Thursday, June 5, 2008

My talk at the Conference: The Future of Religions - Religions of the Future

This is the full text of my talk at the Conference: The Future of Religions - Religions of the Future - June 4, 5, 2008. The Future of Religions/Religions of the Future has been a two-day conference examining how two of the 21st Century's driving forces, religion and technology, will continue to re-shape each other and, in the process, re-cast our understanding of "humanity" in the Third Millennium. Centered on, but not limited to, virtual worlds and social networking technologies, speakers and panelists also examined changes precipitated by the biotechnology revolution, cognitive science, information technologies and robotics. Speakers included William Sims Bainbridge, James Hughes, Giulio Prisco, Lincoln Cannon and Robert Geraci.

First, I wish to thank the "Extropia" and "Al-Andalus Caliphate Project" communities for the masterful organization of this great event dedicated to very important issues. Today I have this strange feeling that we are watching history in the making, and I don't mean only history of VR worlds.

A personal note. I am Giulio Prisco, also known as Giulio Perhaps in Second Life. I do not keep my RL and SL identities separate, and I am more of an "augmentationist" than an "immersionist". SL is still a very primitive VR world compared to future VR worlds, and I cannot take seriously this PC screen with toons as an alternate reality. Yet.

But I see that different identities and personas can inhabit the same skull and should be given more elbow room and more freedom from each other. I think transhumanism is about offering more options to choose from, and have decided to take advantage of the option of having multiple avatars in SL and separate my mainstream business identity from my creative and "exotic" identity. This avatar will get all the fun. I wish to ask all those who have my other avatar in their friends list to add also this one.

This is the first public appearance of Eschatoon Magic, and I could not have chosen a better audience. My other avatar looks more or less like Giulio Prisco: old, fat and plain. But _I_ look like Giulio would like to look. Future technologies may give us options to choose our physical bodies, or migrate to VR and live in virtual bodies as conscious software. Future generations may roam the universe as immortal uploads, or "souls", and perhaps _create and become_ "gods". This brings me to...

Transhumanist Religions

Science and religion are occasionally seen as enemies of each other, but I think this is mainly due to communication problems between the two communities. I don't think science and religion are born enemies. On the contrary I believe _good_ religion without bigotry and dogmatic irrational fundamentalism, and _good_ science without bigotry and dogmatic ultra-rationalist fundamentalism, can not only coexist peacefully but also mutually reinforce.

Lincoln Cannon of the Mormon Transhumanist Association said at last year's Seminar on H+ and Religion in SL: “We believe that scientific knowledge and technological power are among the means ordained of God to enable such exaltation, including realization of diverse prophetic visions of transfiguration, immortality, resurrection, renewal of this world, and the discovery and creation of worlds without end”.

This is, I believe, a perfect explanation of why, despite what fundamentalists may say, transhumanism is not at all incompatible with religion but, on the contrary, each of the two sets of sensibilities can boost the other in a positive feedback loop.

I have started using the label “Cosmic Transhumanism” to indicate a broad strand of transhumanism inspired by (among others) Ray Kurzweil‘s radically optimist "the fate of the Universe is a decision yet to be made, one which we will intelligently consider when the time is right", the cosmic visions of Frank Tipler and James Gardner, Sir Arthur C. Clarke‘s “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” and, of course, Shakespeare’s “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.

I am persuaded that Cosmic Transhumanism, the idea that consciousness and intelligent life may become key factors in the future evolution of the physical universe (transcending biology, filling the universe, steering spacetime topology, spawning baby universes, “becoming gods” etc.), once developed and communicated as a strong memetic package, can provide an alternative to religion suitable for the forthcoming phase of our evolution as a species.

Good religion provides beautiful visions of the universe and our place in it, a sense of meaning, purpose and connectedness, the feeling of being part of a community with a cosmic destiny, and happiness. Good science can provide the same benefits and _may_ also provide _some degree of_ hope, grounded in the scientific method, in some of the promises of traditional religions. Including, perhaps, the possibility that some future civilization may resurrect the dead by "copying them to the future". But without the irrational faith, rigid dogmatism and intolerance that have plagued traditional religions.

Of course I am perfectly aware that mixing science and religion may sound like a dangerous heresy to many believers in both conventional religion and the new religion of atheism and scientific ultra-rationalism. It may also disturb some politically correct intellectuals of the new left, who condemn imaginative thinking as a distraction from serious social work.

