Continuity of Consciousness

…all things Transhuman and Singularitarian…

Review—Future Superhuman by Elise Bohan

Elise Bohan doesn’t shy away from our most difficult challenges.

As a transhumanist myself, I agree wholeheartedly with the quote by Anders Sandberg on the book’s cover: “This is the book I want to give to friends who ask, ‘but what is transhumanism, really?”’

Future Superhuman will surely challenge you to think and rethink and confront many ideas previously taken for granted: our beloved “sacred cows—the untouchable, immutable constants of our reality, from ageing and death to childbirth and embodiment.”

Bohan urges us to “start thinking bigger than humanity, bigger than biology and bigger than this planet.” We need to upgrade our thinking and confront our situation in the 21st century: “Our brains are adapted for a Palaeolithic world. But they are not purpose-fit for a global civilisation of this scale.” “We are first and foremost animals who carry many vestigial inheritances in our design that no longer serve us well.” “That’s why the next step in our civilising process must be to change our animal programming by tweaking our biological natures and upgrading our bodies and minds.” To make these changes, “we’ll need help from minds that are less tribal, myopic and self-interested than our own. Our most crucial task in the 21st century is to invent them.”

According to Bohan, we are now living in a “make-or-break century.” Her prescription is to look beyond our “blind spots”—to places where we may be “most afraid to look.” This is where she feels “the most radiant forms of growth are kindled—in individuals, and the species.”

Perhaps most importantly, this book can serve as a catalyst to inspire deeper thinking about our tremendous challenges and foster more creative ways to nudge our apish dispositions away from tribalistic, fear-driven endarkenment and toward brighter paths. In effect, Bohan is simply exhorting us: Do better, dear humans, before it’s too late.

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Review: Meru, by S.B. Divya

A richly layered, evocative, and compelling world…

I received an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) from WorldCon.

Meru begins by laying out some explicit first principles called “The Axioms of Life” and “The Principles of Conscious Beings,” which serve to extend the ethical circle that encompasses what is considered to be alive/conscious and must be protected as much as possible. These ideas are fueled by the panpsychist view: “All matter possesses some level of consciousness.”

Whereas humans of the past visited ecological devastation on Earth and Mars—through terraforming—by viewing them as merely planets, collections of resources, to be exploited, the more nuanced and inclusive “Alloy” view recognizes various gradations of “beings,” “evolved beings,” “life-forms,” “constructed minds,” etc. There is also a view that planets “are nonliving conscious bodies.” 

Our “posthuman descendants called Alloys,” are genetically engineered, with significantly longer lifespans, including the ability to be renewed through rebirthing. Alloys can take on a wide variety of physical forms that may include wings, tails, chromatophores for communication, and more. There are also Constructs, which can be small or extremely large, depending on their function: some may be space vessels—with the ability to carry one, or a great many passengers—or entire factories, but they are still, fundamentally, conscious beings.

Alloys took it upon themselves to repair and restore the environment of Earth and restrict and control humans to limit their negative impact on the environment, including disallowing settlement of other planets. They view humanity as afflicted with AAD (Aspiration and Avarice Disorder). Alloys adhere to the aphorism: “Ambition and materialism lead to greed and exploitation.” Some humans push back by forming an association called, the Society of Humans with Ambitions. The story centers around a young woman, Jayanthi, who petitions to be allowed to live on another planet, Meru, to prove that humans can now live in harmony with their environment.

On the level of storytelling, Meru has it all. Alliances, bonds, and bigotries are constantly being formed, broken, and reshaped as characters attain more knowledge and experience, leading to quite a bit of growth and evolution in each main character’s arc. In the second and third acts, it’s plot-twists galore, keeping those pages a-turnin’, as opposing forces employ ever cleverer—so they think— ‘strategeries’ to try to outsmart their adversaries. You will likely confront some new ideas and worldviews that will cause you to think, rethink, and think some more. And there is certainly no shortage of emotional tugs to your heartstrings as well.

S.B. Divya has created a richly layered, evocative, and compelling world to dive into, and you will surely be the better for it. Enjoy!

