[ExI] Fwd: [Cosmic Engineers] Bill Bainbridge’s “Religion for a Galactic Civilization 2.0”

Giulio Prisco (2nd email) eschatoon at gmail.com
Fri Aug 21 08:27:32 UTC 2009

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Giulio Prisco <giulio at gmail.com>
Date: Fri, Aug 21, 2009 at 10:25 AM
Subject: [Cosmic Engineers] Bill Bainbridge’s “Religion for a Galactic
Civilization 2.0”
To: cosmeng at googlegroups.com, cosmic-engineers at googlegroups.com,
transumanisti at yahoogroups.com


Religions for a Galactic Civilization is an old (1981) article by
William Sims Bainbridge.

One of my first impressions after reading “Religions for a Galactic
Civilization” for the first time was that it is dated (well, it was
written 26 years ago). I wrote: “If Bill were to write the same
article today, he would probably mention NBIC technologies
(nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive
sciences) besides space travel and colonization. I hope he would give
less space to Scientology, and I am sure he would discuss the works of
transhumanist thinkers in great detail. I think the first sentence
quoted below could be written, today, as “We need a new transhumanist
social movement capable of giving a sense of transcendent purpose to
dominant sectors of the society””.

I asked Bill to write a revised and updated version of the paper, to
be published (translated into Italian) on the print journal Divenire
of the Italian Transhumanist Association and discussed at the
TransVision 2010 conference. A first draft of the revised and updated
version has just been posted to the IEET blog.

Religion for a Galactic Civilization 2.0 is one of those seminal
articles which some readers love, other readers hate, but all readers
find interesting and mind changing. I loved the strong statement at
the beginning of the article, “we 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.”.  As I hoped, the revised and
updated version of the article is informed by current science and
technology, and the work of transhumanist thinkers. Bainbrodge
understands that the current stagnation of spaceflight is, basically,
a motivational problem, and proposes a solution: “creation of a
galactic civilization may depend upon the emergence of a galactic
religion capable of motivating society for the centuries required to
accomplish that great project. This religion would be a very demanding
social movement, and will require extreme discipline from its members,
so for purposes of this essay I will call it The Cosmic Order.”. The
first version of the Religion for a Galactic Civilization text has
inspired the founders of the Order of Cosmic Engineers, and I look
forward to the impact of the second version on the evolution of this
organization. Let’s build the Cosmic Order!

Bill is not afraid to present grand Stapledonian cosmic visions of
galactic civilizations of godlike ex-humans roaming the universe as
immortal uploads. Galactic civilizations and mind uploading were also
discussed by Martine Rothblatt recently, in a great Second Life talk
where she said “the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 reminds us of the
imperative to move outwards—we must get religiously fanatic about
galactic colonization”, and discussed mind uploading in the context of
galactic colonization—the presence of uploaded minds in
self-replicating probes to colonize the galaxy—and invited the
audience to start a gradual, non destructive mind upload process by
building a mindfile via her CyBeRev project to upload to self
replicating spacecraft take part in the future cosmic adventures of
our species.

Bill’s favorite approach to mind uploading is very similar to
Martine’s: “Actual everlasting life will be possible in the near
future, using a combination of advanced technologies that have been
developed for other purposes (Moravec 1988; Kurzweil 1999; Bainbridge
2003, 2004, 2006a, 2006b, 2006c, 2006d, 2007a, 2007c). The process
will be complex, but in outline form it consists of four stages.
First, you will be recorded: all your memories, personality, skills,
physical characteristics and genetic inheritance. Second, this
information will be entered into a vast computerized data base, so
that future generations can draw upon your experiences and you can
continue to be part of this world after your death. Third, your data
will be transported by robot spacecraft or radio transmission to the
solar system of a distant star, where a new colony is to be
established. Fourth, you will be reconstituted from the recording and
begin a new life in a fresh, young body as a colonist of the new
world.”. I think this approach to uploading is basically correct, but
I also think it can only work in practice with neural BCI
(Brain-Computer Interfaces) order of magnitude faster than current
person-computer interfaces. However, such interfaces are being slowly
but steadily developed in research and commercial labs around the
world, and we may see some relevant advances soon. One of the first
application fields for fast BCI is the development of better user
interfaces for VR worlds, also discussed in depth in Bainbrodge’s

Summary: the article is excellent, refreshingly irreverent and unPC,
and important. Go read Bill’s article now!

One PS comment: it may seem that the wildly transhumanist, cosmic
approach of Bainbridge’s Religion for a Galactic Civilization 2.0 is
very different from the technoprogressive, down-to-earth approach of
Treder’s Meanwhile, People Are Dying, published on the IEET site a few
days ago. But I think the two approaches are compatible, complementary
and mutually reinforcing. Achieving Bill’s vision will require working
pragmatically in today’s world in order to make it better day-by-day,
while the prospect of Bill’s Galactic Civilization can provide us,
here and now, with the required energy, motivation and drive.

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Giulio Prisco
aka Eschatoon Magic

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