If there is one “transhumanist”-inclined movement out there I really admire and appreciate it is Terasem. I had the pleasure of interacting with its founder shortly before and after my attendance at Transvision 2010. For those who don’t know, the founder of Terasem is the very successful Martine Rothblatt, who was at one time the most highly paid CEO of the Washington DC area. So its safe to conclude that Terasem is in large part a derivative entity of Martine’s ambitions and ideological packaging.
Martine has been exceedingly generous to me, when sponsoring my attendance to Transvision 2010, as well sponsoring the creation of a (simplified) replica O’Neil Habitat. This construction was done before and for Transvision 2010, and it was put on display at the actual event and thereafter transported to Florida, where it is still accessible at the main Terasem hub down at Satellite beach in Florida. The model construction project was conducted in large part by Simon Deering, and he was paid in full for the project. While I was visiting Milan in 2010 I had my own goal set, which made me interact in the most interesting manner with Aubrey de Grey, who I have since come to love and respect more and more. Simon Deering has since then passed away due to cancer. He was diagnosed shortly after doing the project for Terasem, and entered chemo in the middle of 2011.
Anyway – I can safely say that as a human being I have enjoyed great blessings as direct fall-out from my sponsorship of the Transvision 2010 event in Milan and I have come to be very grateful of Martine’s direct intervention to sponsor me. This makes me a subjective and positively inclined critic towards what Terasem is (or what it might be) so all who read this article should do so with some scrutiny as to the nature of my sympathies and motives.
Terasem itself is several things, depending on whom you talk to. I have talked to many people, none of which I will will mention here. Not everyone approves of me writing about the concept of Terasem, and while reading this article many may be gnashing their teeth at reading these words.
I started my involvement with Terasem in 2007 or so, as a project to build a sim in Second Life. At that time SL was still regarded by quite a few people as promising, and these days it is regarded as less than promising. Second Life is a very liberal medium, that attracts people that prefer a range of very persistent freedoms. Increasingly (between 2008-2012) SL has attracted people who have a penchant for taking sexually unorthodox and generally rebellious views, which makes SL by comparison feel “icky” from a political, corporate or consensual viewpoint. While in 2007 SL did not suffer from a public distaste backlash, but it sure does these days, and most importantly corporate (and other) interests have come to feel cautious when interacting with Second Life. In SL there are “perverts” and “trolls” and other assorted unpalatable folks, and as a result SL widely causes alienation with people (majorities) that prefer conventionality (or prefer not to be left embarrassed by association).
I confess to having an extremely freedom oriented demeanor and just “my” general appearance (I feel very intimate affinity with my SL avatar, to the point I insist my SL avatar is a mental prosthetic of my being) in SL offends some people. I confess to very persistent unorthodox sexual urges, and these urges have considerable impact over my life’s choices, and ever since I have come to explore the visualization medium of SL I have come to more internalize the value system espoused by SL in my own personal (real) life. I have as a result acted in a manner that clearly alienated some people in Terasem, even though I was (at the time) building for them. I do however invite you all reading this to visit SL, specifically the two sims I had a hand in constructing; namely Terasem and Marbina. The latter name is a contraction of the name Martine and Bina (who in turn is Martine’s spouse). The sims are a tad outdated by 2012 standards but they are still OK.
The worldly incarnation of Terasem is many things – a presence in Second Life. A manifestation of Martine Rothblatt’s deepest held beliefs. Nevertheless – In many ways Terasem is still a mystery to me. Terasem is a place for social gathering. Terasem is a large body of dependants and adherents. It is a registered church. It is a charity. It is a political entity. It is a freedom and (sexual/human) rights organization. It is a speculative futurist and techno-progressive organization with spiritual overtones. It is a tool for the benefit for its members and its founder. It is a place of considerable generosity (Fred and Linda Chamberlain were welcomes in its care and loving retirement a few years ago). It is a great number of extremely disjointled and incoherent web sites. And it may be a place to unwind for a great number of people.
Have a look at the jumble of interconnected yet inconsistently themed web sites that the Terasem tree has spouted over the years.
Special mention needs the spiritual side of Terasem (and the Yoga!). Terasem central mythos comprises an amazingly rich tapestry of very sincere and very well-considered statements on the future of humanity, transhumanity and posthumanity. These statements are distilled in “The Truths Of Terasem“. Despite these being sometimes a raging inconsistent mess, they are truly telling of deeper internal truths at the heart of their respective founders. Terasem reflects the visions in often grandisose statements on the destiny of humanity, which can be witnessed at the Terasem Podcasts. These podcasts would be for many people of an exceedingly arcane nature – unless you are well versed in science fiction, transhumanist folklore and futurology.
Let me Gossip. At the Martine Headquarters we find a colorful cavalcade of characters.
