Existential Hope

Generating common knowledge to catalyze cooperation towards beautiful futures.

From Existential Angst To Existential Hope

“Teetering here on the fulcrum of destiny stands our own bemused species. The future of the universe hinges on what we do next. If we take up the sacred fire, and stride forth into space as the torchbearers of Life, this universe will be aborning. Because of us, the barren dust dusts of a million billion worlds will coil up into the pulsing magic forms of animate matter. Slag will become soil, grass will sprout, and forests will spring up in once sterile places — a whole frozen universe will thaw and transmogrify, from howling desolation into a blossoming paradise. Dust into Life; the very alchemy of God.” Marshall Savage


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Summary

Transhumanism

Thus Spoke Zarathustra - Friedrich Nietzsche. On the human condition as a bridge to the Übermensch. “Man is a rope, tied between beast and Ubermensch–a rope over an abyss…What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be loved in man is that he is an overture and a going under…”

Transhumanist Values - Nick Bostrom. Overview of transhumanist values.

Core Value: Having the opportunity to explore the transhuman and posthuman realms

Basic Conditions: Global security, Technological progress, Wide access

Derivative Values

  • Nothing wrong about “tampering with nature”; the idea of hubris rejected
  • Individual choice in the use of enhancement technologies; morphological freedom
  • Peace, international cooperation, anti-proliferation of WMDs
  • Improving understanding (encouraging research and public debate; critical thinking; open-mindedness, scientific inquiry; open discussion of the future)
  • Getting smarter (individually; collectively; and develop machine intelligence)
  • Pragmatism; engineering- and entrepreneur-spirit; science
  • Diversity (species, races, religious creeds, sexual orientations, lifestyles, etc.)
  • Caring about the well-being of all sentience
  • Saving lives (life-extension, anti-aging research, and cryonics)

Transhumanist Declaration - by humanity+. In-depth outline of the transhumanist vision

Extropianism

The Principles of Extropy - Max More. Introduces concept of extropy and individual principles, for example:

  1. Boundless Expansion: Seeking more intelligence, wisdom, and effectiveness, an unlimited lifespan, and the removal of political, cultural, biological, and psychological limits to self-actualization and self-realization. Perpetually overcoming constraints on our progress and possibilities. Expanding into the universe and advancing without end.
  2. Self-Transformation: Affirming continual moral, intellectual, and physical self-improvement, through reason and critical thinking, personal responsibility, and experimentation. Seeking biological and neurological augmentation
  3. Dynamic Optimism: Fueling dynamic action with positive expectations. Adopting a rational, action-based optimism, shunning both blind faith and stagnant pessimism.
  4. Intelligent Technology: Applying science and technology creatively to transcend “natural” limits imposed by our biological heritage, culture, and environment.
  5. Spontaneous Order: Supporting decentralized, voluntaristic social coordination processes. Fostering tolerance, diversity, long-term thinking, personal responsibility, and individual liberty.

Cosmism

A Cosmist Manifesto - Ben Goertzel. Comprehensive piece on long-term futurism, its values, and how it differs from singularitarianism, and transhumanism.“ And so, without further ado, some Cosmist principles:

