My essay “The Sacred Road to the Stars,” which is also a section of my forthcoming book, has been published on The Transfigurist, the online magazine of the Mormon Transhumanist Association (MTA). I argue that we should consider our first timid steps into outer space as the beginning of our journey on the sacred road to the stars.
Read “The Sacred Road to the Stars” on The Transfigurist.
[Marshall] Savage appreciated that restarting the countdown is a cultural issue more than an engineering problem. Only a “human laser” formed by people acting “in synchronous harmony [creating] a coherent beam of intent” can get us to the stars. It appears that Savage’s human laser, which was beginning to shine bright in the sixties, has stopped working. The question is how to fix it.
[Visionary] scientists and engineers are already venturing into the realm of the presently impossible, and developing plans to reach the stars. Alpha Centauri, the closest star system, beckons from a distance of more than 4 light years. That’s quite a long road indeed, and requires long-term thinking.
[Our] frail flash and blood bodies aren’t appropriate interstellar gear. In fact, even with suitable propulsion technologies, manned interstellar missions would be hugely expensive due to the need to ensure the survival and safety of the humans on-board and the need to travel at extremely high speeds. One solution is to do without the wetware bodies of the crew, and send only their minds to the stars – their “software” – uploaded to advanced circuitry, augmented by AI subsystems in the starship’s processing system.
Ultimately, I think space will not be colonized by squishy, frail and short-lived flesh-and-blood humans. As Sir Arthur C. Clarke wrote in Childhood’s End [Clarke 1953], perhaps “the stars are not for Man” – that is, not for biological humans 1.0. It will be up to our postbiological mind children, implemented as pure software based on human uploads and AI subsystems, to explore other stars and colonize the universe. Eventually, they will travel between the stars as radiation and light beams.
Becoming an interstellar species will take centuries, and developing transhumanist technologies will also take centuries. The Catch-22 situation is that we need transhumanist technologies to colonize the stars, but we need a powerful overwhelming drive to fully develop transhumanist technologies, and space colonization can give us the drive. So I think we should start colonizing the planets and moons of our solar system, now.
We are all crew members of Spaceship Earth and parts, big or small, of our sacred journey to the stars. So this is my proposal. We should consider our first timid steps into outer space as the beginning of our journey on the sacred road to the stars.
In a visionary essay on “Religion for a Galactic Civilization 2.0” [Bainbridge 2009], renowned sociologist William Sims Bainbridge writes:
“[W]e need a new definition of spaceflight that will energize investment and innovation. I suggest a return to the traditional view: The heavens are a sacred realm, that we should enter in order to transcend death.”
I am persuaded that humanity’s expansion into interstellar space, and the new technologies that will emerge along the way, will lead our post-human descendants to become part of the galactic community of Gods, participate in the development of transcendent space-time engineering technologies, and eventually achieve Fedorov’s Cosmist vision of universal resurrection.
I am persuaded that only a powerful Cosmist mythology can give future generations the strenuous spiritual stance required to advance on the sacred road to the stars. Both established religions and new “space religions” have an important role to play.
That’s it. Space supports religion by building the sacred road to the stars. Religion supports space by offering awesome visions of what we will find at the end of the sacred road: we will find God, transcendence, and universal love.
I will now describe some ideas that have been proposed for visionary missions to the stars, which could be feasible before the end of this century and at the same time can serve as space-age cathedrals to provide a powerful spiritual inspiration to the next generations…
Image: Carlisle Cathedral, from Wikimedia Commons.