Futurist Giulio Prisco has done a nice review & interview for my book “At Any Cost,” a 400-page guidebook to @Zoltan_Istvan’s seminal novel “The Transhumanist Wager.”

https://turingchurch.net/a-great-companion-to-a-great-novel-chris-armstrong-and-zoltan-istvan-a760b02d5c94

A book shipment has arrived, and I will be sending out copies to my pre-publication readers.

My book is available on Amazon in paperback and eBook. Here’s the link: https://amzn.to/3cchOom

Woohoo!!! My book is released on Amazon today: 1/26/21

At Any Cost: A Guide to The Transhumanist Wager and the Ideas of Zoltan Istvan by Chris T. Armstrong is a guide and analysis of the philosophy, characters, and plot, of the controversial philosophical novel, The Transhumanist Wager by Zoltan Istvan.

The eBook will be free on Amazon for 3 days 1/26/2021 through 1/28/2021. Amazon free eBook link: https://amzn.to/3cchOom  

Website: http://transhumanistwagerguide.com/

#transhumanism #zoltanistvan #transhumanistwager #futurism

The Transhumanist Wager is the controversial philosophical novel published by Zoltan Istvan in 2013. It was A Top 5 Amazon book; #1 Bestseller Science Fiction and Fantasy; #1 Bestseller Philosophy; and Winner Visionary Fiction – International Book Awards. It “tells the story of transhumanist Jethro Knights and his unwavering quest for immortality via science and technology.” In this guide, we will explore all aspects of its philosophy, characters, and plot, featuring insights from Zoltan himself, including:

* In-depth character profiles

* Transhumanist philosophical foundations: real-world and fictional

* Pitfalls of misinterpretation to avoid

* Timeline information

* Transhumania’s advanced technology and what made it possible

* Detailed analysis of Jethro’s speeches and dialogs with “questions to ponder” at the end of each section

* Jethro’s pre-war strategy

* Drivers of the post-war economic and technological boom

* Nietzschean connections

* Philosophical, thematic, and stylistic kinship with Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead

* Transhumanist libertarian vs. techno-progressive perspectives

* Parallels with real-world proto-transhumanist, FM-2030

* Materialistic vs. Spiritual Transhumanism

* and more…

My review of, Space Is Open for Business: The Industry That Can Transform Humanity by Robert C. Jacobson

A great resource on the history and future possibilities of space exploration…

Space is Open for Business has an impressive list of advisors and contributors who, along with Jacobson himself, bring to life the inspirational and practical power of space exploration, not only for the sci-tech breakthroughs it provides but for the power of off-world resources to positively affect our current struggles with certain earthly resource-scarcity issues and the future reduction of the environmental impact of relying on one planetary source for all our resource needs.

Humans becoming truly extra-terrestrial explorers will be one of our greatest upgrades in the direction of, what Neuroscientist David Eagleman calls, “possibilianism,” which “emphasizes the exploration of new, unconsidered possibilities.” And to that end, Space is Open for Business is a compendium of possibilities, along with solid plans for transforming possibilities into realities.

Tales of the Turing Church: Hacking religion, enlightening science, awakening technology – Second Edition – By Giulio Prisco

An illuminating exploration of the varieties of spiritual transhumanism…

I am not a believer in any of the gods I’ve heard about so far, nor do I feel compelled to fashion my own god-concept that aligns with my values, temperament, and preferences, however, Prisco’s particular vision of a science-compatible religion is, to my surprise, not unappealing to this grumpy old atheist. Given my lifetime love affair with the sciences and mathematics, if I ever feel the need to embrace anything like a religion, Prisco’s “Turing Church” model would be the top contender.

As he explains: “Today, we know too much science to believe in traditional, revealed religions not based on (or in direct conflict with) science. Therefore, if we want to keep the benefits of religion, we must find ways to make it compatible with science. Reviving religion, in new formulations that don’t ask believers to give up science or other desirable aspects of modern thinking, is the main focus of my work.”