  1. Panpsychism: There is a meaningful sense in which everything that exists has a form of “awareness” ̶ or at least “proto-awareness”, as some would have it. In Peirce’s terms, “Matter is mind hide-bound with habit.”
  2. The Universal Mind: There is quite likely some meaningful sense in which the “universe as a whole” (an unclear concept!) has a form of awareness, though we humans likely cannot appreciate the nature of this awareness very thoroughly, any more than a bacterium can fully appreciate the nature of human awareness even as it resides in the human body
  3. Patternism: One often-useful way to model the universe is as a collection of patterns, wherein each entity that exists is recognized by some agent as a pattern in some other entity (or set of entities)
  4. Polyphonic reality: The notion of an “objective reality” is sometimes useful, but very often a more useful model of the universe is as a collection of overlapping, interpenetrating and intercreating subjective realities
  5. Tendency to Take Habits: The universe appears to possess the property that, when patterns exist, they tend to continue … much more than would be expected in a hypothetical random universe
  6. Compassion is a critical principle of the universe, and is fundamentally an aspect of the Tendency to Take Habits (it’s the spread of love and feeling from one mind to the next). Caring for other sentient beings (and if panpsychism is accepted, everything has a little bit of sentience!) is a critical aspect of evolving to the next levels beyond current human awareness and reality
  7. Feeling and displaying compassion is important to the inner health and balance of a mind, as well as to the health and balance of the portion of the universe that mind is embedded in
  8. Causation is not a fundamental aspect of the universe, but rather a tool used by minds to model portions of the universe
  9. Deliberative, reflective consciousness is the specific form of “universal awareness” that arises in certain complex systems capable of advanced cognition
  10. Goals are generally best understood, not as things that systems “have”, but as tools for modeling what systems do. So, what goals a mind explicitly adopts is one question, but what goals the person is actually implicitly pursuing is often a more interesting question.
  11. “Free will” is not “free” in the sense that people often consider it to be, yet there is a meaningful sense of agency and “natural autonomy” attached to entities in the universe, going beyond scientific distinctions of randomness versus determinism
  12. Science is a powerful but limited tool: it is based on finite sets of finite-precision observations, and hence cannot be expected to explain the whole universe, at least not without the help of auxiliary non-scientific assumptions.
  13. Mathematics is a powerful but limited tool: it helps explicate your assumptions but doesn’t tell you what these assumptions should be
  14. Language is a powerful but limited tool: by its nature, consisting of finite combinations of tokens drawn from a finite alphabet, it may not be powerful enough to convey everything that exists in the mind of the communicator
  15. The human “self” is a cognitive construct lacking the sort of fundamental reality that it habitually ascribes to itself
  16. Society and culture provide us with most of what makes up ourselves and our knowledge and our creativity ̶ but they also constrain us, often forcing a stultifying conformity. Ongoingly struggling with this dialectic is a critical aspect of the modern variant of the “self” construct.
  17. There is no ideal human society given the constraints and habits of human brains. But as technology develops further, along with it will come the means to avoid many of the “discontents” that have arisen with civilization
  18. Humans are more generally intelligent and more diversely and richly experience-capable than the animals from which they evolved; but it seems likely that we will create other sorts of minds whose intelligence and experience goes vastly beyond ours
  19. It seems likely that any real-world general intelligence is going to have some form of emotions. But human emotions are particularly primitive and difficult to control, compared to the emotions that future minds are likely to have. Gaining greater control over emotions is an important step in moving toward transhuman stages of evolution.
  20. It is not necessary to abandon family, sex, money, work, raspberry-flavored dark chocolate and all the other rewarding aspects of human life in order to move effectively toward transhumanity. However, it is desirable to engage in these things reflectively, carefully making a conscious as well as unconscious balance between one’s need to be human and one’s need to transcend humanity
  21. Various tools like meditation and psychedelic drugs may be helpful in transcending habitual thought patterns, bringing novel insights, and palliating problems connected with the limitations of constructs like self, will and reflective awareness. But they do not fully liberate the human mind from the restrictions imposed by human brain architecture. Future technologies may have the power to do so.
  22. Whether the “laws” and nature of the universe can ever be comprehensively understood is unknown. But it seems wildly improbable that we humans are now anywhere remotely near a complete understanding.
  23. Whether or not transhuman minds now exist in the universe, or have ever existed in the universe in the past, current evidence suggests it will be possible to create them ̶ in effect to build “gods”
  24. As well as building gods, it may be possible to become “gods.” But this raises deep questions regarding how much, or how fast, a human mind can evolve without losing its fundamental sense of humanity or its individual identity
  25. As we set about transforming ourselves and our world using advanced technology, many basic values are worth keeping in mind. Three of the more critical ones are Joy, Growth and Choice … interpreted not only as personal goals, but also as goals for other sentient beings and for the Cosmos.
  26. When confronted with difficult situations in which the right path is unclear, a powerful approach is to obsolete the dilemma: use a change in technology or perspective to redefine the reality within which the dilemma exists. This may lead to new and different dilemmas, which is a natural aspect of the universe’s growth process.
  27. Battles with the “enemies” of Cosmism are probably not the best path to achieve Cosmist goals. The universe is richly interconnected and “Us versus Them” is often more realistically considered as “We versus Us.” Struggles, including violent ones, are part of the natural order and can’t be avoided entirely … but there are often other ways, sometimes less obvious to the human mind; and part of the Cosmist quest is to find mutually beneficial ways of moving forward.

The Russian Cosmists - George Young. First English perspective on Russian cosmism

Modern Cosmism Foundation Youtube Channel - videos of talks at Modern Cosmism conference

More futurism


Action

  • Foresight Institute: A non-profit organization focused on selectively advancing technologies of fundamental importance for the future of life
  • Humanity +: Humanity+ is a 501(c)3 international nonprofit membership organization that advocates the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities. In other words, we want people to be better than well.
  • Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies: The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies is a nonprofit think tank which promotes ideas about how technological progress can increase freedom, happiness, and human flourishing in democratic societies.
  • KurzweilAI.net: Launched in 2000, Kurzweil Network explores the radical growth of pervasive technologies — both biological and machine — that are radically changing our world.
  • Extropian Institute: In late 2006, Extropy Institute closed but the website still contains resources on transhumanism, and extropianism.