What Is Cosmism?

Cosmism: a practical philosophy focused on exploring, understanding and enjoying the cosmos, in its inner, outer and social aspects

Cosmism advocates
  • pursuing joy, growth and freedom for oneself and all beings
  • ongoingly, actively seeking to better understand the universe in its multiple aspects, from a variety of perspectives
  • taking nothing as axiomatic and accepting all ideas, beliefs and habits as open to revision based on thought, dialogue and experience

The word "Cosmism" has been used by others in the past in various ways, all of them related to and fairly harmonious with the sense in which I mean it here ... but in this Manifesto I'm largely ignoring the particulars of these prior uses.

My goal in this Manifesto is to clearly and simply articulate my own take on Cosmism -- that is: the particular flavor of Cosmism that I find most sympathetic.

I've said Cosmism is a practical philosophy. What I mean by a "practical philosophy" is, in essence, a world-view and value-system -- but one that, in addition to containing abstract understanding, provides concrete guidance to the issues we face in our lives.

Like any other world-view and/or value system, Cosmism is not something that can be scientifically or mathematically proven to be "correct"; it is something that an individual or group may adopt, or not. Obviously I think Cosmism worthy of adoption, or I wouldn't be writing a Manifesto about it.

Not only do I think Cosmism is a Good Thing in a general sense -- I think it will become increasingly relevant in the next years, decades and centuries as technology advances, as the "human world" we take for granted is replaced with a succession of radically different realities.

The currently standard world-views and value-systems will, I suggest, not only fail to survive this transition, but -- worse yet -- fail terribly as guides as we pass through it. Cosmism is far better suited to guide us as these changes unfold.

55 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this Ben. I agree with it wholeheartedly.

    I think you of all people Ben might understand then why, despite this idealistic and to me attractive manifesto, many otherwise kindred spirits might have a hard time becoming fans of it. The reason as I see it is the still remaining aesthetic/cognitive-style divide between most transhumanist/singularitarians and other "transhumanists" who are more artistic and spiritually inclined. By spiritual I don't mean religious, but those who understand the enormous potential of consciousness and have explored it's furtherst edges. I know many on in both camps, and these more sensitive and artistic types see rampant technological materialism as using up the remaining precious resources, most specifically the beatiful and fragile ecosystems that make our planet such a beutiful place. What then are the attractants technologically oriented transhumanists/singularitarians offer besides sterile VR uploaded "paradises" which continue to remain cold and sterile? The problem of course is those most poised to provide the technical know-how to advance these potentials are in large part Asperger's types, lacking in both social and artistic skills, unable to relate emotionally, sensitively, or appreciate the subtle aspects of human relationships, both with ourselves and with nature.

    I say these things, because I think you of all people can appreciate what I'm getting at, and might be able to help bridge this divide.

    Cheers,

    Paul Hughes
    http://www.astranaut.org/

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  2. Which philosophical outlook do you attribute to your manifesto: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmism_(Russian)
    or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_de_Garis
    or neither?

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  3. Dr. Goertzel,

    I can't wait to dig into this work and hopefully provide, if you'll for forgive my immodesty, some insightful feedback.

    You pretty much "ruined" my life with your youtube videos a couple years ago, and to day have yet to find another voice I value more on an expansive set of important issues.

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  4. Natasha: I find myself in great spiritual and conceptual sympathy with the Russian Cosmists, and I'd like to think they'd agree largely with my views if they were aware of modern technology and science.

    Hugo is a good personal friend and we tend to see eye-to-eye on most issues, but one thing we don't agree on is his prediction of a future world war between Cosmists and Terrans. He doesn't specify very closely what he means by Cosmism, but I imagine his intention is sympathetic with my views as presented here, though he may disagree on various details.

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  5. Paul Hughes: thanks, you inspired me to add new chapters on art, and the ecosystem and green-ness and such ;-)

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  6. Paul Hughes: but to more thoroughly and deeply reach out to the communities you mention, I'd have to spend more time discussing these ideas with those folks, so I could really fully grok their concerns and intuitions ... I mean, I sorta do, but I haven't been immersed in that sort of community for a goodly number of years now...