They condemn transhumanism because to them it sounds like a religion. But if religion is defined as “seeking to find transcendence and truth, meaning and purpose”, then I am ready and willing to accept the label “religious”. And I want to find what I seek through scientific means, or at least through means compatible with the scientific method and worldview. If I don’t _find_ them, I want to _build_ them by following the best methods developed by our civilization. Science and engineering have taken us from caves to where we are now, and there is no reason to think that this process should stop here.

While religion has led to sad extremes, it has also fueled many worth initiatives and provided peace of mind and sense of wonder to countless believers. The key question if how to keep the good things of religion (sense of community, happiness, and a hopeful vision of our place and purpose in the universe) without the bad things (bigotry, fundamentalism, intolerance, holy wars, burning heretics and infidels).

Here I think transhumanism, and especially its “cosmic” face aimed at achieving superhumanity and spreading to the stars and beyond, may provide a modern, energizing but tolerant alternative to religion rooted in the scientific worldview.

It is through science and practical engineering, by rolling up our sleeves and tightening one screw at a time in the fabric of reality, that our descendants will achieve superhumanity and godhead. Religions could only address our aspiration to transcendence by resorting to a mystical worldview based on supernatural concepts. But the scientific and engineering approach, based on a materialist worldview with no place for supernatural entities, will ultimately turn many promises of religion into reality. Science and engineering are not the enemies of transcendence, but the very tools that will permit achieving it.

I am assuming that everything under and beyond the stars is a physical object that must obey the laws of physics, however weird they may prove to be, and can in principle be reverse-engineered and improved upon once we have mastered the engineering applications of these laws.

In the next few decades or couple of centuries, we will apply this principle to the human body and the human mind: we will reverse-engineer them, and build better ones. As Sir Arthur C. Clarke would say, “as soon as our machines will better than our bodies, it will be time to move. First our brains, and then our thoughts alone, we will transfer into shining new homes of metal and of plastic”.

Sir Arthur wrote similar words (referred to the ETs who built the monolith on the Moon) in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Today, using the terminology of modern science fiction, we would probably say something like “computronium” instead of “metal and plastic”, but the concept is the same. We would also be kinder to poor HAL: in the same timeframe (a few decades to a couple of centuries) we will build artificial intelligences that will first equal, then outperform, and then partly merge with our human intelligences. As uploaded minds with indefinite lifespans, humans will spread to the stars.

Note: I am using “will” to indicate a possibility and an intention, not a certainty of a future that might also not happen (it certainly will not happen, for example, if the human species destroys itself before - not a big deal from a cosmic point of view as the same dreams will be also pursued by other intelligences in the universe, but a very big deal from our point of view). I am using “will” to say that I hope this future will happen, that I think it will happen, that it should happen, that I intend to contribute to make it happen, and that you should also contribute to make it happen.

We are attending this conference in the virtual reality world of Second Life, which must be seen as a first baby step in VR and is _very_ primitive compared to the VR worlds that we will see in only a few years. Video-realism, accurate simulated physics and high bandwidth neural interfacing technology will permit fully immersive VR worlds, with total sensorial stimulation indistinguishable from physical reality, in a few decades.

Mind uploading technology may at some point permit us migrating to our VR worlds and living there as software beings. These synthetic will also contain very advanced, sentient artificial intelligences. The ability to create synthetic worlds populated by sentient beings will mark a very important milestone in our evolution as cosmic makers. Could we _be_ conscious beings in a synthetic world simulated in and by a higher order reality? This possibility has been proposed and discussed by Nick Bostrom and others. There is no way to even estimate its plausibility at the moment. The scientific method says: have an open mind, and let future theories and experiments decide.

The Society for Universal Immortalism is a progressive religion that holds rationality, reason, and the scientific method as central tenets of its faith. I am a member if the Society, and wish to thank the other members for many stimulating ideas and discussions. In particular, I am indebted to R. Michael Perry for the beautiful declaration in his book ”Forever for All”: "To that end, we dedicate ourselves to finding a way one day to bring back all persons who have ever lived, so they can join in our eternal adventure".

