Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Cosmic Visions of the Turing Church

UPDATE - The video of my talk is online on Vimeo. I also gave a similar talk at the Turing Church Online Workshop 1 on November 20, 2010.

Yesterday I gave a talk on The Cosmic Visions of the Turing Church at the Transhumanism and Spirituality Conference 2010. The conference explored the intersection of religion, science, spirituality and technology, from a transhumanist perspective. Transhumanism advocates the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities, and observes that if our rapid technological evolution continues to accelerate then humanity will become a new species before the end of the 21st century.

Abstract: Following the Turing-Church conjecture, minds can be uploaded from biological brains to other computational substrates. Mind uploading research may achieve practical results within decades. Given the technology, humans may live indefinitely, colonizing the universe, and resurrecting the dead by "copying them to the future". Perhaps they will create synthetic realities inhabited by sentient minds; perhaps we are in a synthetic reality. These considerations parallel the tenets of many religions. The Turing Church will be a meta-religion, without central doctrine, characterized by common interest in the promised land where science and religion meet, science becomes religion, and religion becomes science.

I guess the talk can be summarized in one sentence (Slide 4): "A memetically strong religion needs to offer resurrection besides immortality."

I talked remotely to the audience at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and to those who watched the live stream of the conference. I wish to thank the organizers for setting up the live stream, this should be done for all conferences. The live stream worked very well (perhaps the quality was a bit too high for those with slower Internet connections) and I was able to watch the talks and participate in the lively discussion via chat and Twitter.

The slides of my presentation are embedded below and available on Slideshare.

At the end of the presentation I showed the short movie CA Resurrection: "If we live in a simulation, the Mind can copy us to new simulation. This is illustrated by the short movie "CA Resurrection", which I made with a Game of Life program. The protagonist pattern is doomed to certain death by interaction with an environment that, except in very carefully controlled conditions, is very unfriendly to the stability of patterns (sounds familiar?), but is copied before death and restored to life in a friendlier environment."

The movie is embedded in the Slideshare show and also available on YouTube and


  1. I hope I wasn't too explicit. I think I said what was needed I say. James however gave a weary sigh :) That was funny :)

  2. Why, I am sure you would never do such a thing as being too explicit. Aren't you well known as a soft-spoken diplomat? ;-)

    To which comment are you referring? I dropped out before the end of the wrap-up panel and I did not save the text chat. Did you or anyone save the text chat?

  3. I asked a question to James 'should we engage irreconcilable fundamentalists in debate, or should we mock them'.

    'we' in parenthesis clearly here. He gave an answer where he'd do whatever it takes not to get shot by some lunatic one day. James is now starting to become increasingly worried about these matters. His eyes told stories of heartfelt concern. Max more added to that a comment about 'being unswervingly polite' which was at the very least poignant, since a second earlier he invoked the name of Lucifer as His cause. Max and myself have a few memes in common.

    It re-emphasizes what my natural role is here. It does not involve keeping my mouth shut, even if it becomes a bit tasteless. But I will increasingly become eloquent and subtle when I do.

    I'd insert a comment about 'appeasement' at this point.

  4. I tend to just ignore them. The problem is, as in james' answer, that they will ignore us less and less. As soon as they realize that they are the old thing and we are the new thing, expect fireworks.