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“The Praxis” - Transhumanism as Religion and the Conversion of Philosophy into Action

Posted: Mon, February 04, 2013 | By: Dirk Bruere



The Praxis is the name of a book authored by myself that was created as part of the Phi Division of Zero State and published in collaboration with Zero State Media as Project 011 .

The aim is to present aspects of Transhumanism in an explicitly religious and simplified context, then follow it up with the actual praxis itself i.e. the conversion of a philosophy into action. Since it has been reviewed by Giulio Prisco both here(IEET) and in his blog I will cover some of the features omitted by Giulio and only treat the remainder lightly.

Briefly, since I assume everyone reading this is familiar with the standard tropes of Transhumanism, I will simply say that explicit parallels are drawn between conventional religions, particularly Gnostic Christianity, and H+ features. Most notably these are…

*  The search for life extension technologies as a modern incarnation not only of the alchemical search for immortality but as the final attempt to eat from the Tree of Life as described in Genesis. 

*  The Abolitionist Program of David Pearce using genetic engineering and other techniques to abolish suffering throughout Nature as the apotheosis of Buddhism.

*  Uploading as the Transmigration of Souls

*  Artificial General Intelligence in the form of Artilects as a parallel to the Messiah myth and the creation of beings that would effectively be gods.

*  The Singularity as the Apocalypse.

*  Cryonics and data mining techniques for resurrecting the dead.

*  Because (I assume) we do not want the likes of Ted Bundy or Jack the Ripper resurrected, given godlike H+ powers and released into the world, we will have a Judgment Day.

*  Heaven as either a perfected PostHuman Earth or a far richer simulated environment for uploaded souls.

*  Becoming PostHuman entities - the heretical notion of actually becoming gods ourselves. 

*  And finally a core belief of the Gnostics, which was/is salvation through knowledge rather than faith.

These similarities set the scene for the major topic of the book – dying, and the resurrection of the dead in the multiverse. The definition of the multiverse that sums up all the possible types would appear to be that every possible state exists “somewhere”. This latter forms one of the key elements in that there are radical implications concerning personal identity if we do live in an infinite, or sufficiently large, multiverse. These implications bleed over very strongly into various H+ themes. [As a throwaway aside, it implies that our existence here and now is inevitable].

For example, one of the most plausible methods for reconstructing the dead of past ages, or at least us, is from records such as DNA, medical records, photos, writings, videos and so forth. The argument runs that if a simulation of (say) myself could be created such that in the simulation I am writing exactly these words at exactly this time it would be a fairly accurate reconstruction of the historical “me”, long dead. However, would that really be true? The counter argument is that it is only a copy, albeit possessing its own life and sentience and not the “real” me at all. I remain dead. To actually be me the copy has to have identical brain states with the original. Unfortunately some fairly crude back of envelope math suggests that the necessary information output from a person is insufficient by at least three orders of magnitude to select one unique state from a possible 10^10^16 states. 

Hence most of the data used in the reconstruction e.g. “what I had for breakfast on 1 January 1990” has to be a guess that, although possibly having an effect on defining my mental state, may not affect the words that I am typing now. Does it matter? When is a copy good enough to truly be “me”. The answers are unknown, but my own view is that if I am to be brought back from the dead there should be a subjective continuity of consciousness which an imperfect copy cannot possess. Otherwise, it is someone else – a nearly identical twin, but not the real me.

However, in the multiverse this may not matter because somewhere we can achieve perfection in the reconstruction.  This is where the multiverse can “rescue” the situation because part of the reconstruction process can randomly guess what should fill the information gaps. The result of making that random guess is a spread of possible versions of the deceased across the multiverse, including at least one that exactly matches the original. So, the entity doing the reconstruction gets a resurrected person that exactly matches all the data they have of the original – which is as accurate as they can get. On the other hand, somewhere in the multiverse a true and perfect copy is produced that has the requisite continuity of consciousness.

There are other implications…

If we take as an example the Quantum version of the multiverse, the popular conception of the Many Worlds Interpretation, we end up with a multiverse where all possible paths branch from every moment. This lead to bizarre situations such as Quantum Suicide and Quantum Immortality, and arise because from a subjective point of view all we can observe are the worlds in which we do not die, or rather the worlds in which there is a continuity of consciousness amongst all the paths that fan out from the present moment. Somewhere, somehow, we always survive. Exactly how it appears to us is another matter, especially if there seems to be no room for such a continuity to arise. With a gun to the head there is perhaps a one in a thousand chance of a misfire – instant life or death. But what of someone being executed by Guillotine during the French Revolution? The last thing they see is the world spinning as their head drops into the basket – get out of that one! What has to happen if they are to subjectively survive those last moments? 