This is a very strong idea, which may permit a full reconciliation between the scientific and religious worldviews. Universal immortalists do not propose any specific engineering approach to resurrection, but consider it as an objective that future technology may be able to achieve, someday, based on future scientific advances.

I see Universal Immortalism as Transhumanism “plus something”. This “something” is the resurrection idea: finding a way one day to bring back all persons who have ever lived. Even if Universal Immortalism is scientific speculation (we hope to resurrect the dead using “future magic” based on science and engineering), the resurrection idea is very hard to swallow even for many transhumanists. But in my view, Universal Immortalism is perfectly compatible with transhumanism, and constitutes its logical endpoint. The engineering challenge will be huge of course, but so it was for the development of agriculture.

Let's move on to the stars toward our cosmic destiny, and then we will see. President Kennedy said: “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too”. A few years later, watching the first men walking on the moon, it was easy to believe in humanity’s destiny in space.

Too bad space “did not happen”. Today’s world is a complex, interconnected and difficult place on its way to becoming even more so. We need grand visions for all humanity, that can energize all persons on our little blue planet and provide the drive to move onward as a whole. Cosmic transhumanist visions will not lead to holy wars against infidels, but rather to a Holy War against the limitations of being humans 1.0: disease, mortality, stupidity, unhappiness, lack of empathy and understanding, and being confined on our little planet.

Then, perhaps as uploaded minds with indefinite lifespans, humans will spread to the stars. What next? Borrowing again from Sir Arthur: "But the age of the Machine-entities will swiftly pass. In our ceaseless experimenting, we will learn to store knowledge in the structure of space itself, and to preserve our thoughts for eternity in frozen lattices of light. We will become creatures of radiation, free at last from the tyranny of matter".

As William Sims Bainbridge noted in a 1981 article titled ”Religions for a Galactic Civilization”, we need a sense of transcendent purpose at both personal and societal levels to embark in the grand journey to the universe. In Bainbridge’s words: “We need a new spaceflight social movement capable of giving a sense of transcendent purpose to dominant sectors of the society. It also should be capable of holding the society in an expansionist phase for the longest possible time, without permitting divergence from its great plan. In short, we need a galactic religion, a Church of God Galactic…”.

Let me make an announcement now.

DRAMATIC PAUSE...

On behalf of its founding team, a few members of which are virtually attending this conference, I have the honor and the pleasure to announce the foundation of the Order of Cosmic Engineers, humanity's First "UNreligion of Science", and warmly invite you to join its cosmic quest.

Adopting an engineering approach and attitude, the Order aims to turn this universe into a "magical" realm in the sense of Clarke's Third Law: a realm where sufficiently advanced technology turns daily reality into what would be considered by most today as a seemingly supernatural 'magical' realm.

We are, at the same time, a transhumanist association, a spiritual movement, a space advocacy group, a literary salon, a technology observatory, an idea factory, a virtual worlds development group, and a global community of persons willing to take an active role in building, in realizing a sunny future.

We will discuss the future of humanity during World of Warcraft quests, plan the future of technology in Second Life, and build futuristic virtual worlds in our labs. But most importantly, we will assist you -yes, we do mean you- in finding meaning and hope in your existence in this, your reality, your universe.

Whatever our formal training and professional affiliations, in a very profound sense we are all scientists and engineers. We develop technical skills and design principles that will enable us to create and explore new realities. Therefore, the Order will undertake various projects, selected because they are both revolutionary and feasible at the current cutting edge of science and technology.

The Order's website can be found at http://cosmeng.org/. Its first event will be hosted by the Science Guild in World of Warcraft on June 14 at noon EST.

The full SL chatlog (Thanks Bill!):