It is as though Prisco has adopted Bruce Lee’s method for creating his own approach to martial arts and applied it to creating his own highly personalized approach to religion.

“Research your own experience. Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own.”—Bruce Lee

Prisco rejects the meddlesome, proscriptive, and punitive Abrahamic god(s), in favor of a humanistic, deistic concept: “My God is not interested in the petty details of our daily life, as long as we act with love and compassion. My God has no interest in what you do with your genitals, or with whom, as long as you act with compassion and love. My God has no interest in what and when I eat, or drink, or smoke, or inhale, as long as I act with love and compassion. My God has no preference for one or another nation, religion, ethnic group, gender, or sport team. My God is far, Far, FAR above these things.”

What we find, in this expansive book, is a proposal for a form of religion that is “totally compatible with science,” and which provides a way to view the “supernatural” in ways no conventionally religious person would be likely to do. Prisco explains his idiosyncratic approach: “While I call myself a believer, my interpretation of religion is also unconventional, and inspired by transhumanism and science (and science fiction of course).” Elsewhere, Prisco has described transhumanism as an “unreligion because it offers many of the benefits of religion without its drawbacks.”

Because of Prisco’s background in theoretical physics, he is able to entertain vast extrapolations of today’s scientific understandings into a future of revolutionary breakthroughs revealing foundations of reality that are not merely “stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine.” Prisco presents a speculative science-based vision featuring some of the most appealing “benefits of religion,” such as immortality and enlightenment, in the form of “quantum resurrection” and eventually becoming “God-like entities ourselves.” The far-future advances that will enable these “transhuman” upgrades will require a rarefied level of science and technological enlightenment that “will permit playing with the building blocks of space, time, matter, energy, and life, in ways that we could only call magic and supernatural today.”

Prisco has been criticized for embracing the “virtue” of wishful-thinking. How does he plead to this charge? “YES! Guilty as charged, and here’s to wishful thinking! Everything that is worthy and good starts with wishful thinking. Of course, wishful thinking doesn’t come true unless it’s followed by more rigorous thinking and hard work, but wishful thinking is always the first step. I think one of the problems of today’s Western culture is that there is not enough wishful thinking.”

My advice is to delve into this book only if you want to expand your mind in new directions. In the spirit of the scarecrow, of Wizard of Oz fame, “think of things you never thunk before, and then sit…and think some more.” As a bonus for transhumanists: Prisco’s decades-long involvement with transhumanism means you’ll get some insight into the early players and diverse ideas that have made this movement what it is today. And what exactly is it today? We’ll leave that question for another day…

Immortality or Bust by Daniel Sollinger

Immortality or bust.jpg

A thoroughly engaging film…

…about transhumanist presidential candidate, Zoltan Istvan, who drives his Immortality Bus, designed to look like a coffin, across the country to deliver his Transhumanist Bill of Rights to Washington D. C. Istvan contends that transhumanists tend not to understand how to use the media to get their message out. Something provocative, like this bus, is what will attract the attention of major media “and that attention spreads transhumanism.”

As a transhumanist, Istvan is aiming to defeat aging and death. As a presidential candidate, this has led to the development of the Transhumanist Party, which is dedicated to “putting science, health, and technology at the forefront of United States politics.”

We follow his adventure across the country, meeting a fascinating and colorful cast of characters along the way, in the form of futurists, transhumanists, techno-progressives, and biohackers, which is an underground movement that engages in DIY, experimental forms of body modification: implanting chips, magnets, and biothermal tags into their bodies, giving them enhanced interaction with their environment and technology.

We meet…

The venerable, one-hundred-year-old, futurist and social engineer, Jacques Fresco, who has put his energies from a very young age toward “applying the methods of science to the way we live—to the social system” with priority placed on “the wellbeing of people and the protection of the environment.”

Hip-hop artist, Maitreya One, promoting the strong kinship between hip-hop and transhumanism, and more than that—they are one and the same, in his estimation.

We visit…

One of the leading Cryonics facilities in the world, Alcor Life Extension Foundation, in Scottsdale Arizona.