The answer would seem to be that even if they started off in the “real” universe the most likely branch they find themselves in is one where they are now in a reconstruction simulation. I suppose another possible escape route would be if advanced extraterrestrials swooped down, scooped up their head and body and re-attached it using magical medical technology. I have to say, I think the probability of this is considerably less than them finding that they have migrated out of baseline reality.

A corollary of these scenarios would appear to be that as the probability of our continued survival drops as we get older, at some point the probability of being in a simulation increases to the point where it exceeds other probabilities. Which bring us to the Simulation Argument.

Typically, the pertinent questions concern who is running such simulations, how many of them there are, and why they exist. The answers I suggest are a PostHuman “us”, billions, and they exist in order to resurrect our dead families. They are necessary in the resurrection process because of a consequence of the Halting Problem, namely that it is in general impossible to jump to the output of a program, in this case a reconstructed personality, without executing the intermediate stages – the life of that person.

This in turn implies that if the above is true it is overwhelmingly likely that we are in just such a simulation. The period we live in is probably unique in being the most information rich in history to date, the one where people still die and also the one that immediately precedes the Singularity. That being so, there are people alive today who will still be alive in the PostHuman transition. However, it is likely that those people will have parents and grandparents who did not make it. Reviving family would, for me at least, be a very high priority. So too presumably for billions of others.

This naturally leads to what may be termed Judgment Day, so-called because some hard choices would have to be made. For example, do we really want Jack the Ripper and Ted Bundy revived and let loose as potential Gods? I think not. Those people would appear to be obvious cases for non-revival, but where is the line to be drawn? There are other options. The final personality could be substantially modified in order to “wash their sins away”, or at least their desire to sin. Or if some turning point in their past could be found then they could be set on the road not taken, and “reincarnated”.

The above assumes that these processes will take place in the lifetime of at least some of those now alive, but what happens if it is not possible to do this for a couple of centuries, or even millennia? While I would definitely try and bring back my parents, I do not have the same desire to bring back some medieval peasant only vaguely related to me. Who speaks for them? Intentions die, people die, corporations die, nations die – but religions can outlast them all. Even modest pseudo-religions such as Freemasonry are older than the USA.

Which brings us to the Praxis – the application of a philosophy, in this case the recasting of Transhumanism and it’s associated mythology of Singularity and Simulation Argument into an organized pseudo-religious form.

At the beginning of the book I listed the general idealized criteria which define a religion. These are:

1. It must provide a doctrine (in this case, The Praxis)

2. It must have canonical texts that expound upon that doctrine
 (the obvious documents are the various 

    Transhumanist declarations and books such as those by Kurzweil)

3. It must offer an ethical framework
 (very generally, be the kind of person that others would like to bring

    back into the world, unaltered)

4. It must offer an explanation of the world around us and the world within
 (this is a combination of

  science and the probability that we are in an ancestor reconstruction)

5.  It must offer hope and comfort in adversity
 (specifically, that if we are in a simulation the suffering

  we undergo now is a necessary part of a resurrection into a far better world. And that if we are not in 

  such a simulation, we will be in future. There is a better life after bodily death, and if there is not we

  can make it so)

6.  It must offer a mission in life beyond the mundane
. (the mission, simply stated, is to revive the dead

  of times past and eliminate all involuntary suffering in sentient creatures everywhere)

7. It must offer community, fellowship, mutual support and a better way to live
. (this is the core of the

  Praxis as an organization comparable to ones family. We will speak for the dead if nobody else will)

8. It must empower the individual
. (we do so by adopting one of the key features of Zero State – we look

  after our own)

9. It must offer a vision of a life beyond this one
. (which it obviously does, given the above)

10. It must offer transcendence
. (which it will, if we are successful in either the past or the future)

There then follows a suggested outline for an invitation only fellowship. That is, invitations should only be extended to actual friends and personal acquaintances – most definitely not “Facebook style” friends. If in doubt, a friend is somebody you would lend money to and expect to get it back (and vice versa)!

The members take a specific oath of initiation. One part of this is:

Also included are outlines for ceremonies of birth, initiation into a domain of the Praxis, marriage and death as well as suggestions for various sacraments and “holy days” as social occasions. The importance of ceremonies and rituals for group binding and transmitting a pure message cannot be over-emphasized. The specific details are beyond the scope of this article and comprise a significant fraction of the book. However, it’s hardly a secret! Something we do omit, that the major religions do not, are threats and coercion. All we ask is that we pledge to help each other and if we can use technology to accomplish our goals we do so. That we leave nobody behind, no matter how much time passes between now and when the Transhumanist vision comes to fruition. We will be the family that cares enough to revive you if your own does not.