[9:48] Sophrosyne Stenvaag: Welcome, Eschatoon!
[9:48] Sophrosyne Stenvaag: Come on up to the central podium, please!
[9:51] Sophrosyne Stenvaag: Eschatoon is about to start - thank you for your patience!
[9:51] Eschatoon Magic: First, I wish to thank the “Extropia” and “Al-Andalus Caliphate Project” communities for the masterful organization of this great event dedicated to very important issues. Today I have this strange feeling that we are watching history in the making, and I don’t mean only history of VR worlds.
[9:52] Eschatoon Magic: A personal note. I am Giulio Prisco, also known as Giulio Perhaps in Second Life. I do not keep my RL and SL identities separate, and I am more of an “augmentationist” than an “immersionist”. SL is still a very primitive VR world compared to future VR worlds, and I cannot take seriously this PC screen with toons as an alternate reality. Yet.
[9:52] Eschatoon Magic: But I see that different identities and personas can inhabit the same skull and should be given more elbow room and more freedom from each other. I think transhumanism is about offering more options to choose from, and have decided to take advantage of the option of having multiple avatars in SL and separate my mainstream business identity from my creative and “exotic” identity. This avatar will get all the fun. I wish to ask all those who have my other avatar in their friends list to add also this one.
[9:52] Starfox Howl: I am not a toon!
[9:53] Sophrosyne Stenvaag grins at Starfox and nods
[9:53] Eschatoon Magic: ty starfox for confirming that you hear me, so I am sure my talk is not being eaten by lag ;-)
[9:54] Eschatoon Magic: This is the first public appearance of Eschatoon Magic, and I could not have chosen a better audience. My other avatar looks more or less like Giulio Prisco: old, fat and plain. But _I_ look like Giulio would like to look. Future technologies may give us options to choose our physical bodies, or migrate to VR and live in virtual bodies as conscious software. Future generations may roam the universe as immortal uploads, or “souls”, and perhaps _create and become_ “gods”. This brings me to…
[9:54] Eschatoon Magic: Transhumanist Religions
[9:54] Eschatoon Magic: Science and religion are occasionally seen as enemies of each other, but I think this is mainly due to communication problems between the two communities. I don't think science and religion are born enemies. On the contrary I believe _good_ religion without bigotry and dogmatic irrational fundamentalism, and _good_ science without bigotry and dogmatic ultra-rationalist fundamentalism, can not only coexist peacefully but also mutually reinforce.
[9:55] Eschatoon Magic: Lincoln Cannon of the Mormon Transhumanist Association said at last year's Seminar on H+ and Religion in SL: “We believe that scientific knowledge and technological power are among the means ordained of God to enable such exaltation, including realization of diverse prophetic visions of transfiguration, immortality, resurrection, renewal of this world, and the discovery and creation of worlds without end”.
[9:55] Eschatoon Magic: Lincoln said it much better yesterday
[9:56] Eschatoon Magic: by teh way can someone confirm that you hear me?
[9:56] Sophrosyne Stenvaag: you're fine!
[9:56] Ahman Hax: all is well
[9:56] Eschatoon Magic: once my DSL dropped that in the middle of a talk
[9:56] Tara Yeats: loud ^& clear, Esch!
[9:56] Eschatoon Magic: ty
[9:56] Eschatoon Magic: so...
[9:56] Eschatoon Magic: This is, I believe, a perfect explanation of why, despite what fundamentalists may say, transhumanism is not at all incompatible with religion but, on the contrary, each of the two sets of sensibilities can boost the other in a positive feedback loop.
[9:56] Ali Hermes: No problems hearing here.
[9:56] Prometheus Augenblik: I can't hear anything. But I can see your words.
[9:57] Eschatoon Magic: Max that is what I mean - I am not speaking (you will, on Sun)
[9:57] Prometheus Augenblik: OK
[9:57] Eschatoon Magic: I have started using the label “Cosmic Transhumanism” to indicate a broad strand of transhumanism inspired by (among others) Ray Kurzweil‘s radically optimist "the fate of the Universe is a decision yet to be made, one which we will intelligently consider when the time is right", the cosmic visions of Frank Tipler and James Gardner, Sir Arthur C. Clarke‘s “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” and, of course, Shakespeare’s “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.
[9:58] Eschatoon Magic: I am persuaded that Cosmic Transhumanism, the idea that consciousness and intelligent life may become key factors in the future evolution of the physical universe (transcending biology, filling the universe, steering spacetime topology, spawning baby universes, “becoming gods” etc.), once developed and communicated as a strong memetic package, can provide an alternative to religion suitable for the forthcoming phase of our evolution as a species.