The transhumanist Church of Perpetual Life, which seeks to “bypass nature and accelerate technology” to bring on the possibility of perpetual life and perpetual abundance. To enable “human beings to escape the confines of nature.”

The Terasem Movement Foundation where people upload their mindfiles and biofiles “for future revitalization.”

We learn about…

The convergence of gene therapies with artificial intelligence that will eventually lead to the advent of an “artificial scientist” with access to all aging research in a massive database, and with the ability to reason and make scientific discoveries, “creating new knowledge.”

Robotic hearts to permanently replace failing hearts.

A future of artificial wombs and their potential freeing aspects for women as well as concerns about the impact on future generations of the yet unborn.

Yes, this is a story of people intensely involved with technology, but it is also a story with a heart and that proverbial, “human element,” as well.

As a man striving for extended longevity—even physical immortality—there is a touching irony in Istvan’s heartfelt talks, about a life well-lived and the meaning of his impending death, with his father who is struggling with life-threatening heart failure. We get some perspective from his wife and mother and see his two young daughters have a burial ceremony for the family cat who has died.

This film makes it clear, for anyone familiar with the transhumanist movement, that Zoltan is unique among transhumanists. I can’t think of any other person who is so outspoken and constantly advocating for transhumanism, IN PERSON, not merely arguing and theorizing about it online or in obscure academic settings, mostly among the already converted. Zoltan is actually interrupting his life and traveling worldwide to promote transhumanism. His passion, energy, and tenacity are the stars of this story as much as are the grand ideas and the other fine advocates for them we meet along this journey.

Transapient by Andy Brown—An inspiring story of humans directing their own evolution…spanning more than 2 billion years…

Transapient cover.jpg

As a transhumanist, with a longtime interest in the mind-uploading hypothesis, I was keen to read this book, which plunges right into the many counterintuitive issues surrounding the idea of copying the form and function of one’s brain to a non-biological substrate in a non-biological body. However, you don’t need to be a transhumanist to enjoy Transapient. All you need is a desire to immerse yourself in a new and creatively expansive world in which human biological limitations are transcended, enabling adventures to other worlds unbounded by the usual human time constraints.

The author, Andy Brown, a retired research engineer, does well in presenting the issues of identity that will naturally arise when (if) we are able to create multiple “exact” copies of our minds/consciousnesses, as well as the extended capabilities—mental and physical—that will follow; lifespans of indefinite length due to greatly enhanced physical durability and the ability to backup one’s consciousness; all culminating in a new kind of hyper-intelligent being, which will be quintessentially suited to contend with the dangers and vast timespans inherent in galaxy-wide space exploration.

Brown also addresses the fear and distrust of these new beings, called Transapients, by some humans and their acceptance by others. The first transapient comes into being after a schoolteacher dies of a heart attack, but just before death, his brain is scanned and saved as a “molecular brain state matrix” (more details about this process are provided in the book). This “matrix” is installed into his new “transapient body” and the story follows his gradual integration into society along with subsequent transapients who are created as the story develops and become a kind of close-knit family and eventually a larger society. Andy Brown has mentioned that he has done some work on a sequel “that expands on the space colonisation possibilities that Transapients could provide (human embryos and transapient parents transported in digital format)” but it is on hold for now, as he is “just about to publish a book on Prime numbers – not sci-fi, but about pure mathematics.” I will be interested to read this next manifestation of his capaciously creative mind, as well.

If you’d like a story, for once, of a future that is not the typical dystopian “cautionary tale,” but is, instead, an inspiring story of a positive way forward for humans, this is your book. In it, a few brilliant humans create a new kind of existence and become, essentially, their own self-designed descendant-beings: the ultimate tale of “intelligent design.”  It’s not about a sad ending of human beings, but, rather, the next stage of being, as transapients. Follow their (our) grand adventures, in the spirit of Buzz Lightyear: “to infinity and beyond!”

2030—A wonderful new film about an iconoclastic visionary.

#fm2030 #2030thefilm #areyouready http://2030thefilm.com #transhumanism @iamFM2030

Having followed the writings and interviews of transhumanist and futurist, FM-2030, for several years, I was naturally excited to hear of a new biopic or documentary coming out about his life and ideas. Upon finally experiencing the film, I am so pleasantly surprised and intrigued to find that it wasn’t just a dry rendition of the chronology and facts of his life, as so many of these kinds of films are, but rather, it was a multilayered interweaving of fact and speculative-fiction, in a film-within-a-film style. As the director, Johnny Boston, has explained: The film is “not quite a biopic or an homage or even a traditional documentary, ‘2030’ is an engaging docu-drama with thriller and sci-fi flourishes that seeks to answer the deeply philosophical question…‘What will it mean to be human when technology has finally given us a world where no one dies?’”

Even though I know a good amount of facts about FM, I still found this blurring and intermingling of fact and dramatization to be a pleasingly disorienting artistic choice. It heightened my engagement with the flow of these two related, but disparate, narrative streams. It was as though FM’s abstract philosophical musings began to take shape in a more concrete, albeit fictionalized, form as we saw people reacting to, and within, this unusual alternate-universe of ideas that sprang from the decidedly non-neurotypical mind of FM-2030. 

FM’s radical and revolutionary ideas and the fact that, upon his death, he was placed in cryonic suspension, are juxtaposed with a fictionalized account of a months-long countdown to his reanimation—a unique and momentous scientific achievement. We see a small circle of people who know it is about to happen and all their anxieties, power-plays, and conflicts of interest. They, along with proponents and critics of these types of sci-fi sounding ideas, speculate about how the world may react to such an unprecedented paradigm-shift in how death will be viewed in the new world, post-FM-2030’s reanimation. Let’s just say, they definitely are concerned about how well it will be received.

There was a good balance between FM’s optimistic vision of future technologies that will enable humans to transcend their biological limitations and the positive impact he believed this will have on individuals and society, versus the often derisive and dismissive statements by critics who don’t share FM’s optimism (to put it mildly) regarding how positively we will move into a world of abundance, cooperation, and indefinite lifespans. Near the end of the film, there are audio collages of a kind of point-counterpoint between FM’s hyper-optimistic statements and the dire pessimisms voiced by his critics.

We also hear from people who knew and loved FM. They recount his charms, his quirks, and how strongly he is still felt in their hearts. Since his passing was not considered to be a death, but more like a pause…to be continued…there was no funeral, nor the other things that would typically attend a process of “getting over” the fact that he will never be seen again. They may have thought they would still be around long enough to see him when he was brought back to rejoin the world of the living and they could continue their relationships. FM made a great impact on them and on those who knew him only through his ideas of hopefulness for an ongoing future.

FM-2030’s animating concepts, which drove his life’s work were: Optimism, Abundance, and Immortality. He was an idealist whose dream was to see humanity “dissolve barriers” and rise to something greater than we have achieved through our glacially slow and undirected process of evolution. He declared that we ought not to put up with being “shoved around by the forces of nature.” His vision was to seize the reigns from evolution and steer our futures toward physical, intellectual, and moral enhancement. His was a program of human-directed “intelligent design.” In the film, we get many opportunities to hear FM speak. One of these inspirational gems comes near the end, when he expresses what may be his core reason for hope that humans can rise above their humble origins and their current shortcomings: “If you travel across, time and time and again, across this planet, one of the things that cannot help but strike you is the remarkable, the remarkable adaptability of us organisms. I don’t see a limit to human adaptability or human resilience or the human capacity to move and to grow. This is, in fact, one of the great great extraordinary things about us.”

As he once wrote, “We humans are not geese or jackasses trapped in genetic and environmental dead ends. Every day we are transcending our programmings…Bit by bit we are de-animalizing our bodies.”

All this is music to the ears of any transhumanist, but maybe this kind of mind-music will also resonate harmoniously in many others who have not yet thought to identify as transhumanist. This film, with its thought-provoking artistic approach, could be instrumental in spreading FM’s vision to those who are interested in creating a positive and transformative way forward.