I swear…That if it is in my power to do so… I will resurrect the willing dead… and allow them to progress to the destinations they sought or hoped for in life… Having done so… I will reveal the truth of their situation… and offer whatever resources are necessary and possible to complete their journey… in the light of the new reality… consistent with the well-being of other sentient creatures.

The first of the names to be remembered by The Praxis is Fred Chamberlain of the Terasem Movement.

Know then that the purpose of our fellowship is to seek eternal life and reunion with those who have passed before us. To seek knowledge and perfection of spirit and soul that we may become worthy to resurrect the willing dead and in turn be judged worthy to be resurrected into the worlds beyond. Such powers may lie in our past or in our future. Meanwhile we shall remember those who have passed and we shall speak for them as family so that come the Awakening none will be forgotten. We shall be the calm in the storm, the eye of the hurricane, the refuge in the night, the hope for tomorrow.




Comments:

“They are necessary in the resurrection process because of a consequence of the Halting Problem, namely that it is in general impossible to jump to the output of a program, in this case a reconstructed personality, without executing the intermediate stages – the life of that person.

This in turn implies that if the above is true it is overwhelmingly likely that we are in just such a simulation.”

That makes me think of the line of thought that, if some people claim past lives, (it seems we should bet very low on the potential reality of past lives at this time, but it could be true) and if we are reconstructions of past dead selves brought back by people like friends and family, then it seems they would have done all they could to try to help those resurrections tap into their old selves. Maybe past life regressions are inklings of it working. I doubt it, but its important that people like you bring this stuff up so more people think about stuff like this, no matter how unlikely it may seem to a person at the time. In fact it seems that people should ponder a healthy amount of the most far reaching things they can think of or have heard of. Thinking is the universal ring of skeleton keys to life, and as we understand, there are a ton of doors left to unlock that we know little to less than nothing about.

The praxis seems to take on think tanking and bonding and future resurrection, which is an important part of the puzzle. MILE works on seeing if we cant achieve world awareness of indefinite life extension soon so that the world awareness and thereby increase in support will expedite us toward the goal of indefinite life extension and give us the best shot of seeing it happen in our lifetimes that we can get.

“1. It must provide a doctrine (in this case, The Praxis)

2. It must have canonical texts that expound upon that doctrine
 (the obvious documents are the various Transhumanist declarations and books such as those by Kurzweil)”

The MILE guide fits those criteria. Those are the kinds of things it’s designed out of.

“3. It must offer an ethical framework
 (very generally, be the kind of person that others would like to bring back into the world, unaltered)”

This is part of what it was designed with in mind too. It is ethical and supports 11 key organizations at this time, some of them being the ethics organizations for the cause.

4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, it does all of these things. That is what this was designed for, but with a slightly different angle, a different “volume of the canon”. It has mission in the first lines. Its woven with hope. It empowers people throughout and particularly in the third section of the MILE Guide, the purpose of which is exactly that. Its beyond the mundane. Its about community. It positions itself and leaves the door purposefully open for potential worldwide union. Its ultimate goal is transcendence of people from meat time bombs with 80 year fuses, to cosmic revolutionaries. Its all about transcending so that we can have a shot at understanding as much of the big picture of existence as we want. 

“The importance of ceremonies and rituals for group binding and transmitting a pure message cannot be over-emphasized.”

I agree. Common symbolism binds. There are people that will scoff that and try to equate it with witches around cauldrons and things like that, but then put on the only necklace that they will wear, put their American flag out in its bracket and then go watch the fall leaves turning colors so they can reminisce, via that symbolism, about the winds of change. This is what words and logos are too it seems. Without them, the endeavors can tend to be much harder. Take a mute person for example. Without the symbolism of words it makes it much harder, obviously, to communicate.