[9:58] Eschatoon Magic: Good religion provides beautiful visions of the universe and our place in it, a sense of meaning, purpose and connectedness, the feeling of being part of a community with a cosmic destiny, and happiness. Good science can provide the same benefits and _may_ also provide _some degree of_ hope, grounded in the scientific method, in some of the promises of traditional religions. Including, perhaps, the possibility that some future civilization may resurrect the dead by "copying them to the future". But without the irrational faith, rigid dogmatism and intolerance that have plagued traditional religions.
[9:59] Eschatoon Magic: Of course I am perfectly aware that mixing science and religion may sound like a dangerous heresy to many believers in both conventional religion and the new religion of atheism and scientific ultra-rationalism. It may also disturb some politically correct intellectuals of the new left, who condemn imaginative thinking as a distraction from serious social work.
[9:59] Eschatoon Magic: They condemn transhumanism because to them it sounds like a religion. But if religion is defined as “seeking to find transcendence and truth, meaning and purpose”, then I am ready and willing to accept the label “religious”. And I want to find what I seek through scientific means, or at least through means compatible with the scientific method and worldview. If I don’t _find_ them, I want to _build_ them by following the best methods developed by our civilization. Science and engineering have taken us from caves to where we are now, and there is no reason to think that this process should stop here.
[10:00] Eschatoon Magic: you guys still with me?
[10:00] Prometheus Augenblik: Yes
[10:00] Rissa Maidstone: Yes!
[10:00] Eschatoon Magic: While religion has led to sad extremes, it has also fueled many worth initiatives and provided peace of mind and sense of wonder to countless believers. The key question if how to keep the good things of religion (sense of community, happiness, and a hopeful vision of our place and purpose in the universe) without the bad things (bigotry, fundamentalism, intolerance, holy wars, burning heretics and infidels).
[10:00] Ali Hermes: Reading with rapt facination. :)
[10:00] Eschatoon Magic: Here I think transhumanism, and especially its “cosmic” face aimed at achieving superhumanity and spreading to the stars and beyond, may provide a modern, energizing but tolerant alternative to religion rooted in the scientific worldview.
[10:01] Eschatoon Magic: It is through science and practical engineering, by rolling up our sleeves and tightening one screw at a time in the fabric of reality, that our descendants will achieve superhumanity and godhead. Religions could only address our aspiration to transcendence by resorting to a mystical worldview based on supernatural concepts. But the scientific and engineering approach, based on a materialist worldview with no place for supernatural entities, will ultimately turn many promises of religion into reality. Science and engineering are not the enemies of transcendence, but the very tools that will permit achieving it.
[10:01] Eschatoon Magic: I am assuming that everything under and beyond the stars is a physical object that must obey the laws of physics, however weird they may prove to be, and can in principle be reverse-engineered and improved upon once we have mastered the engineering applications of these laws.
[10:02] Eschatoon Magic: In the next few decades or couple of centuries, we will apply this principle to the human body and the human mind: we will reverse-engineer them, and build better ones. As Sir Arthur C. Clarke would say, “as soon as our machines will better than our bodies, it will be time to move. First our brains, and then our thoughts alone, we will transfer into shining new homes of metal and of plastic”.
[10:02] Eschatoon Magic: Sir Arthur wrote similar words (referred to the ETs who built the monolith on the Moon) in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Today, using the terminology of modern science fiction, we would probably say something like “computronium” instead of “metal and plastic”, but the concept is the same. We would also be kinder to poor HAL: in the same timeframe (a few decades to a couple of centuries) we will build artificial intelligences that will first equal, then outperform, and then partly merge with our human intelligences. As uploaded minds with indefinite lifespans, humans will spread to the stars.
