Monday, April 19, 2010

Cosmist Manifesto: Discussion on resurrection

Ben Goertzel has invited readers to comment his excellent Cosmist Manifesto. I look forward to seeing the text published as a book, and I will post many comments. There is an interesting discussion on technological resurrection going on in the comment thread of the post Ten Cosmist Convictions (Mostly By Giulio Prisco), please contribute. My first comment:

Many rationalists have knee-jerk reactions when the idea of technological resurrection of the dead is mentioned. Perhaps because they made a big effort to free themselves from religious superstition and are afraid of falling back into religion. But here we are talking about science and technology, not religion.

I consider the resurrection of the dead as a very remote possibility that may, or may not, be developed by future engineers.

May or may not, and how? We just don't know enough. Perhaps by quantum entanglement to the past as Ken suggests (it is known that other times are special cases of other MWI branches), or perhaps by other means. Perhaps those information patterns are dispersed that were our loved ones, as Samantha suggests, or perhaps the unfolding computation which is our reality is reversible up to a certain degree. Perhaps we will be able to acquire sufficient information from the past to "copy the dead from the past to the future", or perhaps not.

In passing note that, if our reality is a simulation running in a higher level of reality, there are conceptually simple resurrection mechanisms (the sysop can copy a pattern to another simulation). This is also a possibility that cannot be ruled out.

I prefer not to try formulating more precise speculations, and limiting myself to contemplating the idea that, perhaps, our universe may be compatible with resurrection of the dead, and our descendants may be able to achieve it. And as a student of science, I don't think resurrection is incompatible with our current knowledge of how the universe works.

All religions have developed the idea of resurrection, and it is simple to understand why: it is one of those ideas that help people getting through the night. It certainly helps me getting through the night, as I don't really expect to see engineered immortality (through biotechnology or mind uploading) in my lifetime.

And getting through the night is what really matters. As William James said, we should feel free to believe in unproven or even unprovable ideas, especially when this belief helps us finding meaning and achieving goals in our actual lives.

Please comment Ben's post Ten Cosmist Convictions (Mostly By Giulio Prisco), not this one.