By Eric Schulke on Feb 04, 2013 at 11:58am

Transhumanism or the Singularity are not in any way religious or religions. The idea that there is anything remotely religious about advanced technology is a logical fallacy. I have covered this issues many times before therefore I am incredibly weary of this kind of debate so I won’t do into great detail. I think religious people feel threatened by technology, it threatens their beliefs because technology will make all religions obsolete therefore there is a tendency to try to to hijack technology, to transform it into a religion, which is similar to the Intelligent Design take on evolution. A fallacy regarding logic is a type of legerdemain either intentionally or unintentionally, it is the assumption that similarity is identicalness, for example people can sneeze when they have influenza therefore I person could assume every time someone sneezes they have the flu but an person could have hay-fever or maybe they inhaled pepper or dust. Flu, pepper, and dust are three very different things despite sharing the commonality of being able to induce sneezing. Likewise medical technology creating immortality compared to religious immortality are two very different things despite sharing a commonality. If advanced medical technology is religious then pepper is influenza, do you see my point? Probably not. Maybe you can now see the logical fallacy regarding this statement: “The search for life extension technologies as a modern incarnation not only of the alchemical search for immortality but as the final attempt to eat from the Tree of Life as described in Genesis.”

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 04, 2013 at 12:40pm

Its a fallacy to assert that you know its a fallacy before youve even tried to discuss it a bit further. Im not even sure what you think is fallacious about it. Is it not a metaphor? I dont like religion either, but I think the parallels are something that a person can make if they want to. We understand the metaphors. Just because religion used things like symbolism and sermons (lectures) doesnt mean we cant use them too. If anything it seems we lend religion more power by reserving certain things for them when they need not be. Lets take all of those human tendencies back from the religious. They MIGHT have served some purpose 500+ years ago but they are just going to waste now.

It seems that the people who wrote Genesis probably understood what knowledge and that kind of thing would mean to a doctrine designed to keep people in line. Dirks line there that you quote says to me, “yes, people that wrote Genesis and those like you, we understand what you were trying to do, but times have changed and this metaphorical tree of life is going to be the transition we work to use to see if we cant evolve to the next level.”

By Eric Schulke on Feb 04, 2013 at 5:49pm

Excellent parody!  But surely you have something more important to do with your time.

By Kenneth Moffett on Feb 04, 2013 at 7:56pm

It is not a good metaphor Eric Schulke to write an essay with the title “...Transhumanism as Religion…” or maybe you think “Science as Witchcraft” is a good metaphor? Maybe we should redefine or describe “scientific papers” as “talismans” or “voodoo dolls?” Maybe the Internet is a “miracle” by God because it allows super-human near-instantaneous communication around the world?

I have discussed these issues at length elsewhere. I personally see a greater similarity with atheism instead of religion regarding Tranhumanism.

Giulio Prisco, the Mormon Transhumanist association, and others clearly have a religious agenda, they are trying to proselytise, it is not a mere metaphor, they are trying to limit diversity in the typical manner of religious people, they are trying to force religion onto the world. They recognise the threat of technology to their religions thus in my opinion they are trying to hijack technology via redefining it as religious, it is basically a modern form of Intelligent Design and we should condemn it if we value rationality.

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 05, 2013 at 3:00am

Kenneth, parts of your point make for good discussion and further deliberation on these topics, but a passive-aggressive, ad hominem response, is not an argument. Grow up.

SU, it seems like it’s a metaphor, and you take it in context of the whole essay. About 85% of the world is religious right now. We could use a good way to transition more of them to support this cause without tying it to supernaturalism, like the Mormon Transhumanists, as an example, do. The essay of this topic also seems like a great way to work to see if we can’t wean more people off of supernatural religion. If you are afraid it might trend into supernaturalism then monitor it and help work to prevent it from happening by helping people become more enlightened through constructive dialogue. “Constructive” is a key word there.

By Eric Schulke on Feb 05, 2013 at 12:56pm

the problem with creating a tranhumanistic religion based on the TECHNOLOGIES that we as human beings expect to see in our future is that you have a religion based on expected technologies which themselves are unpredictable and even if realized can come and go , or simply yield unexpected philospho-social results totally in opposition to any expectations a religion may have for it.

for example, alien worshipers finally are visited by aliens only to be totally surprised by the unexpected contact dashing the worshipers world view.

instead a relgion should be based in the highest form of technology currently in existance, that technology is mankind. science is the process which has given us , and will continue to give us, better understanding of our past and present selves. science has zero to say about the future, simply because that is the work of people who study the most complicated technology out there, the people who study people. the preists of the religion.

a religion that worships science, is worshiping a process revealing things about the past and present, in order to make predictions about the result going forward, though experimental and theoretical constructs that establish laws of physics and such.

worshiping the technology of the future is simply regressive and something man has done MANY times in the past 2 centuries since industrialization began. AND, there is evidence the romans and greeks had cult gods worshipped for the ‘future’ and for ‘tools/technologies’. A religion conceived on future technological worship is not actually a futurist oriented religion, it is one stuck in the same human patterns of the past. if we are too learn from out mistakes, it is through using sociological and anthropological examination of the how the social order itself has helped form and bud out religions of all sorts.