[10:03] Eschatoon Magic: (I move to check if I am still on, lag is bad)
[10:03] Prometheus Augenblik: Yep
[10:03] Eschatoon Magic: IMPORTANT SENTENCE COMING
[10:03] Soren Ferlinghetti: you're coming through very clearly from up here.
[10:03] Eschatoon Magic: Note: I am using “will” to indicate a possibility and an intention, not a certainty of a future that might also not happen (it certainly will not happen, for example, if the human species destroys itself before - not a big deal from a cosmic point of view as the same dreams will be also pursued by other intelligences in the universe, but a very big deal from our point of view). I am using “will” to say that I hope this future will happen, that I think it will happen, that it should happen, that I intend to contribute to make it happen, and that you should also contribute to make it happen.
[10:04] Eschatoon Magic: ... please read previous sentence carefully before writing unkind things...
[10:04] Eschatoon Magic: ... you know who you are ;-)....
[10:05] Rissa Maidstone grins.
[10:05] Eschatoon Magic: no, not you!
[10:05] Rissa Maidstone laughs!
[10:05] Eschatoon Magic: We are attending this conference in the virtual reality world of Second Life, which must be seen as a first baby step in VR and is _very_ primitive compared to the VR worlds that we will see in only a few years. Video-realism, accurate simulated physics and high bandwidth neural interfacing technology will permit fully immersive VR worlds, with total sensorial stimulation indistinguishable from physical reality, in a few decades.
[10:05] Sophrosyne Stenvaag laughs
[10:05] Eschatoon Magic: Mind uploading technology may at some point permit us migrating to our VR worlds and living there as software beings. These synthetic will also contain very advanced, sentient artificial intelligences. The ability to create synthetic worlds populated by sentient beings will mark a very important milestone in our evolution as cosmic makers. Could we _be_ conscious beings in a synthetic world simulated in and by a higher order reality? This possibility has been proposed and discussed by Nick Bostrom and others. There is no way to even estimate its plausibility at the moment. The scientific method says: have an open mind, and let future theories and experiments decide.
[10:06] Starfox Howl cringes at the though of being in a box running windows 2030.
[10:06] Eschatoon Magic: The Society for Universal Immortalism is a progressive religion that holds rationality, reason, and the scientific method as central tenets of its faith. I am a member if the Society, and wish to thank the other members for many stimulating ideas and discussions. In particular, I am indebted to R. Michael Perry for the beautiful declaration in his book ”Forever for All”: "To that end, we dedicate ourselves to finding a way one day to bring back all persons who have ever lived, so they can join in our eternal adventure".
[10:06] Soren Ferlinghetti: it was moravec i say! :)
[10:06] Eschatoon Magic: BTW is Gred of others of the SfUI here?
[10:06] Eschatoon Magic: Greg
[10:07] Eschatoon Magic: aka Arcturus in SL
[10:07] Eschatoon Magic: back to universal immortalism
[10:07] Eschatoon Magic: This is a very strong idea, which may permit a full reconciliation between the scientific and religious worldviews. Universal immortalists do not propose any specific engineering approach to resurrection, but consider it as an objective that future technology may be able to achieve, someday, based on future scientific advances.
[10:07] Eschatoon Magic: I see Universal Immortalism as Transhumanism “plus something”. This “something” is the resurrection idea: finding a way one day to bring back all persons who have ever lived. Even if Universal Immortalism is scientific speculation (we hope to resurrect the dead using “future magic” based on science and engineering), the resurrection idea is very hard to swallow even for many transhumanists. But in my view, Universal Immortalism is perfectly compatible with transhumanism, and constitutes its logical endpoint. The engineering challenge will be huge of course, but so it was for the development of agriculture.
[10:07] Eschatoon Magic: Let's move on to the stars toward our cosmic destiny, and then we will see. President Kennedy said: “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too”. A few years later, watching the first men walking on the moon, it was easy to believe in humanity’s destiny in space.