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  7. Paul, I'm sure you've considered that transhumanism and spirituality don't have to be mutually exclusive things right? Why can't we design a way to take what's great about humanity and extrapolate on those good things like our spirituality and wonderful highs and appreciation for the wonders of life today like food and socializing with good friends and just engineer better brains with the abilities to have even greater appreciations for the small and large things in life. I know this argument has been made by many in our communities but it seems overlooked by some people who just assume transhumanism to be a VR world of shades of greys with no color and humanity? I also agree that it seems the savants and autisitics of the world seem to be the ones best capable of doing the tough science work, at least often, but there are plenty of "neurotypicals" who are brilliant as well and often do amazing things.

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    1. Original Cosmists look to human dispersal from Earth to further human development- more time and Space (pardon the pun) to allow evolution and growth to lead to improvement of humankind.Even in the 19th century people like Konstantin Tsiolkovsky proposed space programmes ultimately as a route to achieving a greater humanity by freeing it from gravity, and also from Malthusian restrictions.
      Ironically, we are now on the verge of a Spacefaring revolution which can actualise the ideas of Cosmism in a practical sense- ie a Cosmic Diaspora is becoming feasible from engineering, biological, even an economic standpoint.
      We now know that if we want Humanity to survive as a Mindful species, let alone evolve and grow, cosmic diaspora in some form is essential. THe pressures of neo-Malthusianism and an increasingly anti-human desire by some to cut Humanity "back to size" by artificial famine or worse is so appalling, and so favoured by many, that Cosmic development is not only a positive option but a sine qua non if our descendants are not to be non-existent, or, more poignantly, envious of the dead.
      This move requires Space technology and Enterprise, so the distaste for "geekery" has to be overcome for the common good.
      The keys to a humane future ARE written in mathematics- namely, the "Rocket Equation"
      Delta V=9.8 x Isp x loge(Mi/Mo).
      Until the advent of some kind of new physics as yet nowhere in sight, we must make do with the Equation, or become extinct. Nature IS trying to tell us something after all.
      Nature abhors a fool even more than a vacuum, and only a fool keeps all his/her eggs in one basket. Events at Jupiter in July 1994 proved this beyond argument


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    2. Original Cosmists look to human dispersal from Earth to further human development- more time and Space (pardon the pun) to allow evolution and growth to lead to improvement of humankind.Even in the 19th century people like Konstantin Tsiolkovsky proposed space programmes ultimately as a route to achieving a greater humanity by freeing it from gravity, and also from Malthusian restrictions.
      Ironically, we are now on the verge of a Spacefaring revolution which can actualise the ideas of Cosmism in a practical sense- ie a Cosmic Diaspora is becoming feasible from engineering, biological, even an economic standpoint.
      We now know that if we want Humanity to survive as a Mindful species, let alone evolve and grow, cosmic diaspora in some form is essential. THe pressures of neo-Malthusianism and an increasingly anti-human desire by some to cut Humanity "back to size" by artificial famine or worse is so appalling, and so favoured by many, that Cosmic development is not only a positive option but a sine qua non if our descendants are not to be non-existent, or, more poignantly, envious of the dead.
      This move requires Space technology and Enterprise, so the distaste for "geekery" has to be overcome for the common good.
      The keys to a humane future ARE written in mathematics- namely, the "Rocket Equation"
      Delta V=9.8 x Isp x loge(Mi/Mo).
      Until the advent of some kind of new physics as yet nowhere in sight, we must make do with the Equation, or become extinct. Nature IS trying to tell us something after all.
      Nature abhors a fool even more than a vacuum, and only a fool keeps all his/her eggs in one basket. Events at Jupiter in July 1994 proved this beyond argument


