Singularity, Transcension and All That

It appears likely to many knowledgeable people -- including me -- that advanced science and technology will soon allow our minds to expand far beyond the limitations of the human brain architecture that has historically supported them.

I won't take up space repeating the evidence for this assertion here: Kurzweil's The Singularity Is Near and Broderick's The Spike are good places to start if somehow you've found this Manifesto without first being familiar with the canon of modern futurism.

Cosmism would be an interesting and relevant philosophy even without this dawning technological Singularity/Transcension.

However, these probable impending events make Cosmism more appealing -- for the reason that the alternative philosophies more prevalent among the human race at the current time, are deeply incompatible with the changes are coming.

Cosmism provides a world-view and value-system that makes sense in the human world now, and will continue to make sense as the practical world advances, even as some of us leave our human bodies and brains behind and explore new ways of existing and interacting.

Quite possibly once we become advanced enough, Cosmism will appear to us roughly equally silly as all other "legacy human" philosophies. If so, then I doubt I will be shedding any tears for it at that stage! But quite possibly I will be happy that it proved adequate to help nurse us through the transition to our next phase of being. (Although, even if some continuous evolute of mine is around at that time, it's unclear whether it will still identify itself as being the same "self" or mind as Ben Goertzel circa 2010!)

If your main interest is in Cosmist views of future technologies may wish to skip toward the middle of the Manifesto where they're explicitly treated. But eventually you'll probably want to look back at the earlier parts which outline the philosophical foundation on which the later more tech-focused discussions are based.

Every one of the radical future technologies dawning has profound philosophical implications, going beyond what is explored in SF movies and all but the most profound SF books. Understanding these technologies and what they will do and what they will mean requires taking a deep look at the nature of the mind and the universe.

Just as the Internet is about people as much as it is about wires and bits and protocols, the new technologies dawning are about mind and reality as much as they are about AI algorithms, engineered gene sequences and nanodevices.

Understanding artificial intelligence -- and the sense in which it may be sentient -- requires us to look deeply into the nature of mind and awareness.

Understanding brain-computer interfacing requires us to deeply understand the mind and the self, and their relation to other minds and to physical reality.

Understanding the emerging global brain requires us to understand the nature of mind and society in a way that goes beyond the models we conventionally use, which are based on current biological brains and societies that will soon be dramatically augmented or transcended.

Understanding immortality and the issues associated with it requires an understanding of self and identity -- of what is a "self" that it might be immortal.

Exploring the various possible means to immortality -- including uploading and other forms of cyberimmortality -- requires an understanding of the relations between minds and bodies.

Understanding what advanced unified physics might mean requires deeply understanding the nature of physical reality, including subtle issues like the relation between reality and simulation.

Understanding what virtual realities or inexpensive molecular assemblers would mean for human or more advanced forms of life and mind, again requires a profound understanding of the interrelation of mind, reality and society.

Understanding what sorts of alien minds we might discover -- elsewhere in the physical universe, in other "dimensions" or potentially right here on Earth -- requires a deep understanding of mind, reality and their relationship.

Thinking about these possibilities from a purely technological perspective is inadequate and may perhaps be dangerously misleading. These possibilities must be considered very deeply from a perspective of pragmatic philosophy, if one is to have any real hope of understanding and approaching them in a useful way. That is one of the key things that Cosmism, as I interpret and pursue it here, attempts to do.

So, in the first N sections of this Manifesto I'm going to delve fairly deep into what will seem like abstract philosophical considerations. But it all will get pulled back into the practical by the end.


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