transhumanism, in its platonic ideal, should strive to go beyond humanism. If anything David Pearce and his approach to life and to examining our current pharmaco-industrial complex should be more a part devloping a new religion than say, immortalists, who as you acknowledged, are just recreating the age old myths that transect the myths and narratives of many different religions.

your treatment of transhumanism as religion is self acknowledgingly copying past patterns of man made creation of mythology of religions, which happens time and again, and is happening with many new religions all the time in a world of millions of gurus and billion human beings.

if you are to bring the futurist approach of transhumanism toi a religion, you start by thinking about what sociological , psychological , and economic functions have most if not all succesful mature religions provided, and equal treatment to the question of what are the most prevalent reasons upstart religions fail to get established( history of failed cults or pholosophisms)

only then can you ask about what is the future of religions in our evolving humanity space.

everythign above is so simplistic and borders on officially declaring the religion of transhumanism as a technological form of Catholicism mixed with eastern religion mixed with—-whatever. Why will this kind of cult succeed in the long term when there are so many non-technological religions just like it, offering the same thing as transhumanist cult/religion but without explicitly worshiping technology? It’s not like Jews and Christians already eschew technology. some of the great american technology/futurist creators identify with conventional religions.

you are setting up for failure if you ask me. but hey, what do i know. good luck and I’m happy to have read your thoughts above. thank you for them.

By zeev on Feb 05, 2013 at 7:19pm

Dear Eric Schulke,

On the issue of Gay marriage. This is why religions are bad, it is the reason why religion has no place within an intellectual movement such as Transhumanism where the focus is intelligence: “There’s definitely help for people out there who do have homosexual feelings. If they repent their sins, God will still love them. There’s ways of dealing with it.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/21335610

It doesn’t matter what percentage of people globally are religious, if something is not religious then it is not.

We should not deceptively try to con people into supporting something via false styling, a corruption of meaning, purely to appeal to their irrational world view. Or maybe you think we should start saying Transhumanism is anti-Semitic so that we can appeal to Nazis? Dishonesty and corruption of meanings should have no place whatsoever in an intellectual movement if the movement is truly about intelligence.

People are starting to realise religions are nonsense; we need to help not hinder this trend:

http://www.npr.org/2012/10/09/162591220/study-finds-americans-less-religious-than-ever

http://www.npr.org/2013/01/15/169342349/more-young-people-are-moving-away-from-religion-but-why

http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/11/are-you-less-religious-than-your-parents/

http://articles.cnn.com/2010-02-17/us/report.millennials.faith_1_millennials-young-adults-baby-boomers?_s=PM:US

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 06, 2013 at 12:30am

“religions are nonsense”

That is the stupidest thing ive heard in a while. P.s. Im a secular person.

By zeev on Feb 06, 2013 at 7:24am

So how do religions make sense dear zeev?

The only possible way to say religions make sense is via discovering a method in the madness. Yes there is a warped logic, which makes sense, behind all forms of madness, but this does not mean madness (religion) is sensible, thus religions are nonsense despite the inner logic. Religion only make sense for people who cannot find rational solutions to world problems, so it’s an irrational sense, for example regarding people who cannot solve the problem of death, people fear the concept of death, thus some people invent a fantasy, they invent heaven then base their lives on the fantasy. It is nonsense, if you are rational, to base your life on a fantasy. Irrationality is the province of weak minds, minds which quail when attempting to think about unsolvable problems. For example if a loved one is killed. A rational mind can accept there is no meaning for the death, it is merely bad luck or lack of technology, but weak minds unskilled in rational thought tend to think the death is part of God’s plan, you see irrational minds feel it is too painful to accept the truth thus they escape in a fantasy, the idea of being totally free (not watched over by God) in a dangerous world is is too awesome for primitive minds to cope with, there is too much responsibility, thus some minds, less sensible minds, need to believe in God.

So why is it “the stupidest thing” to say religions are nonsense?

By Singularity Utopia on Feb 07, 2013 at 1:34am

Dismissive lazy egotistical thinkers like you are so prevalent in the TM movement that its obvious the more manipulative thinkers are the reason a TM movement comprised of 80% of people like you exists. It is also why i dont consider myself a TM.

Youre a fool if you think im going to waste my time efucating you. Go read some history books. Look at the world of differing religions.  Visit churches. Visit gurus in movements. There is no such thing as ‘religion’ only human behavior. Start learning about human behavior and psychology and then come back to me foolish one.

By zeev on Feb 07, 2013 at 10:02am


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