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  8. Hey Ben,

    I love this idea! It adds a flavor to the transhumanist label that could work quite well. I have a feq questions though:
    - What do you mean by pursuing joy "for itself" seperate from the pursuit of growth or freedom for all? When I think of the pursuit of "joy" itself I think of taking x or y drug that would change the chemical state of my brain to experience unabashed "joy". Personally however I prefer to pursue things like growth and freedom, and then to derive my joy from the fulfilment of those other activities. This goes back to the question you hear in introductory philosophy classes about whether you'd prefer to live the life of a happy clam or an unhappy socrates: in which case I'd have to answer that living as socrates would probably make me happy as a clam, but pursuing the life of a clam would not also fulfil the pursuit of living the life of socrates. Anyway, I digress, but my point is the pursuit of joy in and of itself and the pursuit of other things which also bring about joy seem to be at odds... But this could just be me.
    - Your second premise seems to be a bit "open" for me. For example, someone following this philosophy might persuade others to learn about the universe from L'Ron Hubbard's perspective... However, once you start looking into it you quickly discover its devoid of empirical evidence or critical thought, if you continue to keep your mind "open" to it though you run the risk of starting to believe in or internalize some of its intellectually vacuous ideas. Perhaps when we're superintelligent superbeings in a post-singularity world we can design other sorts of safeguards against such information rewriting our memetic profile, but assuming we're not quite there yet - I prefer to not read through a library of works on Scientology, firstly because it wastes finite resources (my time, money), and also because I don't want to pollute my critical faculties. I guess my point here is even though you want to be open to examining all sorts of ideas, you might want to include a healthy dose of skepticism in the chapter on that clause, if only to avoid those potential problems.

    My two cents :)

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  9. I just realized that there are a few posts on the topic that you referenced that I haven't yet read, so if you've already addressed my concerns in one way or another, I apologize and declare "my bad" senor.

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  10. Just a quick word to say that I have been reading this manifesto for many days and I have not yet found a single statement that I disagree with. On the contrary, I enthusiastically agree with most of the content. I am going through a quite hectic phase, with an international move only days away, but I hope to contribute much more actively to the development of Ben's Cosmist Manifesto.

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  11. Ben, I wonder what you make of " Eventually we will be able to resurrect the dead by "copying them to the future"." (in point 6 of the mini-manifesto http://cosmistmanifesto.blogspot.com/2009/01/ten-cosmist-convictions-mostly-by.html ).

    Some Russian Cosmists, notably Fedorov, have developed this idea). Of course I consider this as a _very_ far possibility, but it is a beautiful idea to contemplate which can help us make peace with death. Even those who are signed up for cryonics and think they will be resurrected in the future consider the death of their loved ones as irreversible. Thinking that perhaps some future magic tech may retrieve them _in some sense_ can give a lot of happiness and peace.

    It would be great if you could write a section of this Manifesto on this topic.

    Some of my own writings on this:

    http://transumanar.com/index.php/site/ctrl_alt_r_another_life/

    http://transumanar.com/index.php/site/transhumanist_spirituality_again/

    http://transumanar.com/index.php/site/cosmic_transhumanism/

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  12. Hey man, just wanted to say that I am immensely enjoying reading this. I'm so happy for finally starting to find other minds who care about these issues as much or even more than I do. It also reassures me that I'm not going crazy and engaging in meaningless 'thought spinning', something most people I interact with in 'real life' seem to partially think about me :P

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  13. Nothing is axiomatic.

    Nothing be zeroth axiom.

    Not Nothing is the second axiom,
    or more simply Not is the second axiom.

    And so on, I'm sure you recall.
    :-)

    Have a tranquily pleasant happy satisfying free loving time

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  14. Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.............................................

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  15. ---Paul Hughes first comment--->
    “the still remaining aesthetic/cognitive-style divide between most transhumanist/singularitarians and other "transhumanists" who are more artistic and spiritually inclined….What then are the attractants technologically oriented transhumanists/singularitarians offer besides sterile VR uploaded "paradises" which continue to remain cold and sterile? The problem of course is those most poised to provide the technical know-how to advance these potentials are in large part Asperger's types, lacking in both social and artistic skills, unable to relate emotionally, sensitively, or appreciate the subtle aspects of human relationships, both with ourselves and with nature.