[10:08] Eschatoon Magic: Too bad space “did not happen”. Today’s world is a complex, interconnected and difficult place on its way to becoming even more so. We need grand visions for all humanity, that can energize all persons on our little blue planet and provide the drive to move onward as a whole. Cosmic transhumanist visions will not lead to holy wars against infidels, but rather to a Holy War against the limitations of being humans 1.0: disease, mortality, stupidity, unhappiness, lack of empathy and understanding, and being confined on our little planet.
[10:08] Eschatoon Magic: Then, perhaps as uploaded minds with indefinite lifespans, humans will spread to the stars. What next? Borrowing again from Sir Arthur: "But the age of the Machine-entities will swiftly pass. In our ceaseless experimenting, we will learn to store knowledge in the structure of space itself, and to preserve our thoughts for eternity in frozen lattices of light. We will become creatures of radiation, free at last from the tyranny of matter".
[10:09] Eschatoon Magic: As William Sims Bainbridge noted in a 1981 article titled ”Religions for a Galactic Civilization”, we need a sense of transcendent purpose at both personal and societal levels to embark in the grand journey to the universe. In Bainbridge’s words: “We need a new spaceflight social movement capable of giving a sense of transcendent purpose to dominant sectors of the society. It also should be capable of holding the society in an expansionist phase for the longest possible time, without permitting divergence from its great plan. In short, we need a galactic religion, a Church of God Galactic…”.
[10:09] Eschatoon Magic: still with me you guys?
[10:09] Rose Springvale: yes!!
[10:09] Prometheus Augenblik: Yes sir!
[10:09] Rose Springvale: mind boggled, but with you :)
[10:09] Eschatoon Magic: Let me make an announcement now.
[10:09] Zoe Connolly: absolutely!
[10:10] Eschatoon Magic: DRAMATIC PAUSE...
[10:10] Eschatoon Magic: ANOTHER DRAMATIC PAUSE...
[10:10] Sophrosyne Stenvaag laughs and sits on the edge of her seat
[10:10] Eschatoon Magic: On behalf of its founding team, a few members of which are virtually attending this conference, I have the honor and the pleasure to announce the foundation of the Order of Cosmic Engineers, humanity's First "UNreligion of Science", and warmly invite you to join its cosmic quest.
[10:10] Zoe Connolly: woohoo!
[10:10] Starfox Howl: Stupid will always be with us.
[10:10] Rose Springvale: wow!
[10:10] Eschatoon Magic: Adopting an engineering approach and attitude, the Order aims to turn this universe into a "magical" realm in the sense of Clarke's Third Law: a realm where sufficiently advanced technology turns daily reality into what would be considered by most today as a seemingly supernatural 'magical' realm.
[10:11] Eschatoon Magic: We are, at the same time, a transhumanist association, a spiritual movement, a space advocacy group, a literary salon, a technology observatory, an idea factory, a virtual worlds development group, and a global community of persons willing to take an active role in building, in realizing a sunny future.
[10:11] Eschatoon Magic: We will discuss the future of humanity during World of Warcraft quests, plan the future of technology in Second Life, and build futuristic virtual worlds in our labs. But most importantly, we will assist you -yes, we do mean you- in finding meaning and hope in your existence in this, your reality, your universe.
[10:12] Eschatoon Magic: Whatever our formal training and professional affiliations, in a very profound sense we are all scientists and engineers. We develop technical skills and design principles that will enable us to create and explore new realities. Therefore, the Order will undertake various projects, selected because they are both revolutionary and feasible at the current cutting edgeof science and technology.
[10:12] Eschatoon Magic: The Order's website can be found at http://cosmeng.org/.
[10:12] Eschatoon Magic: Its first event will be hosted by the Science Guild in World of Warcraft on June 14 at noon EST.
[10:13] Eschatoon Magic: Yes WoW - we are multimetaversal
[10:13] Eschatoon Magic: Bill Bainbridge is a Great Great Master of Wow, he iis teaching us all the tricks
[10:13] Eschatoon Magic: however
[10:13] Eschatoon Magic: that was it
[10:13] Eschatoon Magic: thank you all VERY much for your attention
[10:13] Prometheus Augenblik: Excellent, thank you!
[10:14] Ali Hermes: *chuckles at the logo*
[10:14] Rose Springvale: wow, wonderful
[10:14] Eureka Dejavu: thank you!!
[10:14] Eschatoon Magic: back to moderator and I will be happy to answer questions here, by email or whatever
[10:14] Grayson Redstar applauds
[10:14] Ahman Hax: applaudes
[10:14] Zoe Connolly: thank you!
[10:14] Eschatoon Magic: but I see that moderator has dropped offline
[10:14] Ali Hermes: Trying to steal my personal insignia? :)
[10:14] Rose Springvale: Soph is crashing so if you wouldn't mind
[10:14] xEureka:
