies and tv and literature. Once in a while it breaks the fanboy mold and touches on the profound..

        • Giulio Prisco

          Great video spud100, thanks for sharing. I am all for the human touch, without which philosophy is too aseptic and sterile to be useful. We need more writings and films to stimulate hope.

          Perhaps “hope” is not the right word. In fact, hope is always mixed with fear – you hope that you’ll win the game because you are very much afraid that you’ll lose it.

          That kind of hope doesn’t attract good outcomes (ref. The Secret and all that). Positive hope is more like a kind of calm, peaceful, total confidence that you can win the game if you do your best. Confident hope (as opposed to fearful hope) is not an easy state of mind to put yourself in, on the contrary it’s one of the hardest, but I think it’s the emotion we need.

          The people in the film had been preserved with cryonics. We need compelling philosophical, literary, and artistic creations to offer confident hope in resurrection to everyone, which includes the resurrection of long dead people.

      • magnus

        Beautiful clip, poetic technology.

        Launch of the space-shuttle is also something deeply emotional to me, and the american way to say ‘booster ignition and liftoff” and watching that mastodont lift off is just amazing.
        At the moment I’m trying to formulate for myself what gives me a plausible hope, and what does not. Space-technology is one such achievment. Politicians is what takes hope away, for me.
        regards

        • Giulio Prisco

          Hi Magnus. The launches of the space shuttle are also emotional to me, but it’s a negative emotion: to me the space shuttle is a symbol of the lost decades (80s to 10s) and the abandonment of the visionary manned space exploration program of the 60s. I look forward to watching new ambitious space launches with a powerful positive emotion, in the next decade.

  • Giulio Prisco

    This article was republished @IEET, see complementary discussion at:
    http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/Prisco20151118