    ---Ed Porter---->
    I would concede that the average attendee at the two AGI conferences I have attended would not be a chick magnet (I am not referring to you, Ben) --- and living in relatively small town in New Hampshire, I don’t hang with that many transhumanists, so Paul’s point about the artistic/Asperger’s divide may be a stronger one than I realize --- but I don’t see this divide as that major of an issue going forward.

    As AGI technology becomes increasingly common --- if it is delivered to the people through a relatively efficient market, in a relatively democratic society --- it is likely to be adopted by the masses, including that part of the masses that are artistic, creative, and spiritual. Discussions of the types of issues raised in this manifesto will increasing be studied and dominated by the mainstream of intelligent society.

    In 1977 when I got my first personal computer, an IMSAI 8080 which I had to build as a kit --- and which came with absolutely no programming, only geeks had personal computers. Now my girlfriend --- who hates math and whose major interests in college were music and literature --- loves her 17 inch Mac notebook. She uses it to arrange music, photoshop pics, and write her never-ending novel, and send emails to her friends. At her job she is scheduled to learn how to create and edit content on web-sites and Wikis.

    Something very similar is likely to happen with AGI --- if it is not monopolized by various elites and if the world is not torn apart by violence. I think a much greater threat to the future of humanity after the advent of machine superintelligences is not the Asperger’s-like geeks --- but good old fashioned human selfishness, desire for power, and manipulation --- once it has the tools of machine superintelligence at its disposal.

    Furthermore, it is not clear that virtual worlds need be sterile --- not with the power future AGI’s will have to render sensory inputs that could convey “realities” with even more detailed, nuanced, and emotional meaning then present physical reality on earth can provide to current human brains. Many of those creating current virtual worlds are artists, such as those who have worked on Second Life, many video games, and the recent movie “Avatar”. Social networking has become a very hot technology, and would almost certainly be incorporated into any virtual world most humans would want to be uploaded into. Combined, these sources of vitality, the creativity of AGI’s themselves, and the advances in psychology that will come from advances in brain science and AGI, and it is likely future virtual world could be overwhelmingly vibrant and emotionally satisfying.

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  16. A response to Goertzel’s Cosmist Manifesto
    ====Part 1 ===============================

    The following is my overall response to Ben Goertzel’s “A Cosmist Manifesto” as it existed at as of April 12th, 2010, at http://cosmistmanifesto.blogspot.com/


    The core of Ben’s philosophy of Cosmism --- as I understand it --- is to emotionally embrace the radical change the singularity will bring, and to be optimistic that is will be for the good of what we as humans should care about --- for our own future happiness.

    Barring some extreme setback to humanity --- the radical change that will be created by the advent of machine superintelligence is unavoidable. Thus, it makes sense for humans to view the inevitable aspects of such change in the most emotionally pleasing possible light --- for our own emotional wellbeing.

    So there is very much to say in favor of Ben’s joyous embrace of the future.

    There is a long tradition of philosophies that emphasize optimism. Studies have shown that a healthy dose of optimism tends to improve the outcomes of individual who indulge in it. And it has long been understood that acceptance of the inevitable is an important part of wisdom.

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  17. A response to Goertzel’s Cosmist Manifesto
    === Part 2 ===============================


    But like Voltaire’s Candide, I believe that --- instead of just being optimistic and believing "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds" --- we must also cultivate our own garden --- otherwise the weeds and worms of reality will destroy it. Blind optimism alone is not enough. There are many harmful and destructive force within reality, including, those history has proven to be within human nature itself.

    It is not clear Ben’s Cosmist Manifesto denies the necessity to fight reality’s destructive forces --- but it certainly does not emphasize that need.