[10:14] Eschatoon Magic: does another chair come or I take questions myself?
[10:14] Rose Springvale: please line up behind the podium
[10:14] Rose Springvale: so we can keep order
[10:15] Rose Springvale: you take them Esch :)
[10:15] Eureka Dejavu: smart way to do it
[10:15] Eschatoon Magic: k
[10:15] Eschatoon Magic: OK who is first?
[10:15] Rose Springvale: just line up, and the first person can ask. when their question is answered, we'll move on
[10:15] xEureka:
[10:15] Eschatoon Magic: Robert
[10:15] Eschatoon Magic: then Bill
[10:15] Rose Springvale: see them in line Esch?
[10:16] Rose Springvale: soren
[10:16] Eschatoon Magic: yes I do
[10:16] Rose Springvale: oh
[10:16] Soren Ferlinghetti: that was a great talk. very interesting. i wonder if you are familiar with auguste comte and his religion of humanity, in which he essentially puts engineers into the position of priests
[10:16] Rose Springvale: you guys mixing names lol
[10:16] Eschatoon Magic: third is Grayson
[10:16] Soren Ferlinghetti: do you see a connection between his line of thought and your own more modern religious beliefs?
[10:16] Eschatoon Magic: I am moderately familiar with Comte indeed
[10:17] Eschatoon Magic: The same kind of sensibility and basic approach is shared yes, but of course we are children of our times as he was child of his times, so hypothesized "mechanics" differ a lot
[10:18] Eschatoon Magic: Bill
[10:18] You: How can people best contribute to achieving the goals of the Cosmic Engineers?
[10:18] Eschatoon Magic: Well bi signip up for premium membership, and also donating a lot of money ;-)
[10:18] Eschatoon Magic: Seriously
[10:19] You: For example, would we stage scientific research studies that others would be too unimaginative to try?
[10:19] Eschatoon Magic: This is all in the making - we will be organizing great things in SL, WoW, on the Web, and in brickspace
[10:19] There is no suitable surface to sit on, try another spot.
[10:19] Eschatoon Magic: But we will always been looking for new and fresh ideas
[10:20] Eschatoon Magic: si I do encourage people to contribute
[10:20] Eschatoon Magic: There is a long document that will be online immediately after the WoW event on June 14
[10:20] Eschatoon Magic: last question of Bill - For example, would we stage scientific research studies that others would be too unimaginative to try? - Definitely yes
[10:21] Eschatoon Magic: For example, with Ben Goertzel's advanced AI in VR worlds
[10:21] Eschatoon Magic: and your own personality reconstruction scheme
[10:21] Eschatoon Magic: implemented for example by the CybeRev project of Terasem
[10:21] Eschatoon Magic: BTW there will be an event on Terasem island in SL in July
[10:22] Eschatoon Magic: Grayson
[10:22] Grayson Redstar: thank you - I have a lot of organizational questions, which I'll save for email - but -
[10:22] Eschatoon Magic: giulio@gmail.com
[10:23] Grayson Redstar: when an organization defines itself, an important element is who and what is *excluded* -
[10:23] Eschatoon Magic: Bigots of all persuasions
[10:23] Grayson Redstar: who do you see as *not* fitting with the goals of the group? Avowedcly religious people, any particular philosophical persuasions?
[10:24] Eschatoon Magic: Intolerant fundamentalists of all kinds, not necessarily religious
[10:24] Ali Hermes: Those who would rather tear down than build up, I would imagine.
[10:24] Eschatoon Magic: Everyone willing to consider with an open mind the kind of things that we like to discuss and do is welcome
[10:24] Amandeep Timeless: No tolerance for the intolerant!
[10:24] Grayson Redstar: thank you
[10:24] Eschatoon Magic: James
[10:25] Rose Springvale: no, amandeep next :)
[10:25] Eschatoon Magic: oops
[10:25] Conover's Flight-Helper 6.3.3 (WEAR ME!): Flight-helper is ready and operational.
[10:25] Eschatoon Magic: Amandeep
[10:25] Amandeep Timeless: thanks
[10:25] Amandeep Timeless: do you see a borg planet or a retro-rural or some other direction? and 'fear of want', for food, shelter, safety, etc. compete with Wall Street, how do we truly assuage these fears after the words of the speech have been spoken?
[10:26] Eschatoon Magic: well, I think this issue is a very important one
[10:26] Eschatoon Magic: And when I "wear another hat" I use to think about it a lot
[10:27] Eschatoon Magic: But I see today's social fairness and tomorrow's cosmic engineering as two equally important but basically independent things
[10:27] Moz Barthelmess: (question?)
[10:27] Eschatoon Magic: that should both be addressed
[10:27] Eschatoon Magic: Does this answer your question Amandeep?
[10:28] Amandeep Timeless: not really
[10:28] Eschatoon Magic: Please go on then
[10:29] Eschatoon Magic: Amandeep?
[10:29] Sophrosyne Stenvaag: Giulio, thank you very much!