How to make Cosmism appealing and popular


Cosmism, in its modern version formulated by Ben Goertzel in his wonderful book A Cosmist Manifesto, is my personal philosophy. Two very interesting recent discussions on the KurzweilAI Forums, “Why New Agers will never accept Terasem” and “Cosmism, Terasem etc. – what is the missing ingredient?,” have interesting thoughts on how to make it more appealing and popular.

First, why do I call myself a Cosmist? Some thoughts on terminology:

I have always considered Posthumanism as a PR suicide. What this word seems to suggest is that we want to replace humanity with something else that is not human (robots or something like that). Similarly, Transhumanism is a PR mistake because, though it does not explicitly suggest to replace humanity with robots, it does hint at moving beyond humanity into otherness. I am afraid most people don’t want to hear that.

Most people cherish their humanity and don’t want to become something else. But they have no objections against using technology to improve their lives. They use iPhones without thinking twice and without seeing them as “post-human augmentations,” and I am sure they will not object to having future iMind2Minds implanted in the brain when the time comes. Humans of the next generations will use brain implants for telepathic augmentation as consumer gadgets, like we use text messaging, and they will use over-the-counter chemical cognitive and mood enhancers like we use Modafinil. Morale: most people like to use advanced technology gadgets, but they want to see them as gadgets: keep it simple and don’t tell them that the gadgets will make them less than (or more than) humans.

Another frequently used label is Singularity, but it refers to a class of future scenarios that may, or may not, come true, and is incidental to (my interpretation of) our core ideas. The good old Extropy is, I always thought, a great label free of “old” meanings, but it is often associated with specific political positions that I mostly like (with caveats), but others like less. Terasem is also a great label without old baggage, but it mostly refers to a specific small organization.

In his wonderful book A Cosmist Manifesto, Ben Goertzel proposes a modern formulation of Cosmism, which is my personal philosophy and also my favorite label.

Russian Cosmism is described in George Carey‘s film “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” and in the recent book “The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers” by George M. Young. Ben’s Cosmist Manifesto gives Cosmism a new life and a new twist for the 21st century, as a practical philosophy for the posthuman era a new era.

The book is filled with mind-boggling future possibilities enabled by science and technology: extreme life extension aka immortality, human and super-human AI, brain-computer interfacing, mind uploading, synthetic realities, and intelligence spreading throughout the galaxies and beyond, perhaps into other dimensions… theories about resurrection, afterlife, building gods… the real visionary, wonderful, space opera futurism fondly remembered by those who participated in the Extropy mailing list in the 90s. But the book is also about consciousness, spirituality, meditation, positive thinking, mental health, achievement, relationships, sexuality, zen, joy and (why not?) religion. Ben’s book is a unique blend of science and spirituality, futurism and compassion, technology and art, practical life strategies and cosmic visions. See also the one-page introductory “”mini-manifesto” on “Ten Cosmist Convictions.”

I am a Cosmist, and I hope you are a Cosmist. How to make our ideas appealing and popular?

This is covered by two very interesting recent discussions on the KurzweilAI Forums, “Why New Agers will never accept Terasem” and “Cosmism, Terasem etc. – what is the missing ingredient?.”

The first post of the first discussion says that spiritually oriented New Agers will never accept Terasem’s cosmist philosophy, because they hate scientific ultra-rationalism and want to believe in human potential (meditation, psychic powers, telepathy, levitation, astral travel, healing, reincarnation, etc.) without the constrains imposed by current science.

But Ben discusses all these New Agey things positively and with an open mind, without dismissing them. He thinks, and so do I, that they may eventually be explained by science, but not necessarily today’s science. Instead of hardcore rationalism, I propose “soft rationality” as a middle way between dull ultra-rationalism and wishful thinking.

Many scientists believe that a new and open science, free of today’s politically correct ultra-rationalist straight-jacket, may be more useful to make sense of an infinitely complex reality. Studying quantum theory alongside Eastern mysticism and psychic mind-reading, discussing the latest developments while lounging in hot tubs, the hippies of the Fundamental Fysiks Group saved physics with an unconventional, speculative approach.Watch also this recent short talk by Rupert Sheldrake:

It appears that ultra-rationalist scientists don’t want to live in a mysterious universe, and mystical New Agers don’t want to live in a universe without mystery. These are emotional responses and aesthetic preferences, and there is not much to be done. However, Cosmism provides a third way: there is nothing that science cannot understand in-principle, but perhaps science will never understand everything.

Many mystics believe in supernatural phenomena beyond the reach of science. Many ultra-rationalists believe in a soon-to-be-found Theory of Everything to explain all that happens in the universe with a few elegant formulas. I think they are both wrong: nothing is beyond the reach of science, but Shakespeare’s “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” may remain true forever.

You can count up to any number, and there will still be infinite numbers beyond. Similarly, our scientific understanding of the universe may grow without bonds, but always find new fractal depths of unexplained phenomena, to be explored by future scientists. Richard Feynman said: “If it turns out there is a simple ultimate law that explains everything so be it. That would be very nice discovery. If it turns out it’s like an onion with millions of layers and we just sick and tired of looking at the layers then that’s the way it is!” And perhaps the onion with millions of layers is really an onion with an infinite number of layers, and we will always find new things to explore and understand.

I believe Cosmist soft rationality can appeal to a lot of people with different emotional makeups and aesthetic preferences, if presented in a way that the audience can understand and relate to emotionally.

In the first post of the second thread I asked the question: “The Why New Agers will never accept Terasem thread has very interesting observations, but no definitive answer to the question: How to make Cosmism, Terasem and similar transhumanist reformulations of spirituality much more appealing to many more people. So I thought to reformulate the question as: ‘What is the missing ingredient?’ To make it more focused, game-like and fun, I will ask to answer with one word per missing ingredient. Feel free to elaborate, but please use the format: ‘My answer: (one word) (explications, elaborations, qualifications, comments, …)’”

Some answers: Progress, SciTech, Clarity, Ritual, Community, Hope, Show-me, Rhythm, Atheism, Spirituality, Grease, Sensuality, Art, Charisma, Hedging, Showing (instead of telling), Marketing, Consciousness, Faith (in humanity), Research, Remote Viewing, Patience, Deception, Tact, Mystery, Substance (over hype), (reducing) Dissonance,… read more here.