    I think a properly balanced Cosmic Manifesto would match its great hope in the cosmic and spiritual possibilities of the singularity, with a realistic understanding of its great potential dangers --- dangers I have discussed in may first post under http://fora.humanityplus.org/index.php?/topic/70-collective-intelligence-our-only-hope-for-surviving-the-singularity/, and in the last section, entitled “The Consequences,” of my first post under http://fora.humanityplus.org/index.php?/topic/31-human-level-artificial-intelligence-and-its-consequences-are-near/

    History is full of man’s cruelty to man. If summed, all the holocausts of the 20th century killed 150 million to 180 million people. If your spiritualism is anything other than selfish --- preventing killings at such a level should be of concern to you. And if we blow the transition to the future, the level of killing and horror could be much greater. A small group of selfish humans using the power of machines --- or the machines themselves --- could enslave or kill all of humanity. Biotechnology or nanotechnology gone astray could kill all of humanity in something much worse than the Black Death --- that is --- a complete extermination of all mankind, or even of all higher life forms.

    Is the possibility of such a disaster something to be blissfully and blindly joyous about?

    Yes, one could just say "whatever happens is for the good," so there is no reason to strive to change to the flow of history, even if such a change is necessary to avoid mass exterminations. By this standard, the world *should* have done nothing to avoid Hitler’s slaughtering of the Jews, or of the much larger number of non-Jews his forces killed. After all, if Hitler had killed all non-Germans on earth --- man, woman, and child --- and replaced them with an equal number of German Aryans --- there would have been no net loss of intelligence and no net loss of consciousness.

    Would the Cosmist Manifesto say that a repeat of such a mass killing would not be something to mightily and fiercely oppose --- alleging that it is only by a narrow, old fashioned, overly humanistic concept of “self” that the deaths of millions or billions of humans is in anyway a loss --- as long as those lives are replaced by machine consciousnesses of equal number and/or quality.

    So --- I would say --- the Cosmist Manifesto SHOULD NOT ONLY ask us to embrace the possibilities of the future, and to embrace to the abilities of machine intelligences to enlarge and expand our notions of what is valuable in a mind ---- BUT SHOULD ALSO ask us to be wide eyed, vigilant, and collectively intelligent about the dangers of the singularity --- so we can best avoid them --- and have the best chance of reaching the enlightened future the manifesto, itself, envisions.

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  18. Irrespective of "cosmism" which is well-articulated, the issue for me is why we believe that manifestos as nouns are what will do it for us -- excluding the possibility that this might require a verbal, dynamic form, such as "cosmising" to use the gerund?

    Whether noiun or verb afurther issue is the fundamental requirment of a process called "belief" -- without the possibility that some other kind of process would be more appropriate, if not essential.

    I have played with such matters in:

    Structure of Declarations
    Challenging Traditional Patterns
    http://www.laetusinpraesens.org/docs/conftran/xspdecl.php

    or, much more playfully:

    Credo Variations
    Cre-re, Cre-mi, Cre-fa, Cre-so, Cre-la, Cre-ti, Cre-do
    an Eightfold Way of Knowing
    http://www.laetusinpraesens.org/musings/credo.php

    Also of relevance, and much better argued, are views regarding assumptions of writing any manifesto on a flat surface rather than some other geometrical form, notably a torus:

    Michael Schiltz (Form and Medium: a mathematical reconstruction, Image [&] Narrative, 6, 2003)
    http://www.imageandnarrative.be/mediumtheory/michaelschiltz.htm

    Anthony Judge
    http://www.laetusinpraesens.org

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  19. 感謝你的分享 要繼續發表好文章喔.........................

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  20. You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person. ....................................................

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  21. 一個人的價值,應該看他貢獻了什麼,而不是他取得了什麼.................................................................

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  22. 一個人的價值,應該看他貢獻了什麼,而不是他取得了什麼............................................................

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  23. 當一個人內心能容納兩樣相互衝突的東西,這個人便開始變得有價值了。............................................................

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  24. 一個人的價值,應該看他貢獻了什麼,而不是他取得了什麼............................................................

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  25. http://newsfrombettypsychologicalinsights.blogspot.com/2014/08/letter-for-ben.html

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