There is of course Martine, who I shall characterize as increasingly mysterious and elusive. Martine Rothblatt (and her wife Bina) has increasingly become a mystery to the people I talk to. Some insider information is that she is investing heavily in (survivalist?) real estate in New Hampshire. I would not call Martine the typical prepper – but I do now she seems to have stopped investing in charity projects around 2009 (or so I have been told) and at that same time I get the impression from hearsay she started investing heavily in what appears to be “personal survival” related articles in the real world. I have heard second-hand whisper of investments in various out-of-the-way real estates in Canada and Northerly United States. I have heard talk of snow cats and thick forests and underground structures beneath elaborate mansions that can only be reached after travelling hours by car, using very precise directions. I I were to extrapolate the essential parts from this is would be a personal conclusion that a few years ago Martine (who is an incorrigible optimist and cheerleader for optimist thinking) has concluded the world is in a rather dismally unstable state, and as such “the world” could collectively implode. I need to add that Martine (hearsay) donated heavily to the Obama campaign in 2008, and donated considerably less (or nothing) in the ongoing campaign. I have yet to affirm truth or falsehood about what Martine’s current objectives and expectations are. She is (still?) worth hundreds of millions of US dollars. Martine Rothblatt is richer than Mitt Romney. She is heavily invested in corporations (such as United Therapeutics) that at this time can only expand. Yet I understand that she also suffered quite some loss of book value in the 2008 crash.
An interesting note is the story of her daughter, Jenesis. Jenesis is a delightful creature I had the fortune to interact with in Second Life. She used to work at United Therapeutics in 2010 and I would characterize her as being unhappy at the time. She was treated with contempt by her colleagues there, which struck me as just mean. Jenesis may have been the reason Martine founded United Therapeutics (the story has been hyped by many media) and this is just an awesome statement of ambition and love. My personal observation is that this entire tale didn’t leave Jenesis always equally happy. She strikes me as a very sweet and delicate creature, and I find her very likeable. But I also understand that her life as “the boss’s daughter” must have been hard on her, exceedingly so considering the possible addition that Martine has been often absentee as a parent.
At the Terasem estates we find another restless soul named Gabriel. Many refer to Gabriel as the “pastor” of Terasem. He is the effective (de facto) community organizer of Terasem. Many describe him as a get up and go kind of entrepreneurial spirit that has done it all. He is happily married with kids (an assortment), but has had a checkered past with many experiments in life, having gained wisdom at some expense. Again, Gabriel was not always rewarded for his restless nature in life, and has seems to have had his own issues with a very ambitious and liberal thinking set of mothers. Yanno, “Parents”. 🙂
Terasem is a most interesting cultural phenomenon in one way. Terasem represents a sincere spiritual attempt to codify a largely materialist yet staunchly posthumanist body of thinking and philosophy. I am absolutely convinced the statements (truths) mentioned above will be quoted for centuries. The ideas espoused by Terasem strike me as having been influenced to a great extent by people such as Anders Sandberg, The Moores, Chardin and Tipler, as well as many other great thinkers. I can only state that these ideas strike me as extremely relevant and valid for my thinking.
Yet Terasem is also a religious denomination. Terasem has its own rite of passage that espouses a phenomenon known as ‘joinership’. In other words, Terasem is a religious advocacy entity that affirms membership, non-membership, truth and falsehood. This would be great, if only there was some level of consistency in the body of works such as Terasem. Sadly there is very little such consistency. There sure is a great amount of overlap, but frankly the cavalcade of websites and statements is very diffuse and has been labelled to me as consistent in its amateurishness. It strikes me the reason for this relative state of mess, is the way Terasem is organized. As it stands Terasem subsists largely on a (dwindling) body of donations. I know Martine still shovels money in to very sincere organizations such as the IEET, but she decreasingly sacrifices “tithes” on her own “church”. As a result the inner sanctum people of Terasem have been left on a dwindling diet of expense accounts, “or so I have been told” by a number of insider sources. A parallel crisis in the Terasem inner sanctums is that the founder duo, ‘Martine/Bina’ has become increasingly rare and sparse, being off ‘cavorting’ in exotic locations, or are left managing increasingly arcane corporate transactions. One could say Terasem is an organizational mess (where literally dozens of people have to wait weeks or months to receive email, phone or snail mail replies from management). Some describe this state of affairs as alternatingly “capricious” or “random” or “bizarre”, and there are some less flattering observational statements making the rounds. This raises the specter (or slander) that Terasem is little else than a contrived tax shelter being run by a bunch of overworked and largely leaderless lackeys. I have no way of ascertaining whether or not this is true or untrue but I would guess it isn’t. I can only observe the amazing competence Martine has shown in her many fields of endeavour is increasingly absent for her enlightenment she once radiated when she founded Terasem.
A wise counsellor once insisted I should not tangle with the horns of a genius multi-millionaire and “keep my damn mouth shut” (respectively “mind your own goddamn business, you viper”). Another wise councillor once described my “soldering transhumanism” as dangerous, since “transhumanism is still a frail bird at this stage”. I would not typify myself as so relevant that I might be classified as dangerous, so I am not that concerned about this article. I personally estimate only a few dozen people might read this account regarding my observations of Terasem so I would not credit myself as having even the slightest bit of impact, negative, constructive, amusing or otherwise. I do however care and feel concern, largely because I admire Terasem and its body of messages, and I feel Terasem is “on to something big”.
If only they got their act together.
* MacAfee (as a comparison)