28 August 2012


Transhumanists - especially transhumanist academics - say the strangest things.

'Transcendent Engineering' by Giulio Prisco in 6(2) Journal of Personal Cyberconsciousness (2011) is promoted thus -
 Giulio applies his insightful transhumanist and engineering vision to the crossroad of science and religion in that future technologies may create a pathway to resurrecting the dead. 
 Resurrecting the dead? At least that's an advance on the Ervin Laszlo claim that the dead aren't really dead - they're just not "in a familiar form".

Prisco's article begins -
 In “Engineering Transcendence” I argued that science may someday develop the capability to resurrect the dead and build (and/or become) God(s), and proposed to base a “transhumanist religion” on this idea. 
I also argued that the ultra-rationalist, aseptic engineering language dear to most transhumanists does not seem able to have an emotional impact on the majority of other people. This means that “traditional” transhumanist ideas will remain confined to a very small minority of technically oriented nerds, and never make a difference to the rest of humanity. 
This is a pity as I think our ideas are beautiful and could give happiness, hope, a sense of wonder, purpose and peace of mind to a multitude of seekers. To do this, we must develop formulations and interpretations of transhumanism more emotionally appealing to persons with artistic and spiritual inclinations. 
The “transhumanist religion” is addressed to persons with spiritual sensibilities and needs. It is designed to appeal to their sensibilities, and fulfill their needs, while at the same time remaining firmly grounded in the scientific worldview. Instead of “their”, I should of course say “our”: I am a person with spiritual sensibilities and needs. At the same time I am a physicist and an engineer by training and by inclination (and my worldview is strictly materialist), with no room for the supernatural. 
I have been a member of the Extropy mailing list since the late 90s. Ever since, the Extropy list has been one of my main sources of intellectual stimulation and enjoyment. I was also interpreting transhumanism in a spiritual sense at that time, and remember thinking of Extropy as a beautiful and powerful new religion for the new millennium. I also remember my very first post to the Extropy list, it was about the possibility of a technological resurrection of the dead; it received some encouraging replies. 
He goes on to indicate the "cornerstones of the transcendent engineering 'religion'" -
  • Mind uploading --- someday it will be possible to transfer entire personalities from their original biological brain to more durable and powerful engineered substrates.   
  • Time-scanning --- someday it will be possible to acquire very detailed information from the past. Once time-scanning is available, we will be able to resurrect people from the past by “copying them to the future” via mind uploading. Note: time-scanning is not time travel, and it is free from the “paradoxes” of time travel. Time-scanning is just a form of archaeology --- uncovering the past by means of available evidence and records. Of course the very high definition form of time-scanning proposed here is orders of magnitude more powerful and sophisticated than archeology as we know it, but the concept is the same.  
  • Synthetic realities --- someday it will be possible to build artificial realities inhabited by sentient life. Perhaps future humans will live in synthetic realities. Perhaps we will wake up in a synthetic reality after having been copied to the future. Or … perhaps we are already there. 
  • Transcendent engineering offers not one, but two possibilities of resurrection: We may be copied to the future by our descendants by using time-scanning and mind uploading; or, we may already be living in a synthetic reality and the system admins may make a backup copy of interesting patterns every now and then. Hope in resurrection is, I believe, a necessary component of any effective alternative to traditional religions. 
  • If we live in a synthetic reality, then in a certain sense, we cannot even rule out the supernatural, or miracles. The simulators, the system admins, cannot violate their laws of physics, but they can violate our laws of physics if they want. It seems that the supernatural, which we have kicked out of the back door of superstition, may come